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Advancing Religious Freedom in Turkey

By March 7, 2017December 16th, 2019Student Staff, Turkey
For the past several months I’ve been researching, drafting, and editing a book that the Center for Global Justice is writing regarding religious freedom in Turkey.  Our project centers on the right of individuals in Turkey to gather with others and worship as communities of believers.

Although religious practices are certainly very personal and, at times, private, people of faith find greater meaning when they are able to do so with like-minded believers.  Freedom of religion is connected to freedom of association, two rights that are protected under international law.  Specifically, religious groups have the legal right to establish a place of worship, and the benefits that come with that status.  Religious groups also should have the right to “legal personality,” that is, to collectively take legal actions, such as purchasing or renting property.  In Turkey, however, these rights are threatened for minority religious groups such as Christians and Jehovah Witnesses.

This blog post was written by student staff member Jon Greig

Turkey, by ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights, has agreed to abide by its legal standards, among which include both freedom of religion and association.  A recent European Court of Human Rights case, CASE OF İZZETTİN DOĞAN AND OTHERS v. TURKEY (2016), is going to be featured in our book.  In this case, the Court held that the government of Turkey violated a minority religious group’s freedom of religion, in part by failing to grant legal status to a minority Muslim group’s places of worship. 

The Court stated,

“[T]he absence of a clear legal framework governing unrecognised religious minorities … causes numerous additional legal, organisational and financial problems … Firstly, the ability to build places of worship is uncertain and is subject to the good will of the central or local authorities. Secondly, the communities in question cannot officially receive donations from members or State subsidies. Thirdly, as they lack legal personality, these communities do not have access to the courts in their own right but only through foundations, associations or groups of followers. Furthermore, religious communities trying to operate as a foundation or an association face numerous legal obstacles …”

There’s no question that all religious groups in any nation, including Turkey, should have the freedom to freely practice their religions without state interference, including the right to worship together and build houses of worship.  In this light, I am hopeful that our project will educate and empower people of faith in Turkey to exercise their religious freedoms.

This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member.  The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.