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01/13/2021 Middle East (International Christian Concern) – Open Doors released its 2021 World Watch List, indicating an increase for several Middle Eastern countries. Most notably, Turkey now ranks 25, moving up nine spots from last year’s report. Other key highlights from the report include:

Turkey continues to face persecution in the form of Islamic oppression, as with most other Middle Eastern countries. However, increased violence, nationalism, and church conversions, along with targeting of international Christians within its borders indicated a jump from 36 to 25. ICC previously reported on the challenges Christians face in Turkey, highlighting the Hagia Sofia church conversion, political leverage of Christians and the pushing of a Turkish identity that alienates and incites violence against Christians.

Turkey’s international involvement and pressure also was cited as a reason for Iraq’s move up four spaces to number 11. Violence, particularly towards Muslim-Background Believers, is a key factor.

Persecution against Muslim-Background Believers also rose in Iran while jailing and restrictions on the ability to express one’s Christian faith remained a present threat. Iran moves up one spot to number 8 this year. The COVID-19 spread caused some jailed believers to be released while others cases were continued out.

Egypt remained at spot 16. Notable changes were the move from the source of persecution as Islamic oppression to dictatorial paranoia. ISIS and terror threats are no longer the main threat against believers, according to the report. Instead, persecution comes from neighbors, family members and the community.

The largest decrease in rankings for the Middle East region was Algeria from 17 to 24. While the same issues of persecution against Muslim-Background Believers and church closures remained, the decrease in violence caused Open Doors to re-evaluate its rankings. However, daily life for Algerian Christians has not drastically improved.

To learn more about Turkey’s persecution of Christians and how the country’s actions effect the region, read ICC’s joint report: Turkey – Challenges Facing Christians 2016-2020. 

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]