Recalling the post-Ottoman tax on non-MuslimsNovember 17, 2011
In November, 1942, the government of Turkey imposed the varlik vergisi, a tax on wealth, assets, and capital, that was applied mostly and at the highest rates against Turkish non-Muslims. The rates were often higher than 100 percent of one’s total wealth. The non-Muslims who could not afford to pay the tax where railroaded off to forced labor camps.
A recent article from Today’s Zaman noted that, “Within the scope of wealth tax payment requirements, 1,229 non-Muslims were sent to Aşkale via the Haydarpaşa railroad station in İstanbul to perform the jobs assigned to them.” According to Wikipedia, 21 non-Muslims died at the labor camps. The government collected over 320 million Turkish lira (approximately 270 million USD at the time) from Assyrians, Chaldeans, Greeks, Jews, and Armenians through the tax.
The varlik vergisi showed that the devshirme blood tax and the jizya against non-Muslims from the days of the Ottoman Empire could not be permanently purged from the “secularist” Turkish regime that replaced it.
Fortunately, Turkey rescinded the tax in 1944.
However, Turkey continues to impose the jizya against Greek Cypriots to this day, according to published reports.
Discriminatory taxes against non-Muslims in the post-caliphate Islamic world are much overlooked but not uncommon, whether it was the Turkish varlik vergisi, Malaysia’s bumiputra system, or government-endorsed jizya against Sikhs in Pakistan, Jews in Yemen, and Copts in Egypt.