By Harun Resit Kaymaz
BILECIK, Turkey (AA) - Turkey granted citizenship to over 40,000 Ahiska Turks living in Turkey, said the head of the World Union of Ahiska Turks on Monday.
Ahiska Turks, also known as the Meskhetian Turks, are some 92,000 people forced to migrate Georgia’s Meskheti region by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944.
Fuat Ucar, the head of the union which serves members of the community in nine countries, said the process is ongoing for other 20,000 applications that seek Turkish citizenship.
“Also, brothers and sisters who came to Turkey but have not applied for the citizenship yet, are expected to apply,” said Ucar.
Significant works have recently been carried out for the benefit of Ahiska Turks upon the instructions of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The union has offices in ten different provinces across Turkey, the head said.
He recalled that Ahiska Turks enjoy long term residence permits in Turkey since last March.
Ucar underlined those with that advantage benefit the same rights of a Turkish citizen.
He also said a commemoration event will be held at the presidential complex in November to mark the 75th year of the exile. It will be organized jointly with the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB).
“We will also hold a symbolic program in Ahiska, Georgia to commemorate the exile,” Ucar said.
During a near-40-day period of deportation from their homeland to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, around 13,000 Ahiska Turks lost their lives due to hunger, cold weather and diseases.
Turkey has voluntarily accepted thousands of Ahiska Turks upon Erdogan’s instructions.
Today, around half a million of Ahiska Turks live in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, the U.S. and Ukraine.
*Writing by Havva Kara Aydin