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NHC:İÖG Seminar in Oslo

Turkey is not a theocratic or confessional state. It is a secular state with significant human rights commitments in the sphere of freedom of religion or belief. However, Turkey is struggling with protecting the right to freedom of religion or belief fully for all, to comply with the principle of state neutrality and to ensure pluralism, Mine Yıldırım, Head of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee Freedom of Belief Initiative in Turkey, said at a seminar on religion and state in Turkey arranged by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on 12 March 2014.

Mine Yıldırım presented the main findings of a recent report on freedom of religion or belief in Turkey, published by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. You can download the report here.

One of the findings in the report is that many aspects of freedom of religion or belief inevitably require state regulation and decisions of public authorities on a daily basis. And where there is a lack of solid commitment to state neutrality and pluralism which is an inseperable part of democracy, the protection of freedom of religion or belief will suffer. And as a result human beings will suffer.This is challenge Turkey has to solve.

– Changes are necessary to create a legal framework which will secure effective protection of the right to freedom of religion or belief for all, including believers and non-believers, members of the majority religion as well as smaller religious groups. In addition, and this is the real issue, Turkey needs to bring about a fundamental change of mentality that will embrace these necessary changes. Turkey’s political parties and vibrant civil society, which includes belief groups, must work together to make this change in the context of a new Constitution. Otherwise, discrimination is bound to become more pervasive and deeply entrenched in various aspects of life, Yıldırım concluded.