With the opening of Turkey’s parliament on October 1 and the start of work on replacing the country’s constitution, members of the country’s religious minority groups are hoping that years of institutional and legal discrimination will come to an end in the not-too-distant future.
"We are expecting to contribute . . . our ideas and our support to this process," said Laki Vingas, a Greek-Turkish businessman and the elected representative for 161 non-Muslim minority foundations in their dealings with the Turkish state. "We have seen a big change in the way the government is cooperating with us."
Over its nine-year tenure in power, the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) has tried to distinguish itself from its predecessors by addressing some of the grievances of Turkey’s non-Muslim religious minorities. Reforms, many of which were demanded by the European Union, have included the easing of controls on non-Muslim foundations, the renovation of places of worship and the ending of rhetoric that termed non-Muslims as "yabancı" or foreigners.
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.