Non-Turkish minorities in Turkey have long struggled with being viewed as second-class citizens in the country. A series of recent documents reveals that there has been a system in place since the founding of the Republic in 1923 that has classified the country’s minorities. The system was revealed when a child’s application to an Armenian kindergarten was held up pending a document confirming her status as a minority. The investigation is still ongoing into what these “race codes” mean and exactly how they have been implemented over the years. It is just another question mark about whether Turkey is able to provide full rights to all of its citizens or not.
08/01/2013 Turkey (Hurriyet Daily News) – 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.