RIGHTS > Turkish Interior Ministry confirms ‘race codes’ for minorities

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

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This file photo shows the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul. Anatolian Greeks are among three minority groups that have been labelled, Agos says. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah Gürel

This file photo shows the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul. Anatolian Greeks are among three minority groups that have been labelled, Agos says. DAILY NEWS photo / Emrah Gürel

Turkey’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that minorities in the country are given codes depending on which community they belong to and that such information is sent to the Education Ministry, less than a week after the categorization system was revealed by weekly Agos.

“Minority citizens’ race status is given to the Education Ministry depending on the nationality or race information taken from the state register of the Ottoman period,” the ministry said in a statement that was sent to the Armenian-Turkish weekly on Aug. 1. The statement also said contemporary state registers did not record any information about the race or sect of citizens.

“There are no terms of race, breed, or sect in the state registers,” said the statement sent to Agos.

Minority citizens’ race status is taken from their nationality or race information during Ottoman times and sent to the Education Ministry, according to the 40th and 41st articles of the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed between Turkey and Western countries in 1923 and presaged the foundation of the Turkish Republic.

In Turkey, only minority communities’ members can register their children at minority schools, according to the Lausanne Treaty, said the statement.

“Depending on the citizens’ demands, religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism or Zoroastrianism can be recorded in the state family register, according to the 2nd and 35th articles of Law No. 5490,” the statement added.

The debate over the “race codes” was raised on Aug. 1 after Agos reported an official document penned by the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate, revealing that Turkey’s population administration system had been recording citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek (Rum) origins with secret “race codes.”

“Citizens with Armenian origins are coded with ‘2,’” Agos said in its lead story on Aug. 1.

The secret coding system emerged when a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin attempted to register her child at an Armenian kindergarten only to be told by the school to prove that she has the “2 code.”

A document sent from the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate to the Şişli District National Education office stated that “since 1923, the secret code of Armenians is ‘2’ on identity registration certificates,” according to Agos.

“Since 1923, identity registration certificates have had a secret ‘race code,’” the document added.

İsmail Cem Halavurt, a lawyer for the family in question, said they were continuing their struggle to register the family in the Armenian kindergarten.

“Now we are waiting for an official document saying, ‘Yes, your race code is ‘2,’ you can register in an Armenian school,’” Halavurt told Agos.

An official from the population administration told daily Radikal that the practice was being conducted “to allow minority groups to use their rights stemming the Lausanne Treaty.”

As part of the practice, Greeks are classified as “1,” Armenians are coded as “2,” while Jews are notated as “3” in the system. Other non-Turkish groups are not coded, an official told daily Radikal.

The opposition parties’ lawmakers harshly criticized the alleged document.

“If this is true, it is fatal. It must be examined. I will bring this to Parliament’s agenda,” Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Altan Tan, a deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), stated that there had long been such allegations but that they were always denied by the authorities. Tan urged Interior Minister Muammer Güler to make a statement on the issue.

“If there is such a thing going on, it is a big disaster. The fact that the state is illegally profiling its own citizens based on ethnicity and religion, and doing this secretly, is a big catastrophe,” Tan said.


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Notice on comments

Grey Wolf

8/4/2013 11:13:53 PM

Lausanne Treaty? Greece doesn't follow it anyway, why should we?


8/3/2013 9:40:11 PM

What genocide?

Johar D

8/3/2013 7:52:49 PM

@ Aryeh This wasn't just the case for the Ottoman Jewry - Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Kurds (the latter to a lesser extent, because they practice(d) Islam) were set apart from Turkish Muslims. Though these peoples faced many day-to-day injustices, racial discrimination took its most horrific form in massacres of the aforementioned populations, the largest of these the Armenian Genocide, whose occurrence is denied by the Turkish government (and many Turkish people) to this day.

Tekion Particle

8/3/2013 5:54:45 PM

Outrageous, allegedly a democratic country, such discriminatory system of categorising people is neither democratic nor ethical. No wonder the Turkishness is such a taboo subject in a country where racism and apartheid is endorsed by the state.

V Tiger

8/3/2013 3:46:15 PM

It is a very well known fact that in the registries(nefous) the origins of crypto Armenians (Islamized) are recorded & even today & few generations down the line,these people are barred from holding important official positions.

Foreigner .

8/3/2013 12:20:25 PM

There is such hypocrisy between the statement "Since 1923 (read ATATURK/CHP times) registration certificates have had a secret ‘race code", and the response of CHP's deputy head "If this is true, it is fatal. It must be examined. I will bring this to Parliament’s agenda”. Than again this is CHP. They introduced and nourished this divisive mentality and selectivism - no wonder AKP has a difficult task ahead to change 80 years of oligarchic rule it replaced.

B Medic

8/3/2013 12:45:10 AM

I don't quite understand this article: The Turkish Interior Ministry says that these records and number codes were only being used during the early years of the Republic and that contemporary state registers do not contain any info about Turkish citizens' race/religion. But the article is written in present tense as if these race codes are still being used. Is Turkey still categorizing its citizens according to etnicity/religion or have the Armenian Turks in the article been misinformed?

Turk Uzan

8/2/2013 11:49:00 PM

See there is something inherently wrong with all these people reading the news ... Are you blind? Can you not read? This is a law stemming ALL the way back to the treaty of lausanne. It's one of the "demands" on the British, French etc side. It's NOT a law that we just created. There is NOTHING really secret about it even though they call it that to create some sensationalism. It's not like they track every non Turk, every Christian etc. It's only those people that are mentioned in treaty

Aram Sargsyan

8/2/2013 10:45:35 PM

Turkey continues to be a secular country with nothing secular about it.

Anita Asar

8/2/2013 9:43:30 PM

Totally unacceptable!
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