ICC Note: Turkey’s war-torn southeastern christian communities take a devastating blow from the Turkish government as their churches have been expropriated into government property. In an Islamic country of over 75 million, the small sects of christians have traditionally and historically been allowed to manage their own church foundations. Now in an attempt to rebuild the historical city of Diyarbakir, the government has seized these ancient and modern worship centers as their own.
04/12/16 Turkey (World Watch Monitor) – After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey’s war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.
But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations.
The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches – one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 – state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.
The decision was based on Article 27 of Turkey’s Expropriation Law. According to Fatmagul Sari, the Minister of Environment and Urban Planning, the decision was made as a “last resort” to protect the area. In 2010, 330 structures in the Sur neighbourhood were demolished as part of an urban renewal programme.
The ruling has caused “disquiet” among Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean communities, according to the Turkish-Armenian daily, Agos. Multiple church foundations are preparing to appeal the decision. Archbishop Aram Atesyan of the Armenian Apostolic Church said he has demanded a meeting with Sari to ask the cabinet to correct the decision.