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US religion commission divided over Turkey

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21 March 2012, Wednesday /ALİ H. ASLAN
The bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which grouped Turkey among 15 other nations in its “countries of particular concern” category for its "systematic and egregious limitations" of religious freedoms, has been divided over the decision, with their report monitoring religious freedom around the world being passed by five to four votes.

The ranking was a sharp downgrade from Turkey's less-severe status as a watch-listed country in years past, and the commission recommended the US government categorize Turkey with other “countries of particular concern” which, according to the list, are Tajikistan, Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The supporters of the report stressed the situation of the Christian minorities in Turkey, saying that Turkey presents itself as a model country for the Arab Spring but it cannot be a model as far as religious freedoms are concerned. The commission members added that they have waited for 10 years for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to make a difference but that they can no longer sit and wait.

On the other hand, a joint statement released by members of the commission on Tuesday said there are no records with regards to Turkey's regression on religious freedom; on the contrary, some positive steps have been taken which should be applauded. They pointed out that according to the US Religious Freedom Restoration Act -- aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person's freedom to exercise their religion -- there need to be systematic breaches of freedom of religion, including detention and torture of people for a country to be classified in this way. Those members indicated that they are fiercely opposed to the report's section on Turkey and the inclusion of Northern Cyprus in that section.

The USCIRF report, which refers to the April 2011-February 2012 period, heavily concentrates on the problems of non-Muslim and Alevi citizens in Turkey. The report also touches on the Sunni majority's problems, mentioning the restrictions on headscarves in some public spaces. The report also refers to the massacres of Christians at the Malatya Zirve Publishing House and the murder of Hrant Dink, who was the editor-in-chief of the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos. Both murders are allegedly connected to the deep-state related Ergenekon crime network.

Meanwhile, Turkey's ambassador in Washington lashed out at suggestions in the report, saying the report's comments on Turkey were politically motivated.

"Any independent perspective would acknowledge that Turkey does not belong to the place the commission designates for it. Listing Turkey among 'countries of particular concern' is unjust and unexpected," Namik Tan told the Anatolia news agency.

Tan said Turkey implemented a major reform in 2011 to give religious communities their properties back, which he said was also lauded by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US Department of State said in its latest annual report on religious freedoms that the Turkish government had taken significant steps to expand religious freedoms.

Boo Hoo, is that nasty US organisations criticising Turkey yet again Oh do grow up and try to repress the urge to lash out blindly with half baked truths at anyone who makes any slight at all about Turkey. Does it really matter much if a few Christians think you a bit OTT on state controlled religi...
When, if ever, will the Turkish leadership allow the re-opening and subsequent re-establishment of the Ecumenical Halki seminary? We have been asking this question for many years without any forthcoming answers. Turkey's position on the list is indeed justifiable. Here is a quote from US president O...
Well I am happy that the decadent West pays for my social wellfare checks, free education, free health care. In return I give hate and violence. Fair deal isnt it?
Yes, Bp. Padovese was beheaded. His driver was not nuts. That was a myth. Do a search. Agca himself rejected the Bulgarian connection. He was a Gray Wolf. And he got many, many, many cheers in Turkey when he arrived back home. Ogun Samast was like a poor Jewish boy killing a Nazi Hrant Dink? Hmmm......
@GeneralSherman I see you are not talkink about the murder in France .You see again it is a Muslem (France was rite). I told you look inside the Muslem world an try to change stop blaming athers and then my be you will be better.
"Erdogan Friend"
I am glad to see that Mr. Davutoğlu has given up on his “Zero problems with his neighbors” policy after he figured out that he has problems with every neighbor. Before giving any further advice to anybody else he should think about what to do with his internal Kurdish fiasco, treatment of minorities...
Saaten Maagar
Antidote, You probably watch too much Fox News that it's starting to get to your brain. That bishop was NOT beheaded and his killer was his personal driver who had been suffering from psychological problems for years and the police concluded that it was not a political killing in any way. "Mehmet ...
These are the 16 countries listed: Turkey, Tajikistan, Myanmar, North Korea, Egypt, Eritea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turmeninstan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam? WOW, no mention of Russia or India and their treatment of Muslims? Why is the US so biased? But what can you e...
@Antidote, all that you mention in your comment are murders committed by individuals or perhaps groups but not acts committed against a religion or religious group committed by the state or government. If that is your perspective of your argument then there are lists miles long or longer that can b...
Abu Hamza
Why isnt France or Greece on the list. They are example where religious freedom is grossly hindered.
I mean where else in the world do Roman Catholic Bishops get beheaded in this day and age? I refer to the killing of Bp. Luigi Padovese, in 2010, in Turkey. Just read GeneralSherman, PhD's long diatribes against "decadent," "backward" Christianity, and one begins to see that this culture of crazed r...
With France passing laws against the Hijab and other European countries trying to pass laws for the assimilation of Muslims into a Christian Europe you would think that if this organization wanted to be fair and balanced then European countries or non-Muslim countries would be examined and exposed a...
Abu Hamza
is there any critisism of turkey which turks accept or is everything a conspiracy against turkish prestige what ever that is.
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