ANKARA: EU Calls On Ankara To Take Concrete Steps On Minority Rights

Senem Caglayan

The New Anatolian, Turkey
Nov 5 2006

Turkey has made little progress on ensuring cultural diversity and
promoting respect for and protection of minorities in accordance with
international standards, the European Union said in the progress report
urging Ankara to take concrete and constructive steps in the issue.

In the draft report obtained by The New Anatolian, freedom of religion,
minority rights and their protection is the main areas of concern.

On the issue of freedom of religion, according to the progress report,
although freedom of worship continues to be generally respected,
no progress was reported with regard to difficulties encountered by
non-Muslim religious communities.

Stressing that restrictions on the training of clergy and on
foreign clergy to work in Turkey remain, the reports said, "Turkish
legislation does not provide private higher religious education for
these communities," and therefore urged the reopening of the Greek
Orthodox Halki (Heybeliada) seminary and the recognition of the
"ecumenical" status of the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch.

There have been no developments made in relation to the situation
of the Alevis and they face difficulties for opening their places
of worship (Cem houses), it was said in the report, urging Ankara
to recognize Cem houses and give funding for them. Furthermore, the
Union also criticized the compulsory religious instruction given to
Alevi children in schools.

Another area of concern stated in the progress report is that
although the mandatory indication of religious affiliation in some
personal documents such as ID-cards was abolished in April 2006, such
documents still include information on religion, which according to
the EU leaves open the potential of discriminatory practices.

Furthermore on freedom of religion, Brussels called on Turkey to give
access to legal personality to non-Muslin religious minorities and
abolish their restricted property rights.

Call for more Kurdish language broadcasting, education

On the issue of cultural rights of Kurds, the EU called on Turkey to
do more to ensure more broadcasting and education in Kurdish language.

Stressing that permission was granted to two local TV channels in
Diyarbakir and to one radio in Sanliurfa to broadcast in Kurdish,
the Union expressed criticism on the time restrictions, the presence
of subtitles or translations in Turkish and the absence of educational
programs teaching the Kurdish language. Stating that the Turkish Public
Television (TRT) has continued broadcasting in five languages including
Kurdish, the Union expressed concern over the limited duration and
scope of TRT’s broadcasts, adding that no private broadcaster at
national level has applied for broadcasting in languages other than
Turkish since the enactment of the 2004 legislation.

The Union also urged Ankara to do more in education in Kurdish saying,
"Children whose mother tongue is not Turkish cannot learn their mother
tongue in the Turkish public schooling system. As concerns Kurdish
all private courses were also closed down in 2004.

Therefore, there are no possibilities to learn Kurdish today in the
public or private schooling system. Furthermore, there are no measures
taken to facilitate access to public services for those who do not
speak Turkish."

Touching on the overall record of Turkey in the minority rights, the
EU described it as "unchanged" and urged Ankara to determine other
minorities in Turkey except the Jews, Armenians and Greeks who were
given the status of minorities with the Treaty of Lausanne.

"The February 2005 visit of the OSCE High Commissioner on National
Minorities (HCNM) to Ankara has not been followed up and no progress
has been made in starting a dialogue on the situation of national
minorities in Turkey," said the report urging Ankara to include
relevant areas such as minority education, languages, the participation
of minorities in the public life and broadcasting in minority languages
to facilitate Turkey’s further alignment with international standards
and best practice in EU member states to ensure cultural diversity
and to promote respect for and protection of minorities.

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