EU: Non-Muslim communities face problems in Turkey

The European Commission issued 2012 Progress Report on Turkey. This report on progress made by Turkey in preparing for EU membership briefly describes the relations between Turkey and the Union; analyses the situation in Turkey in terms of the political criteria for membership; analyses the situation in Turkey on the basis of the economic criteria for membership;  reviews Turkey’s capacity to take on the obligations of membership, that is the  acquis expressed in the Treaties, the secondary legislation and the policies of the Union. This report covers the period from October 2011 to September 2012.

Concerning freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the report notes that freedom of worship continues to be generally respected. In September the third religious service since 1915 was held at the Armenian Holy Cross Church on the Akhtamar Island in Lake Van. A number of crypto-Armenians have started to use their original names and religion.

However, according to the report, restrictions on the training of clergy remain. “Neither the Turkish legislation nor the public education system provide for private higher religious education for individual communities. The Armenian Patriarchate’s proposal to open a university department for the Armenian language and clergy remained pending for a fifth year.”

“The Ministry of National Education approved a new regulation allowing children from Armenian, Greek and Jewish minorities who are not Turkish citizens to be educated in minority schools. However, children who are not Turkish citizens do not receive official graduation papers,” the report said.

The EU reminds that the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the Khojalu tragedy on 26 February in Istanbul’s Taksim square was marred by racist and anti-Armenian slogans and degenerated into an attempted march on the Armenian Agos newspaper. 

“Rhetoric against missionaries or minorities remains in a number of compulsory schoolbooks. Several important buildings in the Armenian cemetery in Malatya were demolished by the Malatya municipality on 2 February.”

The report emphasizes that the full execution of the ECtHR judgment of 14 September 2010 on the Dink case is crucial for Turkey in order to fight impunity and to hold all involved accountable before the law. “The five-year court case on the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink ended on 17 January 2012. One person was convicted for incitement to murder, but all defendants were acquitted of charges of links to a terrorist organization; the family of Hrant Dink demanded a new investigation into the conduct of various members of the police force and Gendarmerie who seemed to be implicated in the crime according to an inquiry conducted by the Presidential State Inspection Board (DDK),” the report reminded.

The EC report reminded also that the Armenian-Turkish protocols signed in 2009 have not been implemented yet.

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