UNHRC and World Evangelical Alliance Raise Concern Over Turkey’s Religious Freedom Restrictions

09/08/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Earlier this year, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) organization released a report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), voicing its concern regarding the religious freedom restrictions on Christians residing in Turkey, along with the government’s use of travel bans against Protestants. This report reiterated prior statements made by WEA to the UNHRC in previous years, hoping for the Committee to further pressure the government of Turkey on the abuses. 

Last year, International Christian Concern released a report detailing the religious freedom violations presented by the use of the entry bans. “The expulsion of expatriate Christians is a decision made by the Ministry of Interior in cooperation with Turkish Intelligence (MİT),” reads the report. “This cooperation is known through the application of the N-82 code, which creates restrictions that oblige ‘foreigners to obtain prior permission to enter Turkey. However, this permission is almost never given in practice. This situation is effectively an entry ban to the country. In this case, the foreigner cannot enter the country without opening a court case canceling the code.’” 

Following the initial issuance of the N-82 code, these Christians often struggle to fairly dispute the designations in the legal system. Many Christians receiving these codes have reported that neither they nor their legal counsel are given access to view the evidence presented by Turkish Intelligence due to insinuations suggesting they are a form of security threat. Additionally, the Courts are disinclined to annul the N-82 designations, making it arduous for Christians in Turkey to obtain legal documentation and re-entry into the country. Previously, the UNHRC emphasized the WEA’s complaint and pressed Turkish government officials “to respond to reports of travel bans on and deportation of non-Turkish Protestant religious leaders.”    

Turkey is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states in Article 27 that any ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority shall not be denied the right to commune with individuals of their minority and culture, shall not be denied the right to avow and practice their religion, and shall not be denied the right to speak their language. However, according to the World Evangelical Alliance organization, Turkey carves out its Article 27 obligations, arguing that “it reserves the right to interpret and apply the provisions of Article 27 of the ICCPR in accordance with the related provisions and rules of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey and the Treaty of Lausanne of 24 July 1923 and its Appendixes.” In other words, this gives legal leeway to the Turkish government to proportion and perpetuate marginalization and religious discrimination to non-Turkish Christians.  

While Christianity is ‘not’ viewed with suspicion due to its historic origins inside the borders of Turkey, Protestantism was birthed outside of Turkey; therefore, there are strong reservations held towards foreign Protestants from the government. However, Protestantism grew within Turkey during the 19th century through the education and medical sectors, risking deportation if they were caught or suspected of missionary work. Following the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson’s release in 2018, the Turkish government ascertained that American evangelical pastors imprisoned could be exchanged for concessions from the United States, thus, generating a domino effect. Furthermore, the government regularly promotes Turkish nationalism, which regards evangelical work as foreign interference and a security threat, prompting the creation of a new policy (N-82 Code) aimed at expelling expatriate Protestant Christians.  

Despite Turkey being a democratic and secular state that provides for freedom of religion, conscience, worship, and expression, the WEA report argues that the government continues to limit and restrict Protestant Christians living in Turkey. The United States government should take the religious freedom restrictions in Turkey earnestly and continue to reiterate its commitment to human rights with Turkish officials’. On the other hand, the Church will continue to pray for Christians in Turkey who are mistreated, expelled, and rejected re-entry into the country.  

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: press@persecution.org.  

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