Nun Urges U.S., Europe to Care About Christian and Yazidi Refugees, Too

The Christian and Yazidi asylum seekers who have fled Syria and Iraq after the brutal invasions and massacres of the Islamic State are now suffering in Turkey as well, due to discrimination, poverty, and other pressures.

Many Western NGOs and churches have turned a blind eye to the plight of Christian and Yazidi asylum-seekers in the Middle East, though some are doing their best to help them. Hatune Dogan, founder of Hatune Foundation International, aims to help refugees, asylum seekers, and persecuted religious minorities across the world. Dogan, a Christian nun, was born in Turkey but now lives in Germany:

Yazidis and Christians from Syria and Iraq arrived in Turkey penniless. And they are still persecuted in Turkey because they belong to a non-Muslim faith.

I was 14 when I left Turkey and arrived in Germany with my family in 1984 as refugees. Thank God we all have had good lives here, therefore I feel that I owe my people, my Christian brothers and sisters, to help them as much as I can.

Sister Hatune has been in contact with Christians living in Turkey, and during the last three years she has visited the few spots in the country that accommodate Yazidis and Christians from war-torn Iraq and Syria:

Christians and Yazidi asylum seekers in Turkey have no rights and the local people, Muslims, do not care much for them.

Some Christian and Yazidi asylum-seekers are living in camps funded by the government or by the Kurdish municipalities. Those who live outside are forced to pay for their own livelihood. They have to pay rent and for all the necessities of life while struggling with economic and social difficulties.

The situation is not much better within the camps. Sister Hatune says that for non-Muslims, life in government-funded camps is “like prison”:

Asylum seekers living in the camps, too, often experience their situation like they are imprisoned. Therefore, many make the choice, themselves, to search for a living outside the camps.

They are really suffering, because the local people use the desperate situation in the housing market to charge unreasonable amounts for vacant apartments -- and the asylum seekers never know if or when they can achieve help, and from who.

For Yazidis, the situation is even worse:

Christians in Turkey are under great pressure because of their religion. For minorities like Yazidis it is even worse. They hold the lowest rank in the Muslim view; they are seen as “devil worshippers.”

On August 3, 2014, the Islamic State conducted a massive assault on the Yazidi community in northern Iraq, invading the region of Sinjar, home to 360,000 Yazidis, and a part of the Nineveh plain, home to 200,000 Yazidis. The invasion led to the abduction, rape, and sexual slavery of Yazidi women and massacres that killed at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians.

The invasion has been deemed a genocide by the U.S. government, the European Parliament, and United Nations investigators. However, Yazidi asylum-seekers from Iraq who stay outside of government-funded camps in Turkey have not been given legal status – they are not considered either “refugees” or “persons benefiting from temporary protection.”