Turkish gov’t readies for reform amid counterterrorism ops
Nuray Babacan - ANKARATurkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is prepared to take steps in order to contain likely criticism in regards to inaction regarding the expansion of fundamental freedoms and rights amid an agenda dominated by terrorist attacks and counterterrorism operations.
The government plans to swiftly take action on certain issues that have long been on the agenda by either making legal arrangements or administrative announcements.
Future reforms include the opening the Akdamar (Akhtamar) Church in the southeastern city of Van (which was reopened to occasional prayers in 2010 after a hiatus of nearly 100 years) to all requests for sermons, accelerating the return of properties to non-Muslim minorities, announcements in Kurdish in airlines services and allowing towns to be called by their original names.
With these steps, the government aims to show that democratization and counterterrorism operations are different issues that do not hamper each other.
Since 2010, the church on the isle of Akdamar (Akhtamar in Armenian) on Lake Van is open to annual masses with special permission by the Culture and Tourism Ministry. In the case of appeal, the ministry will permit sermons other than the annual masses.
Despite previously made legal arrangements, difficulties still exist in the return of properties to non-Muslim communities. Required arrangements will be made in order to overcome these difficulties usually stemming from bureaucratic obstacles.
Nonetheless, the reopening of the Halki seminary in the Adalar district of Istanbul will not be part of this reform package, as this issue will be separately reviewed in line with international developments.
Concerning the Alevis long-held desire for an official status for Alevi worship houses (cemevis), the AKP will now regard cemevis as “wisdom centers.” Legal arrangements will be made to have the water and electricity expenses of cemevis paid by the state, as is already the case for mosques, which are covered by a budget allocated by the Directorate General of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).
In regards to promises made to Kurdish people, the government has classified the planned steps into two parts: those that can be carried out through administrative decisions and those that can be carried out through legal arrangements.
Announcements in Kurdish on airlines will be launched through an administrative decision, -- that is to say, by releasing the required notification for its implementation. Reforming local governance and education in Kurdish will not be a part of this package.