‘No progress’ in Turkey

From Forum 18:

Religious communities in Turkey have seen no significant progress in 2009 in resolving the long-standing property problems faced by communities as diverse as Alevi Muslims, Catholics, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Greek Orthodox, Protestants, and the Syrian Orthodox Church.

Several legal cases in 2009 highlight the difficulties religious minority communities face in regaining or retaining their property. The Mor Gabriel Syrian Orthodox Monastery in Mardin in eastern Turkey is facing long-running legal cases aiming to deprive it of some its lands. Despite appeals by Pope Benedict XVI, the Turkish government has refused to hand back for Christian worship St Paul’s Church in Tarsus, a significant historical site for Christians and place of pilgrimage where worship has been curtailed since summer 2009. And victories by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Greek Orthodox foundations in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg have not achieved the recovery of confiscated communal property. Nor has the Patriarchate’s long-closed Halki seminary been allowed to reopen.

Read “Turkey: No progress on religious property in 2009” by Otmar Oehring, Head of the Human Rights Office of Missio.

Also see “Turkey: An ally no more” by Daniel Pipes on the Jerusalem Post.

As Barry Rubin notes, “the Turkish government is closer politically to Iran and Syria than to the United States and Israel.” Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post columnist, goes further: Ankara already “left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.” But official circles in the West seem nearly oblivious to this momentous change in Turkey’s allegiance or its implications.


  1. The problems of the Christians in Turkey go beyond discrimination.
    Violence and terrorism are routine. There have been six assasination
    attempts directed against the Ecumenical Patriarch between 1993 and
    2007, including bombings at the phanar. Racist groups such as the
    infamous “Grey Wolves” (one of whose members tried to assasinate John
    Paul II in 1981) have tended to gather in front of the Phanar to chant
    “death to the Patriarch” and to burn him in effigy.

    About three years ago, a Catholic priest in Trebizond (a breeding ground
    for Islamic extremists) was murdered. Also, the above news item does not
    refer to the Armenian Church which is also undergoing severe difficulties.

    In September 2009, the cemetary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was
    violated in which 90 tombs were desecrated.

    Turkey has been firmly consistant in refusing to recognize the rights of
    any Christians in Turkey.

    Time is on the side of the Turks as far as the Ecumenical Patriarchate is
    concerned. They are running out the clock. The Phanar must either
    intensify its efforts to survive or relocate.


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