Editor’s Note: This opinion piece is by Guest Writer Scott Morgan, a Washington, D.C.-based Africa and National Security Analyst. Guest contributors speak for themselves and not necessarily for IRD. Follow Scott on Twitter: @confusedeagledc
At this juncture Turkey is at a crossroads. The nation is on a slide towards authoritarian governance. If there is any doubt, all one has to do is to scrutinize the events since the failed putsch of July 15, 2016 for evidence of the decline of democracy.
What happened? Why is the government of President Erdogan acting in such a fashion?
On July 20th a State of Emergency was declared for the nation. It has been extended seven times in ninety day increments. This has led to a heavy handed response by the authorities. However there is one group that is currently a target of government abuses.
It seems that the Christian community is once again being targeted in the Middle East, instead of being butchered by goons from ISIS, the perpetrators are from the Turkish government. Instead of protecting them the government feels that they are a threat in their effort to consolidate power. If there are any doubts consider the case of Pastor Andrew Brunson.
Pastor Brunson — an American who has ministered in the country for roughly 30 years — now faces trumped up charges by Turkish authorities of supporting the failed putsch in 2016. He has also been accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, accused of being the brain behind the event. Brunson has been in custody since October 2016.
The Trump Administration has to be lauded for its efforts to monitor the farce known as a trial.
However other moves have popped up on the radar that will not be ignored:
In Istanbul, efforts by the Syriac Orthodox community to teach in their native language and culture have been set back with the denial of the rights to build a church and a elementary school.
The Armenian Apostolic Church has faced government interference. The state has invented a new position within the local hierarchy, that of a Patriarchal Vicar General which is supposed to handle the day-to-day affairs of the Patriarchate. The state has also repeatedly blocked the nomination of a new Patriarch as well. History has taught us that previous Turkish government has committed genocide against the Armenians. Why should this be any surprise now?
More than 100 properties (churches, monasteries, cemeteries and lands) have been seized from the Syriac community in southeast Turkey. One site of concern is the monastery of St. Gabriel due to its importance to the community. The locations suggest that the Turkish government may feel that the Syriacs may be supporting the PKK (Kurds).
All Christian groups have been the target of regular and unpunished hate speech.
All this to consolidate power in a country.