Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 May 2016, 12:25 GMT

Turkey: Update to Responses to Information Requests TUR22962.E of 19 January 1996 and TUR22758.E of 18 January 1996 on the treatment of ethnic Bulgarians who are non-practising Muslims in Turkey (January 1996-May 1998)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 May 1998
Citation / Document Symbol TUR29338.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Turkey: Update to Responses to Information Requests TUR22962.E of 19 January 1996 and TUR22758.E of 18 January 1996 on the treatment of ethnic Bulgarians who are non-practising Muslims in Turkey (January 1996-May 1998), 1 May 1998, TUR29338.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Information on the treatment of ethnic Bulgarians who are non-practising Muslims could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

However, a 25 February 1997 Reuters report states that the Turkish government had renounced its plan to expel "tens of thousands of Bulgarian ethnic Turks living in Turkey." The report quotes the Turkish Defence Minister as saying that

"Our government has decided to give residence permits to our ethnic kin of Bulgarian origin...this has been decided. Definitely nobody will be sent abroad and citizenship rights will be given."

Recent reports indicate a determination on the part of Turkish authorities to pursue their campaign against Islamic radicals which they consider to be a threat to the secular foundations of the Turkish state (The Washington Post 28 Mar. 1998; Middle East International 10 Apr. 1998, 11). Among the measures announced by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz in March 1998 to counter radical Islamic activities were

harsher fines and prison sentences for violations of the country's secular dress codes, new legislation to control the activities of schools and foundations suspected of supporting or financing the spread of fundamentalism, and a restriction on the construction of mosques (The Washington Post 28 Mar. 1998).

The Washington Post article further states that the proposals still had to be approved by the Turkish Parliament.

According to a 10 April 1998 Middle East International article, a wide variety of groups in Turkish society support the government's campaign to protect the secularity of the state. Among the groups are

the educated elite, the people who are generally seen as pro-western. On the whole, they appear to approve of the army's hands-on attitude to politics and crack-down on political Islam. This goes not just for the rich business circles [...] but also for intellectuals, leftists and unionists who were themselves often unjustly harassed, imprisoned or tortured in a not so distant past (11)

At the same time, the article claims that

While most foreign diplomats agree on the need for Turkey to be vigilant and to keep an eye on the more radical Islamists, most believe the perceived danger, trumpeted daily in alarmist reports in the press, to be wildly exaggerated. Despite the closure of the Welfare party, despite attempted bans on the Islamic headscarf in universities, the Islamists have shown great restraint  and there have, so far, been no violent incidents (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Middle East International [London]. 10 April 1998. Nicole Pope. "Turkey: Witch-Hunt Against Islamists."

Reuters. 25 February 1997. BC Cycle. "Turkey Gives Up on Bulgarian Deportation." (NEXIS)

The Washington Post. 28 March 1998. Kelly Couturier. "Turkey Protects Secular Interests; Leaders Vow to Strengthen Laws Against Islamic Radicalism." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Amnesty International reports : Turkey. 1996-1998.

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 1997. 1998.

Electronic Sources: FBIS, REFWORLD, Internet, IRB databases.

Resource Centre's Amnesty International files : Turkey. 1997-1998.

Resource Centre's Country files: Turkey. 1997-1998.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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