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MRG ‘deeply disappointed’ by Europe’s top human rights court ruling on Kurdish names

3 February 2010

Yesterday’s endorsement, by Europe’s highest human rights court, of the Turkish government’s restriction on the use of Kurdish names, is a major setback for minority rights protection in Turkey, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

“MRG is deeply disappointed with the Court’s ruling, which fails to recognise the important role that a name plays in personal, cultural and ethnic identity,” says Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law.

Eight Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent appealed in 2004 and 2005 to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after Turkish courts had refused to allow them to use the letters “Q”, “W” or “X” in their legal names given on their national identity cards. The letters are not officially part of the Turkish alphabet.

MRG has provided legal support and advice to Celalettin Yöyler, one of the applicants, throughout this case.

“In failing to protect Mr Yöyler’s rights, the ECtHR has denied minorities throughout Europe the opportunity to rectify the disparity between personal identity and the identity given by the state,” added Lucy Claridge.

The court said, in the case, Turkey did not violate Article 8 and Article 14 of the European Convention of Human Rights on private and family life and discrimination.

“In preventing Kurdish citizens from linking their names, which are a central component of personal identity, with the linguistic and cultural traditions of the Kurdish community, Turkey’s restriction pervades all aspects of their lives,” says Claridge.

Celalettin Yöyler had requested that his Kurdish name, Xweşbin Yekta, be registered. In Kurdish, Xweşbin means optimist and Yekta, unique. When the name is converted into the Turkish alphabet, it would be written as Heşbin, which has no meaning in Kurdish.

Mr. Yöyler is a Kurdish scholar and author, involved with the Istanbul Kurdish Institute.

Notes to editors

  • To arrange interviews with Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Head of Law, contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].
  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non governmental organisation working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.