TURKEY MUST END DISCRIMINATION OF ARMENIAN AND OTHER NON-MUSLIM MINORITIES
-- New report on situation of Armenians in Turkey
Brussels, 9/10/02- A report published today shows that recent and much touted reforms in Turkey barely scratched the surface of the deep and persistent discrimination of the country’s Armenian minority, a fate shared by other non-Muslim minorities.
The report, published by the EU office for Armenian Associations in Europe, is released at the same time as the European Commission’s Report on Turkey’s progress towards Accession. The European Union is now confronted with increasing pressure from Turkey and from the United States to decide on a date to start accession talks with Turkey. The rule, however, is that such negotiations should not start until basic human rights, democracy and peaceful relations with neighbouring countries are secured.
The 70 000 identified Armenians in Turkey, about 0.1% of the country’s population, form the largest of the country’s non-Muslim minorities; others include Greeks, Assyrians/Chaldeans and Jews.
“Turkey’s treatment of its Armenian minority should be an essential litmus test of its willingness to embrace reform”, said Nicolas Tavitian of the EU office for Armenian Associations of Europe. Armenians once numbered an estimated 2,5 million in what is now Eastern Turkey where they originate, but following the 1915 genocide and its aftermath, the few remaining Armenians live mostly in Istanbul. Even so, Armenians are still the target of intense prejudice nurtured by the country’s media and political establishment. Armenians are still subject today to extensive legal and administrative discrimination (see examples below). According to FAAE report author Dr. Tessa Hofmann, Turkey is in fact in breach of every one of the relevant clauses of the Lausanne Treaty, which establishes the legal status of minorities.
“We often hear Turkish leaders blaming the European Union for being a ‘Christian club’, supposedly intolerant of Islam”, said Nicolas Tavitian, of the FAAE. “This is a fine example of the pot calling the kettle black. Turkey has achieved the most thorough ethnic cleansing of any country in the course of the 20th century. Its non-Muslims population, estimated at 25% of total population in 1914, has been reduced to 0.15% and it should be a subject of concern to the EU that the conditions which produced that result are still in place. We expect Europe to be intolerant of intolerance”.
The Forum of Armenian Associations of Europe was established in 1998 to assemble and facilitate cooperation between Armenian organisations in the Diaspora. It counts member organisations in 18 European countries. The Forum deals with all issues of interest to its member organisations, including international relations, human rights issues, economic cooperation and cultural matters.
- Dr. Hofmann's full report is on the Internet at: http://www.armenianforum.org/site/english/eu-contact/docs-news/Armenians%20in%20Turkey%20MOD.pdf. Or go to http://www.armenianforum.org/ and click 'News'.
- The European Commission’s report is at: http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/enlargement/turkey/index.htm.
SOME OF THE REPORT'S FINDINGS
- Religious buildings and schools. The much-touted legislative reform of August 2002 will allow Armenian foundations to acquire property- providing they obtain permission from the Council of Ministers! Prior to that, they were not allowed to acquire property at all, and property was arbitrarily confiscated from them.
- Access to professions. Armenians are barred from public service, the army and the legal professio
- Regular attacks. Armenian churches, cemeteries and even schools are regularly attacked, in incidents which often coincide with press campaigns or hostile declarations by politicians against Armenians. Culprits are almost never caught.
- Tight control. The only form of associations allowed to serve the Armenian community are religious foundations, which are subject to extensive restrictions and to the diligent supervision of the ‘minority police’, the ‘Office of Foundations’ (VakiFlar Genel Müdür-lügü) and the high-level and secretive ‘Minority Commission’ (Azinliklar Tali Komisyonu).
- The right to education. Many Armenian children are arbitrarily barred from attending Armenian schools.
- Official incitement to hatred. Turkish children learn to hate or fear Armenians at school, and a planned reform of history classes is expected to strengthen prejudice yet further. According to a poll, 73% of Turkish children think “Armenians are bad”.