Varlık Vergisi ("Wealth tax" or "Capital tax") was a Turkish tax levied on the wealthy citizens of Turkey in 1942, with the stated aim of raising funds for the country's defense in case of an eventual entry into World War II.
The bill for the one-off tax was proposed by the Şükrü Saracoğlu government, and the act was adopted by the Turkish parliament on November 11, 1942. It was imposed on the fixed assets, such as landed estates, building owners, real estate brokers, businesses, and industrial enterprises of all citizens, including the minorities. However, those who suffered most severely were non-Muslims like the Jews, Greeks, Armenians, and Levantines, who controlled a large portion of the economy, though it was the Armenians who were most heavily taxed.
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During World War II, Turkey remained neutral until February 1945. Officially, the tax was devised to fill the state treasury that would have been needed had Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union invaded the country. However, it is argued, a main reason for the tax was to nationalize the Turkish economy by reducing minority populations' influence and control over the country's trade, finance, and industries.
The tax was paid by all citizens of Turkey, but higher tariffs were generally imposed on the country's non-Muslim inhabitants, often in an arbitrary and unrealistic way.
Around two thousand non-Muslims, who could not pay the enormous amount demanded for this sudden tax within the time-limit of thirty days, were arrested and sent to a forced labor camp in Aşkale in Erzurum Province of eastern Turkey. Twenty-one of these unfortunates died there.
The rigidly-enforced, discriminatory law did not yield the results the government had hoped for. Companies increased the prices of their products sharply to recoup their losses, creating a spiral of inflation that wrecked low-income consumers.
However, according to official information, the Turkish government collected 324 million liras (at a time in which 1 US dollar was equivalent to 1.20 Turkish lira) through the confiscation of non-Muslim assets.
Abolition and aftermath
The draconian law could not sustain relentless criticism, and it was abolished on March 15, 1944.
Years after the introduction of the Varlik Vergisi, the political elite of Turkey had difficulties to come to terms with the subject. The novel “The pearls of Ms. Salkım” (Salkım Hanımın Taneleri), written by Turkish author Yilmaz Karakoyunlu, recounts stories and witnesses of the non-Muslims during the Varlik Vergisi. The novel was soon turned into a film. Members of parliament, such as Ahmet Çakar (MHP), were outraged at the screening and believed it is indecent and unacceptable under the guidance of nationalism.
- Güven, Dilek (2005-09-06). Türkiye. "6-7 Eylül Olayları (1)". Radikal (in Turkish). Retrieved 2008-10-25. "Nitekim 1942 yılında yürürlüğe giren Varlık Vergisi, Ermenilerin, Rumların ve Yahudilerin ekonomideki liderliğine son vermeyi hedeflemiştir...Seçim dönemleri CHP ve DP'nin Varlık Vergisi'nin geri ödeneceği yönündeki vaatleri ise seçim propagandasından ibarettir."
- Smith, Thomas W. (August 29 - September 2, 2001.). Constructing A Human Rights Regime in Turkey: Dilemmas of Civic Nationalism and Civil Society. p. 4. "One of the darkest events in Turkish history was the Wealth Tax, levied discriminatory against non-Muslims in 1942, hobbling Armenians with the most punitive rates."
- Corry Guttstadt: Turkey, the Jews, and the Holocaust. Cambridge University Press, 2013. p. 75
- Andrew G. Bostom: The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History. Prometheus Books; Reprint edition, 2008. p. 124
- Nergis Erturk: Grammatology and Literary Modernity in Turkey. Oxford University Press, 2011. p. 141
- Aktar, Ayhan (2006). Varlık vergisi ve "Türkleştirme" politikaları (in Turkish) (8. bs. ed.). İstanbul: İletişim. ISBN 9754707790.
- "Varlik vergisi (asset tax) - one of the many black chapters of Turkish history...". Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Association. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- "MHP's Cakar blames Karakoyunlu for being, a 'Traitor'". Turkish Daily News (Ankara). Nov 28 2001. "This scene insults Turkish officers and they try to show our officers as a indecent people. As Turkish nationalists, it is not possible for us to accept it,"
- Levi, Avner (1996). Türkiye Cumhuriyeti'nde Yahudiler (in Turkish) (1st ed. ed.). İstanbul, Turkey: İletişim Yayınları. ISBN 975-470-583-6.
- Aktar, Ayhan (2002). Varlık Vergisi ve "Türkleştirme" Politikaları (in Turkish) (6th ed. ed.). İstanbul, Turkey: İletişim Yayınları. ISBN 975-470-779-0.
- Özcan, Yeldağ (1998). Çoğunluk Aydınlarında Irkçılık (in Turkish) (1st ed. ed.). İstanbul, Turkey: Belge Uluslararası Yayıncılık. ISBN [[Special:BookSources/975-344-160-0|975-344-160-0 [[Category:Articles with invalid ISBNs]]]] Check
- Özcan, Yeldağ (2000). İstanbul'da Diyarbakır'da Azalırken (in Turkish) (3rd ed. ed.). İstanbul, Turkey: Belge Uluslararası Yayıncılık. ISBN 975-344-110-X.