Turkey’s top court ruled that compulsory religion classes violate freedom of religion, upholding the two past rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that criticized Ankara on the principle and content of compulsory religious education.
The Constitutional Court’s verdict last week follows a long legal battle by Huseyin El, who wanted to pull his daughter out of compulsory education classes more than a decade ago because their content was not in line with his religious and philosophical beliefs. The school principal insisted that Nazli Sirin El, a fourth grader at the time, should take the course because only Christian and Jewish citizens of Turkey could be exempted. Nazli Sirin El is neither. She and her father are Alevis, a branch of Islam whose believers worship in a cemevi, rather than a mosque, with men and women alongside one another. But El insisted that it mattered little whether he was an Alevi, Jewish or an atheist, challenging the concept of compulsory religious courses and his right to stop his child from attending them.