A conference on “Legal entities of non-Muslims: problems and rights” organized by Istanbul Bilgi University was held in Istanbul for the purpose of discussing legal issues that concern the non-Islamic communities in Turkey. The conference was attended many lawyers, politicians and journalists, as well as many representatives of Turkey’s Christian minorities. The Turkish Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Dr. Alaattin Büyükkaya spoke of reciprocity in his speech. According to him, this word describes the relationship between the Turkish State and the non-Islamic minorities.
This statement caused a reaction from the majority of the attendants as they found it to be “non realistic.”
The head of the Turkish Supreme Council of the General Directorate for Religious Property (Vakouf), Adnan Ertem along with Turkish academics and other participants strongly opposed to the Turkish Deputy Minister’s opinion.
Christopher Grabenwarter, Austrian member of the Venice Commission (a body that provides legal advice to the Council of Europe), underlined that the dependence of the citizens’ rights on the behavior of another community law, violates article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Many Turkish academics, such as Hüseyin Hatemi urged Turkey to treat religious minorities with a different mentality and approach, as well as calling Turkish officials to apply the laws that have already been voted by the Turkish Parliament and aim to promote equality.
Pantelis Vigas a Greek of Istanbul and a member of the Turkish Supreme Council of the General Directorate for Religious Property (Vakouf) presented at the conference all the initiatives that have been taken by his organization in order to solve the problems of the religious minorities that live in Turkey.
Last but not least, Greek professor of Constitutional Law, Nikos Alevizatos who participated in the conference, highlighted that European Law has developed such dynamics that can provide assistance to countries that are facing similar problems.