Peninsula On-line
Aug 31 2011

ANKARA: Turkey is preparing to return the confiscated property of
non-Muslim minorities, in an effort to reassure the European Union
over its fair treatment of all religions, a government source said

A governmental decree was published in the official journal over
the weekend stating that property seized from minority religious
groups, under a 1936 declaration, would be returned within months or
restitution made where this is impossible .

The decision notably concerns several hospitals, schools, cemeteries
and orphanages listed in a 1936 census as belonging to the Armenian
and Greek Orthodox minorities in Turkey.

The decision also includes the return of some properties to Jews
in Turkey.

Today the Greek Orthodox population numbers little more than 2,500
people in Istanbul. There are also some 60,000 Armenians and 15,000
Orthodox Syrians among the minority religious groups.

A treaty signed with the Western powers in 1923, after the creation
of the Republic of Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman empire,
allowed non-Muslim groups to retain their own education systems and
property rights.

As a result of the new ruling, hundreds of properties will have to
be handed back, according to the local press.

The EU has been critical of Ankara~Rs attitude towards minorities in
the country, and this restitution exercise is one of the conditions
of eventual membership in the European bloc.

The European court of human rights has also pronounced that the
confiscations are illegal.

Turkey is an official EU candidate nation but faces several hurdles
to eventual membership.

From: A. Papazian