Turkey set to ‘grant citizenship to 23,000 Ahıska Turks’
Turkey will grant citizenship to 23,000 more Ahıska Turks – an ethnic group forced to migrate from the Caucasus during the Soviet era - a top representative of the group said on Nov. 5.
“Over 23,000 Ahıska Turks who went to Turkey and have been living there for over 10 years, but have been unable so far to get citizenship and work permits, will be granted citizenship,” Ziyatdin Kassanov told state-run Anadolu Agency on the sidelines of a World Union of Ahıska Turks (DATUB) meeting in the Kazakh capital Almaty.
The process of delivering ID cards started last month upon the order of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and following a cabinet decision and directives from the Interior Ministry, Kassanov added.
“Turkey has done incredible things for Ahıska Turks. We are very happy,” he said.
Ahıska Turks, also known as Meskhetian Turks, were expelled from Georgia’s Meskheti region by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944.
They faced severe discrimination and human rights abuses before and after the Soviet deportation. Those who migrated to Ukraine in 1990 settled in shantytowns used by seasonal workers.
The majority of Ahıska Turks in Ukraine fled their homes during the 2014 conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Turkey has voluntarily accepted thousands of Ahıska Turks and granted citizenship to 585 of them so far.
According to Kassanov, nearly 80,000 Ahıska Turks currently live in Turkey.