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Turkey’s silence on the persecution of Uyghurs


The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has continued to target the ethnic Uyghur minority, with reports now suggesting the CCP is slashing birthrates to curb the Muslim population. Hundreds of thousands of Uyghur women have been subject to forced IUDs, abortion, and sterilization.


The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) warns such actions by the Chinese government are “evidence of geocide.” USCIRF stated that “the Chinese government’s repressive population control measures against Uyghur and other Muslims—including forced sterilization—might meet the legal criteria for genocide under international law.”.”


The Uyghur minority once thought they could rely on Turkey as an ally, since Turkey shares their language, ethnicity and religion. However, the Turkish government has chosen the CCP over the Uyghur people. As the Uyghur people die, Turkey has prioritized the supposed economic benefits of pleasing China.


Not only has the Turkish government unconditionally deserted the Uyghur people, it also aids the CCP in fulfilling extradition requests. The official policy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to hand over the Uyghur people to their tormentors, condemning many of them to sterilization and death. 


Turkey’s appalling behavior has provoked strong, bipartisan condemnation. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID) blasted the Turkish government, saying “it’s shameful that Turkey assists China in violating Uyghur human rights.”


Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) accused President Erdogan of “abusing extradition requests to target his critics around the world.” He further stated, “as Beijing pushes its own extradition and intimidation campaign against minorities, Turkey should rededicate itself to the protection of persecuted Uyghurs.”


As we recently wrote for Real Clear Religion, Uyghur minorities “are worried their rights are being exchanged for political gains.” If Turkey continues to comply with the Chinese government, the nearly 35,000 Uyghurs in Turkey are also at risk.


The Turkish government could at least speak out against the CCP atrocities. Instead, Turkish officials are silent. The 2019 annual report released by the Turkish embassy in Beijing omitted any information on Uyghurs in China. Turkey sent 56 high-level delegations to China last year, and Turkish Ambassador Abdulkadir Emin Onen failed to visit the province where the Uyghurs live even once.


The Turkish government has clearly abandoned the Uyghurs. The United States must play a key role in the protection of ethnic and religious minorities in China and work to end the human rights violations China continues to inflict upon the Uyghurs. Toward this end, the United States should engage with Turkey and encourage the Turkish government to stand up for the Uyghur people.


Our position 


Freedom to Believe strongly holds that religious liberty is the bedrock of American values. Respect for diverse religious beliefs makes us a stronger nation and a more effective world leader.


China’s continued persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, including the Uyghurs, is a violation of basic human rights. Any engagement with the Chinese government by the U.S. administration must highlight the Chinese government’s unconscionable treatment of the Uyghurs. 


Turkey should be an ally in this fight for Uyghur lives. Instead, the Turkish government is complicit in a modern-day genocide. The U.S. must pressure Turkey to end its silence and stand for basic human rights.


Freedom to Believe Statement on Endorsing IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism


June 1, 2020 -- Freedom to Believe has endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.


“Today’s endorsement of the IHRA definition by Freedom to Believe is an important step in the fight to combat antisemitism.”


The IHRA definition has been endorsed or adopted by more than 34 countries, and we encourage all international organizations and countries to adopt this definition for the benefit of all mankind.


Having a unified definition of antisemitism is essential to building an international consensus against those that deny the Jewish people the right to a homeland, hold Israel to a double-standard, and promote boycotts against the Jewish state for purposes of denying her right to exist.


Discrimination of any kind has no place in America and the world, and our endorsement of the IHRA definition and calling for others to do the same will bring us all one step closer to that reality.


Freedom to Believe Statement on U.S. Withdrawal from Northeast Syria


On Sunday October 6, 2019, The White House announced the U.S. would withdraw American troops from Northeast Syria. The United States currently has just over one thousand troops in the area, training and advising the primarily Kurdish-comprised Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). 


Northeast Syria has been a safe haven for religious freedom since 2015. Due to American presence and the sacrifices of our SDF allies, Christians, Yezidis, and Muslims; Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Turkmen, and Armenians have all been able to practice their faiths and live in relative safety in recent years. 


We urge President Trump to reverse the withdrawal from Northeast Syria. Our allies on the ground rely on American presence to fend off potential threats. Turkey is not a fully trustworthy partner and cannot be relied upon to protect religious freedom and the human rights of ethnic minorities. 


Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has made it clear he intends to force Kurds out of their historical land and replace them with other ethnic groups, setting the stage for a genocide of religious and ethnic minorities. A mass-scale humanitarian crisis will ensue. Europe and the United States are not prepared for the fallout of a new refugee crisis and resurgent Daesh terrorists. 



Our August 2019 Visit to "Little Kurdistan" 

Our team visited Nashville, Tennessee or “Little Kurdistan”— home to the largest Kurdish population in America numbering at over 20,000. We reached out to the Kurdish community in Nashville with an intent to help build a bridge between not only Kurds and Americans but also between Americans and Muslims. The Kurds are majority Muslim, they have made Nashville their home since the early 80s. We had the opportunity to interact with organizations, individuals and community centers which included the Salahadeen Center, a Kurdish led mosque. 















Our team was fortunate enough to sit down and have a detailed conversation with Imam Salah of the Salahadeen Center. We shared out thoughts and goals in which he responded positively. Imam Salah believes in an open-door policy, regardless of religious belief or political affiliation to achieve a better understanding between American conservatives and American Muslims and Kurds. We later joined the Imam for Friday Prayers and followed up with a lunch conversation. 














Our team also met with Bnyad Sharef, a Kurd from Erbil who was recently impacted by the travel ban. Bnyad has been in the U.S. for 2 years, we had the opportunity to hear his story. His father worked alongside American troops in Iraq as a translator, his family was given a visa to come to the U.S. but was denied last minute at the Cairo airport due to the travel ban. As word spread of their dire situation, they were eventually allowed into the United States, welcomed at the airport by Tennessee officials and the Nashville community. 

We had fascinating conversations with Kurdish Professionals, a local organization composed of young Kurds looking to better their careers and community members. We hope to collaborate with Kurdish Professionals in the future. Lastly, we had a one-on-one talk with a Kurd named Sekvan who also worked with the U.S. military in Iraq. Sekvan is now a successful business owner in Nashville!


We look forward to our next trip to Little Kurdistan and hope to further our relationship with the community!





July 16-18 Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom Summit


The US. State Department will host its second summit on religious freedom led by Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador on religious freedom issues.  The event will include Nadia Murad, a Yezidi survivor of the Islamic State genocide campaign against religious minorities in Iraq. Nadia Murad was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Pastor Andrew Brunson will also attend, he was being held by the government of Turkey for more than two years on farce charges due to his Christian identity. 


We encourage continuous efforts by the United States to push forward religious liberty across the globe. We believe that religious freedom is a basic human right and that no individual or group should be persecuted based on their faith. Advancing religious freedom in places such as Turkey against Christians, Iraq against Yezidis, China against Uighurs and Myanmar against Rohingya Muslims should be a top priority. 


Both at home and abroad, religious liberty should be celebrated not targeted. The United States has an opportunity to lead governments towards the right path but must also be prepared to pressure authorities if they fail to grant their citizens the right to practice their faith. 


We strongly believe that the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this week will be a great opportunity for different faith groups, persecuted individuals and governments to collaborate and achieve greater religious liberty.  


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