ISTANBUL — In a recent article, ‘Bad news’ for Turkey’s marginalized Christians, Politico Magazine confirmed the growing sense of marginalization and persecution among Turkey’s Christians, who feeling increasingly threatened by the spread of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hybrid Nationalist–Islamism.
To Demetrios Ioannou, who penned the article, the re-conversion of the Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque is only Erdoğan’s latest in a long line of symbolic moves to excite both Turkish nationalists and Turkish Islamists.
“There is an Islamist and nationalist atmosphere that makes it uncomfortable for Christians in Turkey,” said Yetvart Danzikyan, the editor-in-chief of Istanbul’s Armenian newspaper Agos. “I fear this [conversion] might cause tensions, although today is not harder than it was a hundred years ago.”
“All Christian minorities and seculars are unhappy and feel fear. Some younger Christians are thinking of leaving Turkey and moving to Western countries,” Danzikyan added.
The Christian population in Turkey has been steadily dwindling. Before the Ottoman genocides, Christians comprised approximately 20 percent of the region’s population. Following the Armenian, Chaldean–Syriac–Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides, millions were killed and displaced. Today, in a country of some 82 million, the total Christian population of Turkey is believed to be around 100,000.
Once the center of the Greek Orthodox world, there are now fewer than 600 Greek Orthodox families in Istanbul.