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MRG’s statement at the UNHRC on the UPR of Turkey

26 June 2015

Speaker: Ms. Glenn Payot

Human Rights Council – 29th Regular Session

Thank you Mr. President,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) regrets that Turkey confirmed through this UPR its selective and discriminatory conception of minority rights. Relying on the treaty of Lausanne, Turkey recognizes only Armenians, Jews and Greek Orthodox as minorities. Muslim minorities, including the large Kurdish community, are excluded from the definition, as well as Roma, Laz, Yezidis, Alevi and other ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.

MRG can only deplore that Turkey rejected all recommendations calling on the ratification of international instruments on minority rights, including treaties as widely ratified as the UNESCO Convention against discrimination in education and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. MRG also regrets that Turkey decided to maintain its reservation on article 27 of the ICCPR and other Treaties that include protection of rights of minorities.

MRG would like to stress more particularly the fundamental issue of education rights of minority communities, which was the object of a number of recommendations. According to our research, many members of minority communities feel that the Turkish education system works to assimilate them, and to promote Turkish identity and nationalism, while distinct minority cultures, history and religions are ignored.

Despite some progress, the use of minority languages in schools continues to be an issue. Public schools still do not provide education in minority languages. Moreover many problems related to the selective courses on Kurdish, Laz and Circassian languages (training of teachers, development of textbooks and teaching materials, opening of courses in schools) are still to be addressed.

Additionally, only Christians and Jews are permitted to opt out of the mandatory religious classes. On that respect, MRG regrets that Turkey rejected the recommendation of France to put an end to mandatory religion courses for the Alevis, and calls on Turkey to remove compulsory religious classes from the curriculum or reform in line with the relevant ECtHR judgments.

More efforts should also be made to ensure the education rights of Turkey’s most disadvantaged communities, such as displaced Kurds and Roma, who remain extremely marginalized.

To finish with, MRG would like to insist on the fact that recognition of minorities’ existence and guaranteeing their rights – including, but not limited to, education rights – will not only ensure preservation of minorities’ identities, it will also contribute to conflict resolution and understanding at all levels of Turkish society.

I thank you.