Difference between revisions of "Turkey"

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"That resolution is not binding. It does not matter whether they took such a  
"That resolution is not binding. It does not matter whether they took such a  
decision or not. We will continue on our way," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told  
decision or not. We will continue on our way," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told  
Armenians killed innocent Turks in Azerbaijan. And they let the Armenians live in Turkey? Deport all Armenians from Turkey, if they continue to speak of their "genocide".
private CNN-Turk television.
private CNN-Turk television.

Revision as of 22:28, 30 September 2006

Turkey, which encompases much of historic Armenia, today has a small Armenian community estimated at 40 to 70,000 remaining in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), one small Armenian village of Vakifli at Musa Dagh (on the Med. Sea by Syria), and otherwise, with the exception of the Hamshen Armenians, virtually no other Armenians remain in Turkey.

Turkey's Armenians fall under the religious jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Laws on Minority Foundations

Only 2,500 buildings:

According to the Treaty of Lausanne, there are about nine or 10 non-Muslim minority communities in Turkey. They make up about 125,000 people: approximately 70,000 Armenians, 20,000 Jews, 10,000 Bahais, 3,000 Catholic Nasturis, 2,500 Greeks, 2,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,500 Protestants and 100 Adventists. They have a total of 161 foundations.

The number of their properties that cause us problems is 2,471.

Foundations for Greeks, Armenians, Jews and other non-Muslim minority groups have worked since Ottoman times to keep their places of worship up and running. These foundations had no limitations imposed on them during the Ottoman period but were forced to disclose the properties they own after the founding of the republic. Each disclosed the full extent of properties they owned.

Between 1936 and 1974 they faced no limitations. The funds they received were mostly bequeathed by members of their communities.

After the 1974 Cyprus military intervention, a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals changed everything. It decided that these foundations had no legal authority and had to transfer all properties and funds they had received between 1936 and 1974.

The Treasury seized all the properties obtained between 1936 and 1974, either selling them off to others or keeping them. All objections raised by the foundations were rejected.

When Turkey applied to become a European Union member, everything changed. According to the Copenhagen Criteria, limitations imposed on the foundations had to be lifted. The properties seized needed to be returned. Ankara promised the EU that it would do so, or pay compensation. The amendment process of the foundations laws began but the bureaucracy resisted. Despite all the efforts of the Foreign Ministry and the EU General Secretariat, the revised law is still yet to pass.

(The above information is from Mehmet Ali Birand's column in the Turkish Daily News on 2005/5/1)

On September 20, 2005, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for the return of real estate belonging to minority foundations.

In the first trial, Fener Greek Boy's School Foundation and Yedikule Surp Prigic Armenian Hospital Foundation demanded the return of properties, which they owned between 1936 and 1974, but which were handed over to their previous owners following a Court of Appeals' ruling in 1974. The decision will expectedly be announced in the upcoming months.

During yesterday's hearing at the ECHR, lawyers represent the foundations claimed that Turkey had violated one of the articles of European Convention on Human Rights concerning the protection of properties.

In addition, they told i that the institutions defined as minority foundations by the Lausanne Treaty have the right to own property assets.

On the other side, Turkish legal representatives explained the necessary legal amendments were realized during Turkey's European Union (EU) process, including the development of the Foundations Bill, which is now pending in the Turkish Parliament.

According to an arrangement dated 2002, religious minority foundations were entitled to own real estate.

The ECHR decision will determine the future of properties belonging to nearly 900 foundations, which changed hands following the decision by the Court of Appeals.

Since the General Directorate of Foundations does not disclose the number of real estate handed over to third persons due to confidentiality, it is not exactly known how many foundations' properties will be affected by the ECHR decision.

(Published: Wednesday, September 21, 2005 zaman.com)

Armenian Assembly of America
September 14, 2005
CONTACT: Christine Kojoian
Email: ckojoian@aaainc.org

Key Committee To Hold Mark-Up On Genocide Resolution

Washington, DC - The European Court of Human Rights is expected to announce a decision next week on the property rights of minority foundations. Specifically, the Court will adjudicate two cases filed by the Soorp Purgich Armenian Hospital Foundation and the Fener Greek Boys High School Foundation against Turkey.

In both cases, property gifted to the Armenian and Greek foundations were seized as the Turkish courts upheld orders declaring that the bequest violated a decree disallowing non-Moslems from donating real estate. If the court rules in favor of the foundations, hundreds of buildings seized in the past may be returned.

Earlier this year, Armenian Assembly Board Member and former Board of Directors Chairman Van Krikorian testified before the Helsinki Commission on freedom of religion in Turkey with respect to the Armenian Church and community. During his testimony Krikorian noted that "for centuries, Armenians paid and in many places still pay a high price for their Christianity," and that seizure and destruction of Armenian Church property was commonplace. Krikorian noted that in 1914, in Turkey, there were approximately 5,000 Armenian Churches, seminaries and schools registered by the Patriarchate and that today, 90 years after the Armenian Genocide, there are less than 50 Armenian Churches under the Patriarchate's jurisdiction. Krikorian also pointed to the Soorp Purgich Armenian Hospital as example of how the Treaty of Lausanne and other international standards for protecting religious rights are not being upheld, and urged the Helsinki Commission to play a critical leadership in addressing these issues.

Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern, who also testified before the Commission, called the expected decision by the European Court "an opportunity to right a long-standing injustice and an opportunity for Turkey to utilize this opportunity to strengthen its commitment to democratic reforms and to uphold its international obligations to protect its citizens." International Christian Concern (ICC) is a non-profit and interdenominational human rights organization dedicated to assisting and sustaining Christians who are victims of persecution and discrimination due to practicing their faith. ICC's website is www.persecution.org.

At the same time that the European Human Rights Court is considering this matter, in the United States, the House International Relations Committee is scheduled to review another human rights issue; affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. The Committee will mark-up H. Res. 316, a bipartisan, pan-Armenian resolution, which reaffirms the United States record on the Armenian Genocide, and was introduced by Armenian Caucus Members George Radanovich (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), along with Caucus Co-Chairs Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ).

"The anticipated European Court action is one of many venues in which Turkey's human and minority rights are being reviewed. Tomorrow, the House International Relations Committee will consider legislation, which affirms the Armenian Genocide and the American role in alerting the international community and launching an unprecedented humanitarian campaign to save the survivors," said Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "Over the last weeks and months, the community has rallied its support behind H. Res. 316 and we are confident about tomorrow's mark-up," added Ardouny.

Editor's Note: The testimony of Van Krikorian and Jeff King before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) regarding Religious Freedom in Turkey can be found at www.csce.org.



By Hakob Chakrian

AZG Armenian Daily #159

Turkish Papers Highlight the Event

With an aim to prevent future tragedies, all central Turkish newspapers highlighted yesterday the events of September 6 1955 when authorities in Istanbul organized massacres. On September 5, the eve of the pogroms, a bomb went off in the house where Kemal Ataturk was born in Thessalonica. The explosion only broke the windows of the house, and Greek law enforcers detained law student at Thessalonica University, Oktay Engin, and the guard of Turkish consulate.

The consulate was located right by the house. The arrested student, Turkish agent as disclosed later, was soon released under Turkey's diplomatic pressure and soon fled to Turkey. He was given a position in Istanbul municipality and was appointed governor of Nevsehir after graduation.

These facts make clear that the explosion in Thessalonica was a state organized provocation to open doors for pogroms of Greek, Armenian and Jewish minorities of Turkey.

Turkish state radio aired the news of explosion at 1.30 pm local time. Istanbul-based Ekspres paper informed about the explosion at 4.30 pm local time September 6. Representative of "Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus", Kmail Onal, makes a statement on the pages of the paper, "Those attacking our sanctities will pay high price". 2 hours later, members of student unions and representatives of the "Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus" gather at the square of Bera in Tksim. The mob is armed with knives and bludgeons. The pogroms start after speeches.

The Turkish mob robs firstly the stores of the Greeks then churches and homes killing residents and lynching Greek priests. Armenians and Jews are not spared massacres, and the anti-Greek pogroms soon flowed into massacre of all non-Muslims.

Greeks of Istanbul's considerably big Greek community headed for their fatherland after the pogroms. Repatriation continued till 1960s. Today there are only 2000 Greeks in Istanbul. The number of Armenians there is around 50.000.

As there are almost no Greeks in Istanbul and the Jews are not favorable to attack, Armenians, as a rule, suffer Turkish mob's aggression. A cause is always at hand: recognition of the Armenian Genocide in various parliaments and the Nagorno Karabakh issue.

The point here is that no matter how reformed Turkey becomes, it still needs squaring off with its history. That history is continuous. Armenian Genocide was carried out in days of the Young Turks. The September 6 pogroms were carried out in modern Turkey founded by Kemal Ataturk and in days of Adnan Menderes' Democratic Party. Times are changing, self-consciousness of the Turks should also change.

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New York Times
Sept 23 2005

Photo Show on a Pogrom 50 Years Ago Is Itself Attacked by a Mob

ISTANBUL - Tucked away for more than 40 years, the 120 black-and-white photographs hanging in a gallery here have the stark appearance and potential emotional impact of evidence presented in a legal proceeding.

Karsi Gallery

One of the photographs from the Karsi Gallery collection, from 1955.

This article is exclusive to the Web. And that, it turns out, is what they are.

One image shows a mob outside a row of storefronts, with some people watching passively and others cheering as a shop is ransacked. A young man stands with his half-clenched fist raised in the air, as if he is egging on the vandals; his other hand rests passively on his hip, suggesting nonchalance. A boy stares up numbly, as if looking in vain for answers. Above him, a man in the shell of the shop's wrecked building heaves a baby carriage to the street below.

Fifty years ago this month, erroneous reports spread that Greeks had set fire to the childhood home of Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, in Salonika, Greece. The rumors prompted an angry mob to converge on Taksim Square in Istanbul for an anti-foreigner pogrom that left thousands of houses and many hundreds of shops destroyed.

Gallery officials said about a dozen people were killed, but the death toll has never been confirmed because of official secrecy. Cemeteries were desecrated, dozens of churches were burned, and many schools were plundered.

Fahri Coker, a former assistant military prosecutor, served as a legal adviser to the military investigation of the events of Sept. 6-7, 1955, an inquiry that historians describe as a whitewash. Coker had 250 photographs taken by foreign news photographers and government employees, and even a few by Ara Guler, one of Turkey's few internationally known photographers. Judge Coker held on to the pictures and left word that they could be displayed only after his death, which occurred in 2001.

To mark the 50-year anniversary of the long night of violence, Karsi, a gallery in the Beyoglu neighborhood, where the pogrom occurred, organized an exhibition of the photos to open on Sept. 6. Although curators were no doubt aware that the pictures would arouse strong feelings, given the emotion surrounding historical discussions in Turkey, they have been surprised by the passions unleashed by the show.

The Sept. 6 opening was disrupted by a group of nationalists who entered the gallery, carrying a Turkish flag. Chanting slogans like "Turkey, love it or leave it!," they vandalized some of the photographs and tossed others out the window. They also threw eggs at the pictures, leaving a vivid testimonial to how controversial free expression remains in Turkey.

"We left it that way, but unfortunately, after a few days it started to smell," Ozkan Taner, one of the gallery's directors, said of the exhibition, which the gallery then cleaned and restored. It remains on view through Sept. 26.

News of the attacks spread quickly to the front pages of the Turkish papers and to television and radio news broadcasts, turning the show into a national topic of conversation.

Attendance has been heavy, easily exceeding expectations. On a recent day, dozens of people crowded into the gallery to study the images. The pictures, as might be expected, show faces riven by anger and fear, but the photos are also packed with small surprises.

One centers on the familiar monument at the center of Taksim Square, so crowded with young protesters that some are falling off as others rise to take their places. At the top of the image, a small group is working to hoist the Turkish flag, while a young man in a crisp, clean suit holds unsteadily over his head a small portrait of Ataturk. But away from the monument, the people in the crowd turning to face the photographer have blank, uncertain expressions, as if they are as unnerved by the outpouring as many of the gallery's visitors have been.

In the beginning, the photo exhibition was hailed as a major step forward for a country trying to show a more democratic face in preparation for possible membership in the European Union.

"For the first time in the history of Turkey, a shameful happening has been brought out into the open," said Ishak Alaton, chairman of the Alarko Holding company and a leader of Turkey's tiny population of Jews. "September 6, 1955, was our Kristallnacht."

Ozcan Yurdalan, a freelance photographer here who took part in a recent news conference denouncing the attacks on the exhibition, said the straightforward documentary style of the photos made them more disturbing.

"They show directly what they saw in life," he said. "If you take straight photographs, they show the reality - the faces of the people, some fearful, some thinking, Yeah, we are doing something well against our enemy."

"The pictures showed me this is not the past," he said. "We are still living in the same condition today. I am ashamed of that, and also very fearful."

Greek-Turkish tensions over the future of Cyprus were running high in 1955, and the future of that island remains unresolved, threatening to hold up Turkey's bid to begin negotiations to join the European Union. More broadly, Western ideas of the rightful role of dissent have made limited inroads in Turkey. The acclaimed author Orhan Pamuk has been charged with "public denigrating of Turkish identity" for telling a newspaper: "Thirty-thousand Kurds were killed here, one million Armenians as well. And almost no one talks about it."

Mehmet Guleryuz, an Abstract Expressionist-style painter who helped organize a protest against the attack on the exhibition, said: "We're going through sensitive times. We have to have the ability to open up hidden parts of our history and deal with it. We have to have the ability to argue."


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Balakian Letter

To the Editors:

Christopher de Bellaigue's "Left Out in Turkey" explores important aspects of Turkey's long history of problems with its minority peoples and Turkey's current efforts to improve its record, but in his observations on Turkey's dealings with the Armenian genocide and its aftermath, important facts are left out.

Although Mr. de Bellaigue notes that more than a dozen countries have recognized the Armenian genocide (there are in fact twenty countries that have done so), he fails to note how truculent the Turkish government's response to this growing movement has been.

In asking the Turkish government to acknowledge its crimes against the Armenians in 1915, the German Bundestag made perhaps the most thoughtful and resonant statement to Turkey yet made by a governmental body. In its resolution of June 15, the Bundestag "deplore[d] the deeds of the Young Turk government in the Ottoman Empire which have resulted in the almost total annihilation of the Armenians in Anatolia." Refusing to be self-righteous (Germany was Turkey's World War I ally), the Bundestag acknowledged its own crimes against the Armenian people and concluded with a deeply democratic statement acknowledging "from its own national experience how hard it is for every people to face the dark sides of its past" and asserted "that facing one's own history fairly and squarely is necessary" and is an essential part of "the European culture of remembrance to which belongs the open discussion of the dark sides of each national history."

Instead of heeding this advice, the Turkish government is going in the other direction. Turkey has made diplomatic threats and canceled business contracts, pulled its embassy out of France (briefly) after the French recognized the genocide in 2000, and scrapped state meetings with Poland for the same reason this past April. Ankara is now threatening to pass resolutions about genocides they claim these countries have committed. No countries' records are clean, but they will have to search far back to get the Swedes and the Swiss on this.

Recently, Turkey's Ministry of Education ordered that the national curriculum must teach students that there was no genocide committed against the Armenians and that all such ideas are groundless. The Turkish Historical Society, a state-controlled organization, published a book, The Armenians: Expulsion and Migration, that was vigorously promoted in Turkey and billed as the final word on the subject. Turkish historian Taner Akçam has called the book "a crime against scholarship" in the recent issue of Journal of Genocide Research, because the authors falsify the history of 1915 by altering the foreign office records of the United States, France, Germany, and other countries whose records testify to a systematic plan of race extermination.

The Ankara Chamber of Commerce spent an estimated $1 million concocting a promotional DVD on Turkey, and paid the European edition of Time to package it with the June 6 issue. The DVD contains an hour-long segment that presents a counterfeit version of the events of 1915, blaming the victims for their fate and absolving Turkey of any responsibility for the eradication of the Armenians of Anatolia. In late June, in Bremen, Germany, Turkish organizations opened an exhibit of photographs and texts that purport Armenians massacred more than a half-million Turks. This absurdity has become a claim of the Turkish government in recent months. The International Association of Genocide Scholars conservatively puts the Armenian death toll at over a million, while many historians put it at 1.5 million. Several years ago, one could find that Ankara would assent to 600,000 Armenian deaths, then it was 400,000, then 300,000, and now it's down to 200,000. Pretty soon no Armenians will have died.

In the face of rational world opinion, might not this be a moment for the Turkish government to pause and to be a bit self-evaluative? For it is not only Armenians who are asking Turkey to face its past, but the mainstream scholarly and human rights culture, as well as numerous governments. The International Association of Genocide Scholars (the largest body of experts on the subject) recently sent an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that summarizes the unambiguous scholarly record on the Armenian genocide.

Serious democracy is rooted in free intellectual discourse, in educational curricula that are not directed by the government, and in a society's capacity for rigorous, critical self-evaluation in its public life. The good news is that a small but brave culture of Turkish scholars and writers has emerged in the past decade, like those who were in Istanbul to participate in the May 25 conference on the Armenian genocide that was sadly stopped when Turkish authorities called it treason. These writers are devoted to the serious study of the eradication of the Armenians in 1915, and if they are allowed to express themselves freely they might be able to lead their culture into a new age.

Peter Balakian
Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities
Colgate University
Hamilton, New York


Turkey's Brutal WWII-Era Wealth Tax

Copyright © 2005 Tax Analysts
Tax Notes International Magazine

September 5, 2005

by Cathy Phillips, editor of Tax Notes International

The voluntary tax systems of the United States and many other countries aren't perfect, but they sure beat the heck out of the alternative. Consider, for example, life under a regime where tax rates aren't made public, assessments are arrived at in secret, and failure-to-comply penalties include banishment to forced labor camps.

This week we present a fascinating article by DAVID JOULFAIAN on a wealth tax adopted by Turkey in 1942 that included all of the above unpleasantries. In the midst of World War II, Turkish citizens also were victims of a monstrous tax system that they were powerless to change. Joulfaian describes the discriminatory nature of the wealth tax, a lopsided levy shouldered by the minority Christian and Jewish populations in the predominately Muslim nation, and the misguided fiscal policies that allowed the tax to take root in the first place (p. 915).



Wealth taxes are common in many countries, and represent one of the oldest forms of taxation. Local governments in the United States, for instance, levy annual property taxes. Annual wealth taxes are levied in several European countries as well. The estate tax is the only wealth tax levied by the U.S. government and applies to wealth held at death. The wealthy are at times also taxed at progressive tax rates on their earnings in addition to being exposed to wealth taxes. Governments levy those taxes to diversify their sources of revenues, augment and protect the income tax base, and regulate the distribution of income and the concentration of wealth. Governments may resort to additional taxes in times of national emergency.

A general guiding principle for any tax system is that it should be sufficiently transparent to enable a taxpayer to construct the size of wealth or income subject to tax, as well as the ensuing tax liability. For local property taxes, for instance, cities inform property owners of the assessed value of their real estate and the amount of tax they owe. For income and estate taxes, taxpayers report the amount of income received and the size of terminal wealth to the government. Once the taxable amount is established, a tax rate schedule is applied to determine the tax liability. Taxpayers are able to appeal assessments and are given adequate time to prepare their documents and make provisions for paying the amounts owed.

A student of taxation may encounter many fascinating features of the various taxes levied throughout history, dating back to ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. Yet no tax system rivals the peculiarities of a tax employed in the middle of the 20th century. On the morning of November 12, 1942, the citizens of Turkey woke up to the most draconian wealth tax ever envisaged. While the tax in theory applied to the entire predominantly Muslim nation, in practice much of its burden rested with the minority Christian and Jewish communities who primarily resided in Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople. Neither the rate of taxation nor the taxable base and its derivation were made public. Tax assessments were arrived at in secret, and individuals were directed to settle their government assessed liabilities within two weeks, without any appeal provisions in place. The penalty for Christians and Jews who failed to do so within a month was deportation to forced labor camps in eastern Turkey in addition to having their property confiscated. The tax was initially also extended to Christian and Jewish schools, as well as to churches and synagogues, but not to Muslim institutions, because they were owned or funded by the government. As documented by Faik Okte, the Turkish Ministry of Finance official in charge of implementing the tax, assessments were determined arbitrarily because the authorities lacked information on the income and properties of the minority groups./1/

                   Table 1: Statutory Tax Rates

Provision                 Applied to	  Applied to
Rate on wartime profit    Muslim Turks    Non-Muslims
			  12.5 percent    50.0 percent
Additional tax            zero            Up to 50 percent of personal wealth

Source: Faik Okte, The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax.

Description of the Tax

The Turkish National Assembly passed the tax on November 11, 1942 (Law 4305/12.11.1942), and its decision to levy the tax was published the next day in the government official newspaper, Resmi Gazete. The details of the structure and inner workings of the tax were kept secret by the government. The details, however, were revealed and made public some five years after its enactment in a book authored in 1947 by Okte. In that book Okte also traced the architects of the tax and named all the governmental agencies and personnel engaged in administering the tax.

In an otherwise officially secular state, taxpayers were classified as Muslim and non-Muslim, denoted with the letters M and G, respectively./2/ The latter included Jews and Christians, including Armenians and Greeks. Assyrian Orthodox Christians also fell in that class. An additional class of taxpayers were the Donme, denoted by D. The Donme were Jews whose ancestors had converted to Islam in the 17th century./3/ Like the Jews and Christians, the Donme were taxed at rates higher than those that applied to Muslims. Foreigners were taxed at the same rate as Muslim Turks.

During that period, Greeks were the largest minority group in Turkey, and represented the heirs to Byzantium with Constantinople as its capital. The Armenians originated from western Armenia or the eastern half of Turkey, and represented the descendants of the first Christian nation. The presence of the Jews also predates that of the Turks, whose ranks had been augmented by Ladino Jews from Spain during the Inquisition. The Assyrians are originally from southern Turkey and modern-day Syria and Iraq; their presence also predates the arrival of the Turks from central Asia. Combined, those non-Muslim groups made up less than 1 percent of Turkey's population of 18 million in 1942.

The tax was initially envisaged as a tax on capital or wealth. It was to apply to businesses and real estate (immovable property). By the time it was enacted, it had expanded to include a tax on wages as well that effectively applied only to non-Muslims in Istanbul. Taxpayers were classified according to business type and property earnings. Within the Ministry of Finance, once the size of income, wealth, and type of enterprise were established internally, local assessment boards secretly determined the amount owed by the taxpayer.

The Finance Ministry was responsible for setting the tax rates to be used in computing tax assessments. Minorities were generally to be taxed at 5 to 10 times the amount applied to Muslims with similar wealth. Specifically, Muslims were to be taxed at the rate of 12.5 percent of profits or earnings. In contrast, non-Muslims were to be statutorily taxed at the rate of 50 percent of earnings plus an additional tax of up to 50 percent of their wealth (Table 1)./4/ The reach of the tax also extended to hospitals and educational institutions. The tax did not extend to Muslim institutions, because they were owned or funded by the government.

While internal "guidelines" set minimum and maximum limits, the local boards at the Finance Ministry were free to choose any amount in between. Indeed, they had complete discretion in setting assessments. Information on income and wealth were obtained from Turkish national banks, the Republican People's Party, and the Security Directorate, which is equivalent to the U.S. FBI. Despite the lack of information on the sources of wealth and income, taxpayer records were not requested or considered when setting assessments.

Table 2: Initial Assessments in Istanbul (Constantinople)

Group                Number of Taxpayers                 Amount (TRL millions)
                        Extraordinary Rich
Muslims                       460                                17.3
Non-Muslims                 2,563                               190.0
                  Those With Earnings Statements
Muslims                       924                                 3.1
Non-Muslims                 1,259                                10.4
                   Profit Tax on Gross Earnings
Muslims                     2,589                                 4.0
Non-Muslims                24,151                                72.8
                           Wage Earners
Muslims                       --                                  --
Non-Muslims                10,991                                 6.9

Subtotal                   42,937                               304.5
Muslims                     3,973                                24.4
Non-Muslims                38,964                               280.1

Source: Faik Okte, The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax.

The assessed tax was due in cash within 15 days from its published date of December 17, 1942. Payments could be postponed for another 15 days, but would face a charge of up to 2 percent interest. If the tax due was not fully settled within 30 days of assessment, the taxpayer's property was to be confiscated. Furthermore, the taxpayer was to be sent to a labor camp until his debt was discharged, under Regulation 21/19288 approved on January 12, 1943.

The Taxpayers

By August 1943 the tax assessments stood at some TRL 335 million in Istanbul alone, or about one-half the entire currency in circulation. Indeed, those assessments represented as much as the entire budget revenues of TRL 394.3 million for 1942 before enactment of the tax. Table 2 provides a summary of the number of taxpayers assessed and the amount of assessments in Istanbul. Some 42,937 taxpayers were assessed a total of TRL 305 million, as shown in Table 2./5/ Of those, only 3,973 were Muslims, who were assessed a total of TRL 24.4 million. In other words, minorities who made up less than 1 percent of the population were assessed 93 percent of the liability. Table 3 further provides assessments for churches, synagogues, and schools./6/

In a survey of foreign chambers of commerce at the time, C.L. Sulzberger, writing for The New York Times in 1943, documented the discriminatory nature of the tax./7/ As illustrated in Table 4, the effective rates of assessments that merchants faced varied considerably from a low of under 5 percent for Muslims to over 150 percent for Christian Greeks and Jews, to well over 200 percent for Christian Armenians. Similarly, in one large enterprise, only 1.2 percent of the Muslim employees were assessed compared with 96.1 percent for minority citizens.

As illustrated by the head of the Finance Ministry and the person in charge of implementing the tax, Faik Okte, assessments were determined in arbitrary manners because the authorities lacked information on the income and properties of the minority groups./8/ The arbitrary nature of the tax is best illustrated in the treatment of the "extraordinary rich." According to Okte, Mr. Bezmenler, whose ancestors converted from Judaism to Islam in the 17th century and who was classified as a Donme, was assessed TRL 1 million. In contrast, Dr. Cudi Birtek, an extraordinarily wealthy Muslim, was assessed only TRL 25,000, a mere fraction of the amount applied to the Donme./9/ In yet another example, Osman Sakar, K.S. was originally assessed TRL 120,000. When Mr. Sakar proved that he was a "pure Turk" or a Muslim, his tax liability was adjusted downward to TRL 12,000 -- just 10 percent of the originally published amount./10/ Those mistakes were not uncommon because all citizens were forced to adopt Turkish-sounding surnames in 1935 and because Turks have come to resemble more the Caucasians they conquered and less their Asiatic ancestors from central Asia.

Table 3: Tax Assessments of Minority Institutions

Christian and Jewish Institutions/*/    Number         Assessment (TRL)
Schools                                   88                227,550
Churches and Synagogues                   27                119,200
Hospitals                                  7                 86,750

/*/ Zero assessment for Muslim institutions, which numbered in the thousands.

Source: Faik Okte, The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax.

The discriminatory and confiscatory nature of this tax is also evident in the treatment of non-Muslim institutions. According to Sulzberger, a poorly equipped Armenian hospital in Istanbul, for instance, was assessed TRL 39,000 compared with an assessment of TRL 2,500 for a modern and thriving American hospital. Muslim institutions avoided taxation altogether./11/

Tax assessments were seriously flawed in particular because they failed to consider any documents from the taxpayer. The tax due from a Christian Armenian timber merchant, for instance, was three times his entire fortune. The tax administrator informed him that his deportation to the labor camp could not be prevented, even after all his wealth had been confiscated./12/ At times the tax burden widely diverged in its arbitrariness. A Jewish taxpayer had his tax assessment increased simply because he argued with an assessor. In another example, a Christian Armenian "was taxed excessively at the rate of TRL 400,000," reflecting "the false allegation that he was the leader of the Armenian Tashnag Society, an old member of the Union and Progress Party," better known in the West as the Young Turk regime that governed Ottoman Turkey from 1909 through the end of World War I./13/ At the other extreme, another Armenian was exempted from the labor camp because he had written "favorable articles promoting Turkish interests in the French press."/14/

The punitive nature of the tax was at times also extended to foreigners. While foreigners were supposed to be taxed at the same low rate as Muslims, many in fact were taxed at the higher rates that applied to minority citizens. According to Faik Okte, the principal administrator of the tax, that treatment was deliberate. He reports that tax administrators were instructed to deny the foreigners' "privilege" to Jews from the Axis states./15/ In addition, and under "the pretext of the poor registration system," the property of Greeks and Armenians who had acquired foreign citizenship was immediately auctioned off./16/

Of the first 45 deportees to labor camps, 21 were Jews, 13 were Greeks, and 11 were Armenian. After the first deportation, it was decided that the "elderly, women, the sick, foreign residents . . . would not be exempted from the forced labor obligations."/17/ However, there are no records of any women or foreigners ever sent to labor camps.

Table 4: Effective Tax Rates by Religious and Ethnic Affiliations

Merchants by Affiliation                     Tax Rates (percent)
Muslim                                            4.94
Greek Orthodox                                  156.00
Jewish                                          179.00
Christian Armenian                              232.00

Source: C.L. Sulzberger, "Turkish Tax Kills Foreign Business,"
The New York Times, Sept. 11, 1943.

Concluding Comment

Shortly after the government published its declaration to levy the wealth tax, a Turkish professor contacted the Finance Ministry to inquire about the details of the new tax. "Have you all gone mad?" was his response after confirming that the new law did not provide for appeals nor did it indicate rate of taxation./18/ Despite its insanity, the tax shook the economy to its foundations.

Many Muslims were enriched by acquiring non-Muslim property at bargain prices. However, those fire sales, or outright "confiscation" by state-owned enterprises, often hindered economic growth and entrepreneurship. Consider the case of the Banzilar and Benjamen Company, a shipping company owned by two Jews that was forced to turn over all of its five ships to the state-owned Maritime Lines in lieu of taxes totaling TRL 1.6 million. Despite the rising value of ships and Turkey's vast needs, those ships, which were productively employed by their previous owners, remained idle at port./19/ In another example, the majority of textile factory owners at the time were either Jewish or Donme converts from Judaism. Yet, after World War II and repeal of the tax, non-Muslim textile start-ups came to a screeching halt./20/

The Turkish wealth tax was advanced as part of a strategy to control prices during the inflationary early years of World War II. The thinking was that the forced sale of property and inventory within a fortnight of the assessments would depress prices. Yet not only did that misguided strategy fail to depress prices, the discriminatory nature of the tax and the taxation of an entrepreneurial group to certain bankruptcy led to a serious loss of confidence in the state and rattled financial markets for years to come.


/1/ Faik Okte, The Tragedy of the Turkish Capital Tax, translated from the Turkish Varlik Vergisi Faciasi by Geoffrey Cox, Croom Helm, 1987.

/2/ G denotes Gayrimuslim, or "other than Muslim" in Turkish, borrowed from the Arabic ghayr Muslim.

/3/ The Donme, which means "apostates" in Turkish, are the followers of the mystic Shabbetai Tzvi who converted to Islam on September 16, 1666. Tzvi was arrested in Constantinople on December 30, 1665, after he announced that he would seize the crown of the Ottoman sultan and reestablish the kingdom of Israel.

/4/ Okte, supra note 1, at 43. The wage tax was set at TRL 500 for those with monthly wages under TRL 100, TRL 750 for those with wages of TRL 101 to TRL 500, and so on.

/5/ Plus another TRL 30 million when taxpayers with omitted affiliation are considered. See Okte, supra note 1, at 48.

/6/ Okte, supra note 1, at 60.

/7/ C.L. Sulzberger, "Turkish Tax Kills Foreign Business," The New York Times, Sept. 11, 1943, p. 7, column 1.

/8/ Okte, supra note 1, at 33.

/9/ Id. at 47.

/10/ Id. at 62.

/11/ Sulzberger, supra note 7.

/12/ Okte, supra note 1, at 69.

/13/ Id. at 47.

/14/ Id. at 74.

/15/ Id. at 37.

/16/ Id. at 57.

/17/ Id. at 72.

/18/ Id. at 29.

/19/ Id. at 95.

/20/ See Edward C. Clark, "The Emergence of Textile Manufacturing Entrepreneurs in Turkey: 1804-1968" (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1969).

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Conference: Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire

Armenian Schools


Journal of Turkish Weekly Sept 23 2005

ISTANBUL - The new education period has been started. The minority schools also opened the education session. There are 16 Armenian schools with 3219 students and 412 teachers. Many more Armenian students attend the 'normal' schools.

This year about 454 children were registered to the Armenian kindergartens. 2107 students were registered to the primary and secondary schools. 658 Armenian students were registered to the Armenian high schools.

Apart from the normal courses, the Turkish Armenian schools also give Armenian language and Armenian religion courses to their students.

Patriarch Mesrop II, religious leader of Turkish Armenians, said that the Armenian language courses and Armenian culture courses in these schools are crucial to maintain the existence of Armenian minority in Turkey. The main problem of the Armenian population in Turkey is voluntary 'assimilation'. Many Armenians do not attend the Armenian Church and Armenian schools. Another problem is the mixed marriages.

There are about 100.000 Armenians in Istanbul and they have all the rights to take education in their own schools. Apart from the Armenian schools there are Armenian health institutions, sport clubs and cultural-social organizations. Moreover 3 Armenian newspaper are published in Istanbul.

Apart from the Turkish Armenians, more than 50. 000 Armenians come to ýstanbul to work from Armenia.

Armenian Schools in Istanbul and Student Numbers:

Aramyan: 142 students.

Bezciya: 161 students.

Bomonti Mihtaryan: 40 students.

Kalfayan: 101 students.

Dadyan: 411 students.

Esayan: 313 students.

Getronagan: 211 students.

Karagozyan: 175 students.

Levon Vartuhyan: 123 students.

Ferikoy: 237 students.

Pangalti Mihtaryan: 362 students.

Sahakyan: 400 students.

Samatya Anarat Higutyun: 74 students.

Ortakoy Tarkmancats: 143 students.

Tibrevank: 78 students.

Yesilkoy: 248 students.

JTW, with Agos and Bolsohays.


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EU Entry: Turkey must recognise genocide

The Daily Telegraph, UK
(Filed: 28/09/2005)

Turkey has rejected demands by the European Parliament that it recognise the killing of Armenians as genocide before it can join the EU.

Armenians say that up to 1.5 million of their people were slaughtered in mass killings under the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

But the Turkish government insists that the killing of Armenians was not a systematic genocide. They maintain that a smaller number of Armenians died, and that they perished unintentionally because of exposure, famine and disease.

The request has angered Ankara, and the Turkish prime minister immediately rejected the resolution. "That resolution is not binding. It does not matter whether they took such a decision or not. We will continue on our way," Recep Tayyip Erdogan told

Armenians killed innocent Turks in Azerbaijan. And they let the Armenians live in Turkey? Deport all Armenians from Turkey, if they continue to speak of their "genocide".

private CNN-Turk television.

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