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Religious freedom for all December 28, 2013

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
1 comment so far

I have spent the past three days in the German capital, to attend an international conference organized by the Archons, a religious order whose main focus is to protect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. But the conference, aptly titled “Tearing down walls,” was focused not only on the Ecumenical Patriarchate or the tiny Greek Orthodox community in Turkey but also other religious minorities that suffer religious freedom violations.

For example, the patriarchate is not recognized by the Turkish state with its authentic and official title, “Ecumenical.” The term, which means “universal,” implies that the patriarchate of Constantinople has authority over all other Orthodox Christians of the world. But Turkish nationalism found this global authority unacceptable – merely out of an immature hubris – and rather defined the institution as the “Patriarchate of Phanar,” referring to the insignificant neighborhood in Istanbul in which the patriarchate is located.

A few years ago, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan eased the official obsession on this issue, saying that he had no problem with the title ecumenical “since the Ottomans did not have a problem with it, either.” Yet still, no official text recognizes the Ecumenical Patriarchate as it is.

But that is the least of the problems. A much bigger one is the status of the Halki Seminary, the only institution in which the patriarchate can train new clergy and thus sustain its tradition. The seminary is closed since 1971, when a military junta decided to shut down or “nationalize” all independent schools.

The AKP government has been promising to reopen the Halki Seminary for a decade, but with no result. Indeed it was expected that Erdoğan would take this much-expected step in his much-hailed “democratization package” of last September, but he did not. Word has it that the government decided to take the Halki Seminary out of the “package” at the last moment.

But why? As I explained in the conference, the AKP’s Ottoman references in fact do not create an ideological obstacle to the reopening of Halki Seminary or other Christian institutions or churches. (After all, Halki Seminary was opened in mid-19th century under Ottoman rule, and was closed down by secularist/nationalist generals in the more “modern” era.)

Yet there is still an obstacle: the “reciprocity” principle between Turkey and Greece. Accordingly, both sides see their Greek and Turkish minorities as people in the wrong countries, and do not take any step for them unless the other side does with regards to its own minority.

This was made clear recently by an AKP official, Metin Külünk. “Do not have a doubt,” he said, “Turkey will not take a step to re-open Halki Seminary until Greece, who did not hold up the promise it gave in Lausanne, opens the Fethiye Mosque in Athens.” Notably his audience was the Western Thrace Turks Solidarity Association, founded by ethnic Turks whose cultural and religious rights have often been violated in Greece.

I despise this “reciprocity” idea, and defend religious freedom everywhere regardless of the political context. It is a political reality, though. Therefore, perhaps calls for more religous freedom will be more productive if they try to see and fix the troubles on both sides of the Aegean. They are quite similar problems created by similarly nationalist mindsets, after all.

Greece ignores ECHR resolutions on ethnic Turks December 28, 2013

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.
Greece does not live up to the European Court of Human Rights resolutions concerning the Western Thrace Turkish minority, said the attorney of Turkish minority associations.


Greece has not applied the decision of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concerning reopening of the Iskece (Xanthi) Turkish Union, which was shut down by Greek judicial authorities in 1986 due to the word “Turk” in its name, and to abolish the ban on Rodop Turkish Women Culture Association, reported the Turkish minorities’ attorney.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, the attorney of the Turkish associations in Greece and former deputy from Komotini, Ilhan Ahmet, said that the ECHR decided five years ago that Greece violated the 11th article of the Human Rights Declaration, which refers to the freedom of founding associations and urged the Greek authorities to recognize the Iskece Turkish Union and Rodop Turkish Women Culture Association officially, but Greece failed to live up to the respective decision.

Ahmet said that Greek authorities claim that the ECHR decision is not binding for it doesn’t have any place in Greek law. However, as a member of EU Greece has to obey and apply the rules and decrees by ECHR.

“Indeed, the European Council Ministeral Board has an inspection committee which checks whether the member states apply the decisions of ECHR or not but unfortunately this committee does not work on the issue for now,” said Ahmet.

Ahmet also said that the Greek government has already confiscated the properties of associations.

There is No Cyprus December 28, 2013

Posted by Yilan in Human rights abuses.


The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs courageously stated by saying that “there is no Cyprus,” sparking a strong reaction from the Cyprus Occupiers Nicosia.

A Turkish letter to the European Commission stated that the country will not conform to the agreement on readmission of illegal immigrants in the Republic of Cyprus because it does not recognize it. All this despite its obligation to the European Council to unconditionally recognize the Republic of Cyprus, to implement the Protocol and to work for the solution of the Cyprus dispute.