Turkish Pastor’s American Wife Denied Visa

Authorities Continue Discrimination of Protestant Christians

06/25/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on June 5, 2020, a Turkish pastor’s American wife, Joy Subaşıgüller, received notice from Turkey’s Ministry of Interior that her family visa was denied. No specific reason was given. Joy has lived in Turkey for nearly 10 years and has been married to her Turkish husband, Lütfü, for seven years. Their three children (ages 4, 2, and 4 months) are Turkish citizens. The family has opened a court case (#2020/988 – Ankara First Administrative Court) contesting the government’s decision.

Over the past few years, Turkey has forced many foreign Christians to leave the country through the systematic denial or cancellation of residence permits and the application of entry bans. Last year, at least 35 foreign Protestants received such notices. In many cases, vague security reasons are cited, but not explained. It is believed that Turkey has denied extending Joy’s family visa for no other reason than that the family is Christian, and that it is an attempt to force the whole family to leave the country.

“Turkey is my home. I love Turkey and the Turkish people very much. My family has very strong ties with Turkish friends here and especially with Lütfü’s family who would be devastated if we had to permanently relocate to another country,” Joy shared with ICC.

“Many foreign Protestant Christians (including many Americans) have been forced to leave Turkey and issued an entry ban on the grounds that their Christian activities are a ‘threat to national security and public order’ even though their activities are legal. In fact, some Protestants have been denied residency just because they attended meetings such as the annual Turkish Protestant Association family conference and a seminar concerning how to legally and effectively serve Christian children in the church,” she continued.

“Freedom of religion is a right granted in Turkey’s constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Turkey has signed,” Joy added. “We ask and pray that this right would be upheld in the Turkish courts and enforced in all areas of government.”

Istanbul’s Protestant Church Association also issued a statement regarding the country’s treatment of Christian leaders, including the Subaşıgüllers. The statement said, “It is with great sadness that we have to report that since 2019 it has been made more difficult for foreign clergy who serve the Protestant Church community in Turkey to be resident in our country, and that our requests for information concerning this matter have not received a satisfactory reply. While we hope that this is just a mistake and it will be rectified, we felt it necessary to issue a press statement to share with you how this situation has saddened us so deeply.”

In its annual report, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended Turkey for a special watch list because of increasing religious freedom violations. A recent International Religious Freedom Report released by the US State Department also cited Turkey for religious freedom violations that include the targeting of foreign Christians living within the country.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “We join with the Subaşıgüllers in seeking prayers for the ongoing court case that appeals the decision made by Turkey’s Interior Ministry. That Turkey would threaten to separate a family for no other reason than that they are Christians is alarming. We ask that Turkey speedily review their appeal with full transparency and in accordance with the country’s own international commitments to protecting human rights.”

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