Turkish Christians still experiencing discrimination

Compass Direct News (CDN) is reporting that despite some promising developments, Christians in Turkey continue to suffer attacks from private citizens, discrimination by lower-level government officials and vilification in both school textbooks and news media, according to a study by a Protestant group.

In its annual Report on Human Rights Violations, the country's Association of Protestant Churches notes mixed indicators of improvement but states that there is a "root of intolerance" in Turkish society toward adherents of non-Islamic faiths.

"The removal of this root of intolerance is an urgent problem that still awaits to be dealt with," the report states.

"There is still a lot of room for improvement," said Mine Yildirim, a member of the legal committee for the association.

The report documented 12 attacks against Christians in 2011, including incidents in which individuals were beaten in Istanbul for sharing their faith, church members were threatened and church buildings attacked. None of the attackers have been charged.

In some places in Turkey, church leaders have to "live under some sort of police protection," the report reads.

"There are at least five church leaders who have bodyguards, and at least two have a direct phone line to a police protection unit," the report states.

"Several churches have police protection during worship services."

According to CDN, the report notes some positive developments in Turkey over the past year, including school administrators being more responsive to the rights of non-Muslim students to opt out of state-mandated Islamic education.

Following a court order, Turkish citizens are allowed to leave the religious affiliation space blank on their state-issued identification cards, the news agency reports