World Bulletin / News Desk
The Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have demanded some restrictions on freedom of worship in the new constitution, saying that freedom of worship should be enjoyed only so far as it does not threaten public order and morals.Following a 21-day break, the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission gathered on Wednesday to continue the work of drafting the new constitution.
During Wednesday's meeting, the CHP and MHP voiced proposals regarding the chapter on basic rights and freedoms.
The CHP suggested that the article in the current Constitution reading: “Everyone has the freedom to exhibit their religion or faith and work to disseminate them. Prayers, religious rituals and ceremonies are free,” should be followed by a sentence reading, “These freedoms may be restricted to protect public order, the general well-being and rights and freedoms of others.” The CHP's proposal has raised concerns that a person's freedom of worship could be curtailed under the new constitution.
The MHP shares the same view as the CHP and is calling for some restrictions on the freedom of worship in the draft.
The CHP is also requesting the inclusion of a reference to atheists in the constitution, proposing, “Everyone has the freedom to choose or change their religion or faith, or choose not to have any religion or faith.”
The main opposition party also proposes that the Religious Affairs Directorate should not be abolished, but rather should work in line with the principles of secularism and represent different religions and faiths in society.
Justice and Development Party (AK Party) İstanbul deputy Mustafa Şentop, speaking to reporters ahead of Wednesday's meeting, said a new constitution is a must for Turkey.
“It is not easy to write a new constitution. We must also place limitations on some articles,” he said.
One of the most hotly debated issues in the drafting process has been a person's right to be educated in their mother tongue, a proposal strongly supported by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
The BDP is calling for the inclusion of an article in the new constitution reading, “On condition that the official language of the country is taught and learned, everyone has the right to receive education in their mother tongue.”
The AK Party has not commented on this issue during the drafting process. The CHP says that while the language of education is Turkish, the state should take the necessary measures to enable people to receive education in their mother tongue.
The MHP agrees that Turkish is the language of education, and opposes access to education in languages other than Turkish.
As it begins to draft the text of the new constitution, the commission is adhering to a four-phase process. The first phase was to collect and evaluate necessary data, which ended on Dec. 31, 2011, when the commission finished compiling feedback from the public and relevant institutions.
Completion of the draft is scheduled for the end of the year, and it will be opened to public discussion in 2013. Following this step, the finalized proposal will be ready to present to Parliament. The new constitution will be composed of several sections, including basic rights and freedoms, legislation, executive and judiciary, economic and social provisions, general provisions, basic provisions and temporary provisions.