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Turkey’s Persecution of Christians and Other Minorities

The Turkish military’s treatment of Christians in Syria mirrors the Turkish government’s ongoing mistreatment of its native Christian population, and its disdain for the region’s rich and lengthy Christian heritage. The Turkish government’s ongoing denial of legal identity and property rights to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and seizure of a huge number of Christian properties, is one manifestation of this contempt. The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, hopes that Turkey’s criminal invasion of northern Syria will lead to international recognition of and action against Turkey’s persecution of Christians.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here. For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Syria, see here.

“Turkey’s Persecution of Christians and Other Minorities,” Wesley Smith, ACLJ, November 8, 2019:

Last week I wrote about the atrocities committed by Turkey as it continues its invasion of northeastern Syria and its failure to keep the terms of the supposed ceasefire they pledged to the United States and the world.

While Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles—purportedly to keep the peace—patrol an area formally controlled by the United States and Syrian Democratic Forces that included the Kurdish YPG, Turkey’s President Erdogan has unleashed attacks on Kurdish civilians (and other minorities) using Islamist Jihad militias.  They are armed and supported by Erdogan.  He uses these thugs to invade the area and terrorize its inhabitants because it gives him plausible deniability.

In other words, he can claim to be honoring the ceasefire, as the actual Turkish armed forces apparently are not officially taking part in the attacks.

These events are significant as they are taking place at the same time that the U.S. House of Representatives officially recognized the genocide of the Armenian Christian people by Turkey’s predecessor, the Ottoman Empire, during World War I.  That ethnic cleansing targeted multiple Christian groups where 1.5 million were killed:  Armenians, Greeks, Syriacs, Maronites, Assyrians, and more.  Even as the House voted on this significant resolution, it appears that history is repeating itself in northeastern Syria.

President Erdogan has taken a largely secular Turkey, once a dependable NATO ally and friend to the West, and changed it into an ever-increasing Islamist-state fashioned after the old Ottoman Empire with himself as its caliph.  The democracy and personal freedoms for which the nation was once known are largely a thing of the past.  The imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, for which the ACLJ fought and won his release, was but one example of Erdogan’s persecution of Christians and his paranoia that has led him to purge the Turkish military, arrest journalists and judges, and imprison those he deems as political enemies.

As reported by Sam Sweeney in the National Review, Turkish-backed forces are moving into a series of villages along the Khabur River that provided refuge for Assyrian Christians who fled Turkey over one hundred years ago.  Most of the Christians there are descendants of the Christians of the Persian Empire, a people whose history is traced back to the earliest days of the Church.  They still speak Aramaic, the native tongue of Jesus.

By World War I, these Christians were concentrated mainly in southern Turkey and portions of Iraq.  As Sweeney reminds us, “In 1915, the collapsing Ottoman Empire, having decided that the territory that would become Turkey should be rid of its Christian population, began to pave the way for an ethnic Turkish state, in an area that was once confoundingly diverse.  Turkey’s ongoing oppression of its Kurdish population is an attempt to finish what it started when it eliminated the country’s Christians.”  History is indeed repeating itself….

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