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Turkish research gfs.bern to study discrimination against Muslims

Are muslims discriminated against in Switzerland? The Turkish government is the indirect sponsor of a potential new study.


The Swiss research institute gfs.bern has signed a contract with a local lobbying organisation connected with the Turkish government to conduct a survey of discrimination experienced by Muslims in Switzerland.

On Monday gfs.bernexternal link confirmed a report by the daily newspaper Tages-Anzeigerexternal link, saying in a statement that the study is in the design phase and that once that phase is over, a decision will be made as to whether the study can be carried out on the basis of current scientific and methodological criteria.

The potential study comes at a time when Turkey is in upheaval following a military coup attempt on July 15. In Switzerland as well as in Turkey, supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have threatened followers of Fethullah Gülen, who Erdogan claims is responsible for the coup.

The man who signed the contract with gfs.bern – Murat Sahin, President of the Swiss branch of the Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD) – gained attention for a public statement he made following the coup attempt: “You terrorists of Fetullah Gülen, your end has come.”

While governments around the world, including Switzerland, decried the attempt to overthrow a democratically elected president, the arrests of tens of thousands of educators, journalists, civil servants, and members of the Army by Erdogan has led to a climate of uncertainty for many Turkish citizens in Switzerland.

Evaluating the Muslim experience

Although almost 100% of the population in Turkey is officially considered to be Muslim, in Switzerland Muslims make up only 5% of permanent residents.

The planned study would evaluate discrimination against Muslims in Switzerland, and would include a minimum of 600-700 interviews, according to political scientist Urs Bieri, co-owner of gfs.bern.

While UETD provided the study question, gfs.bern would be “responsible for the methodology and implementation and will publish an independent report if the study can be carried out successfully,” Bieri told The methods and implementation would be based on gfs’s own racism monitoring and international research, he said.

In order to conduct the survey, gfs.bern will have to identify people to interview. Some of the contacts would be provided by UETD, said Bieri, and some by gfs.bern. The survey will be conducted anonymously, however. “Neither the client nor the project leaders of gfs.bern will know who gave which answers,” he maintained.

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