About us

The Freedom of Belief Initiative was launched with the aim of protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief for everyone in Turkey, in September 2011 by Mine Yıldırım. The Initiative’s first activities included submission of reports on the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief in Turkey under the framework of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review.

Since 2013, the Freedom of Belief Initiative continues its monitoring and advocacy activities on freedom of thought, religion or belief as a human rights project of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

The project is based on Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the principle of everyone has the freedom of thought, religion or belief:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his [sic] religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.”

The project is carried out with the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to effectively protect the right to freedom of religion or belief for everyone in Turkey. Its main activities are monitoring, documentation, reporting and proposing solutions on the issue. The monitoring activities of project focus on the legislative and regulatory developments, judicial decisions, and rulings and opinions of international human rights mechanisms with a view to identify gaps and make recommendations. In addition to annual reports, advocacy reports and third-party observations contribute to human rights compliance monitoring processes. Additionally, the project aims at raising awareness on the topic by making human rights standards and monitoring reports available to all relevant stakeholders. Lastly, various events are organized to discuss context-based issues that prevent the effective protection of freedom of belief and to bring different stakeholders together.

Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) is an Oslo based human rights organization established in 1977 and works internationally to improve the protection of human rights in practice. To this end the NHC’s activities include monitoring and reporting, human rights training and supporting democratic structures. NHC’s work is based on the human rights instruments adopted in the context of United Nations, Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Dr. Mine Yıldırım leads the Freedom of Belief Initiative. Yıldırım, who has published extensively on the right to freedom of religion or belief, has wrote her doctoral thesis on “The Collective Dimension of Freedom of Religion or Belief in International Human Rights Law and the Application of Findings to the Case of Turkey” at Human Rights Institute at AAbo Akademi University in Finland. She is a member of the OSCE/ODIHR Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief and regularly takes part as a researcher in national and international projects. Yıldırım is the co-recipient of the 2016 Stefanus Prise with her work in the field of freedom of belief.