Children of Armenian workers that are enrolled in Turkish minority schools are waiting apprehensively for a new foreigners’ residence law as the new regulations could result in many foreigners being expelled from the country.
“These kids have grown up in Turkey. This is where they received their education. It will turn their lives upside down if they are sent back,” Karekin Barsamyan, the director of the Mıhitaryan Private Armenian High School in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı neighborhood, told the Hürriyet Daily News.
The law, which will only permit foreigners to reside in Turkey 90 days out of 180 unless they pay to obtain a residence permit, goes into effect tomorrow.
Sixty students from Armenia are enrolled in Armenian minority schools across Istanbul, Barsamyan said, adding that the concept of being a “guest student” had already led to traumatic problems for the children.
“A person who resides in Turkey for three months has to wait for another three months before going back into Turkey again according to the new residence law. It’s possible that these kids’ education is going to be disrupted,” he said.
The children were admitted into Armenian minority schools for the 2011-2012 education year by means of a special permit granted by the Education Ministry. They receive education under the status of a “guest student,” which means they receive neither report cards nor diplomas. Students enrolled in minority schools must hold Turkish citizenship based on the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, while pupils are further affected by the restrictive Armenian Schools Law that was passed in the 1940s.
“Even though this law seems to be universal, the real target is the people from Armenia. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan had openly
hurled threats in 2010. The government contradicts itself. On one hand, it grants the status of a ‘guest student’ to the children and says it will enact new legal arrangements while trying to deport families on the other,” Pastor Krikor Ağabaloğlu of the Protestant Church in Istanbul’s Gedikpaşa neighborhood told the Daily News.
Angered at the time by foreign parliaments passing motions related to the events of 1915, Erdoğan threatened in 2010 to retaliate by deporting up to “100,000” Armenian citizens living illegally in Turkey.
Some families send their children to the basement floor of the Protestant Church in Gedikpaşa where they receive education informally so as to avoid exposing their identities.
“Yes, those who pay 400 Turkish Liras in insurance premiums will be able to continue residing [in Turkey] in accordance with the new law, but almost 90 percent of those coming here are women, and the wages they earn are too low. They cannot meet this price. As a church, we strive to help them materially and spiritually to get them to hold onto life. Our [means] are inadequate, however,” Ağabaloğlu said, adding that he condemned the new law.
All these women are university graduates who found employment in patient care, baby-sitting and house labor to meet their families’ needs, he said. “I call on people’s conscience. Do not let this law go through.”