ISTANBUL: Why does Turkey see minorities as a threat?

Today’s Zaman, Turkey
Oct 26 2014

Why does Turkey see minorities as a threat?

October 26, 2014, Sunday

>From time to time, we discuss the situation of minorities living in
Turkey. A minority group is a sociological category within a
demographic majority. The term refers to a category that is
differentiated and defined by the social majority who hold the social
power in a society. The differentiation can be based on one or more
characteristics like ethnicity, race, gender, wealth, health or sexual

The Treaty of Lausanne is the peace treaty signed in Lausanne,
Switzerland, on July 24, 1923, and that officially concluded the war
between Turkey and the allied Kingdom of Greece, the French Republic,
the Empire of Japan, the British Empire, the Kingdom of Romania and
the Serb-Croat-Slovene State and the Kingdom of Italy. In the Treaty
of Lausanne, it is understood that non-Muslim Turkish citizens will
enjoy minority rights. Although it is the accepted belief in Turkey,
there is no wording in the Treaty of Lausanne stating that these
minority groups are solely Greek, Jewish and Armenian. It is quite a
`narrow definition’ to say that all non-Muslim groups living in Turkey
fall into these three groups, as it excludes many groups, like
Assyrians, for example.

After pogroms in 1934 against Jews in Thrace, after a wealth tax in
1942 for Greeks, Jews and Armenians, after vandalism in Ä°stanbul
against all minorities on Sept. 6-7, 1955, there were only a few
thousand families left in Turkey which are deemed minorities. It is so
pathetic that Turkish policy’s perception of minorities was always
security-based. According to this perception, minorities are a Trojan
horse inside Turkish society and have the potential to become a clear
and present danger to ordinary Turks. And yet, at the same time, in
Turkish culture Muslims and non-Muslims got along with each other for
centuries. This cultural heritage is full of stories of friendship
from all sides.

In my opinion, it is pathetic that a few thousand members of
minorities among 77 million can be seen as a security threat. I really
cannot understand how these people can attack or pose a danger to the
vast majority of the Turkish population. The only explanation is that
our previous administrators were blind or lacked the courage to see
that Turkey would be stronger if its minorities were truly integrated.
If only we had an administrator who could envision this brighter
future. Today, we still have problems about the legal status of the
ecumenical patriarchate of Ä°stanbul because of this hypocritical
pathetic view. It is very humiliating to see that the ecumenical
patriarchate that is recognized as the first among equals — primus
inter pares — is subordinated to the Eyüp District Governor’s Office
(Eyüp KaymakamlıÄ?ı) and not free of the state.

I believe that there is another way to approach minority issues: If
Turkey changes this at least 150-year-old, Union and
Progress-copyrighted perception policy towards minorities and replaces
it with a science and commerce-based one, it will be much more
beneficial for all sides and we will have a brighter outlook for the
future. Only after this can we have peace at home and expect peace in
the world. Furthermore, it will influence foreign policy, and then we
can expect zero problems with neighbors instead of neighbors with

Brilliant Russian writer Ayn Rand says, `Individual rights are not
subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the
rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to
protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest
minority on earth is the individual).’ Will we see them as `our
values’ one day?

You may also like