Sc- 29, 29 April 2020, Statement Of The Spokesperson Of The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hami Aksoy, In Response To A Question Regarding The Turkey Chapter Of The U.s. Commission On International Religious Freedom's 2020 Report

Republic Of Turkey Ministry Of Foreign Affairs 29.04.2020

We are used to seeing the chapters on Turkey to contain a language that is biased and far from objective in the US Commission on International Religious Freedom's reports, which are drawn up annually in order to make policy recommendations to the U.S. Government regarding religious freedoms. However, the fact that, in this year's report, the Commission recommended Turkey for the US State Department's "Special Watch List", designated for countries "engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom" is a clear indication of the biased mindset behind it and the circles under whose influence it was drawn up.

The report contains baseless, unaccredited and vague allegations as in the past years while trying to portray isolated incidents as violations of religious freedoms through far-fetched accusations. This biased and unsubstantiated approach casts doubt on the credibility of the report. The importance attached by Turkey to protect religious freedoms, including those of religious minorities, is expressed at the highest level by our Government officials. Our authorities make it clear that any harm to the religious freedoms of our citizens will not be tolerated. The message of our President in his letter dated 24 April 2020 to the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey is the best testimony to this end.

The fact the leader of FETÖ is mentioned as a "US-based cleric" throughout the report amounts to deliberately turning a blind eye to the heinous coup attempt against democracy in Turkey and 251 of our innocent citizens martyred by FETÖ. We invite the US authorities to earnestly examine the evidence we have provided regarding FETÖ and to engage in effective cooperation in line with the spirit of alliance in order to reveal the true nature of this terrorist organization.

Turkey combats all forms of terrorism in northern Syria, including in the Operation Peace Spring area. In fact, Turkey’s legitimate security concerns on its Syrian border as well as the legitimacy of the Operation Peace Spring were acknowledged by the US itself in the joint US-Turkish statement made on 17 October 2019. The labeling of the Operation Peace Spring area as an "occupation zone" nevertheless is a contradictory and inconsistent approach. The authors of this report must first reveal the crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing, committed by PKK/YPG. Just yesterday in Afrin, this terrorist organization slaughtered more than sixty civilians including children.

In the report that is supposed to include global trends that threaten religious freedoms, the Commission does not mention a single word about xenophobia, Islamophobia and discrimination on religious grounds that is on the rise in the West and the US. This clearly reveals that the purpose of the report is not to protect religious rights and freedoms. It is clear that the Commission, which has been accused of being anti-Muslim in the past, has drawn up this report based on its unwarranted agenda and priorities under the influence of circles that are hostile to Turkey, rather than objective criteria. We recommend the authors of this report to look in the mirror and engage in self-criticism.

Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu Ambassador