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Turkey Deporting Foreign Christians or Banning Their Return, Sources Say

Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Wikipedia)

(Morning Star News) – Dozens of foreign Christians in Turkey have been forced to leave the country or been banned from returning in what appears to be government targeting of the Protestant Christian community, rights advocates say.

Many, like Carlos Madrigal of Spain, have been serving in leadership roles in Protestant churches in the country for years. Such foreigners have lived in the country for decades, forming families and buying property, according to a researcher at Middle East Concern (MEC).

Madrigal has lived in the country for more than 19 years on a clergy visa as the spiritual leader of the Istanbul Protestant Church Foundation (IPCF), according to a press statement from the group. At the airport in November 2019, he was issued a stamp in his passport that he realized would keep him from returning to Turkey if he left the country, so he decided to cancel his trip and appeal the decision, according to published reports.

Madrigal appeared on Turkish television in June to point out that he could see no clear reason why he was banned from the country, the MEC researcher said.

Noting that the ban against Madrigal was issued in November 2019, the IPCF stated, “It is with great sadness that we must inform you that since 2019, it has been made increasingly difficult for foreign Protestant clergy serving in Turkey to be resident in our country.”

Denied

Turkey’s Ministry of Interior notified another foreign Christian, Joy Anna Subasigüller, a U.S.-born mother of three married to a Turkish pastor, on June 5 that her family visa was denied, according to German media outlet Deutsch Welle (DW).

Subasigüller, who has lived in Turkey 10 years, is a stay-at-home mom of three children ages 2, 4, and 4 months. Her children, like their father pastor Lütfü Subasigüller, are Turkish citizens, and she suspects the decision to deport her is related to his Christian work, according to DW.

Pastor Subasigüller was stunned that Turkish authorities would require them to abandon their home and relatives in Turkey, he told DW. The couple plans to contest the decision in court.

Another case involves a U.S. pastor in Istanbul who was about to fly out of the country from Istanbul with his family on June 24. He learned he would not be allowed to return to Turkey, canceled his flight and filed an appeal, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

Another foreign resident of Turkey, Hans-Jurgen Louven of Germany, had invested more than 20 years in culture and faith tourism in the country with encouragement and assurances from local officials. In August 2019 an application to renew his residency visa was denied, and he was ordered to leave the country in 10 days, according to Christian support group Open Doors’ World Watch Monitor.

De Facto Ban

It is estimated that about 35 Christian workers received similar bans in 2019 and 16 more since the end of June, according to a Middle East and North Africa researcher for CSW.

The bans could go undetected by the unsuspecting. As Christian foreigners leave the country at airports, officials stamp an “N-28 Code” in their passports, according to the IPCF. Officially the code indicates that they need to obtain special approval to re-enter the country via their country’s embassy, but those who have tried to obtain it have been refused, making the code essentially a de facto ban, said the MEC researcher.

The N-28 Code can also be used to deny visa renewals, according to the IPCF.

Those fighting the ban find that administrative courts are not giving lawyers access to reports from Turkish intelligence, according to the MEC researcher. Advocates hope that they will be more successful by appealing to the constitutional court and, if not, then at the European Court of Human Rights, he said.

Effect on Churches

The targeting of foreign Christians puts pressure on Turkey’s small and vulnerable Protestant community, which relies on foreigners for formal religious training and sometimes for funding, advocates say.

“This will deprive them of support and make them feel isolated and abandoned,” said the CSW researcher.

There are about 10,000 Turkish Protestants who attend about 170 churches, many of them house churches, in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of more than 84.3 million people, said the MEC researcher.

While officially Turkey allows freedom of religion, including conversion from Islam, advocates say that pressure began building against foreign Christians in the country when U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned on spurious terrorism charges from 2016 to 2018.

Some Christians believe that a blacklist may have begun while authorities were trying to gather evidence against Pastor Brunson, the MEC researcher said. Some have noticed that many of those banned had attended one of three Christian conferences, he added.

“It’s notable that none of these people have been charged with any breaking of the law,” he said.

Foreign and local Christians love Turkey, he added, saying that some will have to count the costs of staying in light of recent developments.

“You actually find that Turkish Christians, they love their country,” he said. “These people who are receiving the bans – I know many of them personally love Turkey and have given such a lot to Turkey.”

Turkey ranked 36th on Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

TURKEY TO DEPORT AMERICAN CHRISTIAN COUPLE AS ‘NATIONAL SECURITY RISK’

Norine and Andrew Brunson Photo: World Watch Monitor

Norine and Andrew Brunson Photo: World Watch Monitor

By Dani Miskell, Special to ASSIST News Service

IZMIR, TURKEY (ANS – October 19, 2016) — World Watch Monitor has reported of an arrest made on Friday October 7th of the American Christians, Andrew and Norine Brunson. The couple has been detained by Turkish officials in the coastal city of Izmir on grounds of conducting activities constituted as “national security risks.”

The Turkish Interior Ministry has both issued the arrest and subsequently ordered the Brunson’s to be deported within 15 days. They have declined to release any further details of the accusations they’re making on the Brunson’s. They’re declining to respond because official papers from Ankara, the Republic’s capital, hadn’t arrived yet.

The couple has been denied access to the U.S. consular officials and lawyers. Authorities at the Migration Administration Detention Facility sentenced them. This also is the location of where the Brunson’s are currently being held until their deportation.

According to Barbara G. Baker of WWM, the Brunson’s had been residents of Turkey for the last 20 years. They served as leaders of a small Protestant Church known as the Izmir Resurrection Church, in the Alsancak district. The couple had filed a routine application back in April to renew their residence visas. They never received a response until six months later, when they came home and found a written summons requesting them to report to a local police station, along with their passports. They did so on Friday October the 7th and were then immediately taken into custody.

In the last week, several attempts have been made on the Brunson’s behalf. One lawyer requested visitation but was denied access because he didn’t have legal authorization. He returned with an affidavit, but the officials claimed that the couple had already signed a statement declaring they didn’t want representation. They have yet to produce any written statements claiming this.

A second lawyer decided to act on the Brunson’s behalf and filed a petition to the Izmir governor, on Wednesday October 12th. It protested that the stipulations made against the American Christians were illegal under Turkish detention laws.

A member of the Turkish Parliament has also been reported to inquire about the handling of the couple’s detention.

Members of the Izmir Resurrection Church have attempted to send a change of clothes to the Brunson’s but were rebuffed by the detention center. The Brunson’s are reported be in the forties.

One of the church’s leaders reported that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara had confirmed of their involvement in “following the arrests,” but embassy officials are declining to comment at this time.

The Brunson’s current state is reportedly not the first of its kind. It’s a continuing pattern. There have been many cases similar to theirs over the past few years, where the Interior Ministry issued deportation orders against expatriate Christians living in Turkey. Others were more fortunate to have been permitted official access to their lawyers. There have been reports of those granted temporary stays of deportation along with a formal court appeal.

Another case similar to that of the Brunson’s is Canadian-American Christian, David Byle. Byle was taken into custody back in April. The Interior Ministry had also denied his application to renew his residence visa, and advised the immigration authorities to deport him on grounds of being a “danger to public order”. Byle has been helping educate the Turkish public about the Bible. He organizes legal street outreaches on behalf of a Bible Correspondence Course. His lawyers filed three cases against his arrest, deportation order, and re-entry ban. At this present time, they remain on hold due to the Turkish judicial anarchy in honor of supporting the Fetullah Gulen movement. Byle continues to live in Turkey during this interim.

First reports of the Interior Ministry’s harassment on American Christians date back to 2014. Patrick Jensen’s account occurred in September of 2014 while he was serving as an American Protestant Pastor in the Gaziantep City of southeast Turkey. He had been serving for nine years until the Interior Ministry blacklisted him two years ago and ordered for imminent deportation. It was overturned 2 months later by the Gaziantep Administrative Courts judicial decision.

The option of judicial review is being avoided in the case of the Brunsons’ deportation. They continue to be refused any legal rights in order to prevent their forced removal from Turkey. The recent failed military coup, on July 15th, has left Turkey in a “state of emergency.” Now the government in Ankara has had free rein to loosely implement policies and directives. Even if they have violated the principle rule of law, they are allowed free reign and their regulations aren’t expected to expire until mid-January 2017.

“They are never going to be happy with any foreigners doing Christian work in this country,” one Turkish church leader told Barbara G. Baker of World Watch Monitor. “So we have to take these government actions in proportion, realizing there are so many countries in this region where expatriate Christians can’t even go openly.”

Iranian Christian Woman Deported From Sweden Tells Her Story

shahrzad-sakiyani-3-e1438841697189

Swedish authorities seem to be indifferent to the desperate situation of Iranian refugees who have escaped severe Human Rights violations in Iran. Deporting them would put them at a great risk of being arrested, imprisoned, and tortured or in some cases even executed. Mrs. Shahrzad Sakiani, an Iranian Christian convert, is one of the asylum seekers at risk of being deported to Iran.

Mohabat News – Shahrzad Sakiani was a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden. Stockholm immigration police arrested her last June and eventually deported her to Oslo, Norway with an accompanying officer. In just 24 hours, despite all efforts by Human Rights activists, Norwegian immigration police forced her to board a Qatar airways flight to Tehran via Doha. Two female officers and one Iranian-Norwegian officer were commissioned to hand her over to Iranian authorities.

The officers forced Shahrzad to get on the plane in Oslo airport, despite her resistance. Norwegian officers took her to the plane so aggressively that her shirt was torn and by the time she was on the plane, her upper body was naked, she had a headache and her nose was bleeding. This violent interaction had caused her to lose control of her bladder and make nervous screams. The two female officers held her arms and put their hand over her mouth. The Iranian-Norwegian male officer, who had introduced himself as Farhad, kept kicking her knee and forced her to take a seat at the tail section of the plane. Farhad held her tightly on her seat and pushed her head between her knees so she wouldn’t scream.

Read more: Iranian Christian Woman on the Verge of Immediate Deportation

Shahrzad told Mohabat News that she was so scared that she could hardly control my screams. After a few hours in transit at Doha, she was put aboard a flight to Tehran. The Qatar Airways flight landed in Tehran early in the morning. The officers used a blanket as Hijab to cover Shahrzad and took her with them to one of the halls at Imam Khomeini airport.
There, Norwegian officers tried handing Shahrzad over to Iranian authorities along with her deportation letter. Iranian police refused to receive her as Shahrzad did not confirm her identity. The Iranian-Norwegian officer, Farhad, did all he could to convince Iranians to accept Shahrzad. He even threatened Shahrzad that if she didn’t cooperate, he would inform Iranian authorities about everything she had told them in confidence in her refugee interview concerning the Islamic regime of Iran.

Shahrzad told Mohabat News, “The disrespectful treatment by the Norwegian officer, Farhad, had allowed Iranian authorities to disrespect me as well. When one of the bearded Iranian guards saw the cross around my neck, he snatched it from me and threw it away. This was done so violently that the mark it left on my neck remained for a couple of days”.
Ultimately Iranian authorities refused to accept her in Tehran without identification. She was returned to Oslo with the officers. The Iranian-Norwegian officer told Shahrzad that he would do everything to collect the required documents from the Iranian embassy in Oslo and return her to Tehran.

Shahrzad was shocked by Farhad’s threats and escaped the detention room that night. She is currently living in an undisclosed location and spoke to Mohabat News from there. She asks Human Rights organizations to condemn this inhumane treatment by Norwegian Immigration police. She also pleads with all her Christian brothers and sisters in Iran and around the world to support her and her husband in prayer.

Shahrzad Sakiani and her husband, Mahmoud Mohammadi, have had their asylum application rejected in Norway twice. When they tried to apply in Sweden, they refused to grant them asylum seeker status and deported them to Norway.

Shared with permission 

Our friends at Mohabat News are a group of Bible believing Christians who believe in propagating the word of God. They have made the spreading of the good news of God’s love and forgiveness among Iranians and the Farsi speaking peoples of Afghanistan and Tajikistan their primary goal.

 

The Lord has placed on their hearts to bring awareness of what is happening in the world to Farsi-speaking readers. Helping Christian and non-Christian Iranians raise their awareness of what goes in our world and in their own country.

Mohabat News acts as a cultural and social bridge between the world community and the peoples of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and to better inform the worldwide Church of Jesus Christ and Christian ministries around the world about the life and the welfare of Christian minorities in these Farsi-speaking countries.

Please visit Mohabat News, the voice of the persecuted church of Iran to stay informed. English or  Farsi 

U.S. Supreme High Court turns away homeschoolers’ request for asylum

Romeike family

Now that a homeschooling family’s last judicial hope for asylum in the U.S. has been dashed, an attorney fears they will face “certain persecution” if forced to return to Germany – unless his legal firm can find another avenue to help them.

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case of a Christian family from Germany seeking asylum in the U.S. The Romeike family fled Germany in 2008 to avoid persecution for homeschooling their children.

Michael Farris, chairman of the Homeschool School Legal Defense Association, says he’s disappointed because of indications last week the justices might take up the case. He is convinced the family would be secure in their asylum in America if it weren’t for the Obama administration.

“The original asylum judge held that this was a case of religious persecution and granted them asylum,” he explains. “And if the Obama administration would have just left that alone, it would have set no precedent; it was a very low-level decision. But they decided to make a case out of it – and literally make a federal case out of it.” HSLDA is currently working with members of Congress on possible legislation that could help the Romeikes – and others like them – who are fleeing persecution.

Farris points out while the administration is sympathetic toward the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the U.S., the Romeikes are apparently the object of its scorn.

“But one family that comes here for religious freedom, which is the original freedom-based reason to come to the United States, that’s not welcome anymore,” he laments. ”

I can’t read anything into it other than this is part of the overall attack on Christianity that this administration is waging.” The HSLDA chairman says if the family is deported, it’s possible German officials could immediately seize the Romeike children without the opportunity to appeal or comply with German law surrounding compulsory public education.

By Bob Kellogg One News Now

Sudan Government Proclaims Religious Freedom, then uses Shari’a to persecute Christians

Source

Sudan’s minister of guidance and endowments, Al-Fatih Taj El-sir, announced Wednesday that no new licenses for building churches will be issued. The Ministry of Guidance and Social Endowments oversees religious affairs in the country.

The minister explained this decision by claiming that no new churches had been established since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, due to a lack of worshippers, and claimed a growth in the number of abandoned church buildings. He added there was therefore no need for new churches but said the freedom to worship is guaranteed in Sudan.

This decision was announced against the backdrop of a campaign of repression against Christians in northern Sudan that began in December and has continued into 2013. Days before this announcement, the Catholic Information Service for Africa reported a senior South Sudanese Catholic priest, Father Maurino, and two expatriate missionaries had been deported on April 12.

The two missionaries, one from France and the other from Egypt, worked with children in Khartoum. According to Fr. Maurino, no reason was given for the deportations. He added that Christians were in trouble in Sudan, since the government sought to Islamize the country and eliminate the Christian presence.

In a briefing published this month, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) states that since December, the organization “has noted an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians and of those suspected of having links to them, particularly in Khartoum and Omodorum, Sudan’s largest cities. There has also been a systematic targeting of members of African ethnic groups, particularly the Nuba, lending apparent credence to the notion of the resurgence of an official agenda of Islamisation and Arabisation.

“The campaign of repression continued into 2013, with foreign Christians being arrested and deported at short notice and those from Sudan facing arrest, detention and questioning by the security services, as well as the confiscation of property such as mobile phones, identity cards and laptops. In addition to the arrests and deportations, local reports cite a media campaign warning against ‘Christianisation.’”

In February, at least 55 Christians linked to the evangelical church in Khartoum were detained without charge. On Feb. 18, the cultural center of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Khartoum was raided by the National Intelligence and Security Services. Three people were arrested at the premises, and several items were confiscated, including books and media equipment. The three arrested were all from South Sudan; one was released days after the initial arrest.

CSW’s advocacy director, Andrew Johnston, says,

“The recent spike in religious repression in Sudan is deeply worrying. The minister’s claims of guaranteeing freedom to worship are at odds with regular reports of Christians being harassed, arrested and, in some cases, expelled from the country at short notice. We urge the Sudanese government to end its campaign of harassment against the Christian community and respect the right of all of its citizens to freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a signatory.”

Sudan uses Shari’a against its own Christians

sudan-map-2KHARTOUM, SUDAN (Worthy News)– After the South seceded in 2011, President Al-Bashir promised to make what remained of Sudan “100 percent” Islamic; to that end, the Sudanese government has enhanced its enforcement of Shari’a against any Christians who remain under Al-Bashir’s rule.

Although the Sudanese government has deported hundreds of Christian foreigners, ethnic South Sudanese — who make up the majority of Christians in Sudan — have been officially classified as aliens since the 2011 split. As strangers in their own land, they must obtain new permits for existing churches, but since the Sudanese government has been unwilling to grant them, it began closing, or even destroying churches it now claims were illegally built.

Yet despite this tactic, the Sudanese government vehemently denies discriminating against Christians.

“All religions can practice their faith in total freedom,” a senior official of Al-Bashir’s National Congress Party informed International Christian Concern. “There are no restrictions at all”.

Related News Stories:

  1. Christians in Sudan, South Sudan Facing Death and Detention
  2. Sudan Forces Its Christians Out
  3. Danforth appointment marks positive step on Sudan
  4. Sudan Detains Dozens Of Christians; Violence Kills 60
  5. Police persecute Christians in Sudan
  6. Thousands Of Trapped Christians Rescued In Sudan
  7. Sudan Police Flog Christian Girls for Wearing Pants, report

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