Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government changed the regulations regarding civil marriages and authorised imams as the registrar of civil marriages and muftis as the chief.
According to the previous readjustment, the government entitled the mufti offices (civil servants from the Religious Affairs Directorate) to perform civil marriages, leading to debates among the citizens. However, the new amendment of regulation broadens the authorisation of civil marriages, including imams as well.
The regulation has recently become law with the statement "The Ministry of Family and Social Policies can grant provincial and district mufti offices the authority of assigning registrar of civil marriages". The regulation was enacted amid a heated discussion in the Turkish parliament, since it initially included only the muftis, and yet broadened to include the imams as well during the commissioning stage.
This new regulation means that the Ministry of Internal Affairs is to designate the imams to perform civil marriages. Considering that there are at least a few imams in all neighbourhoods across the country, citizens will be obliged to perform their civil marriage procedures under the authority of religious leaving aside the secular institutions such as municipalities.
Until now, the law has stipulated that even religiously observant couples must perform civil marriages under the authority of a state registrar from the local municipality, not a cleric. With this new law, couples can choose to perform marriage either by a secular authority or instead opt for a mufti or an imam.
Previously, the government announced in May 2015 that civil marriage would no longer be a legal requirement for "religiously married" citizens, thus paving the way for religious marriages before the civil marriage procedures.