New report on minorities'
quest for equality in Turkey
Embargoed 11 December
The report is available at:
New report on minorities' quest for equality in
Millions of ethnic,
linguistic and religious minorities remain
unrecognized by the Turkish state, face
discrimination and are now increasingly under threat
as a result of a growing wave of violent nationalism,
Minority Rights Group says in a new report.
The report says that
whilst the accession process to become a EU member
state has forced Turkey to make significant strides
in minority rights, much more remains to be done.
The report titled A quest for equality - minorities
in Turkey is the most up-to-date analysis available
on the situation of all minorities in Turkey.
"Turkey is a country
where a centuries-old mix of languages, religions,
cultures and traditions is practiced within its
borders, but minority protection still falls far
short of international standards," says Ishbel
Matheson, MRG's Head of Policy and Communications.
heritage is one of its biggest assets. But this
positive aspect is not embraced at the highest level.
Instead, mention of minorities and minority rights
triggers nationalist reactions by certain sectors of
society," she adds.
The only protection for
minorities in Turkey has been set out in the 1923
Treaty of Lausanne but in practice its scope is
limited only to Armenians, Jews and Rum (Greek
But Turkey is home to a
vast number of minorities including ethnic Kurds,
Caucasians, Laz and Roma. The country's other
religious minorities include Alevis, Assyrians,
Caferis and Reformist Christians.
These groups are legally
not recognized as minorities and simply referring to
their minority status, let alone working for their
rights, could lead to a jail sentence.
According to the report,
minorities excluded from the Treaty of Lausanne are
very limited in their rights to use their languages
in schools and in the media. Their religious rights
are also curtailed.
The report also says a
10 percent electoral threshold prevents minority
pro-Kurdish parties from getting elected to
parliament. These parties have repeatedly failed to
surpass the national threshold despite having
received the highest percentage of votes in some of
the Kurdish populous southeastern provinces.
Minorities have also
increasingly becoming victims of a rising trend of
nationalism in the country. In January 2007,
journalist and Armenian human rights activist Hrant
Dink was shot dead in Istanbul. The suspect told
police that Dink was Armenian and had "insulted
The report says that the
EU accession process and the proposed new
constitution in 2008 give plenty of opportunity for
Turkey to make legal changes to protect minorities.
"We recommend speedy
legal reforms - this is crucial, but to bring real
change to Turkey's minorities there has to be
radical transformation of the prevalent mentality
towards minorities of both the state and society,"