TURKEY’S Islamist government has stepped up its war on Christianity by seizing all the churches in one city and declaring them state property.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken control of six churches in the war-torn southeastern city of Diyarbakir in his latest move to squash freedom of speech and religious movement.
The state-sanctioned seizure is just the latest in a number of worrying developments to come out of increasingly hardline Turkey, which is in advanced talks with the EU over visa-free travel for its 80 million citizens.
Included in the seizures are Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches, one of which is over 1,700 years old.
But the seizures have outraged worshippers at the churches, who fear a government coup against their religion are now threatening to take legal action against the decision.
Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church, said: “The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them.”
And the Diyarbakir Bar Association – which represents Christians worshipping at one of the churches, has now officially filed an appeal the government’s action.
In a statement the group said: “Among the expropriated plots, there are structures belonging to public institutions … and places of worship and residences considered as historical and cultural heritage.
“This decision, which seems to be made by the request of the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning without any reason or justification, is unacceptable within the limits of constitutional order.”
“The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them”
- Ahmet Guvener, pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church
Reacting to the seizure Victoria Coates, who is foreign policy advisor to US Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, said the seizure fits into a pattern in the Middle East, where Christians are systematically displaced and persecuted.