recent court decree in Antalya, southern Turkey, can, so the lawyer involved,
be used as a precedent for other parents who do not want their children to
attend the controversial obligatory Religious Education (RE) classes.
Nusret Gürgöz represented the family D., who applied to court in order to allow
their daughter S.D. in fifth grade to be exempt from attending RE classes.
So far, the Ministry of Education has allowed
exemptions for children of different religious beliefs if they were stated.
"Could lead to irreparable damage"
However, in their application, the family
D.asked for their child to be exempted because the religious education given
was “against our decision, religious beliefs and philosophical outlook.” The
Antalya 3rd Administrative Court decided in favour of the applicants, arguing
that forcing the child to take the class could “lead to irreparable damage.”
The court citted Article 9 of the European
Convention on Human Rights, concerned with the freedom of thought, conscience
and religion, as well as an article in the Turkish Constitution dealing with
religious and conscientious freedom.
Gürgöz has encouraged other parents to
follow: “Those parents who so desire, should hand in a letter to school saying
that their child attending this lesson is inconsistent with their philosophical
outlook. If the school does not act, then they can go to court.”
He advised parents to work with lawyers who
were aware of the issue, and also offered legal help to lawyers not as
experienced in the area.
school of S.D. has not offered an exemption, but this is expected to happen
within the next 30 days. The district administration of Muratpaşa in Antalya,
against whom the suit was brought, is likely to appeal, but even so, says
Gürgöz, the girl will be exempt until the case is solved.
a decree of October 2007, the European Court of Human Rights had said that
obligatory RE classes were “a violation of the right to education.” In the case
that Hasan Zengin and his daughter Eylem had brought, the court emphasised that
the class was only based on a Sunni interpretation of Islam, to the detriment
of Alevism, and of course non-Muslim beliefs. The court further said that
exempting non-Muslim children from the classes was not enough to provide
freedom of religion.
8th Chamber of the State Council decreed similarly in December 2007.
Minister claims curriculum has changed
organisations have long been dissatisfied with the content and the compulsory
nature of the class and protested against it frequently in 2008.
for Minister of Education, Hüseyin Çelik, he said that the court decrees
referred to the old curriculum. He said that because the new curriculum also
taught about Alevism (albeit, so critics, only in a token manner), the court
decisions would not be applied. (TK/AG)