Sunday May 19, 2019

Jews and Christians in Turkey are becoming increasingly fearful because of Islamic extremism

False reports of minority having ties with the coup are being circulated and so Christians and Jews are being targeted.

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Christians, Jews are becoming fearful because of growing extremism. Image Courtesy: Pixabay
  • Christian and Jews represent about two-tenths of one percent of Turkey’s mostly Muslim population of 79 million
  • People are tagging religious minorities as coup plotters
  • The spread of Islamic State (IS) terror in Turkey in recent months has shaken Christians and Jews

September 28, 2016: Threatened by Islamic extremism, Christian and Jewish groups in Turkey are growing more fearful amid increasing terror attacks and the government’s state of emergency following a failed coup attempt, representatives of the minority communities told VOA.

Christian and Jews represent about two-tenths of one percent of Turkey’s mostly Muslim population of 79 million.But pro-government media outlets, as well as some government officials, have accused them of playing a role in the July coup attempt and have stepped up the rhetoric against Christians and Jews.

At a “Democracy and Martyrs” rally in August, a pro-government, million-strong anti-coup demonstration in Istanbul, three of the speakers linked religious minorities to coup plotters, calling them “seeds of Byzantium, “crusaders,” and a “flock of infidels.”

Christian and Jewish leaders, some of whom denounced the coup attempt, were in attendance at the rally in an attempt to show solidarity with the government. Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the coup attempt and tens of thousands of Turks have been jailed for investigations.

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Scapegoats

Turkish human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz told VOA pro-government media have “embraced an alarming narrative of scapegoating Turkey’s religious minorities and connecting the coup plot to them.”

“Particularly pro-government media outlets have taken an anti-U.S. and anti-EU attitude, which I can call a xenophobic attitude, in which they attempt to demonize the West and accuse it of the coup attempt,” he said. “And this narrative targets and harms non-Muslims in Turkey.”

Scholar Rifat Bali, who has written several books on Turkish Jews, says that even though the report of minority ties to the coup have no foundation, Christians and Jews are being targeted.

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“The nonsensical, so-called news reports that claim that some religious minorities in Turkey are behind the coup attempt are not surprising,” he said. “They are actually quite expected. In an environment where conspiracy theories are commonplace and prevalent, looking for foreigners behind everything becomes normal.”

Historic threats

Christians and Jews, who have been living in parts of what is now Turkey for centuries, have been exposed to violent attacks in Turkey’s history. The 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace, and the 1955 anti-Christian pogrom in Istanbul forced tens of thousands of non-Muslims to flee Turkey.

The spread of Islamic State (IS) terror in Turkey in recent months has shaken Christians and Jews.According to news reports, IS cell members have plotted terrors attacks on churches and synagogues in Turkey. IS sees Christianity and Judaism as an enemy to its radical Muslim ideology.

Foreigners, including European Christians and Israeli Jews, have died in terror attacks in Turkey linked to IS.Threats against Christians and churches on social media by Islamist extremists in Turkey have intensified.

“Some people have sent death threats to the mobile phones of 15 pastors,” said Umut Sahin, the secretary-general of the Union of Protestant Churches, an umbrella organization for Protestant denominations in Turkey.

“They used the same terms and arguments as IS in their text messages,” said Sahin, a pastor in Izmir. “They sent the pastor’s propaganda videos of IS.”There are about 10,000 Protestant Christians in Turkey.

Protestant church leader Ihsan Ozbek said some churches have canceled Sunday services because of fears of an IS attack.“This has created deep fear and panic in our community,” he said of continuing terror from IS.

Creating more refugees

Some Turkish Assyrian Christians, whose brethren in Syria have faced killings and kidnappings at the hands of IS, are finding safety abroad.

“The number of Assyrians immigrating to Western countries is also on the rise,” said Erkan Metin, an Assyrian human rights lawyer in Turkey. “Some have left Turkey and many others are preparing for that.”There are about 25,000 Assyrians in Turkey who live mostly in the southeast.

“Many Assyrians from Turkey are also citizens of Western countries,” said Tuma Celik, the Turkey representative of the European Syriac Union (ESU) and the editor-in-chief of the Assyrian monthly newspaper, Sabro.

“Those Assyrians used to spend part of the year in Turkey,” he said. “But as threats of IS are on the rise and the purges of the government are getting increasingly commonplace and violent, many of them have not come to Turkey this year.”But most of Turkey’s 18,000 Jews, who live mainly in Istanbul, are quietly staying put.

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Synagogues have taken tight security measures. British media reports, citing intelligence officials in Turkey, reported in the spring that IS was plotting attacks on Jewish institutions in Turkey.

“There is a continued war environment both inside and outside of Turkey,” said Isil Demirel, an anthropologist from Turkey who writes for the online newspaper Avlaremoz, which covers Jewish-related topics.“And the fact that the war is perpetrated by a group called the ‘Islamic State’ in the name of religion further intensifies the fears and concerns of people about their lives and future,” he said.

Two Turkish synagogues were bombed in 2003 by Islamist terrorists.“So the Jews in Turkey have learned required lessons from these attacks and are doing their best to take precautions to prevent potential ones,” Rifat Bali, a prominent Jewish scholar based in Istanbul, told VOA.

-(VOA)

– prepared by Anubhuti Gupta of Newsgram. Twitter: @anuB_11

Next Story

U.S. President Donald Trump Announces Withdraw Of Almost All The Troops From Syria

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared.

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President Donald Trump shows maps of Syria and Iraq depicting the size of the "ISIS physical caliphate" as he speaks to workers at the country's only remaining tank manufacturing plant, in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

In late 2018, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw almost all of its troops from Syria, saying the Islamic State terror group had been defeated and there was no longer a reason to deploy U.S. forces in the war-torn nation.

The announcement led to the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who reportedly felt the drawdown was premature.

In the months since Trump announced the defeat of IS, he has wavered on whether the group has been vanquished. Sometimes he predicted that total victory would come in hours or days, while other times he has doubled down on the claim that the IS threat has been eliminated.

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Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria. VOA

Here’s a chronology of claims concerning the demise of Islamic State.

Dec. 19, 2018 — Trump declared, “We have won against ISIS,” in a video released by the White House, to explain why the U.S. was pulling most of its troops out of Syria.

Dec. 22, 2018 — Trump tweets that “ISIS is largely defeated and other local countries, including Turkey, should be able to easily take care of whatever remains.”

Jan. 16, 2019 — Vice President Mike Pence declares in a speech at the State Department that “the caliphate has crumbled and ISIS has been defeated.” Earlier that day, four Americans were killed in Syria by an IS suicide bomber.

Jan. 30, 2019 — Trump tweets about the “tremendous progress” made in Syria and that the IS “Caliphate will soon be destroyed.”

Feb. 1, 2019 — Trump repeats that “We will soon have destroyed 100 percent of the Caliphate.”

Feb. 3, 2019 — Trump tells CBS News, “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100 percent of the caliphate, which is the area — the land, the area — 100. We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100.”

Feb. 6, 2019 — Trump predicts that the declaration that the coalition has captured all IS holdings “should be formally announced sometime, probably next week.”

Feb. 10, 2019 — Trump tweets that the U.S. will control all former IS territory in Syria “soon.”

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Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!” Pixabay

Feb. 11, 2019 — At a rally in El Paso, Texas, Trump says the announcement that 100 percent of Islamic State territory has been captured will be coming “maybe over the next week, maybe less.”

Feb. 15, 2019 — At a news conference Trump says a statement about “our success with the eradication of the caliphate … will be announced over the next 24 hours.”

Feb. 16, 2019 — Trump tweets, “We are pulling back after 100 percent Caliphate victory!”

Feb. 22, 2019 — Trump tells reporters “In another short period of time, like hours — you’ll be hearing hours and days — you’ll be hearing about the caliphate. It will — it’s 100 percent defeated.”

Donald Trump
March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.” VOA

Feb. 28, 2019 — In a speech to U.S. troops in Alaska, Trump says, “We just took over, you know, you kept hearing it was 90 percent, 92 percent, the caliphate in Syria. Now it’s 100 percent we just took over, 100 percent caliphate.”

March 2, 2019 — At a conference, Trump tells attendees, “As of probably today or tomorrow, we will actually have 100 percent of the caliphate in Syria.”

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March 20, 2019 — Trump shows reporters a map that plots the territory still held by the Islamic State in Syria and promises that area “will be gone by tonight.”

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials, as well as members of the coalition actively fighting the terror group, have been reluctant to predict when final victory will be declared. Some also note that even when IS no longer controls any territory, fighters who escaped capture and are hiding within civilian populations could still pose a security threat. (VOA)