Thursday, July 9, 2009

Turkish Artificial Phobias Hurriyet Daily News

Halki Seminary
It can be perfectly argued by "nationalist" opponents of the reopening of the Greek Orthodox Halki (Heybeliada) Seminary on the island of Heybeliada that, since headed by the right to elect their own religious leader or mufti, Greece has been denying the religious rights of the Muslim and ethnic Turkish minority living in that country in violation of the Lausanne Treaty, there can be no obligation for Turkey to reopen the seminary within the framework of the rights provided to the Greek Orthodox minority of Istanbul.But, can there be the practice of tit for tat, or reciprocity in human rights? Has Greece "obtained" the right to forcefully evict the Muslim and Turkish minority living in western Thrace to Turkey because an idiotic nationalistic and radical mob staged shameful events on September 6-7, 1955 and forced most of the Greek Orthodox residents of Istanbul flee to Greece? Or, can Turkey "obtain" the right to withdraw the Turkish nationality of its Greek Orthodox population traveling to Greece or outside the country and staying for more than just few months because until recently Greece was applying the same inhumane treatment to its Muslim and ethnic Turkish population traveling to Turkey?The violation of human rights of a minority by one country cannot be the pretext of the violation of the human rights of another minority in a neighboring country. There can be no such reciprocity even if the rights of the two minorities might have been regulated in a corresponding manner with the same, in our case Lausanne, international treaty. After all, under the principle of constitutional citizenship, all citizens of a country must have equal rights. Furthermore, under international minority norms, rather than being considered a "potential threat" and having their rights restricted on the understanding obsessed by certain phobias, the minorities of this country must be accorded with some "additional" rights to preserve and promote their ethnic, religious, cultural, or whatever differences.One of the key phobias in some segments of this country, regarding the dwindling Greek Orthodox minority, is the "ecumenical status" of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. With the claim that the patriarchate is a "national institution," Turkey has been categorically objecting to the patriarchate being considered or even referred to with the ecumenical title that dates back to pre-republic times. What is the loss for Turkey if the country acknowledges the fact that all around the world the patriarchate is considered as ecumenical, that it is universal? On the contrary, Turkey should be proud that as a national institution of our country, the patriarchate enjoys such recognition. Still, a phobia that the patriarchate could turn into a second Vatican is crippling the ability of many Turks from seeing where the interests of the country indeed lie.Second Vatican phobiaThe Halki Seminary quandary is a by-product of that obsession, of course, in addition to the phobia that should the Greek Orthodox be allowed an educational institution independent from the Education Ministry or the Higher Education Council, or YÖK, the country may have to battle similar demands from Islamist groups. There is, of course a difference between the two religions. In one there is no clergy. Besides, more than enough people every year graduate from theological high schools, or the Imam Hatips, and theology departments of universities. However, in the Greek Orthodoxy, there is a clergy class and only those graduating from a theology school can be ordained into the church as a clergy-man. The first difficulty of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Turkey is the dwindling Greek Orthodox population. The second problem is that Halki has been closed since 1971 and the patriarchate is having difficulty in finding sufficient new additions to its staff. Even a new patriarch could only be elected after being made a Turkish citizen by the Council of Ministers, because under our laws, only a Turkish national can be elected as patriarch to our "national institution" - the patriarchate.While the country is once again debating the reopening of the Halki Seminary as a "Heybeliada Minority Vocational High School," that is as a vocational secondary school affiliated to the Education Ministry, Turkey should manage to rid itself from artificial phobias, act with reason and take some practical steps in comforting our Greek Orthodox minority with an awareness of the problems it faces because of their dwindling numbers. After all, there can be no reciprocity in human rights.

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