International Religious Freedom Report for 2015

The constitution defines the country as a secular state, provides for freedom of conscience, religious belief, conviction, expression, and worship, and prohibits discrimination based on religious grounds. Religious matters are coordinated and governed by the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) whose mandate is to promote Sunni Islam. The government continued to refuse to recognize the places of worship of Alevi Muslims, despite a ruling by the High Court of Appeals, and refused to exempt Alevi children from compulsory Sunni Islamic instruction. The government did not recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service. Trials continued for the 2014 killing of an Alevi by a policeman and the 2011 death of a Christian soldier at the hands of another soldier. The government continued to prosecute individuals for “openly disrespecting” Islamic beliefs, although convictions in such cases resulted in suspended sentences and one conviction was overturned. The government continued to limit the rights of non-Muslim minorities, especially those it did not recognize as being covered by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. There was no progress regarding the reopening of Halki Seminary. The government continued to train Sunni Muslim clerics, while restricting other religious groups from training clerics inside the country. It continued to fund the construction of Sunni mosques while restricting land use of other religious groups, although it did compensate an Armenian Church foundation for a portion of a cemetery seized in 1971.

Non-Sunni Muslims faced physical violence and threats. In two separate incidents, unknown gunmen fired at three Alevi leaders. Greek Orthodox, Jewish, and Armenian Apostolic places of worship were vandalized. Over twenty houses owned by Alevi Muslims were vandalized. An openly anti-Semitic “documentary” was televised and posted online by pro-government outlets.

The Ambassador, visiting U.S. officials, and officers from the embassy and consulates continued to stress the need to lift restrictions on religious groups and raised issues of property restitution and specific cases of religious discrimination. The Secretary of State and Deputy Secretary of State, in meetings with government officials in Washington, continued to call for the reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox seminary. The Ambassador, in meetings with government officials and publicly through local media, reiterated the U.S. position on these issues. The Department of State publicly condemned anti-Semitic statements.