Monday, February 11, 2008

The Assimilation Policy of Turkey Continues

By Orom Lahdo
EasternStar New Agency
On November 24, 1934, Turkey introduced the surname act. In Turkey, this law is called "Soyadi kanunu". The purpose of this law was to force all groups of people, regardless of their ethnicity or religion, to assume a Turkish last name. This law is still applied today, and it is strictly forbidden for Christians or any ethnic minorities to assume "non-Turkish names". These names are by law prohibited in Turkey.

Nuri Amno (formerly Aktas), an Assyrian from the city of Midyat, is today a Swiss citizen. He changed back the Turkish last name Aktas, which was forced on his family, to Amno, when he was granted Swiss citizenship. In order to do the same change in Turkey, the barrister Rudi Sümer in Midyat was hired.

Nuri Amno (formerly Aktas), who through his double citizenship also is registered in the municipality of Midyat, applied in the summer of 2007 to have his enforced Turkish last name "Aktas" changed back to Amno, which is the last name that his grandfather and generations before him had used before the compulsory legislation was introduced in 1934.

Sümer handed in an application for a change of the last name Aktas to Amno to a Turkish court of law. The application was refused be the court, which motivated its decision with support of the Turkish law of names, saying that "the new last name must originate from the Turkish language" and that "it is not permitted to assume names from foreign races or nations". The quotes are from law no 2552 § (3.7) in the Turkish Law.

Sümer appealed against this decision to the Supreme Court of Turkey (Yargitay), which established the decision of the lower courts. Sümer says that this decision is in contradiction to 10 § in the Turkish constitution, which stipulates "everybody's equal value before the law, irrespective of race, religion or e thnicity." After the decision of the Supreme Court, there are no higher instances to appeal to in Turkey. Sümer has therefore appealed to the court of the European Union, the court for human rights, in Strasbourg.

This is the first time an Assyrian appeals a decision made by a Turkish court to the European court in Strasbourg. The case is the first of its kind, and could become a precedent. According to Sümer, similar cases are usually taking five years before a decision is announced by the European court. The case was taken by the court in 2007.

By Orom Lahdo
EasternStar New Agency

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



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