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6/14/2024 Turkey (International Christian Concern) — Turkey’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, recently ruled that the government’s expulsion of nine foreign Christian leaders based on secret service reports does not violate their freedom of religion. Six of the court’s 13 judges dissented.

Although the nine believers had legally obtained residency permits, their perceived missionary activities prompted Turkey’s Directorate of Immigration Management to apply N-82 codes against the Christians. The codes designate foreigners as “risks to national security” and prevent them from obtaining prior authorization to enter Turkey.

The nine expelled Christians can now appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

“Every human being has the natural right to freely practice their faith,” said McKenna Wendt, Advocacy Manager for International Christian Concern (ICC). “This includes the right to share one’s faith with their neighbor. The Turkish Constitutional Court’s decision to label sharing the gospel as a ‘threat’ to national security is wrong and in violation of international human rights law. We commend the bravery of the six dissenting judges and pray for a favorable outcome should the applicants appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.”

The decision is the latest development that points to Turkey’s efforts to curb the growth of Christianity within its boundaries. An estimated 8,000 Protestant Christians make up more than 170 communities throughout Turkey. For years, Christians in Turkey have endured persecution, including forced deportations.

According to data from the Association of Protestant Churches, 250 people have been prevented from entering Turkey or deported since 2019, including U.S. citizens Matthew Vern Black, Helmut Frank, Amanda Jolyn Krause, and Benjamin Charles Mclure.

More than 96% of Turks are Muslims, and fewer than 1% are Christians. Government authorities continue to take steps to erase Christianity culturally. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recently recommended in its annual report that the U.S. Department of State place Turkey on its Special Watch List, which includes countries with severe religious freedom violations.

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