Turkish Education Minister Ömer Dinçer conducted a historic visit to Mkhitaryan Armenian School in Sisli’s Pangaltı neighborhood, becoming the first minister from the department to visit an Armenian school in the history of the Turkish Republic, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The occasion was in return for a visit last year in which students from the school came to Dinçer’s office to request that hostile references to Armenians be removed from textbooks.
Speaking to the Hurriyet Daily News before Dinçer’s visit, the school’s principal, Karekin Barsamyan, said they were very pleased to host such a historic visit.
“Minorities think they are the only ones who are subjected to problems, but this is not the case,” Dinçer said during the event, which included a cocktail. “In the past, not only the minorities and Alevis, but Sunnis were also victimized by authoritarian rulings and violations of rights and liberties. We aim to spread [practices in accordance with] human rights and liberties. The only way to create a peaceful atmosphere in society is democracy.”
The minister also touched on elective courses on mother tongues that began this school year. “We are taking our actions by considering that each child is an independent individual,” Dinçer said.
The ministry drew reaction after stipulating that such classes would only be opened after 10 students expressed a demand to take the lessons.
Addressing recent discussions over the insertion of religious questions onto the university entrance exam, the minister said: “The subject was unfortunately misrepresented to the public. The lessons have been given and the questions have been asked under the category of ‘Education for Religion and Ethics’ for years. It is not about a specific religion. [Students from] minority schools will be asked other questions in accordance with their curriculum.”