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Protection of historical and cultural artifacts of minorities under international law: the case of Turkey’s alevi cultural heritage

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2019
Kulak, Özge
The necessity of the protection of the cultural rights of minorities has appeared as another area of international law in the last decades, separately from other fundamental rights, and these issues have become increasingly important among European countries, especially within the European Union. This has in turn made it necessary to evaluate the demands of the Alevi community, which constitutes a de facto religious minority in Turkey, not legally recognized by the state, regarding their monuments as tangible cultural heritage in light of international treaties binding on Turkey, such as the 1966 United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the 1966 United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the 1972 UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, as well as the EU standards on minority and cultural rights. This thesis therefore aims to contribute to the protection of the Alevi/Bektashi historical artifacts most valued by the Alevi community, constructed centuries ago in Anatolia. The thesis seeks to sketch an inventory of the main Alevi heritage sites, consisting of historical Alevi/Bektashi complexes, lodges, and tombs existing within Turkey’ borders today. The thesis also attempts to contribute to a possible legal satisfaction of the demands of the Alevi community regarding these artifacts in terms of their protection, restoration, administration, and use by the community under the provisions of the international treaties to which Turkey is a party, which would be capable of solving at least some of the problems if the challenges of domestic application are duly addressed. The issue is explored within the context of Turkey’s negotiations with the EU as a necessity for the protection of the rights of minorities in a democratic setting, particularly in light of perceptions of the rise of an authoritarian political atmosphere in Turkey in recent years, with comparisons to implementations and legal instruments in European countries regarding their ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities.