Christian, Jewish and Yazidi cemeteries desecrated by teens and extremists

In mid-July, Jewish graves were destroyed in Haskoy, an Istanbul suburb. Previously, Christian burial sites in Mardin and Van were targeted. Dead Yazidi have been dug up, their bodies repositioned in accordance with Islamic practice. Teens aged 11 and 13 have been involved. An Armenian member of Turkey’s parliament bemoans the mindset that “filled those children with hatred”.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – In Turkey, the dead too are victims of abuse and violence, as evinced by the growing number of attacks against non-Muslim burial sites, most notably Christian, Jewish and Yazidi cemeteries.

From Mardin to Van, Christians have decried vandalism against their graves, tombstones and the macabre disturbing of bones.

But the latest incident involves the Jewish community, further proof of a growing climate of hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims.

The Chief Rabbinate Foundation of Turkey recently reported that the Jewish cemetery in Haskoy, an Istanbul suburb, was targeted on 15 July by extremists.

The vandals desecrated 81 graves, some excavated and opened, strewing the area with bones and broken stones. Those responsible for the attack were under 18, acting on orders of a gang of adults.

So far police questioned some minors, but few believe that the investigations will shed any light on what happened or bring justice.

“The fact that the attack on the Jewish cemetery was carried out by children aged between 11 and 13 does not alleviate the situation; it aggravates it. Who and what mentality have filled those children with hatred towards Jews?” tweeted, Garo Paylan, an Armenian lawmaker with the opposition People’s Party (HDP).

Christian graves too have been disturbed. “In the past two months, the graves of Syriac and Jewish communities in Turkey have been attacked and destroyed,” said David Vergili, a prominent Syriac-Assyrian journalist, speaking to the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS), a newswire service.

“The graves and holy places of the Armenian community have also experienced similar attacks before,” he added. This kind of action has “racist, religious motives and mostly target groups that are not part of the Turkish-Islamic ideology.”

For many observers, what happened in mid-July at the Jewish cemetery is part of a broader pattern of persecution and violence against minorities, including Christians.

On 29 June, the feast of Peter and Paul, person or persons unknown opened a number of graves, some more than a thousand years old, scattering the bones, at an Assyrian cemetery in Yemi┼čli, a village in Midyat district, in the south-eastern province of Mardin, already known for past episodes of intolerance.

In the past, Yazidi burial sites have also been attacked. Yazidis bury their dead turned to the sun, i.e., eastward. In some cases, graves were opened, bodies taken out, and turned to point towards Makkah, following Islamic practice.

Mainstream Muslims view the Yazidis as a heretical sect who must be punished and reconverted to Islam, which is what happened in Iraq under Islamic State rule.

A government source spoke to AsiaNews about these incidents, expressing hope for a quick investigation and arrest of those responsible; however, no progress has been reported so far and the culprits are still at large.

The desecration of Christian and Jewish cemeteries is symptomatic of certain loathing, if not outright hatred in Turkish society towards non-Muslim and anyone who does not embrace the ideology of nationalism and Islam favoured by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

As long as this current and its extremist fringes are nurtured, attacks on minority cemeteries as well as churches and other places of worship, not to mention property, will continue to be an ongoing occurrence.