Turkish religious officials to register marriages - report

Turkish religious officials, known as muftis, will now be able to perform and register state-approved marriages after parliament controversially approved the measure in November.

The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) issued a notice on Thursday outlining the responsibilities of the state officials, which include the right to deny marriage should they detect any controversial circumstances, such as forced wedlock, according to news service haberler.com.

Only state registrars working for local municipalities were previously authorized to approve and register marriages. Muftis will have no authority to register marriages should one of the spouses be a foreign national.

Critics of the measure, which include Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party, say it threatens secularism and could lead the way to more child marriages. The legislation had passed parliament with the support of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP).

Muftis’ responsibilities will include granting applications, preparing marriage documents, conducting the marriage, arranging the family registry, and notifying civil registry authorities, the news service said.

After the ceremony, the officials will also deliver a speech on the importance of family. A sample text was included in the Diyanet’s statement stressing that the family is “the foundation of society” and “one of the greatest blessings God bestows on human beings.”