Freedom of religion in Turkey

Byzantine mosaic of two men
Ottoman Mehmed the Conqueror and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Gennadios II. Mehmed II allowed the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to remain active in the city after its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 and established the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1461 as part of the millet system. The Byzantines regarded the Armenian Church as heretical and forbade it inside the Walls of Constantinople.

Turkey is a secular country in accordance with Article 24 of its constitution. Secularism in Turkey derives from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Six Arrows: republicanism, populism, laïcité, reformism, nationalism and statism. The Turkish government imposes some restrictions on Muslims and other religious groups, as well as Muslim religious expression in government offices and state-run institutions, including universities.[1]

Religious demography

According to the Turkish government, 90 percent of the population is Muslim (predominantly Sunni).[2] The World Factbook lists 98.2 percent of Turkey's population as Muslim.[3] The government recognizes three minority religious communities: Greek Orthodox Christians, Armenian Apostolic Christians and Jews (although other non-Muslim communities exist).[1] The 2006 report of the U.S. Department of State enumerated the following religious minorities in Turkey:

Religion in Turkey

  Sunni Islam (72%)
  Alevi (25%)
  other religions and atheists (3%)
Armenian Apostolic Christians 65,000
Jews 23,000
Greek Orthodox Christians 6,500
Baha'is 10,000
Syrian Orthodox (Syriac) Christians 15,000
Yazidis 5,000
Jehovah's Witnesses 3,300
Protestants 3,000

These figures were largely repeated in the 2009 U.S. Department of State report[4] with a difference of up to 3,000 Greek Orthodox Christians withan additional 3,000 Chaldean Christians. The number of Syriac Christians and Yazidis in the southeast was once high; however, due to government pressure and the war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), many Syriac Christians migrated to Istanbul, Western Europe and North and South America.[1] According to Turkish sociologist Ahmet Taşğın, Yazidis in Turkey numbered 22,632 in 1985; by 2000, the population had dropped to 423.[5] Taşğın said that 23,546 Syriac Christians lived in Turkey in 1985 and 2,010 in 2001.[6]

As a signatory of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Turkey recognizes the civil, political and cultural rights of non-Muslim minorities. In practice, the country recognizes Greek, Armenian and Jewish religious minorities but does not grant them all the rights stipulated in the treaty.[citation needed] Alevi-Bektashi and Câferî Muslims[7][page needed] Latin Catholics, and Protestants are not officially recognized.

Religions in Turkey
Religions Estimated population Expropriation
measures[8]
Official recognition Government financing
Sunni Islam 70 to 85% (52 to 64 million) No Yes, through the Diyanet mentioned in the Constitution (Article 136)[9] Yes, through the Diyanet[10]
Twelver Islam-Bektashi 15 to 25% (11 to 19 million) Yes[7] No. In 1826, with the abolition of the Janissary corps, the Bektashi tekke (Dervish convent) was closed.[7][11] · [12] No[10]
Twelver Islam-Alevi No.[12] In the early 15th century,[13] due to Ottoman oppression, Alevi supported the Turkmen shah Ismail I. Ismail's supporters, who wear a red cap with twelve folds, were called Qizilbash. Arabized and Persanized Ottomans considered Qizilbash (Alevi) enemies because of their Turkmen origin.[13] Today, cemevi (places of worship of Alevi Bektashi) have no official recognition.[citation needed]
Twelver Islam-Câferî 4% (3 million)[14] No[12] No[10]
Twelver Islam-Alawite 300,000 to 350,000[15] No[12] No[10]
Judaism 20,000 Yes[8] Yes, through the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)[12] No[10]
Christian (Protestant) 5,000 No[12] No[10]
Christian (Roman Catholics) No[12] No[10]
Christian (Greek Catholics) Yes[8] Yes, through the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)[12] No[10]
Greek Orthodox (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) Yes[8] Yes, through the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)[12] No[10]
Armenian Orthodox (Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople) 57,000 Yes[8] Yes, through the Treaty of Lausanne (1923)[12] No[10]
Turkish Orthodox (Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate) 400 No[12] No[10]
Chaldean (Armenian) Christians 3,000 Yes[8] Yes, through the Treaty of Lausanne[12] No[10]
Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Churches 15,000 Yes[8] No[12] No[10]
Tengrism 1,000 No[12] No[10]
Yazidi 377 No[12] No[10]