Turkey considers citizenship for heirs of displaced Armenians

Turkey is considering proposals to grant citizenship to descendants of Armenians who were displaced or killed.

al-monitor A girl, whose face is painted with the colors of the Armenian flag, takes part in a rally commemorating the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, in Buenos Aires, April 24, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian.

Topics covered

turkey, right of return, politics, citizenship, armenians, armenian genocide, armenian diaspora

Apr 25, 2014

It has been revealed, after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's condolence message to the grandchildren of people who lost their lives during the Armenian genocide, that the government was preparing to take another significant step: Granting citizenship rights to grandchildren of Armenians killed or deported is on the agenda. Foreign Ministry officials have confirmed that preparations were in progress. Officials said, “The government is looking favorably to grant Turkish citizenship rights to succeeding generations of Armenians who have lost their citizenship, if they so wish. Preparatory work is in progress.”

Offering citizenship to Armenians was first discussed at a meeting in Ankara last January and was reported by Taraf. At the “Looking at Hrant Dink Assassination from 2015 Perspective Forum” organized by the Ankara Freedom of Opinion Initiative and the Western Armenians National Congress, a proposal was aired to issue Turkish identity cards and passports to diaspora Armenians who wish to have them. 

At the forum, where the Western Armenians Congress was represented by Armenian parliament member Arakadz Akhoyan and Sevag Arstruni, the following proposals were put forward for Turkey to undertake as the 100th anniversary approaches: "The decision to cancel the citizenship of non-Muslims should be annulled and citizenship rights of those so affected should be restored. Those who want it should be issued a Turkish national identity card and passport. Those who want to return to their historic lands should be allowed. Ottoman land registration records should be opened to all. The house of the Kasapyan family, now used as a presidential mansion, and Ataturk’s mansion at Trabzon belonging to the Kabayannis family should be returned to their owners. An end must put to all activities denying the genocide.” These proposals were then conveyed to the Foreign Ministry.

Raffi Hovannisian, the first foreign minister of Armenia and an opposition leader, called for giving the right of return to Armenians who were forced to leave Anatolia. He said, "This could well be a pilot project to establish relations.” Hovannisian, the leader of the Heritage Party, who had come to Turkey to participate in the April 24 observances, added: "If Turkey really wants to take a determined step, it has to recognize that a genocide happened.”

It was Volkan Vural who first proposed granting citizenship to grandchildren of Armenians who lost their lives in the genocide. Vural, one of most experienced Turkish diplomats who was Turkey’s ambassador in Moscow at the time when Armenia had gained its independence, in an interview with Taraf on Sept. 8, 2008, said: “What would I do if I had the authority? I would say that all Armenians and even other minorities who were within today’s borders of Turkey during the Ottoman Empire and who were subjected to deportation, that they are automatically entitled to Turkish citizenship if they so want it. I would say, 'As a republic I am giving you the right to return and become a citizen of this country. Whoever comes will then be granted this right.'"

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