Country of Origin Information Report

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17 Corruption
17.01 Transparency International ranked Turkey 64th out of the 179 countries (ranging from the least corrupt, ranked one to the most corrupt, ranked 179) in its Corruption Perception Index for 2007. Turkey obtained a score of 4.1 in 2007 – a slight improvement from the 3.5 it received in 2005 and 3.8 in 2006. [55a]
See Section: 7.05
17.02 The Freedom House report Countries at the Crossroads, Turkey – 2007 noted that:

“Turkey continues to struggle with substantial corruption in government and in daily life. The AKP rose to power, despite (or perhaps because of) being relatively unknown, in part due to the corruption and economic mismanagement of previous governments. Turkey has signed a series of international corruption conventions; the UN Convention against Corruption entered into force in June 2006. However, the ’AKP’s commitment to fighting corruption has been cast in doubt by lack of follow-through. Perhaps even more so than with other reforms, the anticorruption framework has not translated into individuals changing their behavior, although with time it may have more significant effects... Upon taking office the AKP instituted an urgent action plan that included anticorruption measures. However, although it formed a ministerial committee closely connected to the government, it never established a single, independent anticorruption committee, nor has the draft anticorruption law been passed.” [62c]

17.03 The European Commission 2007 Progress report published 6 November 2007 further noted that:
“There was no progress on the development of an anti-corruption strategy. The establishment of a central body to develop and evaluate anti-corruption policies and activities remain crucial. Institutions involved in the fight against corruption, such as inspection boards, have not been strengthened. No public body is in charge of collecting data and statistics on corruption. Overall, corruption is widespread and there has been limited progress in the fight against corruption.” [71c] (p11)
17.04 The EC 2007 continued:
“However, no progress has been made in strengthening the legal framework and institutional set up to combat corruption. Weaknesses in the legal framework such as for election campaign financing continue...There have been no particular developments as regards the implementation of a total of 21 recommendations of the 2005 evaluation report on corruption in Turkey by the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO)… In the public sector, corruption remains a widespread issue for central and local governments. It has got a relatively more limited dimension in the private sector… A comprehensive anti-corruption strategy and plan with effective implementing institutions to prevent and fight corruption is still lacking. The development of such a strategy needs to be addressed at the highest political level.” [71c] (p60)

17.04 The USSD report 2007 reported that “The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption was a problem.” [5g] (Section 3)

17.05 The USSD 2007 report also noted that:
“On May 10, a Turkish military court sentenced General Erdem Erdagi to 11 months and 25 days in prison for misusing his authority by accepting a bribe for the award of a military construction tender during his command in 2002-04 of the 8th Corps in Elazig. The sentence, the first for an active-duty officer, was five days short of the 12-month sentence that would trigger dismissal from the military. General Erdagi was charged together with a number of lower-ranking officers during a crackdown on corruption in 2003 and 2004 that led to the 2006 conviction of former naval admirals Ilhami Erdil and Aydin Gurul. Both officers filed appeals. In July 2006 the military court of appeals approved the verdict on Erdil but, based on health reasons, execution of the punishment was postponed. However, on July 3, authorities imprisoned Erdil.” [5g] (Section 3)
17.06 The USSD 2007 report further noted that “Opposition party members criticized the ruling AKP for refusing to lift the immunity of AKP parliamentarians suspected of corruption and other abuses. Government officials are required by law to declare their property every five years. The law provides for public access to government information; however, the government occasionally rejected applications on national security and other grounds, and there were no opportunities to appeal. Human Rights Foundation (HRF) reported that four of its five requests for information from the Ministries of Justice and Interior and the Statistics Institute were denied.” [5g] (Section 3)

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18 Freedom of religion


18.01 The US State Department Report (USSD) 2007, published on 11 March 2008, noted that:
“The constitution and laws provide for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice; however, the government imposed significant restrictions on Muslim and other religious groups.
“The constitution establishes the country as a secular state and provides for freedom of belief, freedom of worship, and the private dissemination of religious ideas; however, other constitutional provisions regarding the integrity and existence of the secular state restrict these rights.
“The government oversees Muslim religious facilities and education through its Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which is under the authority of the Prime Ministry. The Diyanet regulates the operation of the ’country’s 77,777 registered mosques and employs local and provincial imams, who are civil servants. A few groups, particularly Alevis, claimed that the Diyanet reflected mainstream Sunni Islamic beliefs to the exclusion of other beliefs; however, the government asserted that the Diyanet treated equally all who request services.” [5g]
18.02 The USSD 2007 report noted that “the law protects only three officially recognized minorities-–Armenian Orthodox Christians, Jews, and Greek Orthodox Christians-–and not the vast number of other ethnic and religious minorities, including Alevis, Ezidis, Assyrians, Kurds, Caferis, Caucasians, Laz, and Roma. The report stated that these excluded minorities were prohibited from fully exercising their linguistic, religious, and cultural rights.” [5g]

18.02 The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report on ‘A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey’ published 10 December 2007 stated that:

“The Constitution guarantees equal protection before the law, irrespective of ‘philosophical belief, religion and sect’. It also enumerates secularism among the fundamental characteristics of the republic. However, there are a few constitutional provisions which infringe on religious freedom and go against the principle of secularism. Religion classes at primary and secondary schools are compulsory. Article 42 requires this education to be conducted under the ‘supervision and control of the state’. Article 136 provides constitutional protection to the Diyanet, which follows the Sunni Hanefi version of Islam... The Treaty of Lausanne protects the religious freedom of non-Muslim minorities and grants them the right to have religious education and instruction.184 In practice, however, this protection is restricted to Rums, Armenians and Jews only, leaving out other non-Muslim minorities.” [57c] (p19)
18.03 The same MRG 2007 report also noted that “The ban on the training of clergy, the absence of operative Christian theological schools, and the citizenship criterion imposed on clergy eligible to provide religious services in Turkey creates a shortage of priests. Currently, there are only 31 Rum Orthodox priests providing services in 90 churches. The Rum Orthodox theological seminary in the island of Heybeliada (Halki) remains closed.” [57c] (p20)

18.04 The MRG 2007 report further added that “The Alevi-Bektaşi Federation has also resorted to courts in cooperation with a number of national and international Alevi organizations in support of a petition filed with the ECtHR by an Alevi parent arguing that compulsory religious instruction violates Article 9 of the ECHR. In its first decision on these classes, the ECtHR found there had been a violation of the right to education under Article 2 of the 1st Protocol to the ECHR.” [57c] (p20)

18.05 The 2007 MRG report also recorded that “Another step taken with the stated purpose of protecting the religious freedom of Muslim minorities has been the abolition in April 2006 of the mandatory indication of religion in ID cards, which enables citizens to petition the registry office to have no reference to their religious affiliation in their IDs. However, the state continues to ask citizens to declare their religion.” [57c] (p20)
18.06 The USSD 2007 report also noted that “Academics estimated the Alevi population at 15 to 20 million… Alevi ‘cem houses’ (places of gathering) have no legal status as places of worship. In May 2006 authorities in the Sultanbeyli municipality of Istanbul reportedly banned the construction of a cem house on the grounds that the Pir Sultan Abdal Association, an Alevi group, had not acquired the necessary construction permits. Association officials said the local mayor and his staff had attended the groundbreaking ceremony and promised not to interfere with the project; however, the municipality reportedly filed a case against the association after it proceeded with construction following the ban. The case was ongoing at ’year’s end.” [5g] (Section 2c)

18.07 The Freedom House Countries at the Crossroads, Turkey – 2007 also noted that “Although their rights are generally respected, freedom of religion is difficult for non-Muslims. Moreover, there are many other groups that likewise do not belong to the dominant Sunni Muslim sect and that have less protection. Other Christian and Muslim sects – including Alevis, who practice a combination of Islam and pre-Islamic religion – as well as mystical religious-social orders, have no legal status, and some of their activities are banned.” [62c]

18.08 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom further reported that:
“The constitution establishes compulsory religious and moral instruction in primary and secondary schools. Religious minorities are exempted. However, a few religious minorities--such as Protestants--faced difficulty obtaining exemptions, particularly if their identification cards did not list a religion other than Islam. The Government claims that the religion courses cover the range of world religions; however, religious minorities asserted the courses reflect Sunni Islamic doctrine, which they maintained explains why non-Muslims are exempt. [5e] (Section II)
18.09 The European Commission 2007 report noted that:
“The dialogue between the government and the non-Muslim communities continued. A delegation composed of high-level officials from various Ministries visited the religious leaders of these communities in June 2007 in Istanbul. On 19 June, the Ministry of Interior issued a Circular on freedom of religion of non-Muslim Turkish citizens. The Circular acknowledges that there has been an increase in individual crimes against non-Muslim citizens and their places of worship. It requests the governors of all provinces to take the necessary measures to prevent such incidents from happening again and to enhance tolerance towards individuals with different religion and beliefs. The impact of this Circular will need to be assessed in practice.” [71c] (p16)
18.10 The European Commission 2007 report also noted that:

“In April, three Protestants were killed in Malatya in the publishing house of the local Protestant community. The crime is being investigated under the Anti-Terror Law. Another court case against Protestants for ‘insulting Turkishness’ is ongoing amid intense security measures. Attacks against clergy and places of worship of non-Muslim communities have been reported. Missionaries have been portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the integrity of the country and non-Muslim minorities as not being an integral part of Turkish society. To date, use of language that might incite hatred against non-Muslim minorities has been left unpunished.” [71c] (p16-17)

18.11 The EC 2007 report further noted that:
“Non-Muslim religious communities - as organised structures of religious groups - continue to face problems such as lack of legal personality and restricted property rights. These communities have also encountered problems with the management of their foundations and with recovering property by judicial means. Local authorities differ from province to province on issuing construction permits for places of worship. This might lead to arbitrary implementation of the zoning law. Several churches have not been able to register their places of worship.” [71c] (p17)
18.12 The EC 2007 report further stated that, “Overall, the environment as regards freedom of religion has not been conducive to the full respect of this right in practice. A legal framework has yet to be established in line with the ECHR so that all religious communities can function without undue constraints. No real progress can be reported on the major difficulties encountered by the Alevis and non-Muslim religious communities.” [71c] (p17-18)
See also Section 18.20 on Alevis
Headscarves
18.13 The USSD 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom – Turkey, published 14 September 2007 noted that:

“Many secularists accuse Islamists of using advocacy for wearing the headscarf as a political tool and fear that efforts to repeal the headscarf ban will lead to pressure against women who choose not to wear a head covering. In 2005 the ECHR ruled that Turkish universities have the right to ban the headscarf. In February 2006 the Council of State ruled in favor of a decision by education authorities to revoke the promotion of an Ankara teacher to a military compound-based nursery school principal position on the grounds that the teacher regularly wore an Islamic headscarf outside of school. Some journalists and religious rights advocates asserted that the court’s decision effectively expanded the headscarf ban into the private sphere. The court, however, maintained that the teacher had violated the principle of secularism in education by wearing the headscarf while traveling to and from school... In 2005 the ECHR ruled that Turkish universities have the right to ban the headscarf.” [5e] (Restrictions on Religious Freedom)

18.14 The Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2007, published in January 2007, noted that “Women who wear the headscarf for religious reasons are still denied access to higher education, the civil service [to hold civil service posts], and political life [denial of entry into the Parliament with a headscarf as an MP and not as a member of the public]. However, during 2006 the ban was applied much more broadly than only to state institutions.” [9e]
18.15 The USSD 2007 report on Human Rights Practices further noted that:
“In February the council of state ruled in favor of a decision by education authorities to revoke the promotion of an Ankara teacher to a nursery school principal position on the grounds that the teacher regularly wore an Islamic headscarf outside of school. Numerous journalists and religious rights advocates asserted that the ’court’s decision effectively expanded the headscarf ban into the private sphere. The court, however, maintained that the teacher had violated the principle of secularism in education by wearing the headscarf while traveling to and from school.” [5g]
18.16 The USSD 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom further noted that:

“In February 2006 the Council of State ruled in favor of a decision by education authorities to revoke the promotion of an Ankara teacher to a military compound-based nursery school principal position on the grounds that the teacher regularly wore an Islamic headscarf outside of school… In May 2006 attorney Alparslan Arslan opened fire in the Council of State court responsible for the February 2006 ruling, killing Judge Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin and injuring four other judges. His case was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In April 2007 four suspects were arrested after an armed assailant was caught preparing for an attack against the president of the Higher Board of Education. The assailant reportedly planned the attack because he was angry with the decisions and statements of the Board president. Some Islamists see the Board as responsible for the headscarf ban in universities.” [5e] (Restrictions on Religious Freedom)

18.17 The Times.com published an article ‘Turkey at Odds over Headscarf Ban’ 8 February 2008 stating that “University students are currently banned from wearing headscarves under ’Turkey’s strictly secularist laws, which decree that religious clothing cannot be worn in public places, including courts, state office and educational institutions…The government is now pushing through a constitutional amendment that simply states that ‘no one can be deprived of their right to higher education’. All eyes will then be on the Constitutional Court, which could decide that the move undermines secularism.” [68a]
18.18 The Times.com in another article published June 2008 ‘Turkey Upholds College Scarf Ban’ noted that “’Turkey’s pro-Islam governing party was handed a devastating legal defeat Wednesday when the ’country’s top court ruled that a constitutional amendment to allow women in headscarves on university campuses was anti-secularist and hence unlawful.” [68b]
See Section: 22 Women
18.19 The Sabah Newpaper noted in an article on the 28 September 2007 that, “A private school in Diyarbakır has issued a free dress code policy, allowing students to attend classes wearing whatever they want. This includes two females’ students who attend classes in headscarves. The authorities of the ministry and the officers in Diyarbakır said the application is against the regulations.” [87a]
See Section: 23.51 Children Education
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Alevis including Alevi Kurds

18.20 The Minority Rights Group International (MRG) report on ‘A Quest for Equality: Minorities in Turkey’ published 10 December 2007 stated that:
“Alevi is the term used for a large number of heterodox Muslim Shi’a communities with different characteristics. Technically falling under the Shi’a denomination of Islam, yet following a fundamentally different interpretation than the Shi’a communities in other countries as well as the Caferis in Turkey, Alevis constitute the largest religious minority in Turkey. They differ considerably from the Sunni Muslim majority in their practice and interpretation of Islam. Linguistically, they consist of four groups: Azerbaijani Turkish, Arabic, Turkish and Kurdish (both Kurmanci and Zaza). The last two categories constitute the largest Alevi groups. The number of Alevis is a matter of contention. Estimates range from around 10 per cent to as much as 40 per cent of the total population. An academic study launched in November 2006 estimates that Alevis are around 11.4 per cent of the population.” [57c] (p12)
18.23 The 2006 Eren Özalay report shows below the Turkish provinces with a higher rate of Alevis (blue-levels) and other provinces inhabiting a lower rate (<10%) of Alevis (white)



[61] (p11)
18.24 The USSD 2007 report on Religious Freedom recorded that:

“In addition to the country’s Sunni Muslim majority, academics estimated there were 15 to 20 million Alevis, followers of a belief system that incorporates aspects of both ’Shi’a and Sunni Islam and draws on the traditions of other religions indigenous to Anatolia as well. Some Alevis practice rituals that include men and women worshipping together through oratory, poetry, and dance. The Government considers Alevism a heterodox Muslim sect; however, some Alevis and absolutist Sunnis maintain that Alevis are not Muslims.” [5e] (Section I)

Beliefs and practices of Alevis
18.25 In a 2006 report written by Eren Özalay ‘Minorities in Turkey The identity of the Alevis in Accordance with the EU Legislation’ it was noted that “Another wish of the Alevi authorities is the opening of the tomb of Haci Bektasi Veli in the town Hacibektas for Alevi practice. The tomb being the most sacred place in Anatolia for Alavis, serves as a museum open to all visitors and can not be used for particular Alevi worship. The Alevi authorities are against their kids learning the Sunni Islam tradition as Islam in public schools. The Turkish government has recently passed a regulation to teach the Alevi belief as an Islamic belief in the religion class.” [61] (p18)
18.25 The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MEDIA), in an article dated 1999 by David Zeidan on the beliefs and practices of “The Alevis of Anatolia” stated that:
“Alevis belong to the extremist Shi’a branch and like all extreme Shi’a, their reverence for Ali (Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, and according to the Shi’a tradition, his rightful heir) verges on deification. Alevis accept Ali as the only legitimate successor to Muhammad. Alevis interpret the Quran in an esoteric, allegoric, and symbolic (rather than literal) manner and repudiate the external forms of Islam and its five pillars. In addition to the Quran, Alevis have their own holy books called ‘buyruk’ that contain doctrine and ritual and are claimed to have been written by important leaders. Alevis also have many liturgical hymns called nefes attributed to Shah Ismail and Pir Sultan Abdal.” [105]
18.26 The MEDIA article also noted that:

“Observers note that Alevi society is divided into two separate endogamous groups: the ocak are the spiritual and social elite who claim descent from Ali, Hussein, or religious warriors (ghazi) and constitute a priestly caste, and the talips (disciples), the majority lay members. Religious knowledge is passed down orally in the ocak families who were responsible for the religious and social leadership of the community. Alevi rituals (ibadet) are communal, with the aim of fostering unity (birlik) and love (muhabbet) within the community. Alevi rituals differ markedly from Sunni rituals. Alevis, for example fast in the month of Muharram for 12 days in memory of Hussein’s death at Karbala.” [105]

18.27 The MEDIA article further stated that:
“The central ritual of Alevi religious life is the ayn-i cem (cem for short) celebration, which includes a sacrificial meal (lokma), a ritual alcoholic drink, nefes hymns accompanied by music on the saz, dance (sema), and the ritual lighting and extinguishing of candles. In the villages of Anatolia the ayn-i cem takes place only in the absence of distrusted outsiders, and is held at night under great secrecy. The ceremony is held once a year under the leadership of a dede assisted by a rehber is held in a private house and women are included on an equal footing with men. Other Alevi holy days are Nevruz, the Persian New Year celebrated on the 9th March, the Khidirellez day on the 6th May in honour of Khidr (Elijah, St. George), and the twelve day Muharram fast culminating in Ashura.” [105]
18.28 The MEDIA article further commented that:

“Alevism does not possess a tradition of authoritative religious scholarship and official carriers of formal learning. Rather, it is more a flowing together of various related movements, doctrines, ideas and rituals. Other differences distinguishing Alevis from Sunnis: the use of wine for religious ceremonial functions; non-observance of the five daily prayers and prostrations (they only bow twice in the presence of their spiritual leader), Ramadan, and the Haj (they consider the pilgrimage to Mecca an external pretense, the real pilgrimage being internal in one’s heart); and non-attendance of mosques. Alevis were forbidden to proselytise, and to regenerate themselves internally by paternal descent. To prevent penetration by hostile outsiders, the Alevis insisted on strict endogamy.” [105]


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