Turkish authorities have transferred the ownership of churches, houses of worship and cemeteries that have belonged to the Syriac community for over 1,600 years to Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) as part of a process of liquidation in Mardin province.
According to a story in the Agos daily on Friday, after Mardin became a metropolitan municipality in 2012 the Mardin Governor’s Office established a liquidation committee that transferred numerous properties of the Syriac community, such as churches, monasteries and cemeteries, to public institutions.
Properties belonging to the Syriac community that earlier were under the legal entity of villages were transferred to the Diyanet after those villages became neighborhoods under the 2012 legislation.
The Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation appealed the decision but was rebuffed by the liquidation committee.
Kuryakos Ergün, chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, told Agos that dozens of churches and monasteries had been transferred first to the Treasury and then to the Diyanet. He also added that cemeteries have been handed over to the Metropolitan Municipality of Mardin.
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Main opposition Republican People’s Party Istanbul deputy Selina Doğan has criticized the seizure of Syriac assets by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs and said she was worried the same could happen to other minorities in Turkey, the Diken news website reported on Tuesday.
Doğan, who met with Syriac community representatives in Mardin, expressed concern about the confiscation and said: “We are worried that what is happening today with the Syriacs will be extended to other minority groups. We want justice for all minorities.”
Doğan added that seizing the property of the Syriac community contravened the agreement of Lozan (Lausanne), which ensured the property of various ethnic, religious and cultural communities in Turkey.
Renate Sommer, a member of the European Parliament from the Christian Democratic Union, part of the European People’s Party, also harshly criticized the decision and said the Syriacs were at risk of being wiped out in Turkey.
Syriacs living in southeastern Turkey are considering moving back to Europe after their assets, including churches were seized by the Treasury, Gazete Karınca reported. Following the confiscation of their properties, many Syriacs, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, are temporarily returning to Europe to live together with their families and they are asking for a peaceful atmosphere to be ensured for these returns not to be permanent.