Article 3 of the
Constitution of Turkey defines
Turkish as the only official language of
Minority language rights
Article 42 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits educational institutions to teach any language other than Turkish as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens.
No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education. Foreign languages to be taught in institutions of training and education and the rules to be followed by schools conducting training and education in a foreign language shall be determined by law. The provisions of international treaties are reserved.
Due to Article 42 and its longtime restrictive interpretation, ethnic minorities have been facing severe restrictions in the use of their
Concerning the incompatibility of this provision with the
International Bill of Human Rights, Turkey signed the International Covenants
on Civil and Political Rights and
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights only with reservations constraining
minority rights and the
right to education. Furthermore, Turkey hasn't signed either of the
Council of Europe's
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, or the anti-discrimination
Protocol 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
This particular constitutional provision has been contested both internationally and within Turkey. The provision has been criticized by minority groups, notably the
Kurdish community. In October 2004, the Turkish State's Human Rights Advisory Board called for a constitutional review in order to bring Turkey's policy on minorities in line with international standards, but was effectively muted. It was also criticized by
EU member states, the
OSCE, and international human rights organizations, including
Human Rights Watch who observe that "the Turkish government accepts the language rights of the Jewish, Greek and Armenian minorities as being guaranteed by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. But the government claims that these are Turkey's only minorities, and that any talk of minority rights beyond this is just separatism".
Supplementary language education
In 2012, the
Ministry of Education included
Kurdish (based on both
 to the academic programme of the basic schools as optional classes from the fifth year on.
Later, the Ministry of Education also included
Standard Georgian, and
Laz languages in 2013, and
Albanian as well as
Bosnian languages in February 2017.
Turkey’s Ministry of National Education announced that as of the 2016-17 academic year,
Arabic courses will be offered to students in elementary school starting in second grade. It will be offered as an elective language course like
English. According to a prepared curriculum, second and third graders will learn Arabic comprehension and speaking, fourth graders will learn introduction to Arabic scripture, and after fifth grade the emphasis will be on developing basic language skills.