Saturday, April 22, 2017

Devil's Bargain? Why Turkish Referendum Spells Bad News for Religious Minorities

WASHINGTON – This week Turkey voted to trade democracy for what looks like authoritarian rule. If the referendum stands, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will gain power over all branches of government. That's bad news for Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey already facing persecution.
With a narrow vote that's being challenged after allegations of fraud, Turks lost the checks and balances in their government, just barely handing Erdogan the executive powers he's craved since a coup threatened to topple his reign last summer.
"The problem is that there are serious allegations and not only allegations but evidence of electoral fraud," said Aykan Erdemir, who served in Turkey's parliament until 2015.
Erdemir, a Muslim Turk, has dedicated his career to defending minority rights in his country, including those of Christians and Jews.
If the referendum stands, Erdogan will have executive, judicial and legislative powers.
Erdemir predicts conditions for Christians, who've already fallen prey to crackdowns and persecution, will continue to worsen.
During his victory speech, Erdogan invoked religious incitement, accusing the West of starting a "crusade" against Islam.
"So he's again using this kind of belligerent clash of Islam versus Christianity," Erdemir explained. "It's the battle of the cross versus the crescent rhetoric."
"And you can imagine if you are a member of Turkey's Jewish or Christian communities you will feel very threatened because you are a citizen," he continued. "And technically on paper you have the same rights as Turkey's majority Muslim population but you have a president who continues to single you out.

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