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  • October 2014 : Introduction of Christian theology lessons into school curricula in Turkey

The teaching of religion in schools has always been a thorny issue in Turkey, in particular for the Alevi community, a heterodox branch of Islam. Complaints have been raised by Alevi Turkish nationals about the content of compulsory lessons in religion and morality in schools, which are based on the Sunni understanding of Islam. Subsequently, in September 2014, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its decision, declaring that the Turkish education system is not yet able to ensure respect for the various convictions and that Turkey must reform its teaching programmes for religious education in schools.
The Turkish government criticised the verdict by expressing the need for teaching moral values to prevent religious information which could be harmful and incorrect. In early October 2014, the Turkish Minister for National Education declared that the teaching of Christian theology would be included in school curricula for pupils from Christian backgrounds. He also announced the preparation of a religious education curriculum by Jewish citizens.

Source : Daily Sabah.

  • 22 September 2014 : the wearing of the veil is henceforth authorised in high schools in Turkey

Following the meeting of the Council of Ministers of 22 September 2014 in Ankara, Government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç announced that regulations on banned and permitted clothing had been modified. According to Arinç’s explanation, the term “uncovered head” present in paragraph “e” of Article 4 of the regulations, as well as in the last sentence of this same paragraph, had been repealed.
This change is presented as a measure intended to widen personal freedoms, but it became the target of sharp criticism. The secular opposition considered that it is an act aimed at reinforcing Islamisation of the country, highlighting that the freedoms are broadened only in one domain.

For more information, see Le Nouvel Observateur.

  • 16 September 2014 : the ECHR invites Turkey to reform the compulsory teaching of religion in the Turkish education system

Following the implementation of compulsory lessons in religion in Turkey, 14 Turkish citizens of Alevi confession had asked in 2005 for the programme of teaching of religious culture and morality to be revised by taking into account Alevi culture and philosophy. Faced with the lack of an answer from the Ministry for Education, they turned to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2011, considering that the content of compulsory courses in religious and moral culture gave precedence to the Sunni approach to Islam.
On 16 September 2014 the ECHR announced its decision, calling upon Turkey to reform the teaching of religion in schools. Recalling that the Turkish education system ought to keep its neutrality and impartiality on religious issues in order to guarantee respect for the various convictions, the ECHR condemned Turkey for violating the right to education. The Court considered that Turkey should quickly put in place suitable means to rectify this situation, by introducing an exemption system to make these lessons non-compulsory.
Following the ECHR decision, Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that the ECHR decision would be examined by the Turkish executive, pointing out the importance of teaching a suitable religious culture. The decision will be final within three months, if in the meantime no party requires its re-examination by the Grand Chamber of the Court.

For further information : Le Nouvel Observateur, Radikal (in Turkish).

D 13 juin 2023    ANihal Durmaz

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