A new report analysing freedom of religion or belief in Turkey faults both strong nationalism and the Erdogan government’s public endorsement of a Sunni Muslim identity for rising levels of hate speech against the nation’s religious minorities.
According to studies cited in the April report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, “religious identity was the primary catalyst for hate speech,” with Jews, Christians, Armenians and Kurds being the main victims.
With no legal consequences being implemented, the report said, growing social hostilities against the nation’s minorities are inciting structural and physical violence towards citizens who are not Sunni Muslim. In turn, this is visibly affecting Turkish society in terms of education, the workplace, the media, religious practice and day-to-day administrative procedures.
“The invective. . .often by the media and even by members of the political community, has seeped deep into mainstream narratives,” the report said.
On the legal side, the report notes, restrictive government legislation has left the religious minorities “locked in an ongoing struggle to obtain full legal personality so they can access all their legal rights.”
In releasing the report on Thursday (April 21), CSW noted that the Turkish Interior Ministry claimed intelligence reports had indicated that the Islamic State planned to target churches during the recent (Western) Easter week. Since then, the state has used this threat to pressure churches to install CCTV and to accept security presence during worship times.
This report also corroborates the recent first nationally representative survey of the 80m Turkish population of “Public Perceptions of the Christian Minority in Turkey” (Survey in English/ Survey in Turkish). Christians are estimated to number fewer than 200,000, despite Turkey’s Biblical heritage.