The Freedom of Belief Initiative is a human rights project of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). The Freedom of Belief Project was launched in March 2013. The project builds on and incorporates an already existing initiative in Turkey, The Freedom of Belief Initiative (İÖG). The three years project, 2013-2015, is aimed at laying the foundation for a permanent Turkish human rights organization specializing on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). The purpose of the project is to improve the protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief in Turkey. Monitoring, documentation, reporting, policy recommendations and advocacy are key activities of the project. The monitoring part of the project entails observation, recording and collection of sound, credible and precise information on violations of the right to FORB. The information will be used to analyze the situation by observing patterns, identifying problems, understanding their causes and considering potential solutions. A simultaneous tracking of key relevant domestic legislative developments is also a part of the project. Twice a year, reporting both in Turkish and English will provide for the dissemination of relevant information for relevant parties. The second report will be the more elaborate, including analysis of the facts. Follow-up advocacy activities will constitute an integral part of the work of improving the protection of FORB in Turkey. It will include seeking corrective action by national authorities by bringing individual cases to the attention of relevant authorities or by developing policy recommendations. The follow-up activities will be carried out in coordination and cooperation with existing actors. The project will utilize a human rights based approach to monitoring and reporting based on the internationally accepted human rights standards on FORB – in particular the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The website www.inancozgurlugugirisimi.com (freedom of belief initiative, İÖG) is the main communication outlet of the project. The website will function as a comprehensive resource for FORB issues in Turkey. It will include up-to-date news on FORB, legislative developments impacting the protection of freedom of religion or belief, relevant European Court of Human Rights judgments, reports, opinions and policy recommendations produced by the İÖG as well as reports published by national and international organizations and faith groups on FORB in Turkey. Cooperation with domestic religious groups, faith based organizations and human rights organizations will be actively sought to create synergies. The NHC/IÖG aims at developing contacts and building networks to enhance national capacities to promote FORB. An annual roundtable meeting with academic experts and human rights defenders will serve to reinforce cooperation among the participants and cultivate their interest in FORB and provide them the opportunity to develop policies for furthering the protection of FORB based on the information provided by the monitoring reports of İÖG. The project is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Dr. Mine Yıldırım is the director of the Freedom of Belief Initiative. She is a scholar of human rights law and one of Turkey’s leading experts on international protection of freedom of religion or belief. She holds a BA degree in International Relation from Marmara University in Istanbul, an MA degree in Human Rights and Civil Liberties from Leicester University, UK. Her doctoral thesis, earned at AAbo Akademi University, Institute for Human Rights, Finland, was published as a book by Routlege in 2017. Her book is titled The Collective Dimension of Freedom of Religion – The Case of Turkey. Her publications include:
“The Return of Property to Community Foundations in Turkey- The Restitution Decree”, European Yearbook of Minority Issues, Vol. 9, 2013.
“The Right to Establish Places of Worship in Turkey”, Religion & Human Rights, Vol. 8, Brill Publications, 2013.
“Conscientious Objection to Military Service in International Law and the Case of Turkey”, Religion & Human Rights, Brill Publications, 2010.
Books -Monograph and Edited
The Collective Dimension of Freedom of Religion or Belief: The Case of Turkey, Routledge Law and Religion Series, 2017.
Özgür Heval Çınar and Mine Yıldırım (Eds), Freedom of Religion and Belief in Turkey, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.
“A Trapped Right: The Right to Have Places of Worship in Turkey” in Özgür Heval Çınar and Mine Yıldırım (Eds), Freedom of Religion and Belief in Turkey, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.
“Drafting Freedom of Religion or Belief in Turkey’s New Constitution” in Özgür Heval Çınar and Mine Yıldırım (Eds), Freedom of Religion and Belief in Turkey, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014 (with Özge Genç)
“The Right to Freedom of Religion or Belief in Turkey” in The Protections for Religious Rights – Law and Practice, Eds. Sir James Dingemans, Can Yeginsu, Tom Cross, and Hafsah Masood, Oxford University Press, 2013.
“Religion in the Public and Private Workplace: The Approach of the Turkish Judiciary” in A Test of Faith? Religious Diversity and Accommodation in the European Workplace, Eds. Katayoun Alidadi, Marie-Claire Foblets and Jogchum Vrielink, Ashgate, 2012.