KurdishMedia: Minorities comment on ‘Report on Minorities’

KurdishMedia, UK
Nov. 5, 2004

Minorities comment on ‘Report on Minorities’

05/11/2004 Bianet.org

Members of Turkey’s minority groups denounce violent reactions against
the Prime Ministry’s working group on “Rights of Minorities”. Lawyer
Bakar calls for full implementation of Laussane Treaty, while Alevite
researcher Sener welcomes the debate.

BIA (Istanbul) – Individuals from minority groups denounce attacks
against the controversial Report on “Minority Rights and Cultural
Rights’ drafted by the Minority Rights and Cultural Rights Study Group
of the Prime Ministry’s Advisory Board for Human Rights.

The group’s groundbreaking proposals challenging the present
established concept of Turkish citizenry what excludes recognition of
ethnic minorities other than non-Muslim religious minorities, arouses
angry reactions by nationalist circles.

The group’s spokesperson Prof. Ibrahim Kabaoglu, and Prof. Baskin Oran,
author of the draft report are publicly charged as `separatists’ by
their critics for having proposed recognition of various ethnic
identities under the super-identity of `Citizen of Turkey’ rather more
than `Turkish Citizen’

Members of Turkey’s various ethnic communities expressed their opinions
to bianet on the ongoing controversy.

Lawyer Diran Bakar, an ethnic Armenian from Istanbul, said their views
on the Minority Report was generally positive but added they were
disturbed by the fact that the report did not refer to the minority
articles in the Lausanne Peace Treaty.

1924 Lausanne Peace Treaty signed between Turkey and the Allies of the
1st World War recognizes the rights of non-Turkish speaking `Trukish
nationals’ as well as non-Muslim religious communities.

Alavite researcher-writer Cemal Sener said the report should not be
attacked so harshly no matter what. “I do not agree with everything in
the report either,” said Sener. “But there is no reason for attacking
it like that.”

Hrant Dink, editor in chief of the bi-lingual (Armenian-Turkish) Agos
weekly said the report was not actually a “minority” report, but
instead, a “Turkey” report. According to Dink, the report depicts an
accurate picture of Turkey.

Cumhur Bal, the secretary-general of the Circassian Federation, said
they voted for the Minority Report as members of the Prime Ministry
Human Rights Advisory Board.

“Articles of Lausanne should be implemented”

Lawyer Diran Bakar said the Report on Minorities should have referred
to the articles of the Lausanne Agreement. Bakar added that although
they did not individually have any complaints about their life in
Turkey, the memories of past incidents, the incidents of September 6-7,
1957 were still fresh. Bakar complained that the institutions belonging
to his community were still under pressure. They were still barred from
ecclesiastic training, or from opening up schools or hospitals.

Sener: The report was not strongly defended

Alavite researcher-writer Cemal Sener is of the opinion that even Prof.
Dr. Ibrahim Kabaloglu, the head of the commission, could not defend his
own report properly against attacks. Sener said:

* Due to political implications of the concept `minority’ the Alavites
are uncomfortable of being categorized as a `minority’. In Turkey
claiming minority status is almost regarded as opposing the secular
republic. Yet, Alavites have always supported the secular republic as
opposed to Sharia, caliphate, Ottoman monarchy and the like.

* The concept “minorities” is usually used to define non-Muslims.
Alavites were not regarded as minorities during the Ottoman rule
because they were Muslims. They could neither benefit from the majority
rights, nor those of the minorities. The situation continued after the
establishment of the Turkish Republic. There is no mention of a
legitimate Alavite religion in any formal document. Alavites were first
mentioned in the EU Progress Report and the Prime Ministry Human Rights
Advisory Board’s report. It is positive that it is being discussed,
instead of being ignored.”

“The essence of the report is the essence of Turkey”

Hrant Dink is of the opinion that those who drafted the Minority Report
should be congratulated. Denouncing the ultra-nationalist member of the
group who tore the report to protest its content during a press
conference Dink said: `Maybe a copy of the report had been torn down.
But the essence of the report is the essence of Turkey and the reality
remains there.’

Dink continued as follows:

* The understanding of “minorities” in Turkey is different from the
understanding of “minorities” in Western democracies.

* The concept “minority” in Turkey is moulded with security concerns.
“This is an inferior notion, an inferior status, and so we cannot be
minorities.” However, there are minorities in this country even if they
are regarded as inferior or second-class. And I am one of them.

* In the same way the state looks at non-Muslims as a security problem,
but I feel insecure of my own future.

Cumhur Bal said they did not approve the behavior of the public workers
union Kamu-Sen representative, who tore the report during the press
conference. “This report was voted on and accepted. He may not agree
with the report, but he doesn’t have the right to act violently.”

BIA News Center

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS