Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

How the Turkish state targets Christians

“When will the European Court of Human Rights deliver its first decisions ending these bigoted and discriminatory practices in Turkey? I hope justice will not come too late.”

Imagine something like this: Germany or France or any other European country starts to deport Turkish citizens, claiming that these people pose a threat to its national security. And in the later stages, it becomes clear that these Turkish people were classified as a threat to national security because of their peaceful religious activities, e.g. for their effort to spread Islamic beliefs in this country. What do you think Turkish officials' reaction to this country would be?

I can assure you Erdogan would be protesting these practices in the harshest possible way, and he would be talking day in and day out about how Islamophobic these countries are; how Muslims are discriminated against; how hypocritical European countries have become.

All these things for which Erdogan and the Turkish government would denounce in the possible strongest terms if these things happened to Turkish Muslims or any other Muslims living in Europe indeed are happening to Christians living in Turkey.

Turkey gives N-82 codes to foreign Protestants and declares them as people posing a threat to the national security of the country, just because of the peaceful religious activities of these people.

So often, the "target" learns that he/she is given an N-82 code when they are leaving Turkey. A Turkish official approaches them and writes N-82 on their boarding card. This person cannot reenter Turkey once again. When they initiate a lawsuit against this action, they cannot learn why they were given these codes. The National Intelligence Organization does not send the report on which this code was built, to court. The actual report remains secret during the whole trial period. All these cases are rejected with the same cliché words: Given Turkey's sovereignty the state does not have to allow any foreigner to remain on its territory. It does not matter whether this court is in Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir, all these cases are handled at the number 1 administrative court in that city, whose judges must be carefully appointed to handle these cases. According to a report by the Association of Protestant Churches so far 78 foreign Protestants were given these codes and had to leave the country. Together with their families, the number of affected people has increased to more than 200 individuals.

It is obvious that the Turkish state and its institutions, including the judiciary, have a uniform approach toward these people. These people are treated like they have no rights at all. They do not have a family right, they do not have the right to freedom of religion, and they do not have a right to enjoy an effective remedy against the arbitrary practices they are subjected to. They do not even have a right to learn the accusations against them, which are allegedly so serious that resulted in their total banishment from the country. Turkey is carrying out extremely shameful discrimination against these people based on their religious beliefs. I have never heard that a Muslim person was expelled from Turkey just because this person was carrying out religious propaganda. What I find funnier is that the Turkish state itself acts like a missionary. It spends millions of dollars to make propaganda of Islam and its version of Sunni beliefs through one of the largest state institutions, namely the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The state imposes the same beliefs in all state schools on children regardless of what their families believe. Despite the condemnations by the European Court of Human Rights, all Alevi children still have to receive mandatory religious lessons in which certain interpretations of Sunni Islam are imposed on them. 

This missionary state is afraid of a handful of foreign missionaries, whose only guilt is to try to introduce their religious beliefs to others who are willing to listen to them.

Do not be mistaken. These discriminatory practices against Protestants are not only the work of Islamists in the state. I believe ultranationalist state officers also support these practices wholeheartedly.

The horrific thing is this: administrative courts and regional administrative courts endorse these discriminatory practices one after another. But the Turkish Constitutional Court, which refuses these cases automatically, does not see any problems in these cases, either.

There is only one legal avenue left and it is the European Court of Human Rights. I believe, in the end, Turkey will be strongly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, which will look at all these practices from the angle of freedom of religion, family life, foreigners' right to have an effective remedy against their expulsion, and so on.

I believe, justice will prevail in the end, but the only question remains: When will the European Court of Human Rights deliver its first decisions ending these bigoted and discriminatory practices in Turkey? I hope justice will not come too late. 

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