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Religious minorities

Non-Muslim minorities: a keenly debated issue

Since the creation of the Turkish Republic, the issue of non-Muslim minorities has always occupied public agenda and leaders in the country. Three of these minorities, recognised following a (...)

Since the creation of the Turkish Republic, the issue of non-Muslim minorities has always occupied public agenda and leaders in the country. Three of these minorities, recognised following a strict intepretation of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, have been at the heart of heated discussions. They are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox and the Jews.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

The status of the Orthodox Patriarch

Regarding the Greek Orthodox, debates focus especially on the "Ecumenical" Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose continued existence in Turkey was made subject to its withdrawal from anything (...)

Regarding the Greek Orthodox, debates focus especially on the "Ecumenical" Patriarchate of Constantinople, whose continued existence in Turkey was made subject to its withdrawal from anything other than the spiritual issues of the Orthodox minority. Considered for a long time by the Turkish authorities as a purely local Church, the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople was able to become in the second half of the 20th century, an international institution of considerable influence in the Orthodox world. Debates as to its "ecumenical" nature have continued to cast a cloud over its real status. After having been threatened with exil at the time the Republic was being created in 1923, the Patriarch was actually isolated throughout the 30’s and 40’s, having to deal only with issues pertaining to the religious life of the Greek community in Turkey, a community that remained from the Ottoman era, having been spared during the compulsory population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923. In the 1950s, tensions - due primarily to the Chypriot issue - arose in the relations between Turkey and Greece and the Patriarchate was naturally affected. At the same time, this period witnessed a revival for the institution and its return to the Turkish national scene.
Paradoxically, the massive dwindling in the number of Greeks in Turkey from the second half of the 1960s allowed the Patriarchate to be rid of his local role in order to tend to the needs of the international Greek Orthodoxy as a whole. Its international activities increased from the 1990s under the patriarchate of Vartholomaios, at a time when countries in the former Soviet block were opening up to religious activity.
Along with the Patriarchate issue, the Theology School at Halki (Heybeliada) also occupies a major place in debates within the society. This Orthodox school of theology was closed down in 1971 when private universities and schools of higher learning were being closed and has never been re-opened since despite international pressure. The Turkish authorities propose that the school be re-opened as part of the theology faculty of the University of Istanbul, but the Patriarchal authorities have refused, fearing that this would lead to a loss of independence.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

The Armenian issue

In respect of the Armenians, the recurring debate is of course the issue of the Armenian "genocide". The leaders of this minority group including the Armenian Patriarch Mesrop II, have accused (...)

In respect of the Armenians, the recurring debate is of course the issue of the Armenian "genocide". The leaders of this minority group including the Armenian Patriarch Mesrop II, have accused Armenians in Western Europe of exploiting this issue and weakening the position of Armenians in Turkey. This same diaspora considers the Turkish Armenian minority as "hostage" to the Turks.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

Jews in Turkey

The debates are less heated when it concerns the country’s Jewish population. Anti-semitism has never been strong in Turkey, even at periods when the Near East issue deteriorated. This is no doubt (...)

The debates are less heated when it concerns the country’s Jewish population. Anti-semitism has never been strong in Turkey, even at periods when the Near East issue deteriorated. This is no doubt due to Turkey’s long multi-ethnic and multi-confessional past. Turkey remained Israel’s major ally in the region and Jewish "lobbies" worked in favour of Turkey, especially in the United States. Having said this, during the Second World War, a part of the Turkish intelligentsia was swayed by the fascists’ writings, which led to imposition of a special tax on non-Muslims, a tax that mainly targeted the Jews.

D 8 October 2012    ASamim Akgönül

Muslim minority groups

Another ongoing debate in Turkey concerns the social acceptance of Alevi Muslims, who do not belong to the main religious trend. On this question, see the "current debates" heading summer 2012 (...)

Another ongoing debate in Turkey concerns the social acceptance of Alevi Muslims, who do not belong to the main religious trend. On this question, see the "current debates" heading summer 2012 on the Eurel website, Changes in the ’religious culture and education’ curriculum.

D 11 March 2013   

A source of information

For further information, see:
the Mineurel website of information on religious minorities, concerning Turkey
the website of Minority Right Group International, which offers a directory of (...)

For further information, see:
- the Mineurel website of information on religious minorities, concerning Turkey
- the website of Minority Right Group International, which offers a directory of minorities

D 12 June 2013   

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