04/01/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry responded to the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report for 2020, a report that condemned various continued human rights abuses of the Turkish government. Turkey denounced the report as being derived from “vague allegations” that stray from “objectivity” towards “baseless” and “biased” conclusions.
Some of the domestic human rights violations of the Turkish government outlined in the report included torture, arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights advocates, problems with judicial independence, and severe restrictions on individual rights like expression, press, and assembly. The report also lists the increased discrimination against Armenian Christians, including anti-Armenian rhetoric, such as the use of the term “leftovers of the sword” at the first Muslim prayer service at the Hagia Sophia following its conversion from a church to a mosque. This phrase derogatorily refers to Armenians who survived the 20th Century Armenian genocide undertaken by the Turkic Ottoman Empire, a genocide that the Turkish government denies to this day.
The U.S. report also references Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was assassinated in 2007. Turkey has repeatedly delayed justice in this case, and continually fails to fully prosecute all those involved in the murder. This delay illustrates the involvement of the harmful Grey Wolves, an ultra-nationalist paramilitary group known for promoting Islamic Pan-Turkism at the expense of Armenian Christians. The Grey Wolves still have a strong presence in Turkey and the Caucasus today, with the endorsement of some Turkish officials.
Turkey also rebutted the statements made in the U.S. report by citing Turkey’s Human Rights Action Plan, unveiled by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 2. However, this report failed to go into much depth regarding how it will promote religious freedom in the country, as well as in its various foreign policy engagements such as in Syria, Iraq, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
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