Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches has prepared its 2016 Rights Violations Report, noting that hate speech against the country’s Christians has increased in both conventional and social media.
The annual report said hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.
The report also noted that churches in particular faced serious terror threats.
It particularly referred to hate speech incidents around Christmas and New Year’s Eve – conveyed through billboard advertisements, posters, leaflets, and online – including an amateur theatrical act on a street in the Nazilli district of the western province of Aydın, in which a group of traditionally costumed men were recorded holding another man dressed as Santa Claus at gunpoint on Dec. 28, 2016.
The report said such incidents, backed up by various other news reports, had prompted anxiety among the people during the holiday season, and not enough reaction was shown against these occurrences either by the legal authorities or the public authorities.
Another example the report referred to was the identification of copies of the Bible in some shelters used by terrorist group members, which portrayed them as formal “organizational material” in official statements. This caused “deep sadness” among the Christian community in Turkey, it stated.
The report cited cases in which Christian and Jewish students were asked to provide documents from religious centers where they belong in order to secure exemption from religion classes in Turkish schools.
“In one school a baptism document was verbally demanded. The use of the exemption right [from religion classes] is becoming more difficult day by day,” stated the report, adding that many students had been bullied by classmates due to their faith and were encouraged to convert to Islam.