Wise Persons hear minority woes

Wise Persons hear minority woes

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Wise Persons hear minority woes

Wise People’s Marmara group attend a conference at the Feriköy Surp Vartananzs Armenian Church Şirinoğlu Hall. AA photo

The Wise Persons Commission’s Marmara region sub-group met with representatives of minority communities on May 11 at the Feriköy Surp Vartananzs Armenian Church Şirinoğlu Hall.

During the meeting, many subjects were discussed including issues of identity and citizenship, the Lausanne Treaty, discriminatory expressions in course books, damaged cultural assets of Anatolia, the new constitutional process, changes to some street names such as Talat Paşa, Ergenekon, and Kurtuluş, the districts inhabited by minority populations, the exclusion of films representing minorities as hostile enemies from archives, and the church and school problems faced by the Syriac community.

Members of the minorities also voiced concerns that the bid for democracy and equality could potentially be interrupted, as it had been in the past.

At the meeting, daily Apoyevmatini’s Editor-in-Chief Mihalis Vasiliadis referred to a Turkish proverb, “A fool may throw a stone into a well, which a hundred wise men cannot pull out. We will see how many wise persons could pull out the stone,” he said.

Huge gap between state, minorities

Vasiliadis also said there was a huge gap between the state and minority communities, asking whether there was an effort to narrow this gap. He also shared his daily life experiences to illustrate how hard it is to be a minority in Turkey.

Vasiliadis also demanded support from one of the commission members, renowned actress Hülya Koçyiğt, for the exclusion of films that have hostile expressions or symbols against minorities.

Meanwhile, Harutyun Şanlı said the course books including hostile remarks towards minorities should be withdrawn as soon as possible. Şanlı said the period of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had become a turning point for minority communities. “Though our state authorities are as close as a phone line, there are still some red lines in between,” he said.

Şanlı also recalled the Foundations Law, which was enacted about two years ago, “First they returned our own lands to us, but then the municipality said they needed a green area in Istanbul,” Şanlı said.

Also, Laki Vingas, who is in charge of minority foundations in the Foundations Directorate General, said the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not touch upon the minority communities in his speeches.

“For 90 years, we have claimed our rights, and been regarded as strangers. They always expected us to obey. We demand our reputation, not some rights sold on credit,” Vingas said.

There were also some tense moments during the meeting. The representatives of minority communities objected to the meeting’s description as a “meeting with non-Muslim minorities,” while the members of the Peace and Democracy party (BDP) reacted against the delegation head Deniz Ülke Arıboğan’s use of expressions such as “PKK terror” and “Kurdish terror.”

The commission, which was founded with the aim of providing a peaceful atmosphere in the resolution process of the Kurdish issue, is expected to submit a report to the government on June 14.