Turkish opposition head speaks out on minority rights

ISTANBUL – The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has hinted at a boost for minority rights after meeting several Christian and Jewish religious leaders ahead of the country's anticipated 2015 general election.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party, CHP, was speaking to media on Monday after meeting with the heads of several religious minority communities in Istanbul.

“They (spiritual leaders) said that some of their problems are rooted in (Turkish) law and others to its practice,” Kilicdaroglu said.

Prior reforms in 2008 allowed minority groups in Turkey to buy and renovate property. In June 2014, then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his AK Party government returned confiscated assets worth $2 billion to Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities.

The leader of the secular CHP hinted that problems would be brought to parliament by opposition party lawmakers.

“There are some problems arising from the practice of laws; we will deal with it together for a solution,” Kilicdaroglu added.

When asked if the opposition party would field a minority candidate for the June 2015 general elections, the CHP leader said that it was too early for a decision about the issue.

“We would consider it if there were such a demand,” Kilicdaroglu said.

“The only thing we want is this; let’s not allow a political understanding that interferes in our lifestyles, questions our beliefs, polarizes or marginalizes us,” he added.

His comments come after Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu held a meeting with non-Muslim minority religious leaders on Jan. 1 in Istanbul.

Davutoglu called for people to stand up to Islamophobia and discrimination against different beliefs.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, chief rabbi of Turkey’s Jewish community Isak Haleva, Deputy Armenian Patriarch Archbishop Aram Atesyan, Patriarchal Vicar of the Assyrian Orthodox Church Yusuf Cetin and Assyrian Catholic Deputy Patriarch Yusuf Sag attended today’s meeting.

Along with the religious leaders, several CHP members of parliament were also present.

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