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29 November 2007

TURKEY: What causes intolerance and violence?

The trial in Malatya of those accused of murdering three Protestants has drawn attention again to the question of what causes such intolerance and violence. Güzide Ceyhan, a Turkish Protestant, in a personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org, identifies three trends behind the murders: disinformation by public figures and the mass media; the rise of Turkish nationalism; and the marginalisation of smaller groups from Turkish society. All three trends feed off each other, and all of Turkey's smaller religious communities – those within Islam and Christianity, as well as Baha'is and Jehovah's Witnesses - are affected by them in various ways. Many Turkish people – of all religions and none - are committed to furthering democracy and human rights, while civil society is growing stronger. But for the fundamental right of all Turkish citizens to freedom of thought, conscience and belief to be truly protected, a human rights-based approach is indispensable.

10 July 2007

TURKEY: Dangerous consequences of intolerance of religious minorities

The Turkish government has long failed to tackle deep-rooted discrimination against religious minorities – by refusing to guarantee their position in law or to crack down on intolerance from officials, the media and in school curricula. This has left religious minorities dangerously exposed, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio.de/dcms/sites/missio2/missio-ueber-sich/leitthemen/menschenrechte/index.html. For, as Dr Oehring observes in this personal commentary for Forum 18 http://www.forum18.org, hostility to religious minorities is stoked by widespread xenophobia. Following the brutal murder of three Protestants in Malatya in April, attacks on and threats against religious minorities have only increased. Official "protection" for religious minority leaders and places of worship seems designed as much to control as to protect them.

28 June 2007

TURKEY: What chance for religious freedom in Turkey's elections?

Turkey is due to hold parliamentary elections on 22 July, which will have a crucial impact on the presidential election due in autumn. Both elections will strongly influence the chances of greater freedom of thought, conscience and belief, Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio.de/dcms/sites/missio2/missio-ueber-sich/leitthemen/menschenrechte/index.html notes. Turkish religious minorities Forum 18 News Service has spoken to are highly concerned about the outcome of the elections. For, as Dr Oehring observes in this personal commentary for Forum 18 http://www.forum18.org, Turks who want to see genuine freedom of thought, conscience and religion have little expectation that either the parliamentary or presidential election will bring any improvement. No political party with any chance of gaining real power wants either to tackle the dangerous media intolerance of religious minorities or to take the dramatic changes necessary to usher in genuine religious freedom.

18 January 2007

TURKEY: Religious freedom via Strasbourg, not Ankara or Brussels?

There are now two major questions in the struggle for full religious freedom in Turkey, Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio-aachen.de/menschen-kulturen/themen/menschenrechte notes. Firstly, will the controversial Foundations Law be adopted, and if so in what form? Secondly, will the Turkish authorities move towards full religious freedom after a recent momentous ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg? The ECtHR did not accept the Turkish state's argumentation over the seizure of non-Muslim minorities' property, and even the Turkish judge at the Court had no objections to the ruling. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org, Dr Oehring suggests that, as Turkish accession negotiations with the European Union have gone quiet, the ECtHR may now be the best route for Turkey's religious minorities to assert their rights.

22 November 2006

TURKEY: Pope Benedict XVI's visit and religious freedom

Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Turkey spotlights religious freedom, notes Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio-aachen.de/menschen-kulturen/themen/menschenrechte. Some are optimistic that the new Foundations Law will resolve property problems for the organisations allowed to non-Muslim communities, but this has yet to be seen. Astonishingly, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gul may not meet Pope Benedict. Officials fear that the Pope may discuss the problems facing Catholics and other religious minorities, including Muslim minorities. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org, Dr Oehring maintains that – despite hopeful signs such as several Protestant churches gaining association status – there has been little overall progress this year in religious freedom. For example, minorities such as the Syriac Orthodox do not have the legal right to undertake activities essential for a functioning peaceful religious community.

26 July 2006

TURKEY: Little progress on religious freedom

Despite hopes, there has been little progress in achieving true religious freedom in Turkey, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio-aachen.de/menschen-kulturen/themen/menschenrechte. Delays in changing the Foundations Law; declining official interest in acting on EU and Council of Europe advice; the lack of concrete impact of limited changes in the way the state records individual religious affiliation; "massive nationalistic indoctrination" in schools; and continuing systematic discrimination against Muslim and non-Muslim minorities contribute to Turkey's religious freedom deficit. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org, Dr Oehring maintains that the Turkish government no longer seems willing to improve the religious freedom and human rights situation. Many think that EU accession negotiations may fail, and he suggests that this is likely to end any progress towards religious freedom.

13 December 2005

TURKEY: Religious communities need fundamental reform of Constitution

Long-running attempts to improve the Law on Foundations are not the way to introduce true individual and collective religious freedom in Turkey, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio-aachen.de/menschen-kulturen/themen/menschenrechte . Only some religious minorities are allowed such foundations, while foundations that do exist are subject to intrusive government interference. In this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org, Dr Oehring maintains that Turkey needs instead to tackle the fundamental problem of the lack of religious freedom. This can best be done, he contends, by both changing the Constitution and bringing in an accompanying law to concretely introduce the full individual and collective religious freedom rights spelled out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

12 October 2005

TURKEY: Is there religious freedom in Turkey?

The European Union (EU) must make full religious freedom for all a core demand in the EU membership negotiations with Turkey which have just begun, argues Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic charity Missio http://www.missio-aachen.de/menschen-kulturen/themen/menschenrechte in this personal commentary for Forum 18 News Service http://www.forum18.org. Dr Oehring also calls for people inside and outside Turkey who believe in religious freedom for all to honestly and openly raise the continuing obstructions to the religious life of Turkey's Muslim, Christian and other religious communities. He analyses the limited, complex and changing state of religious freedom in the country. In particular, he notes that Christians of all confessions, devout Muslim women, Muslim minorities, and other minority religions face official obstacles in practicing their faith and (in the case of non-Muslims) strong social hostility.

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