Even if we assume that the existent legal identity types are appropriate and sufficient for congregations to maintain their legal affairs, in every activity of the congregations there are in fact inherent difficulties and obstacles. This is also related to the non-recognition of religious institutions. Religious institutions’ activities are subject to some laws which have nothing to do with religious or divine affairs. So instead of benefiting from laws enacted specifically to meet the needs of religious communities, in fact each and every action of these communities is subject to different laws and regulations designed for the general public.
In addition to this general difficulty, there are also some obstacles that were created on purpose. For example, Muslim congregations cannot collect the skins of sacrificed animals during the Feast of the Sacrifice holiday. Every year, millions of animals are sacrificed during this religious ceremony, and Muslim congregations are not allowed to collect the skins. Muslim congregations could bring in a significant income through these donations and could use them for charitable work, but they are not allowed to do that. The only institution that can collect animal skins is the Turkish Aviation Board (THK). These kinds of regulations can only be applied in totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Turkey has much control over every aspect of religious affairs -- something only possible in non-democratic regimes. This ban on collecting skins is an obstacle created for Muslim communities in order to prevent them from gaining benefits from a religious practice.
Apart from this specific regulation and practice, if any religious community wishes to collect money or any other material thing for its work, it has to go through a cumbersome legal procedure to get permission from the governor or ministry under Law No. 2860 (on the collection of charitable donations). If you look at the details of the law, you will see it has nothing to do with religious institutions. Religious institutions, like any other real or legal person, have to go through lengthy and bureaucratic processes to get this permission.
If a religious institution would like to train its own clergymen, this is not possible for any religious community in Turkey. Imams, Muslim clerics, must attend a religious school and be employed by the Directorate of Religious Affairs. The directorate has absolute power to appoint any imam to any mosque, and the congregation has no say in this. When it comes to non-Muslims, there is no way for them to train clergymen. As you know, the Halki Seminary was closed in 1974. As for other non-Muslim congregations, there is no school or institution that can train their clergy. In this case, they must employ clergymen from abroad. For each appointment, as if they were employing a clerk or a schoolteacher, they need to get a work and residence permit for the person involved.
Let us say a religious community would like to organize a talk or a conference on a specific matter. It needs to get permission from the governor. If it wants to publish a periodical, it needs to go through a legal procedure like any other person or institution. If it wants to open a Bible or Quran school, it needs to get permission and fill out a lot of paperwork.
Turkey does not recognize congregations and their institutions
I can extend this list and enumerate many other things for which religious congregations need to get permission. The essence of all these problems is that Turkey does not recognize congregations and their institutions. The Turkish state has a phobia when it comes to religion and either wants to control everything related to religious practice or makes it quite difficult and sometimes impossible.
The Ottoman Empire had its millet system in which every religious community was recognized as a separate millet and was quite autonomous when it came to its internal religious affairs. Ottoman rulers maintained their relations with these millets through the religious leader of each millet. When the Turkish Republic was established, this millet system and all religious infrastructure were destroyed. They were destroyed but nothing replaced them.
As far as the Turkish legal system is concerned, there is no such thing as a congregation. Since there is no congregation, there can be no religious institutions. Churches and mosques have no legal identity. As I tried to explain in the first part of this piece, only very recently have associations been allowed to have a religious mandate, such as to establish a church. If this association is one of the lucky ones which managed to pass through all the bureaucratic obstacles, after building this church, all its activities are subject to different laws.
As you see, Muslims and non-Muslims share almost identical problems and the root causes of their problems are exactly the same. It is not possible for any religious congregation to solve these problems on its own.
Protestants, Catholics, the Orthodox, Muslims -- all demand rights without having any strategy, any coordination with one another. They all hope that one day the state will solve their problems. But if they ally with one another and coordinate a bit, they will have a much higher chance of influencing the government and state policy. These congregations are not aware, but there are no ready solutions for their problems. They need to change their attitudes and start to demand specific rights and institutions; for this to be successful, they need to act together. I will continue on this subject.