Friday, June 6, 2008

USCIRF Reports on Religious Freedom

Turkey appears in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2008 annual report on the status of religious freedom in 22 different countries. Founded in 1998 to monitor religious freedom in conjunction with the State Department, USCIRF considers Turkey a country under review rather than a country of of particular concern or in which religious freedom violations warrant being put on its watch list. Nonetheless, USCIRF observes the country's struggle with its laicist understanding of religion and the state, as well as state discrimination against Muslim minorities, e.g. the requirement that Alevi children be subject to Sunni religious education. The report also includes a description of discrimination against Turkey's non-Muslim minorities, e.g. the lack of legal recognition afforded to the Greek and Armenian Patriarchates. The report also alludes to the anti-Semitism still encountered in the Turkish media and other sectors of civil society.

USCIRF joins other groups in criticism of the recently passed Foundations Law. Although the Foundations Law is a positive step in the right direction of returning property of religious minorities seized by the state, it makes no provision for the re-appropriation of property sold by the state to third parties. Admirably, the bill does allow non-Turkish citizens to open up foundations and reduces legal barriers to gaining foundation status for Turkish citizens as well.

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