Turkey (MNN) — Just last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed a package of constitutional amendments that could shake the nation’s democratic foundation. These amendment drafts remove many of the structures that dictate the separation of powers, and checks and balances in the government. It would expand President Erdogan’s executive powers and move the country towards a more authoritarian model.
Turkish citizens will vote on the referendums in April, but President Erdogan has said that those who oppose these referendums are terrorists and coup supporters.
As reported by the Voice of America, President Erdogan stated, “Who says no to these reforms? The PKK terrorist says no. Who says no? The coup plotters say no. Who says no? Those who want to divide this country say no. Only those against the flag say no.”
In Turkey’s post-coup world, if you’re pegged as a coup supporter, you land behind bars. And even people for whom a coup connection seems like a stretch, such as pastors or foster parents, are being targeted.
Miles Windsor with Middle East Concern explains, “The coup is a useful excuse to crackdown on those parts of society that the government really doesn’t want to be part of Turkish society…. But that is the situation now that has arisen in Turkey. It’s very easy to paint anybody who is in opposition to the government’s perceived positions or the government’s ideal Turkish community and society as related to terrorist organizations.”
For example, American pastor Andrew Brunson is still jailed in Turkey since his arrest in October. He’s been accused of connections with terrorists, but the only grounds the court has for these charges is a “secret informant”. During Brunson’s imprisonment, he has been denied access to appropriate legal services.
Middle East Concern reported that last Thursday, February 16th the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees sent a letter to President Erdogan seeking Brunson’s release. The letter was signed by 78 members of Congress.
“What our hope is, is that this latest letter will prompt the president, President Erdogan in Turkey, to change his position on the institute, to get personally involved in this case, and to see what is really an embarrassment and what should be a civil unnecessary burden on the Turkish authorities resolved really and see [Brunson] released.”
Windsor goes on to say, “[Brunson has] been there (in Turkey) about 23 years serving the community there. But obviously things have shifted a lot in Turkey in recent times, especially since the attempted coup that happened last year. It’s part of a wave of arrests that have happened across Turkey, not just of Christian workers, but of a great many people within the community in Turkey. It’s got to be seen against that backdrop really.”
With cases like Brunson’s in Turkey and others where Christians are arrested on seemingly trumped up charges, it begs the question: was there at least some probable cause for the arrest?
Middle East Concern sees a lot of these types of cases, and Windsor shares, “It depends entirely on the case we’re talking about. In the vast majority of the ones we see, there is no good reason for these people to be arrested, there is nothing they have done which constitutes breaking the law in these places. Indeed, it’s often the situation that the authorities in the country are breaking international law by arresting and detaining and charging many of these Christians on the charges they’re facing. We can’t look at it through the spectacles of Western democracy and justice. What we see in these countries is not really comparable to Western democracy and justice, and these cases are ways of the authorities and sometimes secret police or whichever group of making Christians feel they’re not welcome in the country.”
So what kind of hope is there for Brunson as he continues to sit day-in and day-out in a Turkish prison? “I think at this stage, we all hope that [Brunson] will be allowed to leave Turkey and that he’ll be able to contest anything from the U.S. At this stage, that’s the key priority, but this latest step highlights a greater level of interest and concern from the Senate and Congress in D.C.”
By sharing this article on social media, you can help raise awareness for Brunson’s imprisonment. In addition to raising awareness, you can also raise Brunson and his family in prayer.
“For the rest of us at this point, what we can be doing is praying — praying that God will be working in the hearts of those who can make a decision on this, those authorities in Turkey who can allow his release, that they would show mercy, that they would desire justice in this case, and that Andrew would be released as soon as possible.”