As we have repeatedly expressed on every occasion where the issue of religious freedoms has come up, the freedoms of religion, thought and conscience are under the protection of the Constitution of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). All individuals residing in our country, including foreign nationals, are free to join any sorts of religious ceremonies and liturgies as long as they are not in violation of the public order and public morality.
In this connection, it should also be noted that Maronites and Greek Cypriots, who opted to reside within the territory of the TRNC are free to conduct religious services, held by their own priests in eight major Churches in the villages they are residing (Dipkarpaz, Sipahi, Koruçam, Karapaşa, Hisarköy and Özhan) without any restrictions or prior notification. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on the number of collective religious services to be held in 3 significant churches (Apostolos Andreas, St Barnabas and St. Mamas). Arrangements regarding other religious sites which are suitable for worship are only logistical and safety-related arrangements and do not entail any restrictions on individuals’ right to worship.
Statistical information regarding religious service requests in recent years is as follows:
- In 2013, 38 of the 47 applications were granted permission, whereas 9 were denied permission.
- In 2014, 71 of the 107 applications were granted permission, whereas 36 were denied permission.
- In 2015, 96 of the 128 applications were granted permission, whereas 32 were denied permission so far.
- In 2016, 109 of the 193 applications were granted permission, whereas 54 were denied permission.
- Among the 33 applications placed up until 23 April 2017, 25 have been granted permission.
Unfortunately, the Greek Cypriot side has turned a blind eye to the restrictions it places on Turkish Cypriots to worship collectively at Mosques in Southern Cyprus, including Hala Sultan Mosque. Moreover, the Greek Cypriots have repeatedly exploited the good will we have shown in this regard and insist on applying to hold masses at locations and on dates where they are well aware it is not possible to hold services. We deem it necessary to emphasize that we consider it our duty and responsibility to take the necessary precautions against the political exploitation on religious freedoms.