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09/26/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) –  Turkey has failed to meet its own benchmarks for carrying out the country’s human rights action plan announced in March 2021. While human rights have yet to improve, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) received a massive 2022 budget, and its controversial president, Ali Erbaş, was appointed for another four-year term.

When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the two-year action plan and its “ultimate aim… is a new civilian constitution”, ICC noted the lack of religious freedom language and promises.  In the first six months, the Turkish government aimed to complete 130 outlined actions. Only 36 were actually carried out. “The government has made a habit of not keeping its promises. Unfortunately, the human rights action plan is one of these promises,” Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a deputy from the opposition DEVA Party, commented to Stockholm Center for Freedom. Notably, these failures for improvement include a lack of religious freedom and prison rights, as seen by the continued imprisonment of Osman Kavala after many calls for his release.

And yet, despite not meeting its requirements for human rights, the controversial Diyanet received around a 350 million USD budget increase for 2022, surpassing seven of the 17 Turkish ministries. The Diyanet and Erbaş face criticism for their promotion of Sunni Islam, indifference to other beliefs, and the power gained under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The Diyanet is now one of Turkey’s largest institutions, surpassing the budget of even the Parliament, presidency, Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry. Erbaş received criticism for his recent role and attendance at the opening of new court buildings, as well as his placement above the military’s chief of general staff in the state hierarchy.

The lack of attention given to a human rights plan, even one that does not specifically promise improvements to religious freedom, in addition to an increasingly prominent and controversial Islamic rhetoric, suggests that Christianity in Turkey may get harder before it improves.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].