HDP MP Tuma Çelik: it is a constitutional right to have state facilitated Syriac schools

ANKARA, MARDIN, Turkey – Syriac Member of Turkish Parliament for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Mardin Mr. Tuma Çelik, in a session on the amendment of the Higher Education Law in the Turkish General Assembly, said it is a constitutional right of Syriacs to open Syriac schools and that these school be facilitated and funded by the state. Çelik said in his speech to parliament:

“In the districts, villages and neighbourhoods where Syriacs or other minorities are in the majority, they should be provided with the opportunity to have education in their mother tongue by state facility. We do not want anybody to treat us differently or provide us privileges. We only demand our basic human rights under international conventions and within the equal citizenship articles of the Turkish Constitution.”

According to Çelik the Treaty of Lausanne provides a clear provision on the subject:

“The right to education and instruction is one of the basic rights of citizens. It is also guaranteed by the Constitution and by international conventions. Despite this, Syriacs had their rights violated for ninety years. As it is known, the Republic of Turkey signed an international convention in 1923, the Lausanne Treaty. Articles 37 to 44 of this treaty attribute and regulate the rights of different indigenous minorities and there educational rights.”

He added that Article 41 of the Lausanne Treaty states the same:

“Despite this clear provision of Lausanne, Syriacs were offered no opportunity to receive education and study in their native language. Even worse, the last Syriac-run schools in Mardin and Diyarbakır were closed by the state in 1928. We all know what happened in the subsequent process. Tens of thousands of the Syriacs living in Turkey were forced to emigrate as a result of social pressures.

But Syriacs continued to struggle in the media and different international platforms for their basic rights in Turkey. As a result, in 2013, the Ankara 13th Administrative Court noticed the existence of Lausanne and approved for Syriacs to open a school. But at this time, the opportunities for the Syriacs were non-existent due to the conditions they were in.”

‘We do not want privileges, we want equality’

Çelik said the Turkish government should provide appropriate facilities for children of these citizens in primary language education on primary schools in provinces and districts where non-Muslim citizens reside.

“Education is expensive. And the Turkish state does not financially support neither Syriacs nor other minorities to study in their mother tongue. Therefore, the state violates human rights, international treaties and its own law.

However, the Lausanne article I read above is clear. Where Syriacs are the majority, the state is obliged to ensure that schools provide education in Syriac. Now look, I’m a Syriac citizen of the Republic of Turkey. I pay my taxes and I fulfill all the obligations that the state demands from me. But the state does not fulfill its obligations towards me. For example, we are allocating budget to imam-orator schools from the taxes paid by minorities. The Religious Affairs Ministry receives budget from these taxes. But my school, my church, my cleric can in no way benefit from the taxes I pay.

In our opinion, this is an injustice and it has to be ended as soon as possible. For this, in the villages, neighbourhoods and districts where the Syriacs and other minorities are the majority, they should be provided with the opportunity of education in their mother tongue facilitated by the state. We do not want anybody to treat us differently and provide privileges. We simply demand our basic human rights under international conventions and the Turkish Constitution, all within the framework of equal citizenship law.”