This week, the Turkish courts acquitted its Interior Ministry and Malatya governorate of previous accusations of neglect of duty concerning the 2007 Malayta murders, where 5 Turkish men entered Zirve Bible publishing house – binding, torturing and slitting the throats of Christian converts Necati Aydın , Uğur Yüksel and German national Tilmann Geske.
Yet no major international news source has picked up on this ruling, nor of its tripartite significance:
1. The courts had linked the Turkish deep state to the Malayta murders, handing down life sentences to the 5 who entered Zirve and 2 military officers, thus enshrining a key Atatürk principle: separation of Mosque and State. This recent acquittal directly grants impunity in killing non-Muslims within the state system, contravening freedom of religion and the secular ideology the Republic of Turkey was founded upon.
2. The acquittal particularly facilitates ongoing persecution of Christians (who account for 0.2% of 81 million Turks), in an country where Christians are frequently met with public opposition, including major political and military figures , who list missionary activity as one significant threat to Turkish society and who don’t regard Christians as ‘pure’ Turks but as Western puppets.
3. This recent ruling abets Erdogan’s ambitions to restore the Ottoman Empire in Turkey and beyond.
Erdogan’s push for Islamism extends back to the 1980s, where he worked for the hardline Welfare Party, which was banned in 1998; attracting the puritanical sects of Turkish society who opposed the concept of a secular, democratic state. His infamous reading of the Islamic poem ‘the mosques are our barracks; the domes are our helmets; the faithful are our soldiers and our army is the protector of our faith’ , led to a brief jail sentence on the premise of inciting religious hatred.
Erdogan’s Islamist crusade has adversely impacted non-Muslims. The percentage of Christians in Turkey continue to dwindle. In 1914, under 20% of the Turkish population identified as Christian. By 1927 this fell to less than 2.5%. Today this figure stands at 0.2%.
His presidency has seen a curbing of Christian freedoms in the public sphere, from enforcing height restrictions on church buildings, limiting worship services to designated buildings, to appropriating church property for government/public uses. In April 2016, local authorities seized all churches in the majority Kurdish-populated city of Diyarbakir, including the 1,700 year old Armenian Surp Giragos church. Multiple properties belonging to Assyrian Christians were also appropriated. Mardin’s Christian Syrian co-mayor was asked to step down in 2017, while Turkish authorities removed an Assyrian sculpture in front of Diyarbakir’s local council building.
It is a crusade that is transparent and intentional and one which international leaders and political institutions in the West have failed to call out. It is unfathomable that a country who has a history of unapologetically murdering Christians and other non-Muslim minorities – the Armenian Genocide remains the prime example – should be even considered as a potential EU member. It is particularly stupefying that such countries and institutions fail to understand why its current leader, openly denying Christians as true Turks but aids of the West and who divides the world along Muslim/non-Muslim lines; should push for increasing Turkish influence across Europe.
Erdogan desires to see a re-emergence of an Islamic army, not necessarily all armed with weaponry, but the ideological intent to spread Islam in the same vein the former Turkish empire did, before Atatürk founded the modern Republic.
Erdogan possesses an Ottoman State of Mind.
And this week Washington has been instrumental in handing him the freedom to pursue his actual agenda. Trump’s decision to pull out of the north-eastern Syrian frontier and Erdogan’s guise of fighting against Islamic State in securing the border, has far reaching consequences beyond betraying the Kurds. If Erdogan was interested in fighting off ISIS, then he wouldn’t have allowed IS fighters to cross into Syria from Turkey for years. Erdogan’s true interest lies in the Kurds, Arabs, Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities who until this week were allied with the US military to keep ISIS at bay.
American absenteeism means that forcible removal of the Kurds in north-east Syria, is now possible. Yet the ongoing Kurdish/Turkish skirmishes isn’t the sole concern. The Christian Syrians on the frontier have just as much to fear, possibly more, as they remain the direct descendants of Pogrom survivors that hold a 100 year history of being targeted by the Ottomans.
Erdogan possesses an Ottoman State of Mind and the current political and religious climate of Turkey is aiding and abetting his crusade. This week’s court ruling and Syria intervention are connected, as is much of the world’s politics when one is paying attention. Erdogan has long become a cult personality, the world’s only democratically elected dictator.
The future for Turkey’s religious minorities and non-complying ethnic/religious minorities in the north-eastern Syrian frontier is bleak, whilst Erdogan remains in power; a revengeful revisionist whose vantage point vacillates between the Islamic and the Infidel.