News reports on Friday said Education Minister Ömer Dinçer had given his permission to allow Armenian children residing in Turkey as irregular immigrants to unofficially attend classes in Armenian schools in the next school year. This comes shortly after Turkey announced it would return all property confiscated from religious minority foundations and associations during the early republican era. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also approved the decision to let children from Armenia attend the schools as guest students.
“The ministry has given the necessary permission and we are very happy about this,” Deputy Patriarch Ateşyan stated. He said the children will be enrolled as guest students, meaning they will be exempt from class examinations and will not be able to receive a diploma. “But we plan to give them a certificate to show that they attended our schools. They will have to use this document to get an equivalent diploma in their own country. As for how this will work and what kind of procedures will be followed, we'll see about that later.”
He said the Armenian community has been fighting to allow irregular immigrants to attend Armenian schools for two years. According to Ateşyan, about 1,000 children from Armenia are living in Turkey with their parents, who have come here for work but have no papers. “We will send the children to about 10 schools, including Üsküdar Kalfayan, Feriköy Merametçiyan and Kumkapı Bezciyan. I don't know how many parents will send their children to school, because most of these families live in neighborhoods far from where our schools are located, but it is a great step to take even if only a single child is able to attend school.”
Ateşyan said that in terms of the inclusion of irregular Armenian immigrants in the Turkish school system, they have reached a point that was very meaningful and important for the Armenian community. He said he wanted to thank Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, Education Minister Dinçer and former Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu, as well as other officials, on behalf of the Armenian Patriarchate and the Armenian community of Turkey.
In another development, the International Russian School in Antalya, which follows the Russian Federation's education curriculum, started its school year on Sept. 1, when schools open in Russia. There are 70 Russian students in the school's elementary section. The school's principal, Victor Bikkenev, said the diplomas earned by the students in the school are valid in Russia. Classes are conducted in Russian at the school, which also offers Turkish, English and German classes.