Minority in Turkey

Focus on Minorities
History of Middle East
Heritage from Ottoman Empire
In a holdover from the Ottoman system of
millets, Turks traditionally have tended to
consider all Sunni Muslims as Turks and to
regard non-Sunni speakers of Turkish as
After Ottoman Empire and
New Republic
Since the founding of the Republic of
Turkey, the government has sought to
diminish the significance of ethnic,
linguistic, and religious distinctions.
Turkey 2006 Progress Report
Turkey’s approach to minority rights remains
unchanged. According to the Turkish authorities,
under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, minorities in
Turkey consist exclusively of non-Muslim religious
communities. The minorities associated in
practice by the authorities with the Treaty of
Lausanne are Jews, Armenian Christians and
Greek Orthodox Christians. However, there are
other communities in Turkey which, in the light of the
relevant international and European standards, could
qualify as minorities. (Euroean Commission, Turkey 2006
Progress Report)
General View
• Extensive ethnic and religious diversity.
• The two largest minority groups:
– Alevis (a religious minority) and
– Kurds (some of who are Alevis)
• About 47 different ethnic groups.
• 1923 Treaty of Lausanne
• Citizens ‘of Turkey’ (in Turkish Turkiyeli – of
Turkey) or Turks.
Alevis are minorities because…
• Different outwardly from Sunni Muslims
– They do not fast in Ramadan, but do during
the Ten Days of Muharram (the Shi’I
commemoration of Imam Husayn’s
– They do not prostrate themselves during
– They do not have mosques.
– They do not have obligatory formal
almsgiving, although they have a strong
principle of mutual assistance.
• An estimated 7-million Alevis,
• Aspects of both Shi’a and Sunni Islam and the
traditions of other religions found in Anatolia as
• Men and women worshipping together through
oratory, poetry, and dance in Cem houses which
has not legal status.
• Alevism as a heterodox Muslim sect by Gov.
• Some Alevis and radical Sunnis maintain Alevis
are not Muslims.
Problems of Alevis
• Permission to build a Cem house.
• The Diyanet issued a letter to authorities
stating that Cem houses violate Islamic
principles and Turkish law.
• Alevi doctrines or beliefs in religious
instruction classes in public schools.
• No allocation specific funds for Alevi
activities or religious leadership by the
Demands of Alevis
• Inclusion of the Alevi faith in school
• Financial support from the government for
the construction of Alevi places of worship.
• The allocation of funds for the community
from the state budget…
• The largest ethnic minority in Turkey (15 million).
• South-eastern and eastern Turkey, although a
large number have migrated to cities in western
• About half of all Kurds worldwide live in Turkey.
Most of the rest live in adjacent regions of Iran,
Iraq, and Syria. Turkey's censuses do not list
Kurds as a separate ethnic group.
• No legal barriers to ethnic Kurds’ participation in
political and economic affairs but…
• The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the
best known and most radical of the
Kurdish movements, launched a guerilla
campaign in 1984 for an ethnic homeland
in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.
Thousands died and hundreds of
thousands became refugees in the conflict
between the PKK and the army in the
1980s and 1990s.
Kurdish people
Kurds (language)
• Pose a threat to Turkish national unity.
• An active Kurdish separatist movement in
southeastern Turkey since 1984.
• Language suppression.
• In Turkey, two major Kurdish dialects are
spoken: Kermanji, and Zaza
Kurdish Language
• Prohibition of use of Kurdish in all government
institutions, including the courts and schools.
• During the 1960s and again in the mid-1970s, Kurdish
intellectuals attempted to start Kurdish-language journals
and newspapers. None of these publications survived for
more than a few issues
• Broadcasting (both radio and TV) in non-Turkish
languages, including Kurdish dialects, began on 7 June
2004 on the state-owned national broadcaster TRT.
• Private language courses in Kurdish opened across
Turkey in 2004, including in Van, Batman and Sanliurfa.
• Illegal to carry out political campaigning in any language
other than Turkish.
Problems of Kurds
• Government has tried to destroy their
Kurdish identity and that they suffer
economic disadvantage and human rights
• Thousands died and hundreds of
thousands became refugees in the conflict
between the PKK and the army in the
1980s and 1990s.
• Most Armenians living in Turkey are
concentrated in and around Istanbul.
• The Armenians support their own
newspapers and schools.
• Two daily newspapers in Armenian
language and one weekly newspaper in
• There are fewer than 2,500 Greek Orthodox
Christians in Turkey.
• The World Directory of Minorities (1997) states
that “There are probably 3,000 ageing Greek
Christians, mainly in Istanbul, the residue of
80,000 still there in 1963. Formal expulsions
police harassment and a climate of fear and
popular animosity have since then reduced the
community to its present number.”
• The Jewish minority is neither ethnically nor linguistically
• Most of its members are Sephardic Jews whose
ancestors were expelled from Spain by the Roman
Catholic Inquisition in 1492.
• They speak Ladino, a variant of fifteenth-century
Spanish with borrowings from several other languages.
• Specail attention not to have problem with the state.
• Following the establishment of Israel in 1948, an
estimated 30,000 Jews immigrated to the new state. By
1965 the Jewish minority had been reduced to an
estimated 44,000, most of whom lived in Istanbul, where
many Jewish men operated shops and other small
• A weekly newspaper called Shalom in Hebrew.
• In 1995 Turkey's ethnic Arab population was
estimated at 800,000 to 1 million.
• The Arabs are heavily concentrated along the
Syrian border, especially in Hatay Province,
which France, having at that time had mandatory
power in Syria, ceded to Turkey in 1939.
• Arabs then constituted about two-thirds of the
population of Hatay (known to the Arabs as
Alexandretta), and the province has remained
predominantly Arab.
People from the Caucasus
• Three small but distinct ethnic groups
(aside from the more numerous
Armenians) have their origins in the
Caucasus Mountains:
– The Circassians
– The Georgians (including the Abkhaz)
– The Laz. Approximately
International Conventions
• Turkey has not signed
the Council of Europe
Convention for the
Protection of National
Minorities or the
European Charter for
Regional or Minority
Turkey’s policy
There is no policy except
• “We DON’T recognize…”
• “We DON’T do…”
• “We DON’T practise…”
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