Turkey: Time to end state recording of individuals’ religious affiliation
By Mine Yildirim
10/8/2010 Turkey (Forum 18 News Service) – The compulsory recording of people’s religious affiliation is the subject of debate within Turkey, Forum 18 News Service notes. Citizens must either declare one of a limited number of religions – atheism is not a possible choice – or leave the religion part of ID Cards and the Public Registry blank. This makes people vulnerable to discrimination, because of both the very many situations in which identification must be shown, and the many people who can access this information. Under the international human rights treaties to which Turkey is a party, individuals cannot be forced to declare their religion, belief or non-belief. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the then UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief in 1999 “that Turkey is preparing to suppress mention of religion on identity cards”, but there has been no apparent progress. A recent European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment on an Alevi who wanted this designation recorded on his records and ID Card found against Turkey, but along with other ECtHR judgments it has not been executed. Substantial structural and mentality changes are required for change to occur.