Human rights rules of EU Rankle Turkey

Multiculturalism not an acceptable idea in country of ‘unity’

ANKARA (AP)–As a child–Hrant Dink dreamed of becoming a homicide detective–but he faced an insurmountable obstacle. In overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey–Jews and Christians can’t join the police.

Now that unwritten rule–the product of a history of ethnic strife and distrust of non-Muslim minorities–is coming into heated debate as Turkey faces up to the reforms it must undertake to achieve its cherished goal of joining the European Union.

Participants almost came to blows earlier this month at a news conference by a semi-official human-rights body–when its chairman–Ibrahim Kaboglu–suggested that Turkey must expand minority rights.

Fahrettin Yokus–a civil-service-union leader–grabbed the papers from Kaboglu’s hands and ripped them up.

"We don’t recognize this report; it is aimed at dividing the country," he shouted. The EU deman’s–he charged–"are threatening our unity."

Kaboglu–whose Human Rights Advisory Council was created by the prime minister’s office–has asked for police protection. His critics–meanwhile–have petitioned state prosecutors to file treason charges against Kaboglu and those who signed the statement that he read.

Tensions have heightened since an EU panel ruled last month that for Turkey to negotiate its way into the EU–a prosperous 25-nation bloc–it would have to meet European standards of democracy and human rights.

It urged Turkey to grant more rights to ethnic Kurds and recognize Alawites–a religious sect rooted in Islam–as a minority. Jews and Christians already have minority rights but still suffer such discrimination as exclusion from the police–Foreign Ministry and military officers’ corps–the panel said.

But although multiculturalism may be the norm in much of Europe–it’s an explosive concept in Turkey. Here children open the school day by saying: "Happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk,’" and the word "minority" is seen by nationalists as code for national fragmentation.

More than a quarter of Turkey’s 71 million people are either Kurds or Alawites or share both identities. The nation has about 130,000 non-Muslims–Greek–Armenian–and other Christians–and Jews.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer says that the debate over minority rights is "destructive" and that every citizen of the state–Muslim or other–is a Turk and is bound to the Turkish state.

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