Ensuring the Cultural Rights of Kurdish Minority in Türkiye: Necessity, Challenges, Solutions


  • Mostafa Fazaeli University of Qom
  • Mousa Karami University of Qom




Cultural Rights, Ethnic Minority, Kurds, Human Rights, Türkiye


Being in non-dominant position and forming one of the largest ethnic groups numerically in Türkiye (previously Turkey), Kurds constitute an ethnic minority. The main argument of this article is that neglecting and disrespecting the cultural rights (CRs) of this group has led to transformation of a social challenge to a political one which ultimately resulted in a security challenge through an armed movement by P.K.K. in the 1980s. Employing a descriptive-analytical method to analyse the content, the present article aims at investigating the necessity of, challenges to and solutions for ensuring CRs of Kurdish minority. It appears that ensuring the cultural rights of Kurdish minority in Türkiye is a pressing necessity particularly for preserving cultural diversity as the common heritage of humanity and maintaining national, regional and international peace and security. Furthermore, the main challenges with which ensuring CRs of Kurds in Türkiye is facing are weak international belief in cultural rights, lack of sufficient national and international monitoring bodies and effective enforcing mechanisms, and dominance of Kemalism as the founding ideology of Republic of Türkiye. Accordingly, the solutions for eliminating these challenges can be strengthening the foundations and developing the sources of cultural rights of ethnic minorities, activating the national and international monitoring bodies and criminalising certain examples of violations of cultural rights and predicting effective sanctions. No article has been written on the necessity of, challenges to and solutions for ensuring the CRs of Kurdish minority in Türkiye in a single piece. Addressing these factors from the perspective of CRs as human rights, this article contributes in filling the existing gap in literature in this regard.


AMIR, R. (2015). ‘Killing Them Softly: Forcible Transfers of Indigenous Children’. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 9(2), pp. 41–60. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1911-9933.9.2.1289

ARASHPOUR, A. & ZAHMATKESH, M. (December 2018). ‘The Capacity of the Contemporary International Law in Recognition of the Concept of Cultural Genocide’. International Law Review, 34(57), pp. 197–227. doi: 10.22066/cilamag.2017.27970 [In Persian]

ARIKAN, H. (Spring 2002). ‘A Lost Opportunity? A Critique of the EU's Human Rights Policy Toward Turkey’. Mediterranean Politics, 7(1), pp. 19–50. https://doi.org/10.1080/713604550

ASKARY, P. & SAEEDI, N. (Winter 2016). ‘Monitoring the Human Rights Implementation by International NGOs’. Public Law Research, 18(53), pp. 107–141. https://dx.doi.org/10.22054/qjpl.2022.58734.2569 [In Persian]

AVCI, E. U. (2019). ‘Denial of the Kurdish Question in the Personal Narratives of Lay People’. Ethnicities, 19(1), pp. 156–173. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796818786307

AZIZI, S. (2015). Minority Protection in International Law. 2n edition, Tehran: Shahr-e-Danesh Publication. [In Persian]

BEIGI, J. & TEYMOURI, M. (November 2021). ‘A Look at Cultural Genocide as an International Crime’. Police International Studies Journal, 12(47), pp. 129–159. doi: https://doi.org/10.22034/interpol.2021.202589.1073 [In Persian]

BILSKY, L. & KLAGSBRUN R. (2018). ‘The Return of Cultural Genocide’. European Journal of International Law, 29(2), pp. 373–396. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chy025

ÇAKMARK, Y., ŞUR, T. (2022). ‘Margins of Allegiance and Revolt: Relations between Kurdish Tribes and the State from the Late Ottoman Period to the Early Modern Republic’. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 16, pp. 1–15. doi: https://doi.org/10.11576/ijcv-5952.

CAPOTORTI, F. (1979). Study on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. New York: United Nations.

CHEGNIZADEH, Gh. And Asartamar, M. (Summer 2009). ‘Ethnic Movements of Kurds and Turkish National Security”. Foreign Relations Review, 1(2), pp. 185–218.

DONDERS, Y. (March 2010). ‘Do Cultural Diversity and Human Rights Make a Good Match?’. International Social Science Journal, 61(199), pp. 15–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2451.2010.01746.x

DONDERS, Y. (2012). ‘Human Rights and Cultural Diversity: Too Hot to Handle’ (Column). Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 34(4), pp. 377–381. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/016934411203000401.

DONDERS, Y. (2015). ‘Cultural Human Rights and the UNESCO Convention: More than Meets the Eye’, in C. D. Beukelaer, M. Pyykkonen and J. P. Singh (eds.), Globalization, Culture, and Development: The UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, pp. 117–131, London: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137397638_9.

ESLAMI NODOUSHAN, M. A. (2012). Culture and Semi-Culture. Tehran, Sahamy-e-Enteshar Company Publication. [In Persian]

ESLAMI, R. and BEHROUZIKHAH, A. (February 2014). ‘Human Rights Education for Banishing Violence’. Journal of Legal Research, 13(25), pp. 6–33. https://jlr.sdil.ac.ir/article_32615.html [In Persian]

FARROKHI, R. & A'LAIE M. (Summer 2017). ‘The Principle of Respecting Cultural Diversity in International Instruments and Its Relationship with Peace’. Culmination of Law Journal, 3(19), pp. 179–216. http://www.thdad.ir/article_186590.html?lang=en [In Persian]

FAZAELI. M. and KARAMI, M. (2016). Protecting the Cultural Rights of Ethnic Minorities in International Law: With a View on Kurdish People in Turkey. Tehran: Shahr-e-Danesh Publication. [In Persian]

FAZAELI. M. and KARAMI, M. (2017). ‘Protection of Minorities' Culture and Cultural Rights in the Light of CESCR's General Comment No. 21’. Public Law Research, 19(56), pp. 9–32. https://dx.doi.org/10.22054/qjpl.2017.11166.1262. [In Persian]

FAZAELI, M. and KARAMI, M. (August 2020). ‘Analysing the Conceptual Development of Culture in International Human Rights Law and Its Impact on the Promotion of Cultural Rights’. Journal of Legal Research, 19(42), pp. 59–79. https://jlr.sdil.ac.ir/article_111300.html [In Persian]

FRULLI, M. (2011). ‘The Criminalization of Offences against Cultural Heritage in Times of Armed Conflict: The Quest for Consistency’. European Journal of International Law, 22(1), pp. 203–217. https://doi.org/10.1093/ejil/chr002

GHAZNAVI, J. (2008). Ontological View to Law. Qom: Vahdatbakhsh Publication. [In Persian]

HEIDARI, F. (Spring 2016). ‘The Relationship between Human Rights and Cultural Diversity’. Journal of Protection of Women's Rights, 1(3), p. 44–57. http://ensani.ir/file/download/article/20160712134511-10062-13.pdf [In Persian]

HEPER, M. (2007). The State and Kurds in Turkey: The Question of Assimilation. London: Palgrave Macmillan Publishing.

JONGERDEN, J. (2010). ‘Village Evacuation and Reconstruction in Kurdistan (1993-2002)’. Études Rurales, 186, pp. 77–100. https://doi.org/10.4000/etudesrurales.9241.

KARDOONI, N. and NIKPAY, A. (Spring 2016). ‘Multiculturalism, the State and Rights of Minorities’. Law Research Journal, 19(75), pp. 65–93. https://lawresearchmagazine.sbu.ac.ir/article_56223.html [In Persian]

KEMPIN REUTER, T. (2006). Ethnic Conflict and International Law: Group Claims and Conflict Resolution within the International Legal System. Zurich: University of Zurich.

KUGELMANN, D. (2007). ‘The Protection of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples Respecting Cultural Diversity’. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law, 11 (1), pp. 233–263. doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/18757413-90000007.

LAJCAKOVA, J. (25 November 2010). ‘Exploring Cultural Diversity as a Justification of Minority Rights in the Context of Slovakia’. Paper presented in seminar on Heritage for the Future, Budapest, Bulgaria 2. Available at: http://cvek.sk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Lajcakova_Heritage_for_the_Future.pdf

LUOMA, C. (2021). ‘Closing the Cultural Rights Gap in Transitional Justice: Developments from Canada’s National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 39(1), pp. 30–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/0924051921992747

MEHRPOUR, H. (Winter 2007). ‘International Mechanisms and Their Deterrence Effect in Violation of Human Rights’. Foreign Relations Quarterly, 1(4), pp. 7–42. http://frqjournal.csr.ir/article_123507.html [In Persian]

MONTAZERI, A., BASERI, B., FAQIH HABIBI, A. & BEHNIYA, M (Winter 2020). ‘Studying the Relationship Between Cultural Diversity in Iran and Human Rights Law’. Political Researches of the Islamic World, 9(4), pp. 189–225. URL: http://priw.ir/article-1-1016-fa.html.

NAVAKHTI MOGHADDAM, A. (2005). ‘The Functional Role of Mass Media in Promotion of Human Rights and Establishment of Perpetual Peace’. International Journal of Human Rights, 4(1), pp. 31–48. https://humanrights.mofidu.ac.ir/article_21267.html [In Persian]

NOVIC, E. (2016). The Concept of Cultural Genocide: An International Perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

ORAN, B. (2021). Minorities and Minority Rights in Turkey: From the Ottoman Empire to the Present State, Translated by J. William Day. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

PAREKH, B. (2005). ‘Dialogue between Cultures’, in R. Maiz and P. Requejo (eds.), Democracy, Nationalism and Multiculturalism, London: Frank Cass Publishers.

PIERSE, C. (1997). ‘Violation of Cultural Rights of Kurds in Turkey’. Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights, 15(3), pp. 325–341. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/092405199701500304.

POLUMERNOPOULOU, E. (2014). ‘Cultural Rights in the Case Law of the International Court of Justice’. Leiden Journal of International Law, 27(2), pp. 447–464. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0922156514000107.

ROMAINVILLE, C. (2015). ‘Defining the Right to Participate in Cultural Life as A Human Right’. Netherlands Human Rights Quarterly, 33(4), pp. 405–436. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/016934411503300404.

SAFFARINIA, M. (2016). ‘The Cultural Rights in International Human Rights law: Reduced Speed in A Demanding Context’. Comparative Law Researches, 20(2), pp. 77–103. http://clr.modares.ac.ir/article-20-6476-fa.html [In Persian]

SAGNIC, C. (July 2010). ‘Mountain Turks: State Ideology and the Kurds in Turkey’. Information, Society and Justice, 3(2), pp. 127–134. http://repository.londonmet.ac.uk/104/

SCHINELLBACH, C. (December 2012). ‘The Role of NGOs in Promoting Minority Rights in the Enlarged European Union’. Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 13(4), pp…

SHA'BANI, Q. (2004). Constitutional Law and the Sovereignty's Structure of Islamic Republic of Iran. Tehran, Ettela'aat Publication. [In Persian]

SKUNTNABB-KANGAS, T. (1987). Bilingualism or Not the Education of Minorities, translated by L. Malmberg and D. Crane, Bristol: Multilingual Matters Limited.

STAMATOPOULOU, E. (2007). Cultural Rights in International Law; Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Beyond. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

STAMATOPOULOU, E. (November 2012). ‘Monitoring Cultural Human Rights: The Claims of Culture on Human Rights’. Human Rights Quarterly, 34(4), pp. 1170–1192. doi: https://doi.org/10.1353/hrq.2012.0065

SVANIDZE, M. (2009). ‘The Amasya Peace Treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Iran (June 1, 155). Bulletin of the Georgian National Academy of Sciences, 3(1), pp. 191–197.

TAHERI HAJIVAND, E. and JAMALI, H. (September 2016). ‘Studying the Anthropological Origins of Human Cultural Rights’. Intercultural Studies Quarterly, 11(29), pp. 81–111. https://www.sid.ir/fa/journal/ViewPaper.aspx?id=309169 [In Persian]

TAHERI HAJIVAND, E. & JAMALI, H. (May 2021). ‘Barriers to Growth, Development and Implementation of Human Cultural Rights’. Journal of Culture-Communication Studies, 22(53), pp. 139–168. doi: https://doi.org/10.22083/jccs.2019.203520.2920 [In Persian]

TODROVA, A. (2015). ‘Turkish Security Discourses and Policies: The Kurdish Question’. Information & Security: An International Journal, 33(2), pp. 108–121. https://dx.doi.org/10.11610/isij.3305

UNAL, Aynur (2021). ‘Beyond Mother Language; Kurdish as a Regional and Indigenous Language’. The Journal of Mesopotamian Studies, 6(2), pp. 245–265. doi: https://doi.org/10.35859/jms.2021.976874

UN General Assembly (10 December 2008). Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights . G.A. Res. 63/117, U.N. GAOR, 63d Sess., U.N. Doc.A/RES/63/117(2009).

UNESCO (2002). Cultural Diversity: Common Heritage, Plural Identities. Paris: UNESCO 2002).

YILDIZ, K. (2007). The Kurds in Iraq: Past, Present and Future. London: Pluto Press.

YOLACAN, S. (2008). A Roadmap for a Solution to the Kurdish Question: Policy Proposals from the Region for the Government. Translated from Turkish into English by: N. Ayan, Istanbul: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundations (TESEV) Publications.

YUPSANIS, A. (2012). ‘The Meaning of Culture in Article 15 (1) (a) of the ICESCR – Positive Aspects of CESCR's General Comment No. 21 for the Safeguarding of Minority Cultures’. German Yearbook of International Law, 55, pp. 345–383. https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv1q69ns4.13

ZAMANI, S. G. (February 2006). ‘Universal Monitoring on Compliance with Human Rights: From UN Human Rights Commission to Council of Human Rights’. Journal of Legal Research, 5(9), pp. 295–314. https://jlr.sdil.ac.ir/article_44513.html [In Persian]



How to Cite

Fazaeli, M., & Karami, M. (2023). Ensuring the Cultural Rights of Kurdish Minority in Türkiye: Necessity, Challenges, Solutions. The Age of Human Rights Journal, (20), e7329. https://doi.org/10.17561/tahrj.v20.7329