(Forum 18)Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases concerning its compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), as they do not respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. In September 2014 the ECtHR stated that “Turkey had to remedy the situation without delay”, yet the only action so far has been the Education Ministry preparing an action plan involving wide consultation with civil society on the RCKE courses. This is awaiting government approval after the elections. Another systemic violation of freedom of religion or belief in the education system are optional lessons in Islam, which many have found are in reality “compulsory optional”. Fear of discrimination and harassment from teachers and other pupils, as well as the slowness of the legal system, are the main reasons many people have not taken legal action to protect their rights. Unless effective protection of freedom of religion or belief in education is implemented, the state will continue to lose such cases before the ECtHR.
Turkey has twice, in 2007 and 2014, lost cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, as the country’s education system fails to respect parents’, guardians’, and pupils’ freedom of religion or belief, Forum 18 News Service notes. Yet Turkey has still not taken steps to prevent these and other human rights violations reoccurring. ECtHR judgments require such steps to be taken in order to prevent similar violations from happening, for example by changing laws and state practices, and this process is supervised by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
On 16 September 2014 the ECtHR found in the case of Mansur Yalcin and Others v. Turkey (Application no. 21163/11) that Turkey’s compulsory Religious Culture and Knowledge of Ethics (RCKE) classes, and its education system did not respect the convictions of parents by not being either objective or respectful of pluralism. The RCKE course includes, despite changes made by the Education Ministry, still compulsory religious instruction in Islam with only a very limited exemption system that is difficult to take advantage of (see F18News 23 August 2011 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=1603).
The ECtHR found that “no possibility for an appropriate choice had been envisaged for the children of parents who had a religious or philosophical conviction other than that of Sunni Islam, and the very limited exemption procedure was likely to subject those parents to a heavy burden and to the need to disclose their religious or philosophical convictions in order to have their children exempted from the religion lessons.” This requirement for parents and pupils to disclose their beliefs is not compatible with the European Convention for the Protection of compulsory religious instruction in Islam and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). Read More