According to a report by the Protestant Churches Association on Human Rights Violations, hate speech against Christians in Turkey has increased in 2016. The report has stated that a baptism certificate has been asked from students who do not want to attend mandatory religious classes. The report also states that hate crimes against Christians including physical assaults to Protestants and churches have continued throughout 2016.
Some findings in the report are as follows:
- Hate-filled content has prompted apprehension during Christian celebrations. These include billboard advertisements containing hate speech for Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, television reports and programs, newspaper articles, posters and pamphlets that have been distributed on the streets. Adding to the apprehension over the celebratory period was an incident in Aydın province where a man disguised as Santa Claus was held at gunpoint by ultranationalists. There has been a muted response from judicial officials as well as public authorities.
- Bibles have been shown and exhibited in terrorist shelters in the media during police and military raids. They have been portrayed by the official press as part of organizational materials for known terrorist organizations. Such negative portrayals have led to a profound sadness in the Christian community.
- There has been an increase of hate speech in the press and social media against churches and Christians. It has also been observed that there has been a rise in publications that have shown churches and terrorist organizations together.
While there is an exemption for people whose IDs state that they are Christian or Jewish, it has been mandated by the government that Christian refugees or people without IDs must attend religious courses. Some schools have asked people “to certify that they belong to either Christianity or Judaism from the religious centers that they are affiliated with.” Moreover, one school has requested baptism certificates from their students. Using the right of religious exemption is becoming increasingly difficult in Turkey. It has also been reported that Christian children are also being compelled to reveal their faith because they do not attend religious classes. This has led to their classmates harassing them and telling them to convert to Islam.
Cumhuriyet Translated by Öznur Kaya