EGMR: Grand Chamber hearing in the case Doğan and Others v. Turkey (application no. 62649/10)

The applicants are 203 Turkish nationals who belong to the Alevi faith. The case concerns the rejection of the request made by the applicants, who belong to the Alevi faith, for provision of a religious public service which, they maintain, has been granted to date exclusively to the majority of citizens, who subscribe to the Sunni understanding of Islam. They contend that they have been discriminated against compared with citizens who follow the Sunni branch of Islam. 

On 22 June 2005 the applicants submitted a petition to the Prime Minister in which they complained that the Religious Affairs Department, operating under the Prime Minister and responsible for all matters relating to Islam and hence for administering places of worship, confined itself to cases concerning only one theological school of thought while disregarding all other faiths, including the Alevi faith. The petition claimed that Alevis’ rights were disregarded, that their places of worship (cemevis) were not recognised as such and that numerous obstacles prevented them from being built, that no provision was made in the budget for the running of existing places of worship and that the exercise of Alevis’ rights and freedoms was dependent on the good will of public officials.

On 19 August 2005 the applicants received a letter in reply, informing them that it was not possible to grant their requests. Following receipt of the letter 1,919 people, including the applicants, lodged an application for judicial review of the rejection decision. On 4 July 2007 the Administrative Court dismissed the application on the grounds that the authorities’ refusal was in conformity with the legislation in force and that the applicants’ requests could only be satisfied by the enactment of new laws in this sphere. The applicants lodged an appeal on points of law which was dismissed by the Supreme Administrative Court.

Relying on Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion), the applicants complain that, in rejecting their claims for provision of a religious public service to Alevis, as hitherto granted exclusively to the majority of citizens, followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, the State has failed to comply with its obligations. They maintain that the State has not discharged its duty of neutrality and impartiality with regard to religious beliefs. Relying on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 9, the applicants claim to be victims of discrimination based on their religion, arguing that they have been treated less favourably than citizens adhering to the Sunni branch of Islam in a comparable situation. In their view, such a practice is irreconcilable with the conception of a neutral State as established in the Court’s case-law.

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 31 August 2010. The Government were given notice of the application on 7 May 2013. A statement of facts has been published on the Court’s website. On 25 November 2014 the Chamber to which the case had been assigned relinquished jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber.

Press release ECHR 174 (2015) 01/06/2015

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