Turkish Interior Ministry confirms ‘race codes’ for minorities

Turkish Interior Ministry confirms ‘race codes’ for minorities

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Interior Ministry confirms ‘race codes’ for minorities

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.