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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

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TURKEY: Constitutional Court judgment on Armenian Patriarchal election – a precedent?

Turkey's Constitutional Court ruled in May 2019 that state interference in the election to replace the ailing Armenian Patriarch was not prescribed by law and not necessary in a democratic society. The precedent is relevant for similar cases over interference in the internal affairs of other religious communities, particularly those the state considers Lausanne Treaty minorities. But any impact remains to be seen.

TURKEY: Minority foundations still cannot hold elections

Since 2013 Turkey's government has blocked community foundations relating to the non-Muslim communities protected under the Lausanne Treaty from holding board member elections. This causes foundations many problems, including that "new ideas or new dynamism are not allowed". Some fear that progress achieved since 2008 is being reversed.

TURKEY: Why can't Armenians elect a Patriarch?

The state has again blocked the long-delayed election of a new Armenian Apostolic Patriarch, arguing that such an election would be contrary to the community's traditions. Yet, freedom of religion or belief protects the right of religious communities to elect leaders in accordance with their traditions as they interpret them.

TURKEY: What do parents and pupils think?

A group of NGOs have surveyed what Turkish parents and secondary school pupils think about the government's education policies in relation to freedom of religion and belief. Some welcome state actions, but others feel coerced into religious instruction and practices they disagree with.

TURKEY: Freedom of belief and security threats

Turkey's failed coup attempt, ongoing and new security threats and government actions have long-term implications for the rule of law with the freedoms of religion and belief, assembly, association and expression. Immediate measures are necessary to protect religious or belief communities directly affected by conflict and terror.

TURKEY: Will schools respect parents' and pupils' freedom of religion or belief?

Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases concerning its compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), as they do not respect parents', guardians', and pupils' freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. In September 2014 the ECtHR stated that "Turkey had to remedy the situation without delay", yet the only action so far has been the Education Ministry preparing an action plan involving wide consultation with civil society on the RCKE courses. This is awaiting government approval after the elections. Another systemic violation of freedom of religion or belief in the education system are optional lessons in Islam, which many have found are in reality "compulsory optional". Fear of discrimination and harassment from teachers and other pupils, as well as the slowness of the legal system, are the main reasons many people have not taken legal action to protect their rights. Unless effective protection of freedom of religion or belief in education is implemented, the state will continue to lose such cases before the ECtHR.

TURKEY: What will happen to state-confiscated places of worship?

The use and ownership of Turkey's many state-confiscated places of worship raises many questions, including how to address past injustices and the present needs of religious communities and historical preservation. Opinions are divided on who Christian churches converted into mosques centuries ago and then turned into museums should be returned to. Many Alevi tekke (dervish lodges) were turned into mosques under the control of the government's Diyanet or assigned to the use of municipalities. The many current uses of such buildings, and the legal status of their potential or past owners, also affects Turkey's implementation of its international obligations to protect freedom of religion or belief. With little or no consultation with religious or belief communities and other interested parties and no general guidelines, state decisions on this delicate subject are bound to be taken on an arbitrary basis, Forum 18 News Service notes.

TURKEY: Religious freedom survey, January 2014

Turkey continues long-standing interferences in the right to freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes in its religious freedom survey. Issues include: the ban on any religious or belief community having legal personality (stopping them owning places of worship); some aspects of the Diyanet's activities obstruct the exercise of freedom of religion or belief by some Muslim and non-Muslim individuals and groups; barriers to using and acquiring places of worship; serious restrictions on conscientious objection to military service; discrimination related to public service posts and activities; the right to teach a religion or belief including to train clergy being severely restricted; compulsory school instruction in Islam with limited exemption possibilities; being forced to declare a religion or belief on identity cards; atheists being prosecuted for exercising the linked rights of freedom of religion or belief and of expression; and interference in some religious communities' choice of leaders. Piecemeal and selective changes have proved inadequate to protect freedom of religion or belief effectively.

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