Racism in Turkey

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‘Long Live Racist Turkey’ spray-painted by unidentified people on the walls of an Armenian church in Istanbul[1]

In Turkey, racism and ethnic discrimination are present in its society and throughout its history, and this racism and ethnic discrimination is also institutional against the non-Muslim and non-Sunni minorities.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] This appears mainly in the form of negative attitudes and actions by Turks towards people who are not considered ethnically Turkish. Such discrimination is predominantly towards non-Turkish ethnic minorities such as Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Kurds, Jews and Zazas as well as hostility towards minority forms of Islam such as Alevis, Sufis, and Shiites.

Overview[edit]

Muslim and non-Muslim population in Turkey, 1914–2005 (in thousands)[9]
Year 1914 1927 1945 1965 1990 2005
Muslims 12,941 13,290 18,511 31,139 56,860 71,997
Greeks 1,549 110 104 76 8 3
Armenians 3,604 77 60 64 67 50
Jews 128 82 77 38 29 27
Others 176 71 38 74 50 45
Total 15,997 13,630 18,790 31,391 57,005 72,120
% non-Muslim 19.1 2.5 1.5 0.8 0.3 0.2

Racism and discrimination in Turkey can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire. Such Ottoman Turkish intellectuals such as Ali Suavi have stated in the 1860s that:[10]

  1. Turks are superior to other races in political, military and cultural aspects
  2. The Turkish language surpasses the European languages in its richness and excellence
  3. Turks constructed the Islamic civilization.

With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, non-Muslim citizens of the country have been subject to numerous instances of state-sponsored discrimination. For instance, many non-Muslims were fired from their jobs and were denied employment by the bureaucracy.[11][12] The State Employee Law enacted in 1926 aimed at the Turkification of work life in Turkey.[12][13] This law defined Turkishness as a necessary condition to become a state employee.[12]

The Ministry of Education in Turkey adopted an educational curriculum with respect to the Armenians in 2002 which was widely condemned as racist and chauvinist.[14] The curriculum contained textbooks that included phrases such as "we crushed the Greeks" and "traitor to the nation."[14] Thereafter, civic organizations, including the Turkish Academy of Sciences, published a study deploring all racism and sexism in textbooks.[14] However, a report by the Minority Rights Group International (MRG) done in 2015 states that the curriculum of schools continue to depict "Armenians and Greeks as the enemies of the country."[15] Nurcan Kaya, one of the authors of the report, concluded: "The entire education system is based on Turkishness. Non-Turkish groups are either not referred to or referred in a negative way."[16]

As of 2008 there has also been an increase in "hate crimes" in Turkey originating from racism, nationalism, and intolerance.[17] According to Ayhan Sefer Üstün, the head of the parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Commission, "Hate speech is on the rise in Turkey, so new deterrents should be introduced to stem the increase in such crimes".[18] Despite provisions in the Constitution and the laws there have been no convictions for a hate crime so far, for either racism or discrimination.[17] Since the beginning of 2006 a number of killings were committed in Turkey against people of ethnic or religious minorities or different sexual orientation or social sexual identity. Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code provides for a general ban of publicly inciting people to hatred and disgust.[17]

Accounts of hate speech towards targeted groups in Turkish news outlets according to the January–April 2014 Media Watch on Hate Speech and Discriminatory Language Report by Nefret Soylemi and the Hrant Dink Foundation.[19]

According to Yavuz Baydar, senior columnist of the Zaman daily newspaper wrote in 2009 that racism and hate speech are on the rise in Turkey, particularly against Armenians and Jews.[20] He writes on January 12, 2009 that "If one goes through the press in Turkey, one would easily find cases of racism and hate speech, particularly in response to the deplorable carnage and suffering in Gaza. These are the cases in which there is no longer a distinction between criticizing and condemning Israel's acts and placing Jews on the firing line."[21] Asli Çirakman asserted in 2011 that there has been an apparent rise in the expression of xenophobic feeling against Kurdish, Armenian, and Jewish presences in Turkey.[22] Çirakman also noted that the ethno-nationalist discourse of the 2000s identifies the enemies-within from among ethnic and religious groups that reside in Turkey, such as the Kurds, the Armenians, and the Jews.[22]

In 2011, a Pew Global Attitudes and Trends survey of 1000 Turks found that 6% of them had a favorable opinion of Christians, and 4% of them had favorable opinion of Jews. Earlier, in 2006, the numbers had been 16% and 15%, respectively. The Pew survey also found that 72% of Turks viewed Americans as hostile, and 70% of them viewed Europeans as hostile. When asked to name the world's most violent religion, 45% of Turks cited Christianity and 41% cited Judaism, with 2% saying it was Islam. Additionally, 65% of Turks said the Westerners were "immoral."[23]

One of the main challenges facing Turkey in the field of ECRI's (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance) concerns would appear to be the need to reconcile the strong sense of national identity and the wish to preserve the unity and integrity of the State with the right of different minority groups within Turkey to express their own sense of ethnic identity, for example through the maintenance and development of linguistic and cultural aspects of that identity.[24]

In a recent discovery by the Armenian newspaper Agos, secret racial codes were used to classify minority communities in the country.[25] According to the racial code, which is believed to be established during the foundations of the republic in 1923, Greeks are classified under the number 1, Armenians 2, and Jews 3.[25] Altan Tan, a deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), believed that such codes were always denied by Turkish authorities and that “if there is such a thing going on, it is a big disaster. The state illegally profiling its own citizens based on ethnicity and religion, and doing this secretly, is a big catastrophe”.[25]

Against Armenians[edit]

The Armenian Genocide was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its Armenian subjects within the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. The total number of people killed has been estimated at 1.5 million.

Although it was possible for Armenians to achieve status and wealth in the Ottoman Empire, as a community they were accorded a status as second-class citizens (under the Millet system)[26] and were regarded as fundamentally alien to the Muslim character of Ottoman society.[27] In 1895, demands of reform among the Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire lead to Sultan Abdul Hamid's decision to suppress them resulting in the Hamidian massacres in which up to 300,000 Armenians were killed.[28][29] In 1909, a massacre of Armenians in the city of Adana resulted in a series of anti-Armenian pogroms throughout the district resulting in the deaths of 20,000–30,000 Armenians.[30][31][32] During World War I, the Ottoman government massacred between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians in the Armenian Genocide.[33][34][35][36] The position of the current Turkish government, however, is that the Armenians who died were casualties of the expected hardships of war, the casualties cited are exaggerated, and that the 1915 events could not be considered a genocide. This position has been criticized by international genocide scholars,[37] and by 28 governments, which have resolutions affirming the genocide.

The incident of The Twenty Classes was a policy used by the Turkish government to conscript the male non-Turkish minority population mainly consisting of Armenians, Greeks and Jews during World War II. All of the twenty classes consisted of male minority population, including the elders and mentally ill.[38] They were given no weapons and quite often they did not even wear military uniforms. These non-Muslims were gathered in labor battalions where no Turks were enlisted. They were allegedly forced to work under very bad conditions. The prevailing and widespread point of view on the matter was that wishing to partake in the World War II, Turkey gathered in advance all unreliable non-Turkish men regarded as a “fifth column”.

Non-Muslims auctioning off their furniture to pay for the Varlık Vergisi.

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.[39] Though it was the Armenians who were most heavily taxed.[40]

Some difficulties currently experienced by the Armenian minority in Turkey are a result of an anti-Armenian attitude by ultra-nationalist groups such as the Grey Wolves. According to Minority Rights Group, while the government officially recognizes Armenians as minorities but when used in public, this term denotes second-class status.[41] In Turkey, the term 'Armenian' has often been used as an insult and several people have been prosecuted for calling public figures and politicians as such.[42][43][44][45][46]

"The new generations are being taught to see Armenians not as human, but [as] an entity to be despised and destroyed, the worst enemy. And the school curriculum adds fuel to the existing fires."
- Turkish lawyer Fethiye Çetin[46]

In February 2004, the journalist Hrant Dink published an article in the Armenian newspaper Agos titled "The Secret of Sabiha Hatun" in which a former Gaziantep resident, Hripsime Sebilciyan, claimed to be Sabiha Gökçen's niece, implying that the Turkish nationalist hero Gökçen had Armenian ancestry.[47][48][49] The mere notion that Gökçen could have been Armenian caused an uproar throughout Turkey as Dink himself even came under fire, most notably by newspaper columnists and Turkish ultra-nationalist groups, which labeled him a traitor.[50] A US consul dispatch leaked by WikiLeaks and penned by an official from the consulate in Istanbul observed that the entire affair "exposed an ugly streak of racism in Turkish society."[50]

In 2004, Belge Films, the film's distributor in Turkey pulled the release of Atom Egoyan's Ararat film, about the Armenian Genocide, after receiving threats from the Ülkü Ocakları, an ultra nationalist organization.[51][52][53][54] This organization was behind similar threat campaigns against the Armenian community in the past. In 1994, hate mail signed by Ülkü Ocakları was sent to Armenian owned businesses and private homes describing Armenians as 'parasites' and that the massacres of the past will resume.[55] The letters also concluded by saying: "Do not forget: Turkey belongs only to the Turks. We will free Turkey of this exploitation. Don’t force us to send you to Yerevan! So leave now, before we do! Or else, it will boil down, as our Prime Minister (Tansu Çiller.) said, to: ‘either you put an end to it, or else we will.’ That is a final warning!"[55]

Shortly after Hrant Dink was murdered, the assassin was honored as a hero while in police custody, posing with a Turkish flag with policemen.[56][57]

Hrant Dink, the editor of the Agos weekly Armenian newspaper, was assassinated in Istanbul on January 19, 2007, by Ogün Samast. He was reportedly acting on the orders of Yasin Hayal, a militant Turkish ultra-nationalist.[58][59] For his statements on Armenian identity and the Armenian Genocide, Dink had been prosecuted three times under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for “insulting Turkishness.”[60][61] He had also received numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists who viewed his "iconoclastic" journalism (particularly regarding the Armenian Genocide) as an act of treachery.[62]

The term 'Armenian' is frequently used in politics to discredit political opponents.[63] In 2008, Canan Arıtman, a deputy of İzmir from the Republican People’s Party (CHP), called President Abdullah Gül an 'Armenian'.[43][64] Arıtman was then prosecuted for "insulting" the President.[43][63][65] Similarly, in 2010, Turkish journalist Cem Büyükçakır approved a comment on his website claiming that President Abdullah Gül's mother was an Armenian.[66] Büyükçakır was then sentenced to 11 months in prison for “insulting President [Abdullah] Gül”.[66][67][68]

İbrahim Şahin and 36 other alleged members of Turkish ultra-nationalist Ergenekon group were arrested in January, 2009 in Ankara. The Turkish police said the round-up was triggered by orders Şahin gave to assassinate 12 Armenian community leaders in Sivas.[69][70] According to the official investigation in Turkey, Ergenekon also had a role in the murder of Hrant Dink.[71]

In 2010, during a football match between Bursaspor and Beşiktaş J.K., fans of Bursaspor chanted: "Armenian dogs support Beşiktaş".[43] The chant was presumably in reference to the fact that Alen Markaryan, the leader of the Beşiktaş fan base, is of Armenian descent.[72][73][74]

Sevag Balikci, a Turkish soldier of Armenian descent, was shot dead on April 24, 2011, the day of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide, during his military service in Batman.[75] Through his Facebook profile, it was discovered that killer Kıvanç Ağaoğlu was an ultra-nationalist, and a sympathizer of nationalist politician Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and Turkish agent / contract killer Abdullah Çatlı, who himself had a history of anti-Armenian activity, such as the Armenian Genocide Memorial bombing in a Paris suburb in 1984.[76][77][78][79] His Facebook profile also showed that he was a Great Union Party (BBP) sympathizer, a far-right nationalist party in Turkey.[76] Balıkçı's fiancée testified that Sevag told her over the phone that he feared for his life because a certain military serviceman threatened him by saying, "If war were to happen with Armenia, you would be the first person I would kill".[80][81]

‘You Are Either a Turk, or a Bastard,’ near the wall of an Armenian church in Kadıköy, Istanbul.[1][82][83]

On February 26, 2012, the Istanbul rally to commemorate the Khojaly massacre turned into an Anti-Armenian demonstration which contained hate speech and threats towards Armenia and Armenians.[84][85][86][87] Chants and slogans during the demonstration include: "You are all Armenian, you are all bastards", "bastards of Hrant can not scare us", and "Taksim Square today, Yerevan Tomorrow: We will descend upon you suddenly in the night."[84][85]

In 2012 the ultra-nationalist ASIM-DER group (founded in 2002) had targeted Armenian schools, churches, foundations and individuals in Turkey as part of an anti-Armenian hate campaign.[88]

On 23 February 2014, a group of protesters carrying a banner that said, "Long live the Ogun Samasts! Down with Hrant Dink!" paraded in front of an Armenian elementary school in Istanbul and then marched in front of the main building of the Agos newspaper, the same location where Hrant Dink was assassinated in 2007.[89][90]

On 5 August 2014, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a televised interview on NTV news network, remarked that being Armenian is "uglier" even than being Georgian, saying "You wouldn't believe the things they have said about me. They have said I am Georgian...they have said even uglier things - they have called me Armenian, but I am Turkish."[91][92][93]

In February 2015, banners celebrating the Armenian Genocide were spotted in several cities throughout Turkey. They declared: "We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleansed of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors."[94]

In February 2015, graffiti was discovered near the wall of an Armenian church in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul saying, "You’re Either Turkish or Bastards" and "You Are All Armenian, All Bastards".[95][96][97] It is claimed that the graffiti was done by organizing members of a rally entitled "Demonstrations Condemning the Khojali Genocide and Armenian Terror." The Human Rights Association of Turkey petitioned the local government of Istanbul calling it a "Pretext to Incite Ethnic Hate Against Armenians in Turkey".[95][98] In the same month banners celebrating the Armenian Genocide were spotted in several cities throughout Turkey. They declared: "We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleansed of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors." (Yurdumuzun Ermenilerden temizlenişinin 100. yıldönümü kutlu olsun. Şanlı atalarımızla gurur duyuyoruz.)[94][99]

In March 2015, the mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçek, filed a formal complaint on defamation charges against journalist Hayko Bağdat because he called him an Armenian. The complainant's petition to the court stated: "The statements [by Bağdat] are false and include insult and libel."[100] Gökçek stated that the term "Armenian" meant "disgust".[101] He demanded 10,000 liras in compensation under a civil lawsuit against Bağdat for psychological damages, and the lawsuit is now pending.[100]

In March 2015, graffiti was discovered on the walls of an Armenian church in the Bakırköy district of Istanbul which read "1915, blessed year", in reference to the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Other slurs included "What does it matter if you are all Armenian when one of us is Ogün Samast," which was in reference to the slogan "We are all Armenian" used by demonstrators after the assassination of Hrant Dink.[102] The administrator of the church remarked "This type of thing happens all the time."[102]

"For decades, the governments in Turkey tried to wipe Anatolia of any traces of Armenian identity. Murders and forced immigration were not sufficient. Names of towns, streets, even recipes were altered. Their churches became mosques. They attempted to rewrite history. Now, [they are] telling the people of Cizre, under curfew for nine days, 'You are all Armenians.' This shows us the fabricated 'one nation, one belief’ has collapsed. They have failed to destroy the Armenian ghosts of history."
- HDP politician Hatice Altınışık[46]

On 3 June 2015, during an election campaign speech in Bingöl directed against opposition party HDP, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated that the "Armenian lobby, homosexuals and those who believe in ‘Alevism without Ali’ – all these representatives of sedition are [the HDP’s] benefactors."[103]

On 24 June 2015, after a concert by Tigran Hamasyan in Ani, a ruined medieval Armenian city-site situated in the Turkish province of Kars, the president of Ülkü Ocakları of the Kars district, Tolga Adıgüzel, threatened to 'hunt down' Armenians in the streets of Kars.[104][105]

After the June 2015 Turkish general election, when three Armenian MPs were elected to the Grand National Assembly, Hüzeyin Sözlü, the mayor of Adana, reacted in a Twitter post: "Manukyan's nephew in Adana must be very happy now. His three cousins have entered the Parliament. They are from the [Justice and Development Party] AKP, the [Republican People's Party] CHP and the [Peoples' Democratic Party] HDP."[105][106] Sözlü alluded that the three Armenian MPs were related to Matild Manukyan, a Turkish-Armenian businesswoman who is known to have owned several brothels.[105]

During the official state funeral of Turkish serviceman Olgun Karakoyunlu, a man exclaimed: "The PKK are all Armenians, but are hiding. I am Kurdish and a Muslim, but I am not an Armenian. The end of Armenians is near. God willingly, we will bring an end to them. Oh Armenians, whatever you do it is in vain, we know you well. Whatever you do will be in vain."[107] Similarly, in 2007, a state-appointed imam, presiding over a funeral of a Turkish soldier killed by the PKK, said that the death was due to "Armenian bastards".[108]

The Armenian words of a 'Welcome' sign vandalized in Iğdır, Turkey

In September 2015, during the Turkey–PKK conflict, a video was released which captured police in Cizre announcing on a loudspeaker to the local Kurdish population that they were "Armenian bastards" (external link of video).[109][110] A few days later, in another instance, the Cizre police made repeated announcements on loudspeaker saying "You are all Armenians" (external link of video).[46][111] The police had also announced: "Armenian offspring, tonight will be your last night".[112] On September 11, towards the end of the siege, the police made a final announcement saying: "Armenian bastards, we will kill you all, and we will exterminate you".[112]

On 9 September 2015, a crowd of Turkish youth rallying in Armenian populated districts of Istanbul chanted "We must turn these districts into Armenian and Kurdish cemeteries".[113]

In September 2015, a 'Welcome' sign was installed in Iğdır and written in four languages, Turkish, Kurdish, English, and Armenian. The Armenian portion of the sign was protested by ASIMDER who demanded its removal.[114] In October 2015, the Armenian writing on the 'Welcome' sign was heavily vandalized.[115] In June 2016, the Armenian writing was completely removed.[116]

In January 2016, when Aras Özbiliz, an ethnic Armenian soccer player, was transferred to the Beşiktaş J.K. Turkish soccer team, a broad hate campaign arose throughout various social media outlets. Çarşı, the supporter group for Beşiktaş, released a statement condemning the racist campaign and reaffirming that it was against racism.[117] The hate campaign also prompted various politicians, including Selina Doğan of the Republican People's Party, to issue a statement condemning it.[118]

In March 2016, a parade conducted in Aşkale, initially dedicated to Turkish martyrs of World War I, turned into "a hate show" and a "hate-filled propaganda against the Armenians."[119][120] During the parade, Enver Başaran, the mayor of Aşkale, expressed gratitude to the "glorious ancestors who extirpated the Armenians".[120]

In April 2016, Barbaros Leylani, the head of the Turkish Worker's Union in Sweden, referred to Armenians as "dogs" in a public speech in Stockholm, and added: "Turks awaken! Armenian scums must be finished, die Armenian scums, die, die!" (external link of speech (in Turkish))[121][122] Juridikfronten, a Swedish watchdog organization, filed a report to the police due to an "incitement to racial hatred". Thereafter, Leylani resigned from his post.[121]

Against Assyrians[edit]

The Assyrians also share a similar fate to that of Armenians. The Assyrians also suffered in 1915 and had been massacred en masse.[123][124] The Assyrian Genocide or Seyfo (as it is known to Assyrians) reduced the population of the Assyrians of the Ottoman Empire and Persia from about 650,000 before the genocide to 250,000 after the genocide.[125][126][127]

Discrimination continued well into the newly formed Turkish Republic. In the aftermath of the Sheikh Said rebellion, the Assyrian Orthodox church was subjected to harassment by Turkish authorities, on the grounds that some Assyrians allegedly collaborated with the rebelling Kurds.[128] Consequently, mass deportations took place and Patriarch Mar Ignatius Elias III was expelled from Mor Hananyo Monastery which was turned into a Turkish barrack. The patriarchal seat was then transferred to Homs temporarily.

Assyrians historically couldn't become civil servants in Turkey and they couldn't attend military schools, become officers in the army or join the police.[129]

Against Greeks[edit]

The main targets of the anti-Greek riots in Istanbul; 6–7 September 1955.

Punitive Turkish nationalist exclusivist measures, such as a 1932 parliamentary law, barred Greek citizens living in Turkey from a series of 30 trades and professions from tailoring and carpentry to medicine, law and real estate.[130] The Varlık Vergisi tax imposed in 1942 also served to reduce the economic potential of Greek businesspeople in Turkey.[131] On 6–7 September 1955 anti-Greek riots were orchestrated in Istanbul by the Turkish military's Tactical Mobilization Group, the seat of Operation Gladio's Turkish branch; the Counter-Guerrilla. The events were triggered by the news that the Turkish consulate in Thessaloniki, north Greece—the house where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was born in 1881—had been bombed the day before.[131] A bomb planted by a Turkish usher of the consulate, who was later arrested and confessed, incited the events. The Turkish press conveying the news in Turkey was silent about the arrest and instead insinuated that Greeks had set off the bomb. Although the mob did not explicitly call for Greeks to be killed, over a dozen people died during or after the pogrom as a result of beatings and arson. Jews, Armenians and Muslims were also harmed. In addition to commercial targets, the mob clearly targeted property owned or administered by the Greek Orthodox Church. 73 churches and 23 schools were vandalized, burned or destroyed, as were 8 asperses and 3 monasteries.

The pogrom greatly accelerated emigration of ethnic Greeks from Turkey, and the Istanbul region in particular. The Greek population of Turkey declined from 119,822 persons in 1927,[132] to about 7,000 in 1978.[133] In Istanbul alone, the Greek population decreased from 65,108 to 49,081 between 1955 and 1960.[132]

The Greek minority continues to encounter problems relating to education and property rights. A 1971 law nationalized religious high schools, and closed the Halki seminary on Istanbul's Heybeli Island which had trained Orthodox clergy since the 19th century. A later outrage was the vandalism of the Greek cemetery on Imbros on October 29, 2010. In this context, problems affecting the Greek minority on the islands of Imbros and Tenedos continue to be reported to the European Commission.[134]

As of 2007, Turkish authorities have seized a total of 1,000 immovables of 81 Greek organizations as well as individuals of the Greek community.[135] On the other hand, Turkish courts provided legal legitimacy to unlawful practices by approving discriminatory laws and policies that violated fundamental rights they were responsible to protect.[136] As a result, foundations of the Greek communities started to file complaints after 1999 when Turkey's candidacy to the European Union was announced. Since 2007, decisions are being made in these cases; the first ruling was made in a case filed by the Phanar Greek Orthodox College Foundation, and the decision was that Turkey violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which secured property rights.[136]

Against Jews[edit]

In the 1930s, groups publishing anti-Semitic journals were formed. Journalist Cevat Rıfat Atilhan published a journal in Izmir called Anadolu and which contained anti-Semitic writing.[10] When the publication was outlawed, Atilhan went to Germany and was entertained by Julius Streicher for months. In Der Stürmer, a publication by Streicher, a large article was published about Cevat Rifat Atilhan on 18 August 1934.[10] Upon returning to Turkey, Atilhan started the journal Milli İnkılap which was very similar to Der Stürmer. Consequently, it is argued that much of the anti-Semitic theories in Turkey stem from much of the opinions and material that Atilhan took from Germany.[10]

The Elza Niego affair was an event regarding the murder of a Jewish girl in Turkey named Elza Niego in 1927. During the funeral, a demonstration was held in opposition of the Turkish government which created an anti-Semitic reaction in the Turkish press.[137][138] Nine protestors were immediately arrested under the charge of offending "Turkishness".[138][139][140][141]

The 1934 Resettlement Law was a policy adopted by the Turkish government which set forth the basic principles of immigration.[142] Although the Law on Settlement was expected to operate as an instrument for Turkifying the mass of non-Turkish speaking citizens, it immediately emerged as a piece of legislation which sparked riots against non-Muslims, as evidenced in the 1934 Thrace pogroms against Jews in the immediate aftermath of the law’s passage. With the law being issued on 14 June 1934, the Thrace pogroms began just over a fortnight later, on 3 July. The incidents seeking to force out the region’s non-Muslim residents first began in Çanakkale, where Jews received unsigned letters telling them to leave the city, and then escalated into an antisemitic campaign involving economic boycotts and verbal assaults as well as physical violence against the Jews living in the various provinces of Thrace.[143] It is estimated that out of a total 15,000-20,000 Jews living in the region, more than half fled to Istanbul during and after the incidents.[144]

The Neve Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul has been attacked three times.[145] First on 6 September 1986, Arab militants killed 22 Jewish worshippers and wounded 6 during Shabbat services at Neve Shalom. This attacked was blamed on the Palestinian militant Abu Nidal.[146][147][148] The Synagogue was hit again during the 2003 Istanbul bombings alongside the Beth Israel Synagogue, killing 20 and injuring over 300 people, both Jews and Muslims alike. Even though a local Turkish militant group, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front, claimed responsibility for the attacks, police claimed the bombings were "too sophisticated to have been carried out by that group",[146] with a senior Israeli government source saying: "the attack must have been at least coordinated with international terror organizations".[148]

Traditionally, aliyah from Turkey to Israel has been low since about half the community emigrated to Israel after its establishment. Despite the antisemitism and occasional violence, Jews felt generally safe in Turkey. In the 2000s, despite surging antisemitism, including antisemitic incidents, aliyah remained low. In 2008, only 112 Turkish Jews immigrated, and in 2009, that number only rose to 250.[149] However, in the aftermath of the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid, antisemitism in Turkey increased and became more open, and it was reported that the community was also subjected to economic pressure, with Muslims refusing to buy from Jewish businesses, especially textile businesses. As a result, the number of Turkish Jews emigrating to Israel increased.[150] By September 2010, the Jewish population of Turkey had dropped to 17,000, from an original population of 23,000.[151] In addition to safety concerns, some Turkish Jews have emigrated to Israel to find a Jewish spouse due to the increasing difficulty of finding one in the small Turkish Jewish community. In 2012, it was reported that the number of Jews expressing interest in moving to Israel rose by 100%, a large number of Jewish business owners were seeking to relocate their businesses to Israel, and that hundreds were moving every year.[152]

In 2015, an Erdogan-affiliated news channel broadcast a two-hour documentary titled "The Mastermind" (a term which Erdogan himself had introduced to the public some months earlier), which forcefully suggested that it were "the mind of the Jews" that "rules the world, burns, destroys, starves, wages wars, organizes revolutions and coups, and establishes states within states."[153]

Against Kurds[edit]

Kurds have had a long history of discrimination and massacres perpetrated against them by the Turkish government.[154] One of the most significant is the incident in Dersim where according to an official report of the Fourth General Inspectorate, 13,160 civilians were killed by the Turkish Army and 11,818 people were taken into exile, depopulating the province in 1937-38.[155] According to the Dersimi, many tribesmen were shot dead after surrendering, and women and children were locked into haysheds which were then set on fire.[156] According to McDowall, 40,000 people were killed.[157] According to Kurdish Diaspora sources, over 70,000 people were killed.[158]

Headline of the daily Cumhuriyet dated July 13, 1930: Cleaning started, the ones at Zeylân valley were completely annihilated, None of them survived, operation at Ağrı is continuing. Ankara 12 (With telephone) ... According to latest information, the cleaning in districts of Erciş, Mount Süphan and Zeylân has completely finished ...

The Zilan massacre of 1930,[159][160][161] was a massacre[162][163] of the Kurdish residents of Turkey during the Ararat rebellion, in which 800-1500 armed men participated.[164] According to the daily Cumhuriyet dated July 16, 1930, about 15,000 people were killed and Zilan River was filled with dead bodies as far as its mouth.[165][166][167][168] On August 31, 1930, the daily Milliyet published the declaration of the Turkish prime minister İsmet İnönü: "Only the Turkish nation has the right to demand ethnic and racial rights in this country. Any other element does not have such a right.[169][170] They are Eastern Turkish who were deceived by unfounded propaganda and eventually lost their way."[171]

In an attempt to deny their existence, the Turkish government categorized Kurds as "Mountain Turks" until 1991.[172][173][174] Since then, the Kurdish population of Turkey has long sought to have Kurdish included as a language of instruction in public schools as well as a subject. Several attempts at opening Kurdish instruction centers were stopped on technical grounds, such as wrong dimensions of doors. Turkish sources claimed that running Kurdish-language schools was wound up in 2004 because of 'an apparent lack of interest'.[175] Even though Kurdish language schools have started to operate, many of them have been forced to shut down due to over-regulation by the state. Kurdish language institutes have been monitored under strict surveillance and bureaucratic pressure.[176] Using Kurdish language as main education language is illegal in Turkey. It is accepted only as subject courses.

Kurdish is permitted as a subject in universities,[177] some of those are only language courses while others are graduate or post-graduate Kurdish literature and language programs.[178][179]

Due to the large number of Turkish Kurds, successive governments have viewed the expression of a Kurdish identity as a potential threat to Turkish unity, a feeling that has been compounded since the armed rebellion initiated by the PKK in 1984. One of the main accusations of cultural assimilation relates to the state's historic suppression of the Kurdish language. Kurdish publications created throughout the 1960s and 1970s were shut down under various legal pretexts.[180] Following the military coup of 1980, the Kurdish language was officially prohibited in government institutions.[181]

Banned Kurdish parties in Turkey[182]
Party Year banned
People's Labor Party (HEP)
1993
Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖZDEP)
1993
Democracy Party (DEP)
1994
People's Democracy Party (HADEP)
2003
Democratic Society Party (DTP)
2009

In April 2000, US Congressman Bob Filner spoke of a "cultural genocide", stressing that "a way of life known as Kurdish is disappearing at an alarming rate".[183] Mark Levene suggests that the genocidal practices were not limited to cultural genocide, and that the events of the late 19th century continued until 1990.[154]

Certain academics have claimed that successive Turkish governments adopted a sustained genocide program against Kurds, aimed at their assimilation.[184] The genocide hypothesis remains, however, a minority view among historians, and is not endorsed by any nation or major organisation. Desmond Fernandes, a Senior Lecturer at De Montfort University, breaks the policy of the Turkish authorities into the following categories:[185]

  1. Forced assimilation program, which involved, among other things, a ban of the Kurdish language, and the forced relocation of Kurds to non-Kurdish areas of Turkey.
  2. The banning of any organizations opposed to category one.
  3. The violent repression of any Kurdish resistance.
External video
Video of the TRT news station stopping the broadcast of a speech made in Kurdish by politician Ahmet Türk. Following the interruption, the newscaster said, "since no language other than Turkish can be used in the parliament meetings according to the constitution of the Turkish Republic and the Political Parties Law, we had to stop our broadcast. We apologize to our viewers for this and continue our broadcast with the next news item scheduled."[186]

More than 4,000 Kurds were arrested in 2011, including dozens of journalists and politicians. Mass trials of local deputies, mayors, academics and human rights activists have occurred in Diyarbakır. Hundreds of Kurds remain in pre-trial detention, some of them for many months.[187]

In January 2013, the Turkish parliament passed a law that permits use of the Kurdish language in the courts, albeit with restrictions.[188][189] The law was passed by votes of the ruling AKP and the pro-Kurdish rights opposition party BDP, against criticism from the secularist CHP party and the nationalist MHP, with MHP and CHP[citation needed] deputies nearly coming to blows with BDP deputies over the law. In spite of their support in the parliament, the BDP was critical of the provision in the law that the defendants will pay for the translation fees and that the law applies only to spoken defense in court but not to a written defense or the pre-trial investigation.[190] According to one source[189] the law does not comply with EU standards.[which?] Deputy prime minister of Turkey Bekir Bozdağ replied to criticism of the law from both sides saying that the fees of defendants who does not speak Turkish will be paid by the state, while, those who speak Turkish yet prefer to speak in the court in another language will have to pay the fees themselves.[191] European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle welcomed the new law.[192]

In February 2013, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during a meeting with Muslim opinion leaders, that he has "positive views" about imams delivering sermons in Turkish, Kurdish or Arabic, according to the most widely spoken language among the mosque attendees. This move received support from Kurdish politicians and human rights groups.[193]

On 19 October 2012, Burhan Kuzu, chairman of the Constitutional Assembly in Turkey, stated that allowing public education in Kurdish would mean to "yield to the devil".[194]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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