Turkey Spars Over Coronavirus Relief

04/01/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Some Turkish municipalities and the Interior Ministry are sparring over campaigns to raise funds which would support victims of the coronavirus. Istanbul and Ankara municipalities have launched campaigns, but the Interior Ministry says they need permission from local governors and have subsequently blocked the funds. In Ankara alone, 94,553 people had applied to benefit from the municipalities campaign. President Erdogan has launched his own campaign to support financially vulnerable populations in Turkey.

What is unclear from this situation on both sides is how aid will be distributed and vulnerable populations identified. From a religious freedom perspective, there are two groups who already suffer rampant discrimination in the best of circumstances. Iraqi, Syrian, and Iranian Christian refugees face numerous societal challenges in addition to the average refugee experience. Christians who are Turkish citizens—whether they belong to one of historic or protestant churches—are better able to navigate society but still struggle with the family, social, and economic implications of their faith.

A common pattern in Turkey before the rise of the coronavirus is a federal government preference for supporting and building up communities that have demonstrated a commitment for their interpretation of Islam. The government has moved many of its policies into a sector which encourages Islamic nationalism. Many local Christians have warned that this has created an increasingly hostile environment. How Turkey messages and implements coronavirus aid has the potential to pull the country deeper into this environment.

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