Press Release

12.11.2021

The statements were made by the Mayor Tanju ÖZCAN about the new fee tariffs for the marriage ceremonies to be performed in Bolu Municipality that “If one or both parties are from foreign nationals, the marriage fee will be 100,000 TL. (…) We do not want foreigners to get married or settle and have children in Bolu. We want them to return to their country. We bring this arrangement so that two foreign nationals do not get married in Bolu, do not settle in Bolu or do not have children in Bolu, and two Syrians and two Iraqis do not get married in Bolu.” In a previous date, the Mayor has also stated that for foreign nationals there will be a ten-fold increase in some fees, especially concerning the tax fees of the water bill and solid waste.

One of the basic human rights principles, "the principle of equality and non-discrimination", is guaranteed by the 10th article of our Constitution and the Law No. 6701 on the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey.

Discrimination of people on the basis of their “nationality, ethnicity, race, color and gender” constitutes a violation of international human rights acquis and universal human rights principles, including the “United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination”, “European Convention on Human Rights” and “European Council Directive 2000/43/EC on Implementing the Principle of Equal Treatment Between Persons Irrespective of Racial or Ethnic Origin”, to which Turkey is also a party,

“The right to marry and the protection of the family” constitutes one of the fundamental human rights protected in the context of international regulations and national law. According to the first paragraph of Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.” According to Article 23 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; “(1) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State. (2) The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be legally recognized”. Similarly, "the right to demand respect for private and family life" and "protection of the family" appear as constitutional rights in our national legal system.

In Its General Comment No. 19 on Article 23, The Human Rights Committee, supervisory mechanism of the Civil and Political Rights Covenant; draws attention to the fact that “the right to found a family means, in principle, the possibility of coexistence and reproduction; when States parties adopt family planning policies, they should be in line with the provisions of the Covenant and should not be particularly discriminatory or compulsory.”

Within this context, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, O’Donoghue and Others v. the United Kingdom; highlights that “the obligation to pay a high filing fee for marriage poses a serious obstacle to marriage for the needy and emphasizes that this violates the essence of the right to marriage.” In that judgment, the Court considers that the filing fees are high enough to violate the right to marriage, given that the vast majority of people in immigration status do not have the opportunity to work or have very low incomes.         

In democratic societies where groups with different identities exist, it is important to respect everyone’s identity. Statements that disrupt social peace, segregate people and contain hate speech that they can be treated differently go beyond the limits of freedom of expression guaranteed in the Constitution. As stated in Recommendation 97(20) of the European Committee of Ministers, “hate speech is defined as any form of expression that spreads, incites, encourages or justifies racial hatred, xenophobia or any form of hatred based on intolerance, including religious intolerance, which manifests itself in the form of aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility towards minorities, immigrants and people of immigrant origin”.

In Its General Policy Recommendation No. 1 titled Combating Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) recommends to State Parties that “Guaranteeing the public services and services of a public nature such as health, education and social services shall not discriminate among the members of society,”;  statements made by verbal, written, audio-visual and electronic media that incite [the community] to use grudge, discrimination or violence against racial, ethnic, national or religious communities or their members because of their belonging to such communities or using other means of expression should be legally classified as a crime and this crime should include the production, distribution and stacking of these materials”.

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), in Its Resolution MC.DEC/13/06 of 5 December 2006 and MC.DEC/10/07 of 30 November 2007 entitled Combating Intolerance and Racism and Promoting Mutual Respect and Understanding, expressed that the OSCE Council of Ministers regrets racist, xenophobic and discriminatory public rhetoric and urged Participating States to protect immigrants and persons belonging to national minorities, stateless persons and refugees lawfully residing in host countries against racism, xenophobia, discrimination and acts of violent intolerance and to develop or strengthen national strategies and programs for the integration and active participation of regular migrants and others in social life.

Pursuant to Article 5 of the Law No. 6701 on the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey, “discrimination against persons who benefit from or have applied to benefit from these services in terms of the activities carried out by real and legal persons providing services in the public and private fields” is prohibited. In this context, during the provision of services, the discriminatory treatment of foreigners in the provision of basic services without a reasonable justification is inconsistent with universal human rights principles, principle of equality and non-discrimination. Within the scope of Law No. 6701, the Institution has the authority to conduct ex officio investigation and impose administrative sanctions on real and legal persons who violate the prohibition of discrimination.

The aforementioned statements are closely followed by our Institution, whose main mission is to protect and promote human rights, prevent discrimination and guarantee individuals’ right to equal treatment.

Respectfully announced to the public.


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