globe U.S. Department of State



Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2001
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 4, 2002

National/Racial/Ethnic minorities

The Constitution does not recognize the Kurds as a national, racial, or ethnic minority, although they are in fact the country's largest ethnic and linguistic minority.  Kurds who publicly or politically assert their Kurdish identity or publicly espouse using Kurdish in the public domain risk public censure, harassment, or prosecution.  However, Kurds who are long-term residents in industrialized cities in the West are in many cases assimilated into the political, economic, and social life of the nation, and much intermarriage has occurred over many generations.  Kurds migrating westward (including those displaced by the conflict in the southeast) bring with them their culture and village identity, but often little education and few skills.

Private spoken and printed communications in Kurdish are legal; however, the use of minority languages, including Kurdish, in television and radio broadcasts, by political parties, and in schools is restricted by many laws and articles of the Constitution (see Section 2.a.); these restrictions are invoked arbitrarily.  A reform of the Constitution in October removed references to "languages prohibited by law" in two articles referring to broadcasting and public dissemination; however, the relevant laws (Press Law and Radio/Television law) must be amended for the use of Kurdish to become legal, which had not occurred by year's end.  In January the Diyarbakir Security Director informed the HADEP central district organization of that province that they were not allowed to use any language other than Turkish for their rules and regulations; programs; indoor and outdoor meetings and gatherings; brochures, posters, and tapes.

Some groups such as the MKM, a corporation with branches in several cities outside the southeast, established to promote Kurdish language and culture were able to function but faced occasional government interference.  Three of the four centers run by the MKM, the NGO that seeks to promote Kurdish language and culture, remain closed in Sanliurfa, Diyarbakir, and Van by government order.  The Mersin center continued to operate.  Some officials alleged that the MKM was linked to the PKK.  Police exert pressure against the groups and hinder their activities, and local officials monitor and often interrupt their cultural events. The Kurdish culture and research foundation (Kurt-Kav) remained open and continued some activities, including Kurdish language training and a study of Kurdish oral tradition; however, Kurt-Kav faced charges of promoting separatism based on its cooperation with a Swedish university to promote study of the Kurdish language.  The trial against the foundation's chairman, Hasan Kaya, continued at year's end.

The Ministry of Education tightly controls the curriculum in schools (except foreign-language schools not part of the Turkish system).  The small numbers of Greek-language students have little opportunity to continue their education in the country, and consequently many go to Greece, often never to return. 

Although there is little discrimination against Armenian Turks, a foreign couple with an Armenian surname was prevented from opening a hotel in Van in part because the hotel has an Armenian name.  According to press reports and local business sources, local security forces harassed the couple because of their perceived Armenian identity.  In October an employee of the couple was detained briefly.

No accurate accounting of the Romani population exists, but it may be significant in regions near Bulgaria and Greece.  No incidents of public or government harassment directed against Roma were reported; however, experts claimed that Roma experienced discrimination, for example, regarding employment. In September the Ministry of Education announced its intention to change the definition of "gypsy" in Turkish dictionaries that are published by the Ministry.  The old definition had included terms such as "shameless" and "thief"; the new definition will be "a community whose first homeland was northern India and who are either settled or nomadic in different countries, primarily in Europe, who speak Romani and the mother tongue of the countries where they live."

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