BY DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL APR 06, 2022 –
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (C), the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, leads the Epiphany Mass at the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 6, 2022. (AP File Photo)
Turkey has made unprecedented progress in the past decade, returning over 1,000 properties previously confiscated by the state to minorities between 2003 and 2018, indicating the good faith of lawmakers, an Armenian Turkish lawyer said at a panel held at Harvard University in Massachusetts on Tuesday.
Armenian Turkish lawyer Ömer Kantik, who specializes in minority rights, told the panel moderated by professor Martha Minow that Turkey has been striving to return the properties of minorities, Anadolu Agency (AA) reported.
“A total of 1,084 seized properties have been returned to minority foundations, and compensation has been paid for 21 properties between 2003 and 2018 as part of the new regulations,” Kantik said, adding that this shows the “goodwill” of legislators.
Noting that Turkey has made “unprecedented progress” regarding the return of confiscated properties of minorities in line with the European Union Harmonization Process after 2000, Kantik said the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in this regard should not be perceived as pressure, but rather as guiding advice.
“I can say that this process, which has been progressing to be more inclusive since the 2000s, gives us more hope about the future,” Kantik said, adding that he is at Harvard to “share this hope.”
He continued by saying that the problems that happened in the past are a thing of the past and a better future awaits minorities with laws.
Meanwhile, Kantik’s daughter Destina Kantik, a Harvard law alumnus, also made a presentation at the panel and explained Turkey’s democratic and problem-solving-focused stance.
There are 167 minority foundations in Turkey, including 77 Greek-Orthodox, 54 Armenian, 19 Jewish, 10 Syriac, three Chaldean, two Bulgarian, one Georgian and one Maronite organization.
In the past decades, Turkey has moved to reinstate the rights of minorities and help their survival as their numbers have dwindled over time. Long treated as second-class citizens, the Greek, Jewish, Armenian and Syrian communities have praised the return of their rights, though they have complained about it being a slow process.
Foundations of non-Muslim minorities have a legal status under the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, which granted them equality before laws and freedom to establish and run “religious and social institutions.”
A 1936 charter has paved the way for foundations to acquire properties but a 1974 court ruling reversed the process, enabling the state to seize the properties minorities acquired after 1936. Properties were mostly returned to their original owners and in the absence of owners, they were taken by the treasury.