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God Leaves Turkish Identity Cards PDF Print E-mail

Alevi Saint Haci Bektas Veli (13th century)

The European Court of Human Rights on February 2, 2010, ordered Turkey to remove the declaration of religion from the national identity cards. Religious minorities, in particular Christians in Turkey, have faced discrimination because of this obligation to declare their religion on their identity cards. Since 2006 Turkish citizens have been allowed to leave the religion section on their identity cards blank. The recent decision of the ECHR now orders Turkey to remove the religion section completely from the Turkish identity cards.
The ECHR ruling came after a Turkish citizen filed a petition challenging that his ID card stated his religion as Alevi and not Muslim. Alevis practise a form of Shia Islam that is different from that of the Sunni Muslim majority. The ECHR found that any mention of religion on an identity card violated human rights. Turkey was found to be in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. The court judged that the presence of the religion section on the Turkish ID card forces individuals to give against their will information about their personal convictions.  
The ECHR is independent of the European Union, which Turkey seeks to join. The rulings of the ECHR are binding for members of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey is a member, and must be implemented. In 2000 Turkey's neighbour Greece, a majority Christian Orthodox country, lifted the religion section from Greek identity cards in order to conform to European human rights standards and conventions.
Human rights lawyers welcomed the decision of the ECHR, saying it is a small step in the direction of democracy and secularism in Turkey. ‘It is related to the general freedom of religion in our country,’ said human rights lawyer Orhan Kemal Cengiz. ‘They assume everyone is Muslim and automatically write this on your ID card, so this is a good reminder that, first of all, everyone is not Muslim in this country, and second, that being a Muslim is not an indispensible part of being Turkish.’ The lawyer said the judgment would have positive implications for religious minorities in Turkey who are subject to intolerance from the majority Muslim population. In a statement on the verdict Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said that the ruling was in line with the intentions of the Turkish government.  Amen to that, God willing.
Source: Human Rights Without Frontiers – Newsletter 08 February 2010