05/02/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – The spokesperson for Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a scathing response to the newly released annual US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report. The report documents religious freedom violations and makes recommendations for the US State Department’s Special Watch List. Turkey was recommended for this list in the 2020 USCIRF report.
In its response, Turkey cited “the message of our President in his letter dated 24 April 2020 to the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey is the best testimony” of the government’s so called desire to protect religious freedom. This response by Turkey touches at an extremely sensitive issue within the country which also reveals why the government is deserving of being cited for religious freedom violations.
April 24th is the annual commemoration of the Armenian genocide, which occurred over a century ago and has not been officially recognized by the Turkish government. The government actively denies any official role in the genocide, except to say that it was a necessary response. The vast majority of international historians recognize this event as a genocide. The government has never corrected policies which led to the massacre of Armenians. The legal identity of the Armenian church remains defunct and thus they are unable to seize their civil rights. For a decade, the government refused to allow the Armenians to choose their own patriarch. When the election finally occurred, the government meddled heavily in the process.
If denial of the Armenian genocide and interference with the Armenian church is the best so-called “proof” Turkey has to offer about why they do not deserve being recommended for the Special Watch List, then the country’s own bar for religious freedom is indeed quite low.