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Why Turkey’s minorities not able to elect their community leaders for nine years? – Bianet English

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« The government annulled the previous regulation for elections and has not issued a new one. April 30 is the deadline that was set in a human rights action plan. It is not clear whether communities’ demands were taken into consideration » says Hikmet Adal in Bianet English.

There are 167 foundations belonging to minorities in Turkey, including seven Rum, 54 Armenian, 19 Jewish, 10 Syriac/Assyrian, three Chaldean, two Bulgarian, one Georgian and one Maronite foundations.

However, there have been no legal arrangements allowing minority communities to elect their representatives.

Since the suspension of an election circular in 2013, minority communities have had problems with the management of their foundations.

Even though a temporary circular was issued on March 11, 2019, problems have not been resolved. General Director of Foundations Burhan Ersoy had said a regulation would be issued in April, but the hopes are gone.

« Violation of rights »

The cancellation of previous regulation and the absence of a new one for years is, first of all, a violation of the Constitution, said lawyer Rita Ender.

With the cancellation of the election regulation, fundamental freedoms such as freedom of beliefs and conscience, freedom of establishing an association and rights to vote, being elected and engaging in political activities were violated, according to Ender.

It was also against the Lausanne Treaty, which includes provisions about Turkey’s religious minorities, she said, adding that the Ankara 7th Administrative Court had annulled the circular that canceled the election regulation of the minority foundations, although the verdict has not become final yet.

« However, verdicts, statements and promises have not been enough to eliminate or explain the desperation. I don’t find it realistic that a miraculous solution will come this month to the problem that has been going on for years, » she said.

The Human Rights Action Plan

The election regulation for minority foundations was also in the Human Rights Action Plan announced in March 2021. With the plan published in the Official Gazette on April 30, it was promised that the Regulation on Foundations would be amended within one year.

There are now 18 days until the deadline. It is not known whether the general director of foundations will keep his promise . Because the content of the regulation has not yet been shared with the executives of minority foundations or community representatives.

« No reason for the failure »

There can be no reason for the failure to prepare such a regulation for nine years, said lawyer Sebu Aslangil. Because, he said, the new regulation should have been issued within six months of the cancellation of the previous one, according to the laws.

Because foundations cannot elect their executives, they cannot function properly, he noted.

« As stipulated by the law, it is not possible for foundations to hold elections and set things right without a regulation, » he said.

« This regulation should have been issued long ago. However, the General Directorate of Foundations has lifted its finger for nine years. The government has also failed to issue the regulation, or did not want to, despite making promises over and over again in various times.

« Moreover, this cannot be explained legally. This is a purely political attitude. There is nothing difficult about this regulation. It could have been issued 100 times if desired. I think the underlying idea is to put the foundations in a difficult position. Because the foundations are paralyzed when they cannot elect executives.

« Foundations are not just civil society organizations. They include thousands of organizations, from prisons to places of worship, from nursing homes to schools. The inability to hold elections puts the management processes in a deadlock. The consequences of this are seen in many foundations. Such things should not happen in the rule of law, but unfortunately they happen.

« Now there are rumors that a regulation will be issued but it will not be the kind of regulation desired by the communities. I hope they are not true. »

Parliamentary questions

MPs have put forward parliamentary questions many times since 2013. Garo Paylan and Tuma Çelik submitted a total of five parliamentary questions to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which the General Directorate of Foundations is affiliated with.

Minister Nuri Ersoy has not yet answered two questions submitted in August and November 2021.

In his responses to previous questions, he only said « works are underway » to prepare a new regulation.

In the parliamentary question he filed on April 11, Paylan asked the minister, « Can election regulations prepared by non-democratic methods ensure democracy in minority communities? »

Bianet English, April 12, 2022, Hikmet Adal

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