EU Progress Report 2011 / Freedom of Religion or Belief


Pages 28-30

Concerning freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of worship continues to be generally respected. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated in August, for the second time after almost nine decades, the Divine Liturgy of the Dormition of Theotokos at the Soumela monastery in the Black Sea province of Trabzon. In September the second religious service since 1915 was held at the Armenian Holy Cross church on the Akhdamar island in lake Van. A Protestant church was officially opened in June in the city of Van in Eastern Turkey. The Turkish authorities, including a Deputy Prime Minister, held a number of meetings with the religious leaders of non-Muslim communities, including a visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the first visit by a high-ranking official of the Patriarchate since the 1950s.

Following seven workshops held in the context of the 2009 Alevi opening, a final report was issued in March 2011. The Ministry of National Education has prepared new religious education textbooks containing information on the Alevi faith, too. These are to be used as of the 2011-2012 school year. A small number of municipal councils have recognised de facto Cem houses as places of worship. The government expropriated Madimak Hotel30 in Sivas. Alevis have demanded that the hotel be turned into a museum.

The 2010 ECtHR judgment in the Özbek and others v. Turkey case about the establishment of the Kurtuluş Protestant Church Foundation in Ankara (violation of Article 11) was implemented.

Legislation amending the February 2008 Law on foundations was adopted in August 2011. The current legal framework broadly provides for the return of properties entered in the 1936 declarations of the non-Muslim community foundations widening, thus, the scope of the 2008 Law. (See section on property rights).

However, under Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution and Article 12 of the Basic Law on national education, religious culture and ethics classes remain compulsory in primary and secondary schools. A 2007 ECtHR judgment31 regarding compulsory religious education has yet to be implemented. Exemptions from attending such classes are rare and difficult to obtain, particularly if the identity card of the applicant does not list a religion other than Islam or if the religion entry on the card is blank. No alternative classes are provided for students exempted from these classes, and there are reports that students not attending these classes have been given lower marks.

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