Racist terms set to be excluded from books

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Vercihan Ziflio?lu
Stereotypical terms of minorities in school books have been reportedly removed. DHA Photo

The Turkish Ministry of Education announces they have edited and removed some problematic descriptions used for Syriacs and Armenians in textbooks. Syriacs earlier complained of terms such as ‘back-stabbing rebels’

The Turkish Ministry of Education has announced that it will remove a number of discriminatory terms for ethnic groups, including Armenians and Syriacs, from history books used in high school classes.

In a written statement announced by the Board of Education and Discipline, the Ministry said phrases such as “Syriacs betrayed their country” were not actually used in course books, however adding that there were some problematic descriptions in the texts.

“There is no expression saying ‘Syriacs betrayed the state’ in the history books of primary, secondary and high schools. In a text titled ‘The Situation of Syriacs in Ottoman Empire,’ in The National Education Ministry’s 10th grade history books, the expressions used for Syriacs and Armenians have been edited and [the changes] will be represented in the new edition, which will be printed in 2012,” the statement read.

Offensive terms

The offensive terms to be removed include descriptions of these groups as “back-stabbing rebels,” “puppets of European states,” and “stooges.”

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Mardin deputy Erol Dora, who is of Syriac ethnic origin, had earlier met with Education Minister Ömer Dinçer regarding the books in question, which were published in 2009.

In the meeting, Dora expressed his discomfort with the language used in the books, and requested that the hostile terms be removed. Dinçer told Dora that the books had not been published during his term in office, and that he was also uncomfortable with some of the language used.

Board of Education and Discipline head Professor Emin Karip worked to resolve the issue, and the Education Ministry announced its decision to remove the offensive terms on July 20.

An official document obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News says that phrases such as “Syriacs betrayed their country” were not actually used in course books.

However, the document does state that a text titled “The Situation of Syriacs in the Ottoman Empire,” included in 10th-grade high school history books, is problematic. The expressions found in it, as well as others, will be removed for the next school year, the document states. The document has also reached Dora’s office, he said, speaking to the Daily News, but he added he did not want to comment on the subject before seeing the new books.

“All citizens of the Turkish Republic must be equal,” Dora said. “If we want equality in the strict sense, we must raise our children as individuals who are respectful of human rights and have a sense of justice. This is possible through school education.”

Although Turkey faces many democratic problems, including minority issues and the Kurdish problem, it has made great progress on these issues, reaching a point incomparable to the situation of 15 years ago, Dora said.

“The world is changing, and it is impossible for Turkey to lag behind these changes. Positive changes are occurring; a new platform of discussion has emerged. Also, demands for democracy and human rights are being clearly expressed,” Dora said.

Board of Education and Discipline head Karip, meanwhile, declined to comment on the announcement.