Turkey's continued refusal to address the Armenian Genocide remains a
source of tension between U.S. and other Western democracies and
Turkey, said the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF) in its annual recommendations released on May 2.
USCIRF is a bi-partisan federal body created by Congress through the
International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 "to monitor the status of
freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, [...] and
to give independent policy recommendations to the President, the
Secretary of State, and the Congress."
In the Turkey portion of its 2007 report, USCIRF details formal
restrictions and other violations of freedom of religion for both
majority Muslims and minority Christian communities. It notes,
however, that "the consequences of some of Turkey's state policies
toward religion have been particularly detrimental for religious
minorities," such as Armenians.
"Built into the founding of Turkish identity was the implicit
understanding that citizens other than ethnic Turks residing in Turkey
are potentially suspect, since they allegedly harbor a secret desire
to secede from and hence, dismember the country," says the report.
"This fear of dismemberment, which has fueled a strain of virulent
nationalism in Turkey, continues to hold sway in some sectors of
society, resulting in state policies that actively undermine ethnic
and minority religious communities, and, in some cases, threaten
their very existence. The Commission learned in meetings that the
Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox communities are focal
points for this perception and its resultant policies."
The report points to prosecution and subsequent murder Hrant Dink
over ""insulting" the Turkish state because of his use of the term
"Armenian genocide" in his public remarks and written publications" as
"just one example" of such policies.
The report says that even though "during the Commission's visit, the
issue of the Armenian genocide was not raised by any interlocutors,
the continued refusal of the Turkish government to recognize the event
continues to be a source of controversy in Turkey's relations with
other western countries, including the United States." Visit
http://www.uscirf.gov to read the full report.