Turkish Nationalists Target US Navy Personnel

Turkey Flag
Turkey Flag

Perpetrators Promote Christian Genocide Language During Attack

11/05/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that a group of members affiliated with the Youth Union of Turkey (TGB) hooded U.S. Navy personnel in Turkey’s capital city of Istanbul. The organization’s social media accounts show that members surrounded the personnel, harassed them with Kemalist slogans, and put a hood over a servicemember’s head. The TGB has an established record of attacking U.S. military personnel and, as part of their Kemalist identity, they promote the genocide of Turkey’s ethnic Christian community.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founding president of modern Turkey, a nation established through the 1915 genocide of Assyrian, Armenian, and Greek Christians. This genocide nearly eliminated Christianity from Turkey, which was previously a primarily Christian nation. Kemalists such as the TGB advocate for the continued elimination of ethnic and religious minority groups from Turkish society.

The TGB cited multiple reasons for actions towards U.S. Navy personnel. This included recent tensions between Turkey and 10 Western countries over the case of Osman Kavala, a detained human rights activist who has devoted his life to raising awareness about the 1915 genocide. Last week, President Erdogan threatened to expel the ambassadors of the 10 countries, including the United States, over their condemnation of Kavala’s continued imprisonment.

ICC has repeatedly documented how Turkey’s denial of the genocide is often used to facilitate ongoing ethnic-religious cleansing of minority groups, and how Turkey responds to this kind of international pressure by deflecting the conversation to other reframed issues.

For example, Ahval News reports that the TGB assailants told Navy personnel, “You are the murderer of millions of Muslims. You are providing tons of weapons to the PKK-YPG terrorists. But you were defeated in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and Turkey. You are our enemy and are not wanted here. We cannot allow American soldiers to walk in our lands freely.”

These sentiments mirror the language of Turkish leaders who build upon such rhetoric to draw upon their nationalist base, despite Turkey being an ally of the United States. In turn, Turkey has used this finger-pointing tactic to draw attention away from their own foreign engagements and foster a sense of Turkic Islamic nationalism to further President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regional agenda. The PKK is an internationally recognized terrorist group that Turkey uses to justify their expansionist policy that disproportionately target Christians and other minorities.

We condemn this attack on U.S. Naval personnel and the comments made by the TGB assailants,” said Matias Perttula, ICC’s Director of Advocacy. “We continue to be concerned with the manifestation of rhetoric from Turkish leaders surrounding the denial of the 1915 genocide in such attacks as these. Turkey must cease using this stream of nationalist rhetoric against the region’s Christian community in order to prevent such attacks from continuing.”

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