Trial sheds light on shades of Turkey

ISTANBUL – Milliyet | 6/10/2008 12:00:00 AM |

A report commissioned eight years ago by the highest advisory body in the land investigates how many Turks, Kurds and people of other extractions are living in Turkey. The report comes to light as part of the trial for the murder of three Christian misionaries

The trial of the suspects of the murder of three Christian missionaries in the eastern province of Malatya last year unveiled a study undertaken by a group of Turkish universities to shed light on the size of the country's different ethnic groups, including Kurds, Arabs and Georgians

The National Security Council (MGK) asked a committee of academics from Erciyes University in Kayseri province, Fırat University in Elazığ province and İnönü University in Malatya to prepare a report on the ethnic composition of Turkey eight years ago. Currently attached to the Malatya massacre case, the report cites quite interesting figures. 

About 9 million Alevis:

Although some sources say the population of Alevis in Turkey ranges between 5 and 25 million, it is approximately 8.75 million, according to the MGK report.

When the 1 million Alevis living in Europe as well as those living in eight provinces where the study was not carried out, the number of Alevi citizens is estimated to reach about 10 million.

Taking into account the fact the research on the Alevi population was carried out eight years ago, the  number is predicted to be about 11 million today. This indicates that 85 percent of Turkey's population is of the Sunni denomination of Islam.

The was supervised by Professor Şaban Kuzgun and was carried out in 68 provinces. It drew a profile of the ethnic and religious backgrounds of the people who live in these provinces. The report also includes figures about who belongs to which denomination of Islam.

Below is the ethnic composition of Turkey as shown in the MGK report:

- Turks: Ethnic Turkish groups such as Turkmen, Yürüks, Tatars, Tahtacis, Terekemes, Karaçays, and Azerbaijanis make up Turks in the country. The size of this group, which has currently no ties with its ethnic roots, is about 50 million but reaches 55 million those currently undergoing a Turkification process are included.

- Kurds: This is the second biggest ethnic group in Turkey, according to the MGK report. When Zazas, who are about 3 million, are included, the Kurdish population in Turkey exceeds 12.6 million. A further 2.5 million are undergoing a Turkification process and in some regions there is a number of people who deny their Kurdish origins.

- Georgians: This group lives mainly in the Black Sea provinces of Ordu, Artvin, Samsun, and in the Marmara region. Their population is about 1 million. Excluding those who live in a few villages in the Black Sea region, many Georgians have already forgotten their mother tongue. 

- Bosnians: Located mainly in Adapazarı, İzmir and Manisa, the population of Bosnians living in Turkey is about 2 million.

- Circassians: Disperesed around different provinces of Turkey, the Circassian population is about 2.5 million. Some 80 percent of those cannot speak the Circassian language.

- Arabs: This group lives mainly in the cities of Siirt, Şırnak, Mardin, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa, Hatay, Adana and Istanbul. The Arab population in Turkey is 870,000.

- Albanians: There are more than 1.3 million Albanians in Turkey. Half of the community has currently no ties with Albania as a result of the Turkification process they have undergone in the past decades. For about 500,000 Albanians, however, being and Albanian is highly important.

Laz: In Turkey, there is a widespread false belief that all people from the eastern parts of the Black Sea region are Laz. But in fact, the Laz people, who migrated from the Caucasus and speak a language called the Lazuri, live in some villages of Rize and Artvin provinces of the Black Sea region and some parts of the Marmara region. Their population is about 80,000.

- Hemşins: Just as the Laz, the Hemşins also live in some villages or districts of Rize and Artvin, and their population is about 13,000.

- Pomaks: Some sources say Pomaks are of Turkish descent but some say they have Slavic origins. The population of Pomaks in Turkey is about 600,000 and they have already been Turkified.

- Other ethnic groups: The total population of all other ethnic groups living in Turkey is just over 1 million. Roma people constitute the majority with a population of 700,000. In addition, about 60,000 Armenians, 20,000 Jews, 15,000 Rums (Greeks with Turkish citizenship) and a very few number of Assyrians live in Turkey.

Population of Turks slowly increases

The MGK report says population growth in Turkey has been low within the last 15 years. Population of the Kurds, on the other hand, increases 2.5 percent each year.

The report also reveals that the population of the Bosnians declines 0.12 percent each year, while the number ıf Turks declines by 0.8 percent and that of  Albanians declines by 0.5 percent each year.

The highest level of Turkification is recorded among Kurds. They are followed by the Bosnians, the Circassians, and the Albanians. Arabs migrating from the southeastern parts of Turkey have been undergoing a rapid Turkification process, according to the report.



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