Minority and Refugee Rights in Turkey: 2022 in Review

Turkey continued to limit the rights of minorities and refugees in 2022, with these communities suffering from rights violations, hate speech and attacks throughout the year. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his key ally, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, and some opposition parties employed a divisive ultranationalist rhetoric, especially against Syrians and Kurds, contributing to the rise in hate crimes.

The government made little effort to address religious freedom issues during the year. According to the yearly report by the US Department of State, rights violations against non-Muslim minorities included restricting efforts of minority religious groups to train their clergy, entry bans and deportations of non-Turkish-citizen leaders of Protestant congregations and government officials’ use of antisemitic rhetoric in speeches.

In 2022 anti-immigrant sentiment reached a boiling point, fueled by Turkey’s economic woes. Xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes against Syrian refugees continued increasing as the country prepared for upcoming elections.

Moreover, Turkey rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghur refugees in 2022 due to risks to the country’s “national security” or “social order.”

The state suppression of the Kurdish language and culture continued to rise across the country.

Alevi leaders repeatedly expressed their concern that the situation of Turkey’s Alevi population became increasingly precarious as the government of President Erdoğan failed to fulfill its promise of granting them more rights to enable free practice of their beliefs and imposed its own version of Islam on various segments of society.

The latest rights reports revealed that Roma people did not have proper access to healthcare during the year. Roma children suffered from a lack of nutrition, poor housing conditions, a lack of heating and psychological problems. Drugs were found to be another common problem among Roma youth.

According to a report by the LGBT+ advocacy group KAOS GL, the country’s LGBT+ community continued feeling threatened under the AKP government in 2022.

Here is some of the most important news from 2022 in the field of minority and refugee rights:

Kurds continued to face discrimination and hate speech

Turkish authorities detained 10 people in June during a wedding in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district for wearing traditional Kurdish scarves in the colors of the Kurdish flag. The groom, Mesut Karçık, and nine guests were detained for wearing the yellow, red and green scarves. More..

A group of university students in Turkey’s southern Karaman province were attacked in April by the far-right ultranationalist Grey Wolves for dancing to Kurdish music. More..

Restrictions on use of the Kurdish language

Turkey’s Constitutional Court found no rights violation in disciplinary punishments given to 22 teachers who staged a protest about the importance of the freedom to use one’s mother tongue. More..

Imprisoned Kurdish singer Nudem Durak in May called on Turkish authorities to release her from prison, saying she was suffering from multiple illnesses and wanted to sing as a free woman once again. More..

In January police officers prevented four young street performers from singing in Kurdish in one of İstanbul’s popular streets, later briefly detaining them. More..

Local administrations in May canceled four events, three concerts and a theater play that were to be performed in Kurdish in three Turkish provinces. More..

Remains of man killed in clashes between Turkish security forces and PKK handed to family in a bag

The remains of a young man who was killed during clashes between Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in January 2016 were returned to his father Ali Rıza Arslan in a cloth bag nearly seven years after his death. Arslan received the remains of his son, Hakan, at the Diyarbakır courthouse in August. More..

Armored vehicles and abandoned explosives killed civilians

A total of 67 children in Turkey have been killed by armored vehicles, landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) since 2011, according to a report by the bar association of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. More..

Abdulgaffar Dayan (23) died in January after he was hit by an armored police vehicle in the southeastern province of Şırnak. More..

The ruling AKP and its ally the MHP in February rejected a parliamentary motion by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to investigate civilian deaths caused by armored vehicles in Turkey’s Southeast. More..

2-month-old baby accompanied mother arrested for alleged links to PKK

Reyhan Abdi, a mother of three from northeastern Syria’s Rojava province who was arrested for alleged links to the PKK, was accompanied by her 2-month-old daughter in prison. More..

Elderly Kurdish couple sent to prison to serve sentences for allegedly aiding and abetting terrorism

An elderly Kurdish couple in eastern Turkey’s Van province were sent to prison in May after the top appeals court upheld sentences handed down to them for allegedly aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. More..

HDP deputy called for investigation into death of Kurdish inmate

HDP lawmaker Sait Dede called for an investigation into the circumstances of the death of Şervan Can Güder, a Kurdish inmate in Van F-Type Prison. Güder died after suffering a heart attack in March. More..

80-year-old Kurdish inmate died of cancer in Turkish prison

Kurdish inmate Abdo Baran, 80, who was suffering from end-stage colon cancer, died in March in southeastern Turkey’s Mardin province after being denied release from prison to seek proper treatment. More..

Kurdish teenager died in police target practice area

The body of 16-year-old Muharrem Aksem was discovered in March in an open area in southeastern Şanlıurfa province that is used by special operations police twice a week for target practice. On the day the body was discovered, officers had been practicing in the area, according to witness statements. Aksem was a shepherd and had gone out to tend his flock. More..

Court said killing of Kurdish student by police officer in SE Turkey was ‘legal’

A regional appeals court ruled that no charges can be leveled against a police officer who shot Kurdish university student Kemal Kurkut to death during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır in 2017 and that the student’s killing took place “within the framework of the law.” More..

4 Alevi institutions in Turkish capital were attacked

On August 2 the Türkmen Alevi Bektaşi Foundation’s headquarters in Çankaya was targeted around 1:30 p.m. and the Şah-ı Merdan cultural association in Mamak at 2:30 p.m., while the Ana Fatma Cemevi and the Gökçebel Village Association – both also in Mamak – were attacked simultaneously around 3:40 p.m. According to a lawyer representing the institutions, the attacks were “organized and planned beforehand.” More..

Alevi associations refused to pay high energy bills for cemevis, charged as ‘businesses’

The Federation of Alevi Associations announced in February that they refused to pay high electricity bills for cemevis, Alevi places of worship, which were considered to be “businesses.” The cemevis were subjected to the highest increase among electricity users in Turkey. More..

Alevi leader attacked in Istanbul in apparent hate crime

Selami Sarıtaş, an Alevi leader in Istanbul’s Kartal district, was attacked and beaten in front of his house in August by two unknown assailants in an apparent hate crime. More..

Alevi organizations called on Turkish authorities to abolish compulsory religious classes and recognize cemevis as houses of worship

Alevi organizations in March staged demonstrations in several Turkish provinces demanding that compulsory religion classes in schools be abolished and that cemevis be officially recognized by the state. More..

Court acquitted 3 who put on a show atop gate of Armenian church in İstanbul

A Turkish court in March acquitted three people who danced on the gate of an Armenian church in İstanbul. The incident, which took place at the Surp Takavor Church in Kadıköy, sparked outrage at the time among Turkey’s Armenian community and Armenian activists. More..


Non-Muslim minority foundations were unable to hold board elections for 9 years

Christian and Jewish minority communities in Turkey complained that minority foundations had not been able to hold board of director elections for the past nine years since the government suspended election regulations in 2013 and failed to draft a replacement. More..

Jewish cemetery in İstanbul desecrated by vandals

Thirty-six headstones in the Jewish Hasköy cemetery in İstanbul were knocked over in July in the apparent vandalism of a Jewish burial ground, according to the Turkish Chief Rabbinate Foundation. More..

Discrimination against Roma in Turkey increased during the pandemic

A report drafted by Boğaziçi University researchers revealed that discrimination against the Roma community in Turkey increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, Roma children suffered from a lack of nutrition, poor housing conditions, a lack of heating and psychological problems. More..

Syrian refugees continued to suffer from hate speech, discrimination and attacks

Xenophobia, hate speech and hate crimes against Syrian refugees increased in Turkey as the country prepared for upcoming elections, the Istanbul-based Asylum Seekers Platform said at a press conference in September. More..

A group of unidentified assailants wearing police uniforms raided an İstanbul apartment where several young Syrian refugee men were living and killed Naif Elnaif, a 19-year-old refugee, in January. More..

Faris Muhammed Al-Ali, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee, was stabbed to death in September in an apparent hate crime in the southern Turkish province of Hatay. He was attacked by five people while walking with a friend after his shift at work. The two were taken to a secluded spot where Al-Ali was stabbed and his friend hit on the head. More..

A landlord and his son attacked their own rental unit in İstanbul, breaking down the front door with an ax while their Syrian tenants were sleeping, after the family rejected a 230 percent rent increase and refused to move out. More..

Billboards telling Syrian refugees in Arabic to return to their homeland since they’re no longer wanted in Turkey were put up in the northwestern city of Bolu upon the order of Mayor Tanju Özcan from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). More..

Philippe Leclerc, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) representative in Turkey, said approximately 800 Syrians leave Turkey for Syria every week but that conditions are not suitable for a large number of returns. More..

5 Afghans found stabbed to death in Turkish capital

Five Afghan nationals were found stabbed to death in a house in Ankara in November. A medical team arrived to find the victims’ dead bodies after their friends, who had been unable to reach them, notified the authorities. They determined that the five Afghan nationals were stabbed to death a week earlier. More..

Turkish gendarmes opened fire on van carrying refugees, killing a child

In July Turkish gendarmes fired on a van carrying migrants that disobeyed an order to halt while passing through a village on the Iranian border. A 4-year-old boy was killed, and 12 others were injured. More..

Turkey violated Afghans’ right to apply for int’l protection through deportations or pushbacks at Iranian border: HRW report

Turkey deported tens of thousands of Afghans directly to Afghanistan or pushed them back at its land border with Iran without checking to see if they were eligible for international protection, Human Rights Watch said in a report released in November. More..

Turkey denied citizenship to some Uyghur refugees

Turkey rejected the citizenship applications of some Uyghur refugees due to risks to the country’s “national security” or “social order.” Erkin Ekrem, director of the Uyghur Research Institute, said Turkish Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı told him and other Uyghur representatives that some foreign nationals, including Uyghurs from China, were considered risks to national security. More..

Turkish police threatened Uyghurs protesting outside Chinese Consulate with detention and deportation

Police in November threatened Uyghurs outside the Chinese Consulate in Istanbul who were protesting the death of innocent Uyghurs in a fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, with detention and deportation to China. More..

Somali restaurant owner detained for deportation despite legal residence

Mohamed Isse Abdullah, a Somali restaurant owner living in Ankara, was detained in September for deportation despite being a legal resident. More..

Turkey’s LGBT+ under increasing government pressure, report revealed

A report by the LGBT+ advocacy group KAOS GL revealed that Turkey’s LGBT+ community felt increasingly threatened under the AKP government. The report was based on data collected from 2007 to 2021 and documented rights violations and discrimination against the LGBT+ community. More..

Turkish authorities banned all Pride Week activities in Istanbul

Turkish authorities banned all Pride Week activities in Istanbul in order to “maintain peace and security, and prevent criminal activities,” amid an increasing number of bans on LGBT+ events across the country.

526 detained for attending events during Pride Month in Turkey

A total of 526 people, including 34 minors, were detained by police at Pride Month events held across Turkey in June. More..

Istanbul neighborhood community center appeared in court for allegedly ‘disseminating terrorist and LGBT propaganda

The Tarlabaşı Community Center (TTM), a neighborhood community center in Istanbul that had been active since 2006, was scheduled to appear in court in April for allegedly “disseminating terrorist and LGBT propaganda.” More..

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