The first applicant, Nuri Aktaş, has Turkish and Swiss dual nationality, was born in 1969 and lives in St Gallen (Switzerland). The second applicant, Padmapani Aslaniskender, is a Turkish national who was born in 1953 and lives in İzmir. The case concerned a name change in the civil status register.
Mr Aktaş, who belongs to the Assyrian ethnic group, obtained Swiss nationality in 1995, stating his surname as “Amno” (an Assyrian name). He was issued with a Swiss passport under that surname. As from 1995, therefore, he has held two passports under two different names. On 24 October 2005 Mr Aktaş applied to the Midyat Regional Court to change his surname from “Aktaş” to “Amno”. That court rejected the application on the grounds that “Amno” was not a Turkish surname, pointing out that pursuant to Law no. 2525, foreign names could not be chosen as surnames. Furthermore, Article 5 of the Regulations on surnames provided that only Turkish-language names could be adopted as surnames. Mr Aktaş unsuccessfully appealed on points of law.
Mr Aslaniskender is a Buddhist, who had the “religion” entry on his identity card changed from “Islam” to “Buddhism”. On 21 March 2002 he applied to the Ankara Regional Court to change his forename and surname. He submitted that the forename and surname “Padmapanys Leonalexandros” would be more appropriate to his religious beliefs. That court dismissed the application on the grounds that it was inconsistent with Law no. 403 on Turkish nationality. The applicant appealed on points of law. The Court of Cassation quashed the decision on grounds of procedural defect. The Ankara Regional Court resumed the proceedings. A professor of Indology, who had been appointed as an expert for the case, established that “Padmapani” was a Sanskrit name which was important in terms of Buddhism, while “Leonalexandros”, a name which had been translated from Turkish into Greek, was not. The applicant subsequently applied to the court to change his forename and surname to the Sanskrit name “Padmapani Paramabindu”. By decision of 10 June 2004, the court allowed the request. The representative of the Civil Status Registry and the Ankara Public Prosecutor appealed on points of law. The Court of Cassation upheld the request concerning the change of forename but set aside the 10 June 2004 decision on the grounds that it was unlawful to choose foreign names as surnames. On 29 September 2005 the Ankara Regional Court decided to change the forename in question to “Padmapani” but dismissed the request for a change of surname. The Court of Cassation dismissed the applicant’s request for rectification of the judgment.
Relying, in particular, on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), the applicants complained that they had not been allowed to change their surnames on the civil status register.
Violation of Article 8
€ 1,500 each to Mr Aktaş and Mr Aslaniskender for non-pecuniary damage, and € 3,390 to Mr Aktaş and € 1,000 to Mr Aslaniskender for costs and expenses.
Press release ECHR 233 (2019) 25.06.2019