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Turkish President Erdogan Seizes Six Christian Churches, Making Them State Property

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his foreign policy advisor, Victoria Coates. Photo: Handout Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz and his foreign policy advisor, Victoria Coates. Photo: Handout

She isn't exaggerating. In Syria and Iraq Christians are faced with genocide. And now this in Turkey, a supposed ally of the West.

Coates continued: "The government of Turkey should move swiftly to return these churches to their rightful owners, and not take advantage of the situation to seize them permanently."

The seizure has also set off alarm bells in Europe, where Dutch Christian Democrats (of the CDA party) are demanding action from their government. In parliamentary questions (PDF alert) directed at the Dutch foreign minister, MPs Omtzigt and Knops accused Erdoğan of violating human rights. They added that a police official is accused of making a Turkish nationalist salute in the St. Giragos church after the seizure, and even saying: "Sultan Alp Arslan's grandchildren will bring the unbelievers of churches to the faith."

The intention of that comment is obvious: the official sees the seizure as a means to force Christians to convert to Islam.

Pieter Omtzigt is a Dutch MP for the Christian Democrats (CDA), a member of the Council of Europe, and a widely respected expert on Turkey. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Pieter Omtzigt is a Dutch MP for the Christian Democrats (CDA), a member of the Council of Europe, and a widely respected expert on Turkey. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

MPs Omtzigt and Knops added:

Are you [the foreign minister] prepared to aggressively protest the seizure of these churches to the Turkish government? And are you willing to address this issue at the EU, the Council of Europe, and other forums?

The Christian Democrats also point out that some of the seized churches were targeted by Turkish tanks in battles between the Turkish army and sympathizers of the PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organization. This seems, they argue, to be in violation of the law of war. That's why they want to convince the Dutch cabinet to officially demand an independent investigation into the behavior of Turkey's security forces.

It's now up to the Dutch government to follow the CDA's lead and convince the rest of Europe to finally act against President Erdoğan. It has to be made clear to him that he risks international isolation if he doesn't return these churches to their rightful owners. And although I have little to no faith in President Obama's willingness to protect Christians in Turkey and the rest of the Middle East, Erdoğan undoubtedly understands that he'll be in serious trouble if Ted Cruz (or another real conservative Republican) wins the presidential elections in the U.S. later this year.