Turkey: Constitution; Orthodox patriarch in historic hearing

Minority groups present appeals for first time

20 February, 17:42

(ANSAmed) - ANKARA, FEBRUARY 20 - For the first time ever, the spiritual leader of Turkey's Greek-Orthodox community had a meeting today with members of a parliamentary subcommittee to present appeals that should be taken into account in the new Constitutions that is being drafted. Patriarch Bartholomew has pointed out that Greek-Orthodox people in turkey have been ''second-class'' citizens for a long time, but that the situation is changing. ''For the first time in the history of the republic,'' the patriarch said while leaving the meeting, quoted by Turkish news agency Anadolu, ''minority groups in Turkey are receiving invitations to express their opinion on the drafting of a new Constitution. Unfortunately these groups have suffered injustice in Turkey in the past, but now a new Turkey is being formed. We are confident that our viewpoints will be taken into consideration. We want a new Constitution that is everybody's Constitution. We only want our rights as citizens who were born in this country, fulfil their military duties, pay taxes and vote in elections. We don't want to be second-class citizens,'' said Bartholomew according to the website of newspaper Zaman. Turkey is working on a replacement for its Constitution that was drawn up after the military coup of September 1980. Statements made by high officials in the past months suggest that the new Constitution will still be based on the secular State, as wanted by the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, despite the fact that the country has a Muslim majority and that its current Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan is Islamic. Religious minority groups are being consulted for the new text, like the Orthodox Church (recognised by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923), Alawite and Jewish groups, but also social groups like the gay, lesbian and transgender movement which presented its own requests in the middle of January in another unprecedented hearing. Thanks to its Ottoman tradition, Turkey has a legacy of tolerance towards minority groups. (ANSAmed)
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