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Dr. Otmar Oehring

Director, Human Rights Office Pontifical Mission Society


Dr. Otmar Oehring was born in 1955 in Saulgau, Germany, and lived from 1955 to 1971 in Ankara, Turkey. From 1975 to 1981 he studied Middle Eastern Culture and History in Munich, where he also read Law. He spent 1981 and 1982 in Istanbul on a scholarship from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. In 1983 he obtained his Ph.D. from the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, with a thesis on "Turkey in the Crossfire of Extreme Ideologies (1973-1980)."

Since late 1983, Dr. Oehring has been in the Foreign Department of Missio, the Pontifical Mission Society in Aachen, Germany, where he was initially desk officer for the Islamic countries. He was in charge of the Africa/Middle East Desk from 1991 to 2000 and has been head of the Human Rights Office since January 1, 2001.

He has also been an expert witness in asylum hearings since 1981. Since 2008, he is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

He has published a number of articles on religious freedom in Turkey and believes attempts to improve the Law on Foundations are not the way to introduce true religious freedom in Turkey. He says Turkey needs to tackle the fundamental problem of the lack of religious freedom by both changing the Constitution and bringing in an accompanying law to concretely introduce the full individual and collective religious freedom rights spelled out in the European Convention on Human Rights and ratified by Turkey in 1954.

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