ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
AKP deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik (2nd L) and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç (M) is seen tohether with representatives from minority foundations. AA photo
Turkey’s recognized minorities should work to bring their birth rate up so that they can increase their population, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç said Aug. 7 during a fast-breaking iftar meal with non-Muslim representatives in Ankara.
“Your birth rates are low. There is a number pronounced by the prime minister, I don’t want to repeat him, but we would appreciate it if your population increases,” he told minority communities, referring to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s call for Turkish families to have three children each.
Arınç also talked about the numbers of non-Muslims who had gone abroad due to painful experiences. “If only they returned back so that we could live together again. I believe this will come true in the future,” Arınç said.
Touching on the ongoing return of minority foundation properties, the deputy prime minister said the most pressing issue was the return of real estate taken from foundations. Some 165 minority foundations fall into this category, but the number could increase, he said.
Arınç also said 42 minority foundations had appealed for 218 pieces of real estate and that 43 of them had been recognized, while 25 had not been recognized. Compensation has been paid in one case, while work on the other pieces of property is ongoing, he added.
Slow and steady progress on minorities
Speaking during the dinner, Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy chairman Hüseyin Çelik took aim at the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) for its violent tactics.
“Every time we take democratic actions and make improvements about the reasonable, legal and rational demands of Kurdish citizens, the PKK
and its supporters say: ‘Does this all happen by itself? We are shedding blood, killing and being killed; in return we are getting compromises inch by inch,’” Çelik said.
“And we say to them, ‘You shed the most blood in the 1990s. But then, political will showing the mentality of the AKP was not present. Only the military aspects of the issue were discussed. We are making improvements regarding our non-Muslim citizens and minority foundations. We are not doing these because we are afraid of them taking up arms and heading to the mountains [to fight]. As long as people express their demands in a civilized, legal and democratic way, without resorting to violence or regarding terror as a way toward a solution, there won’t be any problem,” the deputy leader said.
Çelik also related a story from a Syriac friend in which he said the community opened a kindergarten but was unable to offer education in the Syriac language.
“I took that as a disgrace. They open a school, the language of education is Turkish, but you don’t allow them to receive native language education as an elective,” Çelik said. “Of course you can’t do that. Everything is not a bed of roses yet. There are still so many things to do. We will overcome such obstacles with dialogue.”