161 CDSDG 07 E - STATE AND RELIGION IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
BERT MIDDEL (NETHERLANDS)
THE DISCUSSION OF THIS REPORT HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO THE SPRING SESSION IN BERLIN (25 MAY 2008)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. RELIGION, STATE AND DEMOCRACY IN THE BLACK SEA REGION: NATIONAL SOLUTIONS TO NATIONAL CHALLENGES
III. RELIGION AND SECURITY IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
IV. CONCLUSION: NATO, THE EUROPEAN UNION AND RELIGION IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
1. The widespread rhetoric about the "clash of civilisations" and the global war on terror has put religion back in the spotlight. One important aspect of this evolution is the emphasis put on the role of religion as a security issue in domestic and international affairs. The Black Sea region offers a particularly interesting test for these theories, as it consists of a complex ethnic and religious mix created over the years by the combination of local developments and foreign influences. Attention has focused, in particular, on the countries from the former Soviet Union - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Russia, and the report will examine the situation there. Turkey will also be studied as a central actor in the region and particularly interesting model for relations between state and religion.
2. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union religious movements have flourished in the Black Sea region. As religious institutions, repressed under Soviet rule, regain the positions they held previously, they have had to redefine their relations with state institutions. Meanwhile however, dominant religious institutions face growing competition from other religious movements, including foreign-based groups. Additionally, frustrations generated by the impact of transition and globalisation have led parts of the population to support the radical agenda preached by some religious movements. Some of these developments are also visible in Turkey, which has experienced a certain religious revival since the 1980s. Additionally, the recent emergence of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has led some to fear a shift from secular Turkey towards political Islam.
3. Upon independence, states of the region have had to build and define - or rebuild and redefine - their national identity. This has sometimes resulted in violent conflicts, which for the most part had little to do with religion. Nevertheless, in this troubled context, states have often seen religion either as a tool in the consolidation of their national identity or as a threat. A complicating factor is the uncertain boundary between ethnicity and religion in the region. Even in those regions, which were not ravaged by conflict, minorities, in particular when they had links with neighbouring countries, have often had to suffer the consequences of this process of state building.
4. Religion thus confronts states of the region with a number of difficult issues. Specifically, the report will address four main challenges: relations between the state and the majority religion, specifically what role should the state play in relation to religious affairs and how much influence should be granted to the dominant religion; relations between the state and religious minorities; the state's response to the growing influence of foreign-based religious movements; and the state's response to religious extremism.
5. States in the Black Sea region have addressed these challenges in a variety of ways, based on their national traditions and the specificities of their religious landscape. Chapter II of the report will provide an overview of the measures that a selection of states has adopted to deal with these challenges. Chapter III will attempt to identify the potential impact of religion on security in the region and how this is relevant for Euro-Atlantic institutions. Developments in this report build on the two previous reports of this Sub-Committee on "Minorities in the South Caucasus: Factor of Instability" (2005) and "Frameworks and Areas of Co-operation in the Black Sea Region" (2006).
6. The following sections will examine successively the situation in the South Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan), and the North Caucasus, Ukraine and Turkey.
7. The overwhelming majority (98.7%) of the population of Armenia is Christian. Armenia is believed to be the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301. The Church played a major role in the historic development of the country and the definition of its identity. Upon independence the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) was quick to secure recognition by the state, and its legal privileges have only been reinforced since then. The head of the AAC, Catholicos Vazgen I, presided over the swearing in of the first president of the newly independent Republic of Armenia. The 1991 law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations" recognised the AAC's unrivalled role as the "National Church" of Armenians and the only religious movement allowed to proselytise. Other religious entities were required to register with the state authorities in order to operate without restrictions. Requirements for registration are fairly strict. To acquire an official status, a group must consist of at least 200 members, subscribe to a doctrine based on "historically recognised holy scriptures" and be part of the contemporary universal system of religious communities. Unregistered organisations - and there are 10 of these, as opposed to over 60 registered ones - may not produce publications, broadcast TV or radio programmes, rent places for congregation or officially invite foreign visitors.
8. The special status of the AAC was further detailed in a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 by the government and the AAC and which serves as a basis for delineating the AAC's place and role in the Armenian state. Among other things, both sides agree to "recognise the importance of the role and significance" of the Church "in national, educational, cultural and social security, health and spiritual spheres". In the field of education, the Law on Freedom of Conscience grants the AAC the exclusive right of training teachers of religion for state schools and provides that "the teaching of religion is permitted solely on the basis of the belief professed by the Armenian Apostolic Church".
9. Two recent documents have again cemented the AAC's special relation with the state and its dominant position in Armenia's religious landscape. Amendments to the Constitution of Armenia introduced in 2005 included an important article on religion, which provides for freedom of religion and for the separation of Church and State, while also referring to the "exclusive historical mission of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church as a national church in the spiritual life, development of the national culture and preservation of the national identity of the people of Armenia." The "Law on the Relationship between the Republic of Armenia and the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church" of January 2007 follows up on the 2000 memorandum of understanding, which called for further clarification of the AAC's legal status. The law confirms and strengthens the position of the AAC as the national church, entrusted with an "exceptional mission (...) in the spiritual life of the Armenian people, their national cultural development and preservation of their national identity". The AAC's historical, spiritual, cultural and documental inheritance is described as "an important and indivisible part of the foundation of the national identity".
10. The law is also presented as a complement to the Law on Freedom of Conscience, with a view to regulate this "special relationship". Many of the clauses contained in the new law are a repetition of provisions pre-existing in the Law on Freedom of Conscience. However, observers have noted that it also grants the AAC new rights, thereby reinforcing the discrepancy between the position of the AAC and that of other religious groups. These additional rights include: assistance from the state budget for the protection and enrichment of those assets that are considered to be a part of the national cultural inheritance; the official recognition of religious weddings and divorces; an extended tax exemption on the AAC's income; extended rights in the field of education; the obligation directed to the media to report communications from the ACC faithfully.
11. Nevertheless the AAC's actual influence over political and social life in Armenia should not be exaggerated. The Church suffered heavily during the Soviet rule and has had difficulty promoting a strong religious revival in Armenia. Additionally, observers have noted that state officials have proven as skilled in using the AAC for their own purposes as the AAC to secure its privileged status.
12. Relations with the diaspora are a major challenge for the AAC, as it strives to impose its authority over a population as large as that of Armenia itself, around 3 million people in more than 30 communities abroad. The role of the diaspora in Armenia is a unique feature in the region. It represents not only a major political player in Armenia and abroad, but also an economic player. It is estimated that one fifth of Armenia's GDP comes from transfers from the diaspora. Relations between the Church and the diaspora have to be understood in the context of divisions within the AAC. The AAC's main See in Ejmiatsin is nominally the Church of all Armenians. However, during Communist times, the Catholicosate of Cilicia based in Lebanon, became a major focal point for relations with the diaspora, and retains today its control over major sections of the diaspora - including in the United States. Different approaches to traditions and modernity regularly fuel tensions between the two Sees. This is further complicated by the close relations that the Catholicosate of Cilicia has developed with the Dashnak party (also known as the Armenian Revolutionary Federation), which is very influential among the diaspora. Relations with the diaspora thus involve complex interactions between political parties in Armenia, the AAC, and the various sections of the diaspora itself. Overall, the current coalition, which includes the Dashnak party, has been very active in promoting ties with the diaspora, and integrates many of its representatives. This alliance led in particular to the recent vote in parliament authorising dual citizenship for Armenians of the diaspora. It is also interesting to note that the new law on relations between the AAC and the State confirms that the AAC, "as a national church which operates in other countries as well, is under the protection of the Republic of Armenia".
13. Besides a 120,000-strong Catholic community and 40,000 Yezidis, numbers of other religious minorities in Armenia are relatively small. There are 8,750 Jehovah's Witnesses, 8,000 followers of Armenian Evangelical Church, 8,000 Baha'is and 5,000 Molokan Old Believers. As a result of the mass movements of population resulting from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, virtually no Azeris remain in Armenia. Other Muslim communities are also present in very small numbers. Non-traditional religious groups have not been accepted in the past and have occasionally suffered violent attacks. Today they encounter no major barriers to register or operate, but public attitude remains apprehensive. Additionally, discrimination against Jehovah's Witnesses in connection with conscription persists, despite pressures from the Council of Europe and other international institutions. Although the Law on Alternative Service came into force in June 2004, the Armenian authorities did not comply with Council of Europe requirements to pardon the imprisoned conscientious objectors. The current law provides for a purely civilian service, set at 42 months, and a 36-month long unarmed military service, as against 24 months of the regular service. The June 2006 amendment to the Law did not address the problem of the excessive duration of alternative service and further aggravated its punitive nature by bringing certain aspects of it under military supervision. In December 2006 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe therefore maintained that there was no genuine alternative service of a clearly civilian character and reiterated its request to the Government of Armenia to revise the Law in compliance with European standards.
14. Georgia has the most diverse religious landscape in the South Caucasus. The Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) is the dominant religious institution in Georgia. In 2002, it was estimated that 84% of the Georgian population - and 94,7% of ethnic Georgians - identified with the GOC. The largest religious minority is made up by various populations of Muslim faith, which together represent almost 10% of the population. Armenian Gregorians (4% of the population), most of whom live in Javakhetia, on the border with Armenia, form the second largest religious minority. Other minorities, including Catholics and Judaists, represent less than 1% of the population.
Legal framework and relations between the state and majority religious groups
15. The Georgian Constitution guarantees freedom of belief and religion, as well as the independence of the Church from the State. However, in the same sentence, it also recognises the special role of the GOC in the history of the country, which is enshrined in a Constitutional Agreement between church and state officials of 2002. This agreement grants the GOC a privileged status in terms of taxes, conscription, compensation for losses inflicted by the Russian/Soviet rule. In the field of education, the GOC enjoys a consultative role in curriculum development and, although the law on general education prohibits proselytising, indoctrination, and display of religious symbols for non-educational purposes, Orthodox theology continues to influence directly or indirectly teaching practices and curricula.
16. Societal attitude towards religion and the influence of the church on Georgia's policymaking are to a large extent determined by the historical legacy and the role of the Orthodox Christianity in the Georgians' self-identification as a nation. The identity crisis experienced on the eve and in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet break-up led to a revival of ethnic nationalism in Georgia, which also included a strong religious component and resulted in the adoption of policies hostile towards minorities. This only exacerbated the already deep-rooted, though not overtly religious, conflicts in Tskhinvali region / South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which had a devastating impact on Georgia's state-building.
17. Despite internal divisions and quarrels, the GOC continues today to enjoy a strong influence over public life in Georgia. Georgian authorities have been wary of restricting the special status enjoyed by the GOC. Some observers even go further and denounce a real collusion of interests between the government and the GOC. This might seem surprising as the conservative and anti-Western rhetoric of some elements of the GOC clashes with the population and the government's aspirations towards modernity and rapprochement with the West.
The status of religious minorities and the uncertain border between ethnic and religious claims among Georgia's minorities
18. In April 2005, the Parliament adopted an amendment to the Civil Code allowing religious groups to register as private, non-commercial entities. Prior to this enactment, no religious group - other than the GOC - could acquire an official status as a public religious association.
19. Traditional religious minorities are generally well accepted in Georgia, which has a long history of peaceful cohabitation of various religions. However, the Catholic and the Armenian churches regularly challenge the privileges granted to the GOC and have refused to register under the new law. In contrast, there have been accounts of discrimination against or obstacles to the activities of non-traditional groups. The situation has improved in the past few years, and the new law on registration finally provides these groups with a legal status.
20. Most claims relating to the protection of minorities in Georgia are based on ethnicity rather than religion. However in several cases, it is difficult to draw the line between claims relating to the exercise of religious rights and those relating to the exercise of the rights of ethnic minorities.
21. Armenians from Javakhetia are quite vocal in denouncing the government's lack of respect for minority rights. They claim efforts to preserve their national identity are counteracted by state policies. Despite recent improvements, low participation in policy-making processes and under-representation in the state structures continue to fuel their calls for autonomy. Georgian authorities insist that full integration can only be achieved through mastery of the state language. Some of the claims put forward by this Armenian minority have an explicit religious character. The issue of ownership of certain churches which, according to ethnic Armenians, have been appropriated by the GOC but should rightfully belong to the AAC, has acquired greater prominence in recent years. Several incidents related to this issue turned violent, as did several other Armenian protests in the past few years.
22. Georgia's largest Muslim community, Azeris from Kvemo-Kartli, also exhibits a sense of alienation towards central authorities in Tbilisi, although they have been less vocal in articulating their claims. These have focused mostly on socio-economic issues, such as land distribution. The Georgian government has started to address these claims through a comprehensive package of political, economic and social policies, implemented in co-operation with the Azerbaijani government and local leaders. Meanwhile, there are signs of growing religious activity among Azeri populations. Foreign missionary groups, particularly from Iran, have responded to this religious revival and established foundations which provide various services to the Shi'a community. However, this situation has not translated into claims of a religious character.
23. The situation in Adjara, which hosts the second largest Muslim population in Georgia, is quite different. Most Adjaran Muslims are ethnic Georgians and Sunnis. Additionally, they only represent one third of the population of this rich region. Adjara has been the target of an active policy of promotion of the Christian faith immediately after independence and in the context of ethnic conflicts in Tskhinvali region / South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia. Since the Rose Revolution and the re-integration of Adjara, authorities in Tbilisi have been eager to present Adjara as a model of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different faiths. Meanwhile, Muslim organisations are increasingly present in Adjara; these originate mostly from Turkey, and combine business and religious activism.
24. Another Muslim community is the Kistin population of the Pankisi Gorge, on the border with Russia's Northern Caucasus republics. Ethnically close to the Chechens, the Kistins have suffered the consequences of the war in Chechnya. Fears of radicalisation among the Kistins have put them in a difficult position towards Georgian authorities, which were also under strong pressure from Russia to deny Chechen fighters any safe haven on Georgia's territory.
25. Finally, the situation of the population deported from Georgia's Meskhetia region to Central Asia in 1944, continued until recently to tarnish the Georgian government's record of dealing with minorities. Repatriation of Meskhetians was one of the requirements for Georgia's membership in the Council of Europe. However, Georgian authorities have long resisted the return, unwilling to incur the political and material costs of repatriation. Only very recently, in July 2007, did a breakthrough occur with the adoption by the Georgian parliament of a law on the repatriation of Meskhetians. The law allows survivors and descendants of those Meskhetians who were deported by Joseph Stalin from Southern Georgia in 1944 to apply for repatriation in the course of 2008. This law represents an important step towards fulfilment of Georgia's international obligations. Nevertheless, many uncertainties remain regarding its implementation. It is still unclear how many Meskhetians will be able to fulfil the law's strict requirements or even how many will be willing to apply for repatriation, given in particular that the law does not provide for any financial assistance for returnees.
26. Muslim populations of Georgia do not represent a unified block and have not so far joined forces to pursue a common agenda. However, this situation might be slowly changing. In June 2006, 80 representatives of Georgia's Muslim minorities gathered in the Turkish town of Erzurum to prepare the founding congress of the Muslim Democratic Party of Georgia.
27. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has witnessed a religious revival - a process that simultaneously took place in the rest of the Caucasus and Central Asia. An increased interest in Islam on the part of the Azerbaijani population, 96% of whom is Muslim, has partly been engendered by the desire to find psychological comfort and fill an identity vacuum at a time of turmoil and hardship. Another significant factor has been the influence exercised by religious movements from Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. It should be noted, however, that this religious revival is not limited to movements affiliated to Islam, but also involves a significant number of other religious communities and missionary groups. It is also important to underline that, overall, increased religiosity has not fundamentally changed the nature of religion in Azerbaijan. The overwhelming majority of Azerbaijanis prefers to keep religion part of the private realm. Accordingly, many view religion as a marker of their culture rather than a cornerstone of the national identity.
28. The most ardent representatives of the Shi'a Muslims, which constitute a majority of Azerbaijan's Muslim population (65-70%), inhabit the southern regions bordering Iran. The Sunnis (30-35%) predominantly live in the northern regions neighbouring Russia's Dagestan. A reference to the Shi'a-Sunni division, however, should not be overestimated. Many in Azerbaijan would find it difficult to distinguish between the two branches of Islam or even to identify their adherence to one of the branches.
Legal framework and relations between the state and majority religious groups
29. Upon independence, Azerbaijan adopted a secular model of statehood. The Constitution provides that "religion shall be separated from the State" and guarantees the freedom of religion and conscience. The 1992 Law on Religious Freedom prohibits the government from interfering in religious activities. Nevertheless, it authorises the state to restrict freedom of religion, for "considerations of state and national security". Political parties are barred from engaging in religious activities, while religious leaders are barred from seeking office. This law still regulates today's relations between the state and religion. However, it remains the subject of debates in religious and political circles, with some groups calling for the law to be brought in line with an evolving religious landscape.
30. Since the Soviet era, the supervision of Islamic religious life in Azerbaijan has been the domain of the Spiritual Board of Muslims of the Caucasus (SBMC), which deals in particular with the appointment of imams and prior approval for the registration of Muslim communities. However, in 2001 the government decided to set up the secular State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations (SCWRO) in order to strengthen the monitoring of religious activities and extend it to non-Islamic communities. This measure led to a certain overlap and an initial period of competition for authority, partly fuelled by a personal rivalry between the leaderships of the two structures. Since the replacement of the Committee chairman in July 2006, tensions appear to have receded and the two bodies carry out joint activities aiming to improve the condition of religious communities in Azerbaijan. A significant development has been the establishment, under the SCWRO's leadership, of the Advisory Council which brings together the SBMC and leaders of the country's other religious communities.
31. Upon its creation, the SCWRO embarked on a process of re-registering religious establishments. 386 organisations were registered with the Committee as of July 2007, of which about 30 are non Islamic - Protestant, Christian Orthodox, Judaic, Baha'i, and Krishnaite. There are also three Molokan organisations representing a community of approximately 500 people, and a 150-strong Roman Catholic community. Roughly 1500 religious bodies remain unregistered.
The status of religious minorities in Azerbaijan
32. International human rights observers generally agree that the treatment of religious minorities in Azerbaijan demonstrates a high level of religious tolerance. Relations with the country's main religious minorities, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Jewish community, are deemed particularly positive. As a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, almost the entire Armenian population of Azerbaijan - some 100,000 people - is today concentrated in the breakaway region. Nagorno-Karabakh's de facto authorities regulate religious issues in the region, where the AAC is the only registered religious community. Azerbaijani authorities estimate that 30,000 Armenians remain in other parts of Azerbaijan. The AAC is not registered with the Azerbaijani authorities and little information is available about the ability of this group to practice their religion freely. However, several reports indicate that the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh creates an unfavourable environment for this population.
33. A less tolerant attitude is also often exhibited towards non-traditional religious groups. In the report on her mission to Azerbaijan in February-March 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, recounted acts of religious intolerance against non-traditional religious groups. She noted that parts of the population, of the media and certain public authorities continue to exhibit and sometimes encourage mistrust towards these groups, which are suspected of planning to destabilise the Azerbaijani model of society. This attitude has led to sometimes violent interference in the activities of these organisations, which public authorities claim are justified by violations of the law on religion by these same communities. Thus, incidents of police raids on the Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom Halls occasionally appear in international press, although their situation can be said to have improved.
34. Implementation of the right to conscientious objection is also an issue for certain religious communities, particularly for the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Constitution of Azerbaijan guarantees that right and provides for an alternative service. However, adoption of a law on alternative service has been postponed up to this day in consideration of the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan ruled in 2005 that, in the absence of a law, the right to conscientious objection could not be granted.
Religious radicalisation and the state's response
35. The revival of traditional religious practices and values has been accompanied by the increasing presence of radical views. Several factors are usually put forward to explain the development of radical Islam in Azerbaijan. Fringes of the population find in radical Islam a way to fill an identity vacuum and bridge the gap between traditional Islam and state-imposed secularism. Some see it as a response to the perceived corruption and immorality of traditional religious authorities, and of the current political class. In some cases, socio-economic inequalities also feed radicalisation. Additionally, radical groups often adopt an anti-Western rhetoric, which appeals to various sections of the population.
36. The development of religious radicalism in Azerbaijan is a complex phenomenon. External influences have played a major role. Many of the radical groups active in Azerbaijan have their roots in foreign countries, including in particular Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the North Caucasus. Radical religious movements are not a uniform group, but rather a collection of communities, which vary greatly in their doctrine, strategy, audience, geographical presence, etc. They vary also in the challenge that they pose to Azerbaijan's model of secular Islam. Overall, if the presence of radical religious groups in Azerbaijan is estimated to be on the rise, analysts generally agree that their support base remains relatively small.
38. On the other hand, however, there have been indications of the presence of radical Salafi groups involved in terrorist activities on or from the territory of Azerbaijan. Several activists have been arrested in recent years in connection with groups related to Al Qaeda. The Jeyshullah group was ostensibly the only homegrown terrorist organisation in Azerbaijan, It is generally classified as Salafi/Wahhabi, although it has also been suspected of receiving support from Iran. Founded in 1995 by former Special-Purpose police officers with an aim of "cleansing" the country of foreign influences, Jeyshullah raided the Baku office of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and planted a bomb in the Hare Krishna Society's headquarters. Following its apprehension in 2000, the group was accused of several criminal offences, including an attempt on President Aliyev's life, and an intended attack on the US Embassy in Baku. This movement has hitherto been insignificant in size and of limited appeal.
39. Other movements promote a militant Shi'a ideology. Many find their ideological roots in Iran, whose influence is particularly strong in the southern regions of Azerbaijan, as well as in camps of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The Juma mosque in Baku has been the main religious centre of the Shi'a community of Azerbaijan. Sermons by the mosque's charismatic and Iran-educated imam, Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, were predominantly based on anti-government themes, combining religious themes with a condemnation of the government's record on human rights. Ibrahimoglu also developed links with opposition parties. In the aftermath of the 2003 presidential elections, the mosque was closed and the Imam arrested for his involvement in post-election demonstrations. According to Azerbaijani authorities, the historical mosque has been renovated, has re-opened for religious practitioners and its new spiritual leaders have been registered with the authorities.
40. The government's response to indications of a growing radicalisation of the country has been mainly repressive. Authorities have cracked down on the most radical groups suspected of terrorist activities and on foreign proselytising, which is explicitly banned by the law. They have also exercised a closer watch over religious activities, through the creation of the SCWRO, and the process of re-registration of religious groups. Baku has received tacit support for its repressive policies from Western partners concerned about the possible spread of international terrorism in Azerbaijan. Yet, analysts point out that a purely repressive runs the risk of further encouraging radicalisation, instead of addressing its causes.
41. Authorities have proved less able to prevent the spread of radical ideologies. On the contrary, religion and religious issues seem increasingly to influence the political life of the country. A minor form of this is the role that religion plays in the political discourse and strategy of both government and opposition. The government's fear of the so-called "Islamic fundamentalism" has been used to impose restrictions on participation in political life. Meanwhile, the opposition has also sometimes instrumentalised fears of the Islamisation of Azerbaijan, claiming that lack of support by the West for the democratic opposition would favour radical alternatives of the kind offered by radical religious groups.
42. Some religious personalities or movements explicitly seek to play a political role and have developed links with traditional opposition parties. Such is the case of Ilgar Ibrahimoglu, who sought to run as a candidate in the 2005 parliamentary elections, only to see his registration rejected as a result of his earlier conviction. Such is also the case of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan (IPA), a left-leaning party with alleged links to Iran, whose registration was withdrawn in 1995. The IPA remains active, although at a low level, and has regularly appeared in the ranks of various opposition coalitions. Recent statements by party leaders seem to indicate an attempt to re-brand the party as a moderate Islamic party on the model of the AKP in Turkey.
43. It is very unlikely that a political party with an explicitly religious agenda will emerge as a real force in Azerbaijan or that a frustrated opposition will turn to radical Islam for support. The population still feels very strongly that religion should remain in the private sphere and not play a political role. However, the discourse put forward by radical religious groups in Azerbaijan seems to provide a response to the aspirations of parts of the population for greater morality in politics, for greater protection of human rights, for an alternative to Western influence in the country, etc. In the current context, rather than the threat of radical Islam as such, the real challenge facing Azerbaijan's political system seems to be its ability to offer an appropriate response to these aspirations, while preserving its model of secularism.
D. RUSSIA'S NORTHERN CAUCASUS
44. The following section will not examine all aspects of religion in Russia, but will focus on the areas traditionally associated with the Black Sea region, that is the North Caucasus, and the role played by Islam as the dominant religion in these areas. Tsarist Russia conquered the territories of the Caucasus in the first half of the 18th century. Although the Orthodox Church enjoyed a strong position across the Russian Empire, Islam, which first appeared in the Caucasus in the 8th century, progressively gained ground across the region in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1897, the Muslim population in the Empire was estimated at 13 million people, representing 11% of the population, and in 1917 there were 30,000 mosques across the Russian Empire. This progression stopped with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the repression of religious movements of all faiths by the communist regime.
Islam in Russia: the origins of post-Soviet religious revival and radicalisation
45. Russia's Muslim community, which today represents 12% of the entire population, constitutes the country's second largest religious group. Predominantly Muslim populations live in 9 of the 21 constituent republics of the Russian Federation. The religious revival in the post-Soviet period has largely been driven by people's desire to explore their cultural legacy and has not been confined to purely confessional issues. For the majority of Russia's Muslims, Islam is a way of life and a tool for preserving their national identity. The Republic of Tatarstan in the Volga-Ural region and the North Caucasus have been at the centre of the new wave of religiosity. However, while Islam in a rather homogeneous Tatarstan has come to constitute a moderate non-political force, which is often described as a model of "Euro-Islam", the place and role of Islam among North Caucasian populations - which as a result of Soviet nationality policies have been divided into scores of ethnic groups and languages - has been more complex.
46. Dagestan and isolated mountainous parts of Chechnya were among regions where Soviet secularism failed to establish its foothold. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the dire economic and social consequences of transition, omnipresent corruption and the absence of coherent state policies towards the region have facilitated the growth of ethnic and religious nationalism thus nourishing a potent ideology of regional separatism. The ideology of radical Islamic groups, propagating the ideas of equality and social justice, has served as a channel for the North Caucasus' younger generations to voice their discontent with the existing order, particularly the clergy, portrayed as a group of ignorant and corrupt people distorting Islam. Radical groups provided the disenchanted generation of young people with a mission and a sense of security by integrating them in powerful armed formations.
47. Religion initially played a limited role in the Chechen cause. Only gradually was the movement infused with Islamic ideas and terminology. The first Chechen war set the stage for the emergence of radical Islamic groups - so-called Wahhabis, which progressively gained in political influence and shifted towards radical opposition to the dominant religious structures - the Sufi brotherhoods - and to the local government. Leaders of these radical groups established close relations with foreign mujahideens (Islamic volunteers), who came to fight in the first Chechen war.
48. In the Russian context, the term "Wahhabi" has taken on a broad and pejorative meaning, generally used to designate Caucasian rebels. As in Azerbaijan, adherents of the movement refer to themselves rather as "Salafis". The Salafi movement in Chechnya is estimated to represent only 5 to 10% of the population.
49. The local authorities' initial response to the emergence of Salafism was to try to integrate Salafi leaders as a way to anchor them to the pro-government forces and avoid fragmentation within society. However, this strategy of appeasement only further encouraged the Islamisation of political life in Chechnya. The first violent confrontations between Sufi and Salafi groups took place in 1998.
50. The radical movement acquired a pronounced military dimension when a Saudi emigrant, Khattab, joined Caucasian rebels in the first Chechen war of 1994-96. In 1995, his armed unit became part of the Central Front of military forces of the self-proclaimed Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, commanded by Shamil Basayev. Khattab and Basayev's long-term strategy included the unification of Dagestan and Chechnya into a joint Islamic state. This strategy culminated with the invasion of three villages in Dagestan in August 1999 and the subsequent proclamation of an "Independent Islamic State of Dagestan". The attacks were repelled and followed by a strong campaign of repression against Wahhabis. A few months later, Russian troops intervened in Chechnya, with the support of the mainstream religious institutions, to regain control of the situation.
Religious radicalisation in Dagestan
51. As in Chechnya, the religious community of Dagestan was not united behind one leader, but instead followed a number of Sufi masters. The Spiritual Board of Muslims of Dagestan (DUMD), formed in the aftermath of the Soviet collapse to oversee religious activities and to officially represent the interests of all Dagestani Muslims, failed to establish an effective control over the numerous religious groups of the Republic. Nor did it succeed in halting the spread of radical "Wahhabi" ideologies, denouncing the manoeuvrings of the political and religious establishment and calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Dagestan. The DUMD sided with the secular authorities - and with Moscow - against the Salafis. Arguably, this alliance has resulted in a tighter control of the region from Moscow and a larger role played by religion in public life, as the DUMD and dominant religious forces secured a privileged position for Islam in the Republic - a de facto official status.
52. Dagestan's mountainous regions have for centuries been home to jamaats - self-sufficient communities with economic, social and political functions that represent an ethnic group or a village and are designed to facilitate the pursuit of an Islamic lifestyle. The growing influence of radical Salafi groups led to the emergence of new types of jamaats, aiming at the establishment of Sharia-ruled communities in Dagestan. These jamaats established links with their Chechen counterparts, preparing the ground for the Khattab-Basayev incursion in 1999.
53. The setbacks of 1999 did not put an end to the activities of the jamaats. On the contrary, they continue to recruit supporters in Dagestan, which hosts the most active jamaats. Similar formations have also been set up in other parts of the North Caucasus and have adopted new forms of violent actions. The Ingush Jamaat, led by Basayev's deputy Magomet Yavloyev, allegedly played a central role in the raid on Nazran in 2004. Kabardino-Balkaria's Yarmuk Jamaat was formed by a veteran of the Pankisi Gorge training camps, Muslim Atayev, after the Republic's first jamaat was forced to dissolve following the 2004 Beslan terrorist attack. The group is believed to be responsible for the carnage in Nalchik in October 2005. Military formations also exist in Karachaevo-Cherkessia and North Ossetia.
54. Leaders of the radical movements - including most notoriously Shamil Basayev - have made regular attempts to coordinate the activities of jamaats across the North Caucasus, particularly with a view to extending further the so-called "Caucasian Front". Basayev's death in a Russian raid in July 2006 was a major blow to these efforts. It is difficult to assess the reality of the threat that jamaats pose today. Support among local populations for their radical agenda is very limited. The Khattab-Basayev incursion into Dagestan in 1999 demonstrated that the majority of Dagestanis were not willing to relinquish their carefully balanced system of local government for a Sharia-based state.
E. UKRAINE'S CRIMEA
55. The following section will not examine all aspects of religion in Ukraine, but will focus on a particularly interesting case study of religious dynamics in Crimea, a region situated on Ukraine's Black Sea shore.
56. Since independence, religion has gradually been assuming a more prominent role in Ukraine's public life and has not generally been the subject of major concerns. The 1996 Constitution and the 1991 Law on Freedom of Conscience provide for the separation of Church and State, and guarantee freedom of religion. The Ukrainian population is overwhelmingly Christian Orthodox, yet split between three competing religious communities: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
57. The government has developed a good relationship with various representative bodies, including most importantly the All-Ukraine Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, which acts as an advisory body on religious issues. It has also recently initiated a reorganisation of the state bodies in charge of religion, leading to the creation of the new State Committee on Matters of Nationalities and Religions. Despite the government's overall good record of dealing with religion, problems have occurred at the local level. Crimea is a case in point.
58. The population of Crimea is made of a Russian majority (58% of Crimea's population, which, according to the 2001 census, was approximately 2 million), a Russian-speaking Ukrainian minority (24%) and the autochthonous Tatar population of Sunni Muslim confession (12%). Crimean Tatars were subject to ethnic cleansing and forced migration under Russian tsars and, in 1944, were deported en masse under Stalin to Central Asia. It was only during the Gorbachev rule that Tatars were allowed to return to Crimea. Since then only a half of all deportees and their families managed to repatriate. Crimean Tatars are Ukraine's largest Muslim community, which is estimated at somewhere between 500,000 to 2 million people from various ethnic groups spread across the country.
59. Crimea was seen as a potential hotbed for conflict throughout most of the 1990s, a period marked by a mix of political and ethnic tensions. These tensions have mainly been the result of competition for political and economic power among Crimea's Russophone elites, coupled with a row between Russia and Ukraine over the status of the peninsula and the Black Sea Fleet, and the desire of Crimean Tatars to acquire basic political rights. They peaked in the early 1990s with the development of a secessionist movement among Crimea's ethnic Russian population, which led to the establishment of an autonomous republic. Although the situation is relatively stabilised, heated discussions about the status of the region continue to emerge regularly.
60. Meanwhile, most of the political and socio-economic problems related to the Crimean Tatar repatriation remain unresolved. Tatars continue to face discrimination in access to land distribution and job opportunities. The campaign for recognition of their status as the peninsula's indigenous people has also been vehemently opposed by the Russophone elites. Participation in the local governing bodies and education in the native language are other spheres where very little progress has been recorded. Nevertheless, and despite their small numbers, Crimean Tatars have proved to be a stabilising factor. In the absence of a serious democratic or local Ukrainian national movement in Crimea, they came to constitute the only organised force determined to defend Ukraine's interests in the region. However, their alliance with pro-Western forces in Ukraine has not resulted in any decisive support from central authorities and their claims continue to be largely ignored by local authorities.
62. Provocative identity politics on the part of the Crimean authorities, their indifference towards the plight of the repatriates, as well as the hostile attitude of the local population, conditioned by a mix of fear that the repatriates would demand the return of their property and a belief in Slavic superiority, provide an incentive for radicalisation among Crimean Tatars. Radical foreign-sponsored Wahhabi/Salafi organisations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, which strives to establish an international Islamic state, are already active in Crimea and could benefit from growing frustration and disenchantment among Crimean Tatars. These organisations are hitherto of limited appeal to the local population and remain rather inconsequential, thanks partly to active campaigning and containment policies promoted by the Mejlis - a representative body of the Crimean Tatars - and by Tatar religious authorities.
The Turkish model of secularism
63. Turkey's model of secularism is associated with the founder of the Republic, Atatürk, who pursued a radical programme of reform and Westernisation. Having dismantled the Caliphate, he introduced a secular legal system, abolishing the Sharia and eliminating the influence of Islamic scholars and the clergy. He established state control over mainstream Islam, banning Sufi orders and outlawing the use of religious attributes for political purposes. A new civil code prohibited polygamy and gave women equal rights and equal opportunities for education and employment.
64. The Preamble to Turkey's Constitution states that "there shall be no interference whatsoever of the sacred religious feelings in State affairs and politics." In practice, Turkish secularism has assumed the form of laicism, often described as subordination of the church to the state and not the mere separation of the two. In this system, the military has assumed the role of "guardian" of the secular Turkish state, role which it has used to justify direct interventions in the political life of the country. Since 1924, the majority religion - Sunni Islam - has been administered through the Directorate for Religious Affairs, which manages thousands of mosques, endorses religious doctrine, and oversees religious education in schools. Every imam in Turkey is a civil servant employed by the Directorate, which provides them with a salary as well as models for their sermons filled with civic messages. While this official religious doctrine is reviled by many observant Turks, the state has seen it as a means of fostering the "right" kind of religion, thereby homogenising the country's religious landscape, which has a strong Shi'a and Sufi presence, as well as numerous underground sects.
65. The 1923 Lausanne Treaty provides for the protection of Turkey's religious minority groups. In practice, however, the treaty only applies to communities of Armenians (currently 50,000-90,000), Jews (25,000) and Greeks (3,000). Religious affairs of these communities are administered by the General Directorate of Foundations. All other non-Muslim minorities - Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean Catholics, Georgians, etc - enjoy no special status. In 2002, the Parliament amended the Law on Pious Foundations to protect communal property of minorities from confiscation. This move reflects Ankara's new determination to liberalise the country's regime concerning minorities. In the 2004 elections several ethnic Armenians ran on the AKP ticket and the party even proposed government posts to non-Muslims. To strengthen minority religious rights, the AKP-led government has also set up the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, which made widespread human rights abuses public.
66. An uneasy relationship has developed between the Alevis - the largest of four Shi'a groups that accounts for 70% of Turkey's 15 million-strong Shi'a community - and the country's conservative establishment. Having been ostracised by the Ottomans due to their unorthodox rituals and the non-observance of conventional Islamic practices, the Alevis have become natural allies of the Republic's secular order. However, they have also recently become more vocal in demanding recognition of the specificities of their faith, challenging for instance the compulsory religious instruction in schools based on the dominant Sunni theology.
The AKP and Turkish secularism
67. Despite the state's heavy control and constraints on religion in politics, political Islam has managed to retain its presence, represented by movements such as Necmettin Erbakan's National Salvation Party (MSP) in the 1970s and its successor, the Welfare Party (RP), in the early 1990s. While the MSP's destiny was sealed in a military coup in 1980, the RP was forced to give up its seats in the government as a result of pressure from the military - the so-called "soft coup" - in 1997. The MSP, RP, as well as its short-lived successor, the Virtue Party, were all outlawed by the Constitutional Court.
68. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP, created in 2002, is in many ways the heir of this brand of political Islam in Turkey. Its main leaders come from the reformist wing of the RP. The sweeping victory of the AKP in the 2002 general elections has initially generated fears that it would bring about a major shift in Turkey's model of Islam. In fact, the AKP received support both from religiously observant people and from secular parts of the society. Its success with these groups has relied greatly on its ability to embody an alternative to the existing political class and address feelings of economic insecurity. This demonstrates that the AKP has successfully integrated the lessons learned from the MSP and RP's experience, i.e. that playing the religious card is insufficient, unless this is supported by a sound programme addressing the electorate's needs.
69. The AKP's programme defines secularism as the principle of freedom and social peace that protects both the right to express religious convictions and the right of non-believers to organise their lives in accordance with ethics of their choice. The programme stresses the party's commitment to secure fundamental freedoms as the prerequisite for a democratic system and the establishment of social peace and stability. While aspiring to resuscitate a "moral community" inspired essentially by Turkey's Islamic heritage, the party strives to bridge Islamic and global human rights discourses. Particular attention is paid to the protection of women's rights.
70. The AKP's performance in power is assessed very positively by a large majority of observers. While unwilling to renounce its religious roots, the party leadership has demonstrated its ability to function within the secularist framework, even referring to AKP members as the Christian Democrats in a Muslim setting. It has been persistent in the implementation of constitutional and legal reforms set forth in the European Union. Constitutional reforms have extended basic rights and freedoms; amendments to the Criminal Code have aimed to ensure greater protection of women's rights; capital punishment has been outlawed; and, some of the cultural rights of the Kurdish minority have been recognised. The December 2004 decision of the EU to start accession talks with Turkey is a reflection of the AKP's achievements.
71. Nevertheless, sceptics at home - particularly secularist forces in the political arena, civil society and the military - continued to voice criticism and promote the idea that the AKP represents a threat to Turkey's model of secularism. Critics fear that the AKP will eventually abandon the current course of relative moderation it has adopted out of the necessity to convince the outside world of its democratic credentials and respectability, and reveal the true nature of its agenda - the Islamisation of Turkey. They cite as evidence the AKP's failed attempts to reform several aspects of Turkey's social model. Examples include plans to ease the headscarf ban, criminalise adultery or facilitate access to higher education for students from religious vocational schools. Some critics also see in the AKP's pro-European course a "hidden agenda" aiming to transform, through the implementation of European-inspired reforms, the current balance underlying the country's model of étatisme and laïcité, and consigning the military to a limited role.
72. These fears have recently resurfaced in the context of the presidential election of April-May 2007 and the early parliamentary elections which took place on 22 July 2007. Events surrounding these elections crystallised the confrontation between the AKP and its supporters on the one hand and the secular establishment on the other, over whether AKP poses a real threat to Turkey's model of secularism. The parliamentary elections provided an opportunity to measure the balance of political forces between these two groups. They were considered by many as a decisive test both for Turkey's model of secularism and for Turkish democracy. A chronology of the main events surrounding these elections can be found in the appendix.
73. The political crisis and confrontation between secularist forces and pro-AKP forces preceding the parliamentary elections undeniably played a role in deciding the outcome of the vote. In this sense, the AKP's electoral success indicates that a majority of the population is confident that the party does not pose any serious threat to Turkey's democracy. It is also a rebuttal against the ambition of the military to continue to play a political role. Finally, the AKP's large victory is undeniably a result of its successful policies and of the broadening of its support base. It demonstrates the extent of popular support for its reform agenda and the lack of a credible alternative on the part of the opposition.
Religious revival and extremism in Turkey
74. Parallel to the rise of the AKP in the political arena, observers point to anecdotal evidence of a slow but visible growth in religiosity among the population, particularly in the provinces. Although, some have attributed these developments to the AKP, analysts generally agree that the revival of religious practice in Turkey cannot be traced back to any specific policy of the AKP. Nevertheless, it is generally recognised that the AKP has been particularly successful in attracting elements of the middle class, in the business community or administration, which themselves adopt and promote a freer and sometimes more militant approach to religion. The AKP has also actively promoted its own cadre of supporters to strategic positions or portfolios - e.g. education - in the state and local administrations. This has sometimes prompted a reaction from the President, who has vetoed a number of AKP appointments.
75. It should also be noted, that other groups promote an overtly pro-Islamic agenda, aiming at extending the influence of Islam in Turkish society. This is the case in particular of smaller radical Islamist parties, legal or illegal, such as the Great Unity Party (BBP), the Felicity Party (Saadet) or the Hezbullah Party - unrelated to its Lebanese namesake and active mostly in Turkey's Kurdish regions. It is also the case of a range of Islamic brotherhoods and movements, such as the Gülen movement mentioned in chapter III. Some analysts suggest that these groups bear the greatest share of responsibility in the upsurge of religiosity in Turkey.
76. Recent events have also highlighted that a number of radical Islamic movements are active in Turkey. The 2003 bombings in Istanbul, claimed by al Qaeda and by a Turkish organisation called the Great East Islamic Raiders Front, were a cruel wake-up call, pointing to the existence of an undercurrent of religious extremism capable of mobilising forces for targeted terrorist attacks against Turkish or foreign interests. This is also exploited by other radical groups, which have been responsible for terrorist actions in the past. However, their base and operational capability is considered very limited.
77. The Istanbul attacks have raised fears that Turkey is becoming another front in the fight against international terrorism, given in particular current developments in Iraq. They have also raised new fears of a nexus of religious radicalism and nationalism amongst Turkey's Kurdish population. In fact, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) has been wary of alliances with religious extremists. The involvement of many Kurds in the Istanbul bombings has little to do with PKK, but rather points to the existence of an alienated and disenchanted youth in some parts of Turkey, who finds in radical Islam an alternative channel for political mobilisation. Further evidence of this - although unrelated to religion - can be found in the regular attacks against journalists and intellectuals in relation to the genocide issue and implementation of article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code, which culminated with the assassination of Hrant Dink in January 2007.
78. The case studies examined in the previous chapter point to a number of common challenges and trends. One crucial issue for states of the region is obviously the potential impact of religion in terms of security. The following section will try to identify different aspects of this is, , sue, that is the relevance of religion in terms of domestic as well as regional security, and hard security - potential for armed conflict - as well as soft security - non-military threats. It will first examine the impact of religion on the marginalisation and radicalisation of parts of the population; then the way states have dealt with the growing influence of "globalised" religious movements; thirdly the role of religion in regional conflicts; and finally the impact of religion on foreign policy and regional security.
A. PREVENTING MARGINALISATION AND RADICALISATION
79. The overview of national arrangements examined in the previous chapter highlights two important aspects of the relation between state and religion: the way states organise relations with the majority religion and the way states deal with minorities. The latter aspect often tends to attract more attention from international institutions, as there are clear international requirements regarding the treatment of religious minorities. On the contrary, there is no common standard dictating how states should organise relations with the majority religion. Nevertheless, the Black Sea region offers a good illustration of how both aspects are relevant and inseparable in terms of preventing marginalisation or radicalisation of parts of the population. Indeed, in those countries where religion is considered as a component of statehood or national identity, such as Armenia or Georgia, any "deviant" religious affiliation can potentially represent a challenge to national security. Similarly, in those countries where religion is kept in the private sphere, such as Turkey or Azerbaijan, religious activism can be considered a threat, especially when it promotes a radical agenda and attempts to gain a political role.
80. As the previous chapter has shown, there are visible signs of the marginalisation of minority religious communities in the Black Sea region. States of the region have generally been successful in incorporating international legal standards regarding the protection of religious minorities and establishing relevant institutions. However, they have sometimes failed to fully integrate these minorities.
81. One important explanation, though not exclusive, is that the treatment of religious minorities has come to be considered not only a human rights issue, but also a security issue in the region. As states of the region have had to consolidate their sovereignty upon independence, they have often feared that minority rights could indirectly promote separatism. This fear was reinforced by the conflicts which broke off in the North and South Caucasus following independence, and which continue to affect relations between ethnic and religious groups in the region today.
82. Additionally, although ethnic and religious groups do not fully coincide, they have often been dealt with in parallel and their claims unduly equated. This has only supported the tendency towards explaining ethnic tensions based on religious factors and contributed to the polarisation of society into majority versus minorities. In this sense, it can be argued that the situation in Russia's Northern Caucasus, as well as tense relations with Georgia, have contributed towards the rise of xenophobia and religious intolerance in Russia.
83. Finally, a third important factor has been the emergence of Islamism as a security issue on the international arena. This has also had an impact in the region, as both countries where Islam is the dominant religion and countries with Muslim minorities have - sometimes unduly - linked their domestic situation to the broader international developments regarding Islam and the international fight against terrorism.
84. This attitude towards minorities has not only led to marginalisation of certain ethnic and religious groups, but it has also sometimes facilitated radicalisation of these populations. As the case studies examined in the previous chapter demonstrate, radicalisation can have a variety of different causes. Radical religious groups have thrived, not only because their theology appeals to certain fringes of the population, but also because they have been able to exploit a favourable domestic context made of identity crisis, harsh socio-economic conditions, and a certain rejection of the traditional political and religious establishment. Regional conflicts have also provided a hotbed for radicalisation. Lastly, radical religious groups have often successfully exploited the global geopolitical environment and anti-Western sentiments for their own purposes. States of the region have not always been particularly successful in addressing radicalisation amongst their populations, often focusing on repression and law enforcement rather than prevention and failing to understand the causes and dynamics of this phenomenon.
B. RELIGION AND CONFLICTS IN THE CAUCASUS
85. Religion has not played a major role in the conflicts that the Black Sea region has experienced following the collapse of the Soviet Union, although the sides in these conflicts have often been of different religions. Abkhazia is an interesting example. The population of Abkhazia is part Christian and part Muslim. However, the implantation of Islam in Abkhazia is relatively recent compared to other parts of the region. In the first stages of the conflict, Georgian authorities have attempted to portray Abkhaz separatists as Islamic radicals. However, this did not fit with the characteristics of religious practice in Abkhazia. The limited support given by groups of Chechen combatants to the Abkhaz side during the war should also be understood as a tactical move, rather than evidence of an alliance based on religious grounds. In fact, Chechen volunteers allegedly received covert training and equipment from Russia's intelligence services. One could argue that the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church among the Christian Abkhaz population is a more relevant religious factor today than the role of Islam in Abkhazia.
86. Although the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh is between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azeris, it is not primarily a religious conflict either. This is not to deny that the conflict led to mass expulsions of populations on both sides and atrocities that have sometimes took on a religious character. However, these features do not justify qualifying the conflict as religious. As a matter of fact, the AAC played a moderating role on the eve and in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, as demands for self-determination grew among Karabakh Armenians. It should also be noted that attempts to radicalise internally displaced Azeri populations, including on the part of Iran, have not been successful.
87. These two examples contrast with the situation in Russia's Northern Caucasus regions. There, religious movements have become important stakeholders in the Chechen conflict after the first Chechen war. Under the influence of Shamil Basayev and Emir Khattab, radical Islamic groups developed links with foreign religious movements and attempted to extend their ideological fight to the neighbouring regions, particularly Dagestan.
88. However, religious developments only partly explain the origins of the Chechen conflict or the current situation in Russia's Northern Caucasus. A complex mix of ethnic, socio-economic and religious factors, as well as inadequate responses from local and federal authorities, has favoured the emergence of radical movements in Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus. This is true also of the current jamaats: although religion is featuring more prominently in their discourse, the reasons for their appeal are broader. Yet, even as these groups started to gain ground, support among the population for their agenda of "Islamisation" of the institutions remained weak, as it clashes with the traditional brand of Islam in the region.
89. Ironically, various sides in the conflict had an interest in underlining the religious dimension in the conflict. Russia gained sympathy at home and abroad by portraying its actions as a fight against radical Islam and its international supporters. Muslim radicals in turn emphasised their struggle for a pure Islam as a way to legitimise their actions and consolidate support from foreign sponsors. Poor understanding of the complexities of the local context has contributed to spread this interpretation of the conflict abroad.
90. Russia's Northern Caucasus therefore provides a pattern of a situation in which religion can become an important factor in a conflict that is not initially a religious one. Although there is currently no evidence of such developments in other conflict zones of the Black Sea region, a better understanding of developments in the North Caucasus can provide broader lessons for improving conflict management in the region. A lot more should be done to this end, as access to reliable information on the situation in the North Caucasus remains very difficult.
C. GLOBALISATION OF RELIGION AND THE BLACK SEA REGION
91. Religious developments in the Black Sea region demonstrate the growing influence of trans-national religious movements. This has often resulted in tensions between the state and foreign-based religious movements, as well as between foreign-based religious movements and the traditionally dominant religion.
92. Religious movements based in Turkey, Iran or the Middle East have been increasingly present in the Black Sea region. They have often consolidated their influence through education and the training of religious and secular elites. A good example of this strategy is the Turkish movement of Fethullah Gülen, which has been very active in promoting knowledge of Islam in Central Asia and the Caucasus through education, as well as co-operation with businesses, media, etc. Non-traditional religious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses have also gained ground. Most of these movements are independent organisations and are not officially associated with the government of a specific country.
93. States of the region have reacted differently to the growing presence of trans-national religious movements on their territory, depending on their model of relations between state and religion. Problems have arisen when foreign-based movements have come to be seen as a threat to national identity - because they do not fit with a model of national identity based on the dominant religion, or as a threat to national security - because they promote a radical ideology calling for political and sometimes violent action.
94. Azerbaijan is an interesting example, because it has attracted religious organisations from Turkey, Iran and the Middle East. The Azerbaijani government has adapted its response based on a comparative threat assessment of these movements. In doing so, it has even instrumentalised one movement against another, supporting at times the spread of a Turkish-inspired ideology against the Wahhabi/Salafi influence in the North, while monitoring the influence of radical Shi'a movements in the South.
95. Chechnya is also again an interesting case. Under the influence of leaders educated abroad and who fought alongside foreign mujahideens in the first Chechen war, Chechen movements have developed close links with foreign movements. Although numbers of foreign fighters involved in the Chechen movement are hotly debated, there is a consensus to say that support from these international sponsors is declining as other fronts attract more attention, particularly in Iraq. As a result, Chechen movements have had to find support elsewhere, mainly through organised crime networks.
D. RELIGION AND FOREIGN POLICY IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
96. The influence of religion on the foreign policy of Black Sea states is limited or insignificant. Strategic geopolitical interests generally prevail in their policies towards the region and beyond. This is the case of Georgia, whose relations with its Northern Orthodox neighbour are tensed, whereas relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey are flourishing. This is also true of Azerbaijan, which maintains close relations with Turkey, but ambiguous relations with Iran. Several factors undermine relations between Azerbaijan and Iran, from ideological differences regarding foreign policy and relations with the West, to the role of religion in society, the delimitation of the Caspian seabed and the fate of the large Azeri population in Northern Iran - about 20 million people which Iran fears might be tented to unite with their northern neighbours. In fact, Iran maintains good relations with Armenia, despite its conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia's good relations with Russia are not based on religion, nor are its bad relations with Azerbaijan or Turkey. The Armenian state remains nominally the protector of the Armenian Apostolic Church abroad, which could potentially have implications in terms of foreign policy. However, as explained in the previous chapter, relations between the state, the Church and the Armenian diaspora are very complex, and religion provides the government with only a limited channel for access to the diaspora.
97. Turkey's foreign policy is largely based on geopolitical interests and not on community of religion. This remains true of the AKP's foreign policy, which has generally strived to keep any religious reference out of the country's diplomacy. The AKP has been a strong promoter of Turkey's EU integration - arguably achieving more than previous governments, and has pursued its close co-operation with the United States and within NATO. Although the Iraq war has led to serious tensions, these have not meant a radical shift in Turkey's foreign policy. Turkey's policy towards the Middle East is further evidence of the lack of the role of religion in Turkey's external relations. Turkey has long been wary of the role of Iran, Syria, and Iraq, particularly in relation to the Kurdish issue, and maintains good relations with Israel, despite the population's growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause and Turkey's conciliatory position towards Hamas.
98. Relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are often presented as the closest allies in the region, could arguably be considered as evidence of a Muslim foreign policy. In fact, relations between the two countries include a number of major strategic differences. Turkey generally supports Azerbaijan on Nagorno-Karabakh; however, it has stayed clear of direct involvement, favouring the international negotiation framework within the OSCE, and is increasingly under pressure to normalise its relations with Armenia. Additionally, there are important nuances in the models of Islam promoted by both countries, as well as on their relations with the West.
99. Nevertheless, some limited aspects of Turkey's foreign policy have a religious character. In the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union, Turkey feared the spread of Iranian and Saudi influence in its neighbourhood and therefore endeavoured to prevent or counter Islamic missionary activities in Central Asia and in the Caucasus by promoting its own model of relations between state and religion, thereby also consolidating its influence in the region. The Directorate for Religious Affairs provided a good instrument to this end. It contributed to the rebuilding of mosques, the promotion of literature, the creation of schools and institutes of theology, as well as the establishment of the Eurasian Religious Council, which brings together every other year religious leaders from Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Russia and the Balkans to promote co-operation on Islam. The creation of Turkish schools and Atatürk centres in the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia offered a secular channel for the promotion of Turkey's model of governance.
100. These activities have for now remained on a limited scale as Turkey has generally been wary of appearing to promote pan-Turkism in the region. This might change however, as there is a growing interest for the Turkish model as a way to anchor democracy in Central Asia or the Middle East. Whether this strategy is realistic and Turkey is ready to support fully such an agenda remains to be seen. Some observers have suggested that Turkey's growing engagement in the Islamic Conference Organisation (ICO) under the AKP leadership could be seen as a first step in this direction.
101. Russia's foreign policy exhibits interesting evolutions in terms of the impact of religious considerations. Russia has often appeared as the protector of Orthodox Christians on the international scene. For instance, Russia initially sided with fellow-Orthodox Serbia in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. However, in the Black Sea region, strategic interests tend to supersede religious considerations, as demonstrated by Russia's tensed relations with Georgia, its ambiguous role in relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan, or the recent improvement of its relations with Turkey.
102. An interesting development is the influence of Islam on Russia's foreign policy. As Russia's Muslim population grows and as Russia strives to avoid further radicalisation among its Muslims, its recent overtures towards Muslim countries could represent a turn in Russia's foreign policy. In this regard, the country's recent accession as an observer to the ICO in 2005 is a symbolic move, which can be understood as a signal to its own Muslim population, as well as a step towards a new alliance with Muslim partners on the international arena.
IV. CONCLUSION: NATO, THE EUROPEAN UNION AND RELIGION IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
103. The case studies in this report demonstrate the diversity of the challenges faced by states of the Black Sea region in relation to religion, and the variety of measures they have adopted to address these challenges. Despite this diversity, the report has identified a number of common issues and trends. The main lesson is that religion is a relevant but not a central component of current dynamics in the Black Sea region. In an international context that emphasises the role of religion, it is thus important to dispel misconceptions and avoid applying models that may be adequate for one region but not for another. Three of these misconceptions deserve to be mentioned here. First, Islam as it is understood and practiced in the Black Sea region is very different from other parts of the world, particularly the Middle East. Additionally, the threat of religious radicalism, although present in the region, should be distinguished from that existing in other regions, including in neighbouring Central Asia, where radical Islam poses a threat of a very different scale. Finally, ongoing conflicts in the region have only little to do with religion, with the possible exception of the Northern Caucasus - although even there the role of religion is debatable.
104. This report has thus attempted to demonstrate that religion in the Black Sea region is a soft security rather than a hard security issue; it is also a domestic, rather than a foreign policy issue. Despite its location at the crossroads of different geographical, ethnic and religious areas, the Black Sea region therefore does not pass the test of the "clash of civilisations". Religious developments are closely connected to a specific context made of identity crisis, nationalism, and political and socio-economic transition.
105. Religious issues are not central to the process of Euro-Atlantic integration in the Black Sea region. Nevertheless, as NATO and the European Union develop ever-closer relations with countries of the region, religion can interfere in two different ways. First, it belongs in a broader discussion of democracy and human rights, which are certainly crucial items of Euro-Atlantic dialogue and integration. NATO and the EU, together with other international organisations, have a direct interest in promoting respect of international standards regarding religious freedom and the protection of religious minorities in the region.
106. Moreover, religion is not only a security issue in the region, but also in relations between NATO and EU member states and the region. Past and current events demonstrate how contradictions in the attitude of NATO and EU members towards the Black Sea region can have an impact on religious dynamics there. The lack of understanding and of interest for developments in the North Caucasus among NATO and EU governments, as well as the absence of dialogue with Russia on this issue, are too often considered as benign and their consequences ignored. Similarly, attitudes towards Turkey and Azerbaijan send mix signals to these countries. On the one hand, they have become strategic allies in the international fight against terrorism and European countries understand that their brand of secular Islam could help anchor democracy in the region and beyond. On the other hand however, fears relating to integration of Muslim countries in the EU and the debate over Europe's Christian identity and its borders have been revived by accession negotiations with Turkey and by difficulties encountered by several European countries in finding a proper model for the integration of their own Muslim populations. These debates, however necessary, tend to feed radical rhetoric in those countries.
107. Similarly, the United States' policy towards the region can have negative side effects. The United States has developed a close co-operation with Azerbaijan, particularly in the context of the war against terror and growing awareness of the energy challenge. However, at the same time, Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act adopted in the context of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, still imposes restrictions on this co-operation, as does the strong influence of the Armenian diaspora in the United States. These contradictions provide easy arguments for radical movements in Azerbaijan. The war in Iraq and its repercussions in Turkey is another interesting example. The support of the Turkish government for the coalition operations in Iraq has put it at odds with the parliament and a population which appears to be increasingly tempted by anti-Western feelings and rhetoric. All these examples demonstrate the need for a better understanding and enhanced dialogue of religious dynamics in the Black Sea region.
Chronology of the main events surrounding the 2007 presidential
2. The first round of presidential elections resulted in a row on the voting procedure, which requires a two-thirds majority of the total number of deputies. The matter was brought before the High Constitutional Court, which on 1 May 2007 confirmed that a quorum of 367 parliamentarians had to be reached. The second round, which took place on 6 May 2007, failed again to fulfil this procedural requirement. To resolve the crisis, Abdullah Gül withdrew his candidacy, thus setting the stage for early parliamentary elections and leaving it for the new Assembly to elect the next president. In another attempt to find a way out of this crisis, the AKP proposed to amend the Constitution in order to introduce the election of the president by popular vote, as well as lower the 10% hurdle for parliamentary elections. Vetoed by President Sezer, the proposed package failed to reach a two-thirds majority in parliament. However, on 5 July 2007, the Constitutional Court rejected a request by President Sezer and the opposition to invalidate the proposed constitutional reform. It is now expected that the reform will be put to a referendum scheduled for next October.
3. The parliamentary elections organised on 22 July 2007 provided an opportunity to measure the impact of the preceding political crisis and the extent of popular support for the ruling party. In the event, the AKP registered a large victory, winning 47% of the votes - a 12-point increase compared to its 2002 results - and 340 seats out of 550 in the new parliament. The main opposition party and leader of the secularist movement, the Republican People's Party (CHP) received a mere 21%, securing 112 seats. Remaining seats were shared between the nationalist National Action Party (MHP) and independent candidates, most of whom are affiliated with the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP).
4. On 28 August 2007, the new parliament eventually elected Abdullah Gül to the presidency of the Republic after 3 rounds of voting. The day before, as it had done at the onset of the crisis, the Turkish military posted on its website another statement by the Chief of Staff reaffirming that the military would continue to protect the founding principles of the Republic against those forces which seek to undermine the secular structure of the state.