Turkey grants 585 Ahiska Turks citizenship
The Interior Ministry has granted 585 Ahiska Turks citizenship, World Ahiska Turks Association (DATUB) official said Thursday.
The citizenships were granted from among the 3,000 Ahiska Turks who arrived in Turkey since December 2015.
Since December 2016, around 1,200 Ahiska Turks have arrived in eastern Erzincan province's Uzumlu district, where the government provided them with furnished apartments.
According to the World Ahiska Turks Association, nearly 25,000 Ahiska Turks live in Turkey.
In 1944, the Ahiska Turks were expelled from their homeland -- the Meskheti region of Georgia -- by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Many migrated to Ukraine with the break-up of the Soviet Union, where they settled in shanty towns used by seasonal workers.
DATUB General Secretary Fuat Ucar told Anadolu Agency 585 Meskhetians had been granted Turkish citizenship in the first phase as per directions from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey is continuing to process the citizenship requests of Meskhetian (Ahiska) people, 510 of whom have been settled in Uzumlu district and 75 in Ahlat district of southeastern Bitlis province.
"We have been informed that nearly 1,000 people will get citizenship by the end of the year," Ucar said.
He appreciated the move, saying: "…This is a bliss for us since Turkey's own children were living in foreign lands and suffering homesickness for 73 years."
Ahiska Turks will have the same rights and advantages as Turkish people, he said.
Ucar said Ahiska people will also do their military service and add values to the motherland.
One of the Meskhetians who got the citizenship, Sultan Sefer, said Ahiska people are not stateless any more.
"We are very glad; we have started to get jobs with social security, everything is in order…may Allah bless President of Turkey."
Another Meskhetian, Ismail Islamoglu, said: "We convey our thanks to the Turkish state and people; we are now citizens of Turkey after being stateless for 73 years."