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Intervention in freedom of religion01 September 2018

In the early 80s, The Muslim-Turkish minority faced a problem in the field of religion.

Even though it was clearly stated in several treaties that the Muslim-Turkish minority is free to elect their Mufties and Head-Mufti by themselves. However, the Greek State promulgated a Presidental Decree that violates the religious autonomy of the Turkish Minority was guaranteed by the 1881 Istanbul Treaty, 1913 Athens Treaty, 1920 Greek Sevres, and 1923 Lausanne Treaty. From that time on when the Presidental Decree was promulgated the Muftis are assigned by the Government. Yet, the minority still elects the muftis democratically even if they are ignored by the Greek State.

Today, the problem of the mufti is perceived only as a matter of election in İskeçe (Xanthi) and Rodop (Rhodope) provinces. Greece maintains that the minority fulfills the rights arising from Lausanne when it appoints the mufti according to certain legitimacy principles. But the head-mufti corresponds to the Archbishop/Patriarch in Istanbul, and the Muftis correspond to the Metropolites. However, there is not yet a Head-Mufti institution in Greece while a Patriarch institution exists in Istanbul which corresponds to the Head-Mufti as mentioned before. That is, Greece violates an internal affair and religious autonomy of the minority.

The ignorance we are talking about shouldn’t be understood as if it is done in an innocent manner. The ignorance of the muftis led to subject trials and prison sentences. There is a common sample of the formerly elected mufti of Xanthi who was imprisoned several times, just because he was elected, but not assigned. Another sample was the elected Mufti of Komotini (Gümülcine) who was imprisoned for the same reason.

Despite the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights that the Greek State has violated the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the current muftis of Komotini (Gümülcine) and Xanthi (İskeçe) have not been recognized yet. Moreover, they are frequently subjected to trials.

The latest intervention in freedom of religion is the law of ‘240 imams’ which was put in effect in 2013, although it was strictly rejected by the Turkish Minority. According to this law, there will be 240 imams assigned by The Government who will have the authority to make decisions about the minority’s religious matters.

Now, there is an expectation and hope that the election of muftis will become legal, as the Turkish State makes pressure. Lately, some news has emerged related to this topic. Yet, another irritating rumor is that if the law of election is put in effect the muftis will be elected by the 240 imams –who are rejected by the minority- but now  they are elected by the minority.

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