Turkey: Freedom of Religion Only for Islam | FrontpageMag
The Committee lists some of the violations of the rights of non-Muslims:
· Atheists, deists, and agnostics encounter daily infringement on their right to freedom of thought and belief in the workplace, family, and the education system. Atheist, deist and agnostic parents and students do not have the right to exemption from the compulsory religious instruction in the Religious Culture and Ethics lessons.
· Those who express criticism of religion or belief in general, or of specific interpretations, especially those of Islam, face complaints and risk being prosecuted under the Turkish Penal Code.
· No religious or belief community in Turkey has a legal personality as such. Religious or belief groups and their representative institutions, such as Patriarchates or the Chief Rabbinate, lack legal entity status and as such, cannot access the court system, open bank accounts, buy property or officially employ their own religious officials and provide social security for them. Individuals belonging to religious, or belief groups organize themselves as associations or establish foundations with religious intent, though these are also subject to limitations.
· Important restrictions continue to hamper the associative capacity of the non-Muslim community foundations. The foundations’ board elections have been obstructed since 2013. As a result, the functioning of the community foundations and the beneficiary communities continue to be paralyzed and weak.
· Acquiring place of worship status remains an ongoing challenge for several religious communities. This is particularly true for the Alevi, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Protestant communities. The kingdom halls of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the churches of the Protestant community and the cemevis of the Alevi community are in particularly precarious positions due to this lack of the official place of worship status. The public authorities have systematically denied place of worship status to these sites, in disregard of relevant ECtHR [European Court of Human Rights] judgments.
· Many religious buildings are on the verge of ruin and at risk of being lost even though they are officially registered as cultural heritage sites by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Regional Boards under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
· Furthermore, the impact of past loss of properties and associated foundations belonging to a wide range of religious or belief groups continues to be a scar in need of attention. For non-Muslim communities, the process of returning community foundation property that was unjustly taken has not been completed; the damage has yet to be fully remedied.
The report gives as examples the Hagia Sophia former Church and the Chora former Church in Constantinople that were converted into mosques in 2020.