Turkey’s Atheists Start Petition for ‘Equal Treatment’ Before Law
Turkey’s Atheism Association started a petition at change.org to ensure “equal treatment” of atheists before the law and among members of society, Turkish news website Bianet has reported.
The campaign, which aims to collect 5,000 signatures, was organized to make sure atheists’ demands for equal citizenship, both legally and in practice, were heard by the Turkish parliament.
The petition lists a variety of demands by the association to eliminate discrimination against atheists.
“We want politicians to restrain themselves when tempted to make discriminatory statements starting with ‘even the atheists,’” it said, referring to comparisons where atheists are used as negative examples.
The association asked for the legal recognition of atheism and measures against the use of the words “nonbeliever” and “atheist” as insults.
“We want equal treatment before the law. We do not want to be treated as though we have ‘insulted religious values’ when we express our faithlessness,” the petition said.
The statement argued that the religious pressures Turkish citizens faced were a violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, citing specifically the rhetoric of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that insistently defines Turkey as a country of a “single religion.”
The removal of the religious affiliation section from Turkish identity cards and ending the practice of registering children as “Muslim” at birth before they are able to reach a decision independently were also among their demands.
Finally, the association wanted to be represented in meetings with Turkey’s non-Muslim communities, which are currently restricted to religious minorities like Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.
The Atheism Association, the first of its kind in any Muslim-majority country, was officially founded in Istanbul’s Asian-side district of Kadıköy in April 2014.
Just three weeks after its foundation, the association was forced to install a panic button directly connected to the police station near its headquarters in Istanbul due to death threats.
Meanwhile, on March 4, 2015, a court ruled to block the association’s website, citing Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Law, which forbids “provoking the people for hate and enmity or degrading them.”
Despite attempts to inhibit the organization, the association has recently begun supporting the homeless and needy in Istanbul by delivering free soup once a week.
Every Wednesday, the Atheism Association delivers free soup with the motto of “Soup campaign for you” in the streets of Istanbul.