Expropriation of St. Giragos Repealed by State Council

ICC Note: Turkey’s State Council has repealed the now two-year-old decree which ordered the expropriation of St. Giragos Church in Diyarbakir. The expropriation of church properties, as well as other properties, in the area has been an ongoing challenge. This decision comes against the backdrop of a committee within the National Assembly expanding the list of assets to be returned to the Syriac Orthodox Church.

03/08/2018 Turkey (Fides) – The decree of the Turkish government, which two years ago had ordered the expropriation of St Giragos church, in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir, was repealed by the State Council. The pronouncement of the Turkish State Council, also confirmed by Armenian-Turkish bilingual newspaper Agos, welcomes – even after a long time – the appeals presented by the legal representatives of the foundations linked to the Christian communities, against the urgent expropriation order with which the Turkish government, in March 2016, decided to expropriate a large area of the metropolis that stands along the bank of the Tigris River, as part of the military operations carried out in southern Turkey against Kurdish positions of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK). The expropriated urban area, besides the church of St. Giragos, also included all the other churches in Diyarbakir: the Syriac church dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Chaldean church of Mar Sarkis (Saint Sergius), the Armenian-Catholic church and Protestant church, as well as more than 6 thousand houses, situated mostly in the historical center. Already at the time of expropriation, no Christian church of Diyarbakir was open to worship. Representatives of the Syriac Foundation, representatives of the local evangelical Christian community and the Foundation of the Armenian Apostolic of St. Giragos Church had filed appeals in April 2016 before the State Council in which they asked to cancel the expropriation order.
The Armenian Apostolic Church of Diyarbakır, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 6/5/2016) was also awarded by the European Union for its recent restoration, but the award ceremony could not be held at the place of worship, at the time confiscated by the Turkish military authorities.
Diyarbakir is the largest Armenian church in the Middle East. Its majestic tower can be seen from every corner of the city, it represents a remake of the original one, which was destroyed by cannon fire in 1914.
In recent days, the Budgetary and Planning Committee of the Turkish National Assembly has also expanded the list of ecclesiastical assets to be returned to the Syrian Orthodox Church from 30 to 56 (see Fides 13/2/2018), when in 2017 they had been placed under the control of Turkish public institutions.

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