عنوان مقاله [English]
Turkey is a multi-ethnic country that is inhabited by diverse Eurasian minorities such as Armenians, Georgians, Uyghurs, Laz, Zazas, and Circassians. Under the influence of historical circumstances, Turkey has religious, ethnic, linguistic, and national minorities. During their rule, the Ottomans conquered various regions, including Eurasian ones. Of Turkey’s 82 million population in 2018, 35% are minorities. According to the statistics, 18.9% are Kurds, 7.2% are Tatars, 1.8% are Arabs, 1% are Azeris and 1% are Yorks. The other 5% are minorities such as Armenians, Georgians, Circassians, Laz, and Balkans. Despite their small population, Eurasian minorities are highly diverse among Turkish minorities.
After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey (1923), the constitution emphasized “Turkish homeland”, “Turkish citizens” and “Turkish existence”. The implementation of a policy of population unification based on Turkish identity led to the denial of minorities. This is although Turkey had made commitments to minorities in Articles 37 to 45 of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), part of which relates to Eurasian minorities, especially Armenians. The treaty defined minorities as non-Muslims, including Greeks, Jews, and Armenians. They had legal rights, schools, and religious services. Events such as Expulsion, confiscation of property, forced migration, and massacres such as tragedies (1915) against Armenians, the massacres of Kurds in Dersim (1938), and the Alawites in Sivas (1993) are some of the bitter happenings in the history of minorities in Turkey.
After the AKP came to power (2002), there were changes in Turkey’s Eurasian approach as well as attitudes towards minorities. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2009 in the city of Duzce expressed a desire for fundamental reforms in minority rights. He called his country’s past policies on minorities wrong and fascist. Subsequently, the issue of amendments to the 1936 law and the return of confiscated property of the Armenian and Greek religious minorities were raised. But this approach has changed since 2012 with a shift in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies. Due to the common concern of the international community about the consequences of the violation of the rights of minorities, in 1992 the “Declaration of the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” was adopted by the General Assembly. Earlier, Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) emphasized the rights of ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities. This Covenant is binding on all nations.
With the development of the international law of minorities, and under the influence of the continuing unrest in some parts of Turkey and the strengthening of Ankara’s Eurasianist approach, attention has increased to the situation of Eurasian minorities. The purpose of this article is to examine the situation of Eurasian minorities in Turkey from the perspective of international law. The article seeks to answer the question of what is the status of Eurasian minorities in Turkey under Article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and the 1992 Declaration of minorities? The article hypothesizes that the legal status of Eurasian minorities in Turkey is not the same. This article, while theoretically explaining the concept of minorities and their rights, uses citation and descriptive-analytical methods. The results show that despite the positive steps taken to promote minority rights in Turkey, due to the dominance of the political view on the legal approach, the denial of minorities in the constitution, and the rejection of international minority rights instruments, the situation of Eurasian minorities in Turkey has been evolved from suitable to undesirable one. They are divided into satisfied and dissatisfied minorities. Satisfied minorities do not believe that their rights are systematically violated by the government. Some of these minorities have historically been absorbed into the majority culture in Turkey and their traditions and language have been destroyed or weakened. Therefore granting some rights to these minorities is not defined as a threat by the government. Some of these minorities have racial or cultural similarities with the Turkish majority or such similarities are propagated, such as Turkish Azeris or Chinese Uyghurs. Dissatisfied minorities believe that cultural and linguistic rights are violated, effective participation is denied, confiscated property has not been returned, forced integration into the majority happened, continued hatred dragged on, lack of access to a fair trial, historical renaming, and direct and indirect discrimination was implemented. This situation is contrary to the three principles emphasized in international minority rights, namely non-deprivation, non-discrimination and non-forced integration.
The findings of the article indicate that Turkey’s approach to minorities is political, not legal. There is no legal guarantee in Turkey for the implementation of the rights provided for minorities in international law. The few concessions made to minorities, especially from 2002 to 2011, were mostly cross-cutting government action rather than a change in laws. The extent of ethnic affiliation with the Turkic race and religious affiliation with the Sunni-Hanafi religion has influenced the situation of the Eurasian-ethnic minorities. Despite this, the linguistic, religious, and cultural characteristics of most minorities have been weakened by Ankara’s approach. Over the past century the number of some minorities such as Circassians, Georgians, and Armenians, has dropped tenfold. It seems that Turkey needs to change its political approach to a legal one to raise the status of minorities to the level of international law standards. The first steps in this process are the acceptance of the four customary minorities in the constitution, joining the Declaration of Minorities, stopping the forced integration of minorities, stopping the Turkification of minorities, propagating and teaching the history and culture of minorities in textbooks to combat hatred, reforming laws dating back to the Ottoman period, and providing real statistics on minorities and promoting multiculturalism.