Erdogan tells patriarch authorities will
return assets taken from
August 29, 2011
In a significant move that appears to meet
European Union demands, Turkish
authorities have announced that they
intend to return properties confiscated
from religious minorities since 1936, and
pay compensation for seized assets that
have since been sold to third parties.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan announced the decision Sunday
ahead of a dinner in Istanbul marking the
break of the Ramadan fast that was
attended by representatives of the
city’s Christian and Jewish
communities - including Ecumenical
A government decree was issued during the
weekend in the face of opposition from the
Kemalist CHP and smaller nationalist
“This is not about doing a favor;
this is about rectifying an
injustice,” Erdogan said of the
landmark decision, which concerns hundreds
of hospitals, schools, cemeteries and
orphanages as listed in a 1936 census.
The European Union, which has regularly
scolded Ankara for its treatment of
minorities, has set the assets’
return as a condition for membership of
The European Court of Human Rights,
moreover, has previously condemned the
seizures as illegal.
Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox population
is today estimated at 2,500 people. Up to
1,500 properties are to be returned to
some 70 Christian trusts according to a
Kathimerini report, while the Turkish
Sabah daily puts the number at 350.
Apart from Turkey’s Christians -
about 120,000 people - the Armenian,
Jewish and Assyrian communities are also
expected to benefit from the campaign.
Erdogan’s previous attempts to
ensure the return of confiscated buildings
in 2002 and 2008 had come up against
“Like everyone else, we also do know
about the injustices that various
religious groups have been subjected to
because of their differences,”
Erdogan told the minority officials.
“The times when a citizen of ours
would be oppressed due to his religious,
ethnic origin or different way of life are
over,” he said.