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Jewish cemetery in İstanbul desecrated by vandals

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Thirty-six headstones in a Jewish cemetery in İstanbul have been knocked over in the latest apparent vandalism of a Jewish burial ground in Turkey, local media reported on Friday, citing the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation.

According to a statement on Friday made on the foundation’s official Twitter account, unidentified assailants vandalized the Hasköy Cemetery in Beyoğlu, damaging 36 headstones.

“We expect the perpetrators of this vandalism to be caught as soon as possible,” they said, addressing the Interior Ministry and the İstanbul Governor’s Office.

The attack drew widespread condemnation on social media, with Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent defender of human rights, saying in a tweet that such a “raging attack” was the result of government rhetoric “inciting ethnic, religious, political and sectarian hatred.”

“It’s primitive to take revenge on the grave, the tombstone, the funeral. … Those responsible should be caught as soon as possible, and most importantly, the repetition [of such attacks] should be prevented,” Gergerlioğlu said.

The US Department of State underlined in a report last month that Ankara continued to limit the rights of non-Muslim religious minorities in 2021, with isolated acts of vandalism of places of worship and cemeteries continuing in the country.

The report mentioned the vandalizing of the gate of the Jewish cemetery in İzmir by unidentified individuals and a fire set at the gate of the historic Kasturya Synagogue, located in İstanbul.

According to the report, antisemitic discourse and hate speech also continued on social media and the print press, pointing out that in August 2021 some social media personalities and journalists linked the devastating wildfires spreading through Turkey to a foreign rabbi living in the country.

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