RIGHTS > Minorities in Turkey tagged by ‘race codes,’ official document reveals

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

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Turkish citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek origins have
been recorded with ‘race codes,’ an official document has revealed. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Turkish citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek origins have been recorded with ‘race codes,’ an official document has revealed. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

An official document penned by the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate has surfaced, revealing that Turkey’s population administration system has been recording citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek (Rum) origins with secret “race codes.”

The Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper Agos published as its headline story on Aug. 1 a report on an official document that openly states “citizens with Armenian origin are coded with ‘2.’” The implementation is reported to have been in place since 1923, the foundation year of the Turkish Republic.

A Turkish citizen’s mother whose origin is Armenian requested to register her child at an Armenian kindergarden, but the school responded by asking her to prove she had the “2 code” in order to check that she had not changed religion, according to the document. In Turkey, only minority communities’ members can register their children at minority schools, according to the education law.

The 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 the Agos report.

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

The family’s lawyer, İsmail Cem Halavurt, said the struggle to register children at the Armenian kindergarden was still continuing.

“We are now waiting for an official document saying, ‘Yes, your race code is 2, you can register at an Armenian school,’” Halavurt told the Agos.

Interior Ministry officials were not available for comment when approached by the Hürriyet Daily News, and referred reporters to the Directorate General for Population and Citizenship Affairs, which is a body working under their own ministry.

An official from the population administration told daily Radikal that the practice was being conducted “to allow minority groups use their rights stemming the Lausanne Treaty,” signed between Turkey and Western countries, which led to the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic.

As part of the practice, Greeks were coded 1, Armenians were coded 2, and Jews were coded 3. Other minorities or groups are not coded, the official told daily Radikal.

While there was no immediate official response to the report, opposition parties’ lawmakers harshly criticized the alleged document.

“If this is true, it is fatal. It must be examined. I will bring this onto 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 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 state 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

Turk Uzan

8/7/2013 8:33:56 AM

@ Mara, I would also like to add that you should look things up before making ridiculous and offensive comments/comparisons. I highly doubt you even know what a "third world country" stands for. Although Turkey is by no means perfect it is a first world country. Any whoever has any doubts about this can easily look it up. It's really sad and disappointing that the slightest criticism of the US makes react with such insults.

Turk Uzan

8/7/2013 6:25:35 AM

@ Mara, I don't get why you feel so attacked? Also I do not think you've ever been to a third world country and find you comparing Turkey with US like that non only out of character but also insulting. If Turkey is so horrible and America so great maybe you should think about convincing your husband to move there? What public recourse? American protests haven't achieved anything since the civil rights movement. America isn't perfect Mara, no country is. Get over your 'Merica NR1! attitude

mara mcglothin

8/5/2013 3:35:57 PM

TURK We still have public recourse should the government decide that we aren't wearing the correct color shoelaces!!! We also have a court system that does not involve "secret" witnesses, and inadmissable evidence, so we aren't so strung out about it. Turkey is still a third World country. And America?

Dr Zubeida Barmania

8/3/2013 4:43:18 PM

The Turkish Constitution is really an impressive piece of legislation and as our late Chief justice Ismail Mohamed said it is the soul of the country holding Supremacy over all other legislation, is it the interpretation diluting its powers? Such draconian departures from human rights & its Universal norms! Perhaps the alignment with the intended European legislation will strengthen the discourse and arm your lawyers with sufficient armour to serve justice. Dr Z. Barmania from South Africa

Turk Uzan

8/3/2013 12:32:08 AM

@ Mara, have you been following NSA/PRISM/Snowden? The US government knows what color our shoe laces are. I recently saw a TYT news clip and apparently police officers in Louisiana have been using an anti sodomy law to lure and arrest gay men .. who have consensual sex (not money involved) and that dozens of such cases have happened in 2011. We all love the "land of the free" we're all influenced by American culture in fact we're all American in one way or the other. But Freedom is a delusion

Turk Uzan

8/3/2013 12:25:02 AM

@ Brain, the reason I say. "I don't think there is any racist intent" behind the law is because government does not "want" to codify anyone .. It's part of the treaty of Lausanne, it was most likely something the French and British wanted to assure the non Muslim minorities in Turkey were protected. It's a law stemming back to the founding of the republic .. and not a law we chose to ad because the gov wanted to discriminate. Nor is it AKP that made this particular law etc.

mara mcglothin

8/2/2013 8:36:49 PM

BRIAN In the USA we have a census that is voluntary, BUT more money is allotted to towns and areas when most of the people report the number in their household, their ethnic backgrounds, number of children, etc. I don't recall the religious question, but that doesn't mean it isn't on there. Of course in the USA we don't worry about how the info will be used to discriminate against us as we live in a free society.


8/2/2013 6:58:38 PM

I personally do not know of a single Turkish law on the books that discriminate against any group. As backwards Turkish justice system is, still ahead of ALL in ME and Eastern Europe. It is common practice in US for example to be asked in numerous forms and applications what your racial or ethnic background is. No one thinks this is a problem. Having said his, I abhor the practice in any form and shape anywhere.

Brian Irlanda

8/2/2013 2:49:36 PM

I appreciate your point Turk Uzan. I did read the article but I do not totally agree with the non-racist point. Why should any secular government want to codify people by their religion or ethnicity if every citizen is a Turk? A secret code has the possibility of secret discrimination that the victim would never be aware of. These codes should be deleted from the record. They are racist and discriminatory.

Tayyar Abi

8/2/2013 2:47:45 PM

@Nageyec Cunduz: Using your rational, Aren't you forgetting the Turkish invasion and subjugation of Anatolia and Thrace? Were the Turks invited? I don't think so. your line of thinking can go on forever. The Romans, The Greeks, the Persians, Tamerlan, Hapsburg, Yuan, Ming, Quing, Parthian, Babylonian, Carthaginian, etc etc. At some point you have to move on and stop making your silly excuses.
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