MESOP COMMENTARY : ‘Citizenship’ is based on a state or city, not on a nation or ethnicity!

Change the constitution and replace the old terms with new universal terms that give equality to every population in Turkey.

 By Mehmet DOZ: Kurdistan Tribune – According to several sources the term ‘citizenship’ is about the link between a person and a state or an association of states.  It is a legal status in a political institution, such as a city or a state.  The term nationality is often used as a synonym for citizenship but, in international law, the term is sometimes understood as denoting a person’s membership of a nation – which is becoming an issue when there is no pure nation that holds 100% the same race or ethnicity. Further, citizenship exists in relation to a city or state but nationality describes a particular nation, which is not synonymous with a country or state.

Nationality mostly refers to an ethnic group: a plurality of persons who have a common origin, common and distinctive culture, common myths and symbols, traditions and common laws and customs. In other words the people are a cultural and biological community. That is why, in this article, we try to explain that the term citizenship can be only based on state and not on nation or ethnicity.

Kurds’ status in Turkey is a great example for explaining this issue and provide solutions for how to use these terms in constitutions – terms that have been misused, misunderstood and misrepresented by the government for decades.  Let’s briefly go over history and see how Kurds didn’t want to be citizens of a race or a nation.

After the 1st world war the Ottoman empire divided into new countries and regions, one of these countries was Turkey which holds a lot of different ethnic groups. The Ottoman empire was built on many different races and religions supported with acceptable laws and that is why, I am guessing, it survived for about six centuries.

But sadly the founders of Turkey wanted to make Turkey a nation-based country affected by the nationalist propagandas in the middle east and Europe in 1900s. They made Turkey a nation-based country and changed all the humanist and non-race related terms to favor one Turkish race.  An example from the old and the current 1982 Turkish Constitution states the same racist definitions in article 66; “Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk.” or “The child of a Turkish father or a Turkish mother is a Turk.”

According to this Turkish-centered constitution and laws, people like Kurds, the biggest minority in Turkey became ill-treated by the government for almost a century. Many discriminations took place, insulting and killings happened because Kurds didn’t want to be Turks and they don’t follow the constitution because it denies their identity and makes them, not citizens of a state, but changes them to Turks and make them citizens of a Turkish nation.

However, fortunately in recent years human rights and democracy has become a necessity in the whole world. And this made it necessary for parties like the AKP to come to power and promise democratic solutions to such issues and mistakes as happened in the past. This peaceful approach was also accepted and followed by Kurds and Kurdish Parties in recent years.

These remarkable peace process negotiations have started and change are taking place slowly one by one on both sides. Everyone agrees, it will be difficult to change old minds and cure old pains caused by the government. And, in addition to that, Turkey must change its old-fashioned policies and give more room to human rights and democracy for its own future. I think Turkey must take these necessary steps that are requested by majority of Kurds and rejected by a minority of its citizens:

Change the constitution and replace the old terms with new universal terms that give equality to every race in Turkey.

Provide definitions of Kurds, Kurdish land and education in the Kurdish Language and then secure them in a new constitution.

Free Kurdish political prisoners and open doors to investigations into old crimes to provide justice.

Support Kurdish cities with development plans and provide long-term investment programs.

Lastly I want to see both sides are serious about this peace process and provide a strong commitment to the success of peace for all the citizens of Turkey.  Recently, the University of Canakkale has surveyed 3991 people face to face about what new definition of ‘citizen’  should be in new constitution. 56.28% of these people wanted the term of ‘Turk’ or ‘Turkish Citizen’ changed to “Citizen of Turkey” in the new constitution. This survey show Turks are also tired of being separated by old racist terms and they are willing to change the past. Hopefully one day Kurds will be able to say: “We are Citizen of Kurdistan in Turkey”.

In conclusion, we hope people in Turkey won’t be confused by making one individual the citizen of another individual again. And we hope this peace process will establish happiness and strong relations among Kurds and Turks in the future.  And also we pray this process will be a good example for the other Kurdish regions of Iran, Syria and Iraq.

Mehmet DOZ  is Chief Editor of and Founder of DOZ Movement. Born in Agirî, Kurdistan of Turkey in 1985. Entered the University of Istanbul in 2003 and graduated with BSc Economics in 2007. Gained an MBA in February 2013 in University of Wisconsin. He lives both in USA and Turkey. Over the past five years Mehmet DOZ has written many articles about Kurds of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria in Kurdish, Turkish and English languages for a range of websites and magazines.