ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—The Turkish Parliament has decided to remove the religious affiliation component on Turkish identification cards. While Turkish citizens will no longer be required to display their religion on their I.D. cards, it may still be registered on the electronic chips on cards, Middle East Eye reports.
Turkey passed the law as part of its accession requirements toward becoming a European Union member state, according to the report. The identification cards will also no longer be colored blue or pink to denote gender.
During a recent Parliamentary Planning and Budget Commission meeting Armenian parliamentarian of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Garo Paylan asked the Interior Minister Efkan Ala: ”In the new identity cards, religious affiliation information is present. What benefit do you see in carrying the religion section?” reported IMCTV.
Paylan had proposed that the Turkish Parliament remove the religious affiliation component on Turkish identification cards, as well as eradicate the notorious secret ethnicity classification codes for citizens, during a speech in Parliament on Jan. 13.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reports that the new I.D. cards will be tried out in the province of Kirikkale in three months, and the government expects to switch over to the new cards within three years. Citizens may still opt to register their religion on the chip.
In his Jan. 13 speech in parliament, Paylan noted that he himself has been subjected to discrimination within the Turkish bureaucracy because of the divisive classification systems, according to a report by Armenia-based Ermenihaber.am. “When they see a name like Garo that isn’t familiar, they look to find the religion listed. When they see that I am listed as a Christian, one day’s work won’t get done for a week or 10 days… I am repeatedly discriminated against,” he was quoted as saying.
Paylan had also strongly criticized the secret ethnicity classification codes for citizens, which the government keeps on record. “We Armenians are number ‘2’s,’ the Greeks are ‘1’s,’ the Jews are ‘3’s,’ and the Assyrians are ‘4’s,” he reportedly said, adding that people are being discriminated against due to these codes in various government departments, including the military.
Speaking to the Armenian Weekly in July 2015, Paylan explained how his proposal to remove what he called the “vicious” secret codes from Turkey’s education system had been approved. “If you are to send your child to an Armenian school, you have to prove that you are in fact Armenian. You have to submit a form, and they look if you are a number 2 or not. But there are many Islamized Armenians, and children of mixed marriages. Our parents have so many problems with the coding system. It’s actually humiliating. I argue that we know each other; we know who is an Armenian and who is not. You have to give us that permission. So [the minister of education] just signed it—it’s no longer going to be based on the code. We are going to decide who can attend our schools,” he said.
During his July 2015 interview, Paylan also discussed how he would introduce a measure aimed at removing the coding for good. “I will still open another case about the coding, because it’s not just about the education system. Whenever we go into military service or apply for public service positions, they look at the code again. We have to get rid of that code. Luckily, we got rid of the code in the education system. Our parents won’t have to prove that they are Armenian anymore,” he said.