Religious Freedom Suffers Another Setback in Turkey
11/26/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on November 20, American-Canadian evangelist David Byle was denied re-entry into Turkey. Byle was previously arrested and detained on October 13, the day after American pastor Andrew Brunson was released from prison. Following his detainment, Byle was informed that he had 15 days to leave the country. He was told that a re-entry ban would not be issued, and his family remained in Turkey.
Last week, Byle returned to Istanbul, explaining, “I flew from Stuttgart to Istanbul, hoping and praying I’d be allowed into the country. At the passport control, the policeman checked my documents, put his entry stamp on a page in my passport and slowly pressed down on it, with his eyes fixed to the computer screen in front of him.”
He continued, “The entry stamp was put in my passport, but his eyes didn’t leave the screen, and a frustrated look spread over his face. He picked up the phone, and shortly thereafter another policeman arrived to take me to their office. I overheard them saying, ‘We need to cancel this entry stamp; there’s an entry ban on the guy!’”
“My fears were proven true: an entry ban, and not a 3-month or one-year ban, but a permanent one,” continued Byle.
For two days, Byle remained in a detention center before leaving Turkey. During the 19 years Byle has lived in Turkey, he has faced a number of short-term detentions and interrogations. Three previous times, the authorities attempted to deport him, only to be stopped by court rulings. Despite the law, the authorities have made it clear that these attempts are in response to the practice of Byle’s Christian faith.
Byle intends to open a court case to contest the re-entry ban, but is not hopeful for success. Meanwhile, he remains separated from his family. Byle said, “We feel many different emotions: sadness, disappointment, also relief (as this long season of uncertainty seems to be coming to an end) and most importantly, inner peace that’s come from a long life journey with such a good and faithful Savior and Friend.”
Turkey’s officially secular government has dramatically shifted within the last two years, leading to a significant deterioration of religious freedom. Turkey is listed as a Tier 2 country by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) annual report.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “Turkey is making it increasingly clear that there is no room for Christianity, even though the constitution states otherwise. It is no coincidence that Turkey decided to initiate this process the day after Brunson’s release from prison and that, in doing so, the authorities ignored a court order. We must keep the Byle family in our prayers during this period of difficult separation.”
For interviews with Claire Evans, Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]