07/31/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Radicals have targeted another minority cemetery this month in Turkey. On July 15, a Jewish community discovered their local cemetery in the Haskoy neighborhood of Istanbul had sustained serious damage. Vandals had desecrated 81 gravestones, excavated graves, and left the site in disarray. The perpetrators of this attack appear to be children under 18, though some are convinced that they acted under the direction of adults. One local man said, “Kids don’t do such things. An elder may have directed them.” Police have reportedly taken five children into custody while investigating this recent vandalism.
This recent incident is part of a larger trend of attacks against non-Muslim cemeteries in Turkey. David Vergili, a Syriac-Assyrian journalist, focused on Turkish minority issues, told the Jerusalem News Syndicate, “In the past two months, the graves of Syriac and Jewish communities in Turkey have been attacked and destroyed. The graves and holy places of the Armenian community have also experienced similar attacks before.” He continued, “These attacks have racist, religious motives and mostly target groups that are not part of the Turkish-Islamic ideology.” This month’s vandalism of a Jewish cemetery is evidently connected to broader Turkish persecution against minorities, including Christians.
This month’s attack comes specifically on the heels of a similar incident against a Christian community in Turkey. On June 29, local Christians found the perpetrators had desecrated their cemetery, which was dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, just prior to an annual celebration dedicated to the two saints. The vandals knew that local Christians would gather at the cemetery chapel to celebrate the liturgical memory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and so they timed their attack to maximize their affront against the Christian community. The desecration of cemeteries like this one, or like the Jewish cemetery vandalized this month, are symptoms of a Turkish hatred against non-Muslims within the country. As long as this hatred continues, cemeteries and other significant sites will continue to be attacked.
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