Treatment of the Turkoman minority [TUR39859.E]

Recent information on the treatment of the Turkoman minority in Turkey could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the following information may be of interest.

According to an article published in The Baltimore Sun, "Turkey traditionally has shown concern for Turkish minorities in its area and could rally to the Turkomans' cause if the Kurds infringe on their rights" (3 Nov. 2002).

Turkomans are tribal nomadic people, but as of 1997, very few were "unassimilated, except the Yoruk and Tahtaci" (World Directory of Minorities 1997).

According to the World Directory of Minorities,

The Yoruk are a Turkoman group, numbering 70,000 in the Taurus Mountains. Once nomadic, they are now largely settled, some are Alevi [a religious community]. Economic antagonism with the neighbouring settled population is a factor in their distinct identity.
[The Tahtaci] number as many as 100,000, living in the forested part of the Taurus. They are Alevi and consider themselves Turkoman. Traditionally, they are lumbermen and sawyers. They are stigmatized more than other Alevis (ibid.).

Recent information on the Yoruk tribe could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

According to Global Connections, members of the Tahtaci tribe "suffer" "distrust and even harassment ... from the Turkish majority" (n.d.). Further,

The Tahtaci keep to themselves, even when living in the towns, and tend to be secretive, hiding their identity among the Sunni majority. The Turks are suspicious of them, accusing them falsely of being thieves or immoral, mainly through prejudice against them being Shiites. ...
The Tahtaci are strongly communal, the experience of God is only possible as a close fellowship. Their religious gatherings are held at night in homes or in the woods. Outsiders are not allowed. They involve much music and dancing and drinking. Alcohol is poured out as celebrating Muhammed's return from heaven. The leaders who claim descent from Ali visit each group. There is little separation of men and women in their religious and social gatherings in contrast to their Sunni neighbours. Older women tend to be treated as equals with the men.
They and the Sunni Turks consider each other 'unclean', because they do not observe Sunni cleansing rites. If they have to give hospitality to a Sunni, the crockery must be ceremonially wash[ed] 40 times afterward. But a Christian will be welcomed, and even allowed to spend the night. They also refuse to work on Tuesdays and Fridays [which] conflict[s] with the Forestry Department [which has] Sunday as the day off. However, they also have pre-Islamic beliefs and taboos about which they are secretive (Global Connections Dec. 1999).

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.


The Baltimore Sun. 3 November 2002. Soner Cagaptay. "U.S. Must Address Turkey's War Fears." (NEXIS)

Global Connections. n.d. "The Tahtaci: Turkey." [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

_____. December 1999. " Non-Pastoral Nomads in Middle East" [Accessed 6 Dec. 2002]

Global Connections is a network of mission agencies, colleges, development organisations, churches and others that are committed to the world mission. Through this network, numerous services are available, including contacts, information and services that add to the effectiveness in world mission

World Directory of Minorities. 1997. Edited by Minority Rights Group International. London: Minority Rights Group International.

Additional Sources Consulted

Ethnic Groups Worldwide. 1998. David Levinson. Phoenix: Onyx Press.

World News Connection

Internet sites, including:

Amnesty International


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001


Freedom in the World Report 2002

Human Rights Association of Turkey

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

Human Rights Watch

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Minorities at Risk

Minority Rights Group

Turkey Update

Turkish Daily News

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Search engine: