“What’s in a name?” – again: Aktaş and Aslaniskender

The issue of legal impediments to changing one’s name has come up once more at Strasbourg.


In Aktaş and Aslaniskender v Turkey [2019] ECHR 484 [in French] Mr Aktaş was an Assyrian with Turkish and Swiss dual nationality. He obtained Swiss nationality in 1995, stating his surname as “Amno” (an Assyrian name). He was issued with a Swiss passport under that surname – and from 1995 had held two passports under two different names. In October 2005 he applied to the Midyat Regional Court to change his surname from “Aktaş” to “Amno”, explaining that he was Assyrian and that he and his family were known by that name. He added that his brother had been allowed to change his surname to Amno by the same tribunal in 2002. However, he was refused permission on the grounds that “Amno” was not a Turkish surname and that, under 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 appealed unsuccessfully.

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