State Racism Still Alive in Turkey, Leaked Document Reveals
ISTANBUL—Turkey’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that minorities in the country are given secret codes depending on which community they belong to and that such information is sent to the Education Ministry. This confirmation comes less than a week after the categorization system was revealed by the Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper, Agos.
Concern over the “race codes” was raised on August 1 after Agos uncovered an official document penned by the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate, revealing that Turkey’s population administration system has been categorizing citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek origins with secret “race codes.”
“Minority citizens’ race status is given to the Education Ministry based on information taken from the state register of the Ottoman period,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement that was sent to Agos on August 1. The statement also said that contemporary state registers do not record any information about the race or religion of citizens.
“There are no categories of race, breed, or sect in the state registers,” said the statement sent to Agos.
Race statuses for minorities are taken from their nationality or race information during Ottoman times and sent to the Education Ministry, according to the 40th and 41st articles of the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed between Turkey and Western powers in 1923 and paved the way for the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
“Citizens with Armenian origins are coded as ‘2,’” Agos said in its lead story on August 1.
The uncovered document, sent from the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate to the Şişli District National Education office, stated that “since 1923, the secret code of Armenians has been ‘2’ on identity registration certificates,” according to Agos.
“Since 1923, identity registration certificates have had a secret ‘race code,’” the document added.
An official from the population administration told the daily Radikal that the practice was being conducted “to allow minority groups to use their rights as dictated by the Lausanne Treaty.”
As part of the practice, Greeks are classified as “1,” Armenians are coded as “2,” while Jews are registered as “3” in the system. Other non-Turkish groups are not coded, an official told Radikal.
Opposition party lawmakers harshly criticized the alleged document.
“If this is true, it is grave. It must be examined. I will bring this to Parliament’s agenda,” Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Hürriyet Daily News.
Altan Tan, a deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), stated that there had long been such allegations but that they were always denied by the authorities. Tan urged Interior Minister Muammer Güler to make a statement on the issue.
“If there is such a thing going on, it is a big disaster. The fact that the state is illegally profiling its own citizens based on ethnicity and religion, and doing this secretly, is a big catastrophe,” Tan said.