The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Turkey’s listing of an individual’s religious affiliation on its national identity card violates a major human rights charter.
The decision this week by the ECHR could have far-reaching implications as religious affiliation on ID cards has created problems for Christians in predominantly Islamic nations.
The decision, reported by the English-language Today’s Zaman newspaper in Turkey, stemmed from a 2005 challenge raised by Sinan Isik, who wanted his religious identity described as “alevi” rather than “Islam.” Members of that subset of Islam follow beliefs different from Sunni and Shiite Islam.
Turkey was requiring people to disclose their beliefs in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the national constitution, the complaint contended.
The court’s 6-1 decision found that the demand for a religious affiliation was in violation of Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, regarding freedom of thought and religion.
According to Compass Direct News, Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey often have been subjected to discrimination based on identification of their religious affiliation.
Zekai Tanyar, chief of the Turkish Protestant Alliance, said the ruling is a good result.
“It has been known to affect whether they get a job or not, how people look at them, whether they are accepted for a post or an application of some sort,” he told Compass.
The court’s rulings are binding on members of the Council of Europe, to which Turkey belongs.
In 2000 Greece, which is west of Turkey, removed religious identification from its national ID card.
Human Rights Watch has documented that religious identifications are tools in some Middle East regions to deny jobs and even basic rights to minorities.
As WND reported, a women was arrested in Egypt because her identity card identified her as Christian.
The Assyrian International News Agency reported at the time that Martha Samuel Makkar was arrested as she and her family members were trying to leave Cairo for Russia.
Makkar, formerly known as Zainab Said Abdel-Aziz, was accused of carrying forged government documents, because she identified herself as a Christian. She previously had been identified as Muslim, and Islamic law forbids Muslims from abandoning Islam.
Makkar’s lawyer, Nadia Tawfiq, reported Judge Abdelaa Hashem, during a subsequent court hearing, questioned Makkar closely about her Christian faith.
The lawyer reported to Compass that the judge had a private conversation with Makkar, and he said, “Nobody changes from Muslim to Christian – you
are a Muslim.” When she responded she is Christian, the judge said, “If I had a knife now, I would kill you.”
The exact implications of the ruling in other nations isn’t clear yet, though Turkey is considered a leader in the region.