President's Speeches

President's Speeches

The 5th Summer School of the AACC on “Immigration and Refugee Law”

Opening Address

18 September 2017, Ankara

Esteemed guests,

Honourable Vice President, Justices, Rapporteurs and Assistant Rapporteurs of the Turkish Constitutional Court,

Distinguished participants,

I greet you all with my sincere feelings and regards.

I would like to express that I am very pleased to deliver the inaugural speech of the International 5th Summer School.

The summer school program has been organized by the Turkish Constitutional Court since 2013 as an activity of the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions (“the AACC”), and today, we are inaugurating the 5th Summer School Program.

In the 3rd Congress of the AACC held in Bali, Indonesia last year, a Permanent Secretariat was established upon an amendment to its Statute. In this scope, the Centre for Training and Human Resources Development was established in Ankara under the Turkish Constitutional Court. The last two summer schools have been organized under the capacity of this Centre.

I would like to state that summer schools held every year with different themes aim at exchanging information and experience among the constitutional jurisdictions and contribute to the improvement of relations among our institutions. I am pleased to note that we have received highly favourable feedbacks from the participants regarding the summer school programs held so far.

Distinguished participants,

I would like to also note with pleasure that the participation in this Summer School is wider compared to previous years. Representatives from the constitutional courts or equivalent institutions of 17 countries, including Turkey, have participated in the program. It is also a pleasing progress for us to be here with the representatives of all constitutional courts which are members of the AACC, with the exception of one or two countries. Today, almost forty representatives from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Georgia, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Korea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mongolia, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Thailand and Turkey are here with us for the Summer School Program.

Besides, representatives from the European Court of Human Rights, the Conference of Constitutional Jurisdictions of Africa, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“the UNHCR”) in Turkey are attending the program as lecturers. I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all participants and lecturers.

Theme of this year’s summer school, “Migration and Refugee Law”, constitutes one of the most significant and complex issues of today that are of a global concern. According to the data provided by the UNHCR, the total refugee population all over the world is 21 million, and the number of those sheltered only in Turkey is over 3 million. It is noteworthy to mention that the number of refugees in Turkey exceeds the populations of 61 countries that are the members of the United Nations.

Legal dimension of this theme and especially foreigners’ rights under national and international laws will be dealt with during the Summer School Program. Within this framework, judgments of the Turkish Constitutional Court, the ECtHR’s approach on this matter and practices of the countries represented here will be discussed, and the participants will thereby share views, information and practices on the topic.

Reasons and outcomes of migration and asylum have been debated for so long. Migration emerges as people who are escaping from unfavourable conditions such as war, civil war, terror and poverty seek for a safe and prosperous place to live.

Whatever the consequences may be, it is evident that major issues are present in the countries receiving migrants. The main problems resulting from migration are ostracization of migrants, their not being treated with human dignity, their being subject to violence and even their killing.

In other words, migration uncovers social diseases, such as xenophobia and racism, which hamper the ideal of living all together in harmony and peace. Every single day, through international press agencies, we are reading news about the attacks against those regarded as “a stranger”. In this respect, the devastating cruelty against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and deep silence of humanity point out the lack of conscience.

The underlying reason of all these problems is the failure to establish a sound relation with those who are regarded as “the other”. Xenophobia and racism, which become much more evident with migration and asylum, are the attitudes and behaviours that should be paid a great attention in terms of diversity management and should be corrected. These are, in principal, the reflections of a pathological relation of “me and the other” and “we and the others” within an egocentric understanding at ontological level.

Xenophobia represents the negative feelings of a native person against another who has come after him or is different from himself. Stranger is the other. He is the one who do not consider or live in the way we do. In short, he is the one who is different.

Esteemed guests,

Distinguished participants,

It must be clearly stated that, in particular, today’s Western world suffers from these social and political diseases. As these ill understandings which do not accord a right to life to “the other” gain grounds day by day, the greatest threat to the values such as human rights, democracy and rule of law, as well as, to the political systems shaped by these values emerges and grows. In brief, xenophobia, racism and Islamphobia are the dark faces of our age.

Fight against xenophobia and racism may be achieved by prioritizing a “human-oriented” understanding in social and political spheres. Indeed, such understanding has deep- roots both in the East and the West.

Philosophers forming the spiritual roots of the Anatolia, such as Yunus Emre, Mevlana and Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli, have made unique contributions to co-existence through their human-centered messages promoting tolerance and affection among the society. Hacı Bektaş-ı Veli says “the second requirement of the eternal truth is not to condemn seventy two nations”. Yunus Emre’s expression “Love the created for the creator’s sake” and Mevlana Celalettin Rumi’s expression “the raison d’être of universe is human beings” and his call “Come, come again, whoever you are” reveal the same principle. According to this principle, human is a value by its very nature, not a means, and exactly for this reason, he/she deserves respect/tolerance.

Neither the East nor the West is homogeneous. Apart from thoughts generating/feeding xenophobia, racism, and Islamphobia, there also exist long-standing strong thoughts supporting pluralism and tolerance. The famous philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is one of the most leading representatives who defend these thoughts.

Kant mentions of “the right to hospitality” in his article titled “Perpetual Peace” and written in 1795. This right envisages that every foreigner going to another country is entitled not to be treated as an enemy. Therefore, not as a matter of favour or charity but as a requisite of respect for their rights, we are obliged not to show hostility towards foreigners crossing our borders.
The “right to hospitality” introduced by Kant notably applies to refugees nowadays. Indeed, Turkey has been making historical contributions in terms of promoting the right to hospitality of “the other” by opening its heart and doors to over three million refugees.

As a matter of course, social values and institutions emerge in and transform to different concepts along with historical progresses in different lands. However, the values we embrace today, such as justice, freedom, human rights, state of law, pluralism and tolerance are common values of both the East and the West. It is our joint responsibility to develop and transfer to the next generation a human-oriented culture and practice, by protecting these values −notably the other’s “right to hospitality”− and paying due consideration to social and political pluralism rather than regarding differences as a threat. In this respect, there are two ways to fight against xenophobia, racism, and Islamphobia: the first one is to spread the human-oriented understanding. Humans are born innocent and they learn malignity and hostility afterwards. Indeed, attitudes such as xenophobia, racism and Islamphobia are deviations which we have learned or have been thought long after we were born.

Therefore, the step needed to be taken is to change this learning process. Samples of both malignity and goodness exist in history and nature. What all matters is our preference of these two options while building the present and the future.

The second step is to revise the legal means in this respect to ensure their effectiveness. In both the national and the international human rights laws, a firmer stand must be taken especially on the fight against hate speech and racism. It should be borne in mind that showing tolerance to hate speech would contribute to xenophobia and racism.

I would like to end my speech by commemorating the wise statesman, Alija Izetbegović. “It was 25 March 1994… Two hundred thousand (200.000) Bosniaks were killed, six hundred thousand (600,000) people were exiled and 800 mosques were bombed. Cities and villages of Bosnia-Herzegovina were devastated, and the military hospital in Sarajevo was bombed for 160 times…” After narrating all these, Izetbegović notes a remarkable statement: “being human and staying human are our responsibilities towards Allah and ourselves”.

Aliya Izetbegović explains the meaning of the concept of “being human and staying human” ─which he completely describes as a moral concept─ in political discourse and in practice as follows: “In political discourse, it means that we will try to establish a legal State. This also means in practice that in this State no one will be persecuted for their religion or for their national or political belief.”

We hope that our old world will learn from the bitter experiences of the past and follow the wise path of Izetbegović.

I would like to once again greet you all with respect before ending my speech. I wish that the 5th Summer School Program be successful and fruitful.


Prof. Dr. Zühtü ARSLAN
Constitutional Court of the Republic of Türkiye