As Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made an official visit to the Vatican on Feb. 4-5, 2018, the Italian academics shared their worries over the situation in Afrin with the Pope and called upon him to raise the issue during the meeting with Erdoğan.
President Erdoğan is scheduled to pay an official visit to the Vatican and Rome on Sunday and Monday. His visit will be the first Turkish presidential trip to the Vatican in 59 years. According to reports in media, Pope Francis invited President Erdoğan to discuss the crisis on Jerusalem that developed after the decision by the US President Donald Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), a written statement signed by dozens of Italian academics has said that “Today, after the defeat of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq and Syria by the Kurdish forces, Turkey has embarked on a new war, with the attack started on January 19, 2018, precisely against those Kurds who have defeated ISIL. The recent Turkish invasion in northern Syria can only mean the beginning of a new bloody conflict that will surely drag the region into a new catastrophe, which will inevitably kill children, bring hunger and will again force the local population to flee.”
The academics has continued to say that “In the Kurdish region of Afrin and the recently liberated territories from ISIL in Syria, there are not only the Kurds but also Christians, Arabs, Turkmen, Yazidis and other ethnic groups who are trying to live together peacefully in that area. Turkey’s aggression against those peoples in Afrin is a blatant violation of international law, but it is also the sabotage of that peaceful experience of coexistence and peace.”
The academics called Pope Francis to raise the issue during his meeting with Turkish autocratic President Erdoğan who said that he saw his official visit to the Vatican as a “significant opportunity’ to convey messages of peace.
“I see this visit as a significant opportunity to draw attention to common human values, giving friendship and peace messages,” Erdoğan told reporters at İstanbul’s Ataturk International Airport ahead of his departure for the Vatican. Erdoğan went on to outline the issues he will discuss with Pope Francis during his official visit. “We will discuss Palestine, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, counterterrorism, refugee issues, humanitarian aid,” he said.
Along with Erdoğan, Pope Francis was one of the most prominent international leaders to criticize the US decision last December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “We will also exchange views on rising Islamophobia in the west and fighting cultural racism,” he added.
During his two-day official visit Erdoğan will also meet his Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella for a working luncheon in Rome and and then separately Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. During the meetings, the leaders will discuss cooperation in various areas, including economy and defense industry. Also expected to be covered are the latest developments in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Jerusalem, Turkish-EU relations, anti-terror cooperation and irregular migration.
A case study by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) had revealed on August 2017 that the hatred towards Christian minority groups in Turkey and xenophobic euphoria against Christians in general are being fueled in an unprecedented campaign led by Turkey’s rulers, especially the country’s authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The report has underlined that Erdoğan who often spews hate speech against Christians, particularly Vatican, continues to stigmatize millions of people in Turkey and around the world with his systematic and deliberate campaign of churning hostility against Christians. His propaganda machinery amplifies this hateful narrative and the mass media under Erdoğan’s control spread it further to a larger audience.
SCF had reviewed Erdoğan’s public speeches delivered in recent years to uncover the pattern as well as campaigns run by his associates in politics and media. Turkish president openly ruled out an interfaith dialogue between Islam and Christianity, branded the European Union as group of infidels led by the Pope, and even accused the United Nation Security Council as representing only Christian nations.
The unrelenting attacks against the Holy Sea, especially the Pope, often came out when Erdoğan bashed and tried to bully his opponents whether that would be Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Muslim scholar and major critic of Erdoğan or countries like Germany and the Netherlands when he was prevented to run political campaigns for diaspora Turks.