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RIGHTS >Minorities request civil envoys in charter talks

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Prominent figures of Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities say they would like to have civil representatives, instead of religious ones, to take part in discussions with Turkey’s new constitution commission.

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The spokesman for Anatolian Greek foundations, Laki Vingas says they will consult with academics and legal experts. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

The spokesman for Anatolian Greek foundations, Laki Vingas says they will consult with academics and legal experts. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

    Vercihan ZiflioğluVercihan Ziflioğluvercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

    Representatives of Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities met Dec. 15 at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul’s Kumkapı district to discuss the ongoing efforts to draft a new constitution amidst a discussion on who should represent them. 

    Participants in the meeting debated on the recognition of minorities as legal entities, citizenship, cultural organization and the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which prescribed the current status of non-Muslim minorities in the country, Laki Vingas, the spokesman for Anatolian Greek foundations and a member of the Foundations General Council, told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

    Joint commission

    Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos, the Ancient Syriac Community’s Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin and Chief Rabbi İshak Haleva also attended the meeting. There, a decision was made to establish a joint commission of academics and legal experts, said Vingas, the spokesperson for Anatolian Greek foundations and a council member in charge of minority foundations under the Foundations Directorate General. Claims by the Syriac Christian community, one of Turkey’s long forgotten minorities, that they had been kept out of the legal framework provided by the Treaty of Lausanne also came up during the meeting, Vingas said. 

     “This topic goes beyond me. Are we going to look for solutions to the problems of all minority communities, or [the problems of minorities recognized by the] Lausanne Treaty plus the Syriacs? By itself, the Lausanne Treaty is inadequate for a contemporary understanding,” Vingas said. 
    Foundation representatives and the religious leaders of minority communities will also be invited to Ankara for consultations with the sub-commission on associations and foundations under the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission within the scope of Parliament’s ongoing efforts to draft a new constitution. 

    Another meeting was also held Dec. 15 at the Nazar Şirinoğlu Hall of the Surp Vartananzs Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Feriköy district by lay representatives of the Armenian community, foundation administrators and academics. The participants discussed the role to be played by non-clerical minority members in drafting the new constitution. 

     “We are going to establish a working group. Decisions made [by established minority leaders]are with going to be brought to the attention of community members. A few people cannot make decisions on our behalf. It was said in the past that minority communities do not speak up. Now we have demands,” a Turkish-ArmenianTatyos Bebek told the Daily News. “If we are talking about a civilian constitution, then civilians [lay members of minority communities] will of course be involved in the process,” Vingas also said.

    December/17/2011

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