RIGHTS > Syriacs to build new church in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey’s Syriac community is granted land in Istanbul on which to construct its first official church in the city, but the move has become the subject of controversy after Catholics said the parcel in question legally belongs to them. Father Simonelli says they will take the issue to the court

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Some criticize the government and say they delivered the land to Syriac people in order to silence them on the matter of controvesial Mor Gabriel Monastery (above). Hürriyet photo

Some criticize the government and say they delivered the land to Syriac people in order to silence them on the matter of controvesial Mor Gabriel Monastery (above). Hürriyet photo

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

Latin Catholics are claiming ownership of land recently given to Turkey’s Syriac community for the establishment of their first official church in Istanbul.

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality fulfilled the Syriac community’s request last week to approve the construction of a new church, for the first time both in its history and in the Republican period.

However, speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News on behalf of the Latin Catholic Church, FatherBruno Gregorio Simonelli said the Latin Catholic community would take legal action against the decision, claiming property rights to the land. “How could they take away our property and hand it to another community?” Simonelli asked.

Latin Catholic Foundation member and lawyer Nail Karakaş said the land was registered in the 1936 Declaration. “Before 1950, Latin Catholics used to bury their dead in this cemetery but the authorities of that time banned burials. After that, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality took over the possession of the land. Last summer, we appealed to the Municipality for the reopening of the cemetery and were expecting a result,” Karakaş said.

Following the Lausanne Treaty, a law was passed in 1936 that recommended the recording of all minority foundations. Apart from the property recorded in the declaration, the foundations were prevented from obtaining new properties.

‘The government tries to silence us’

Leaders of the Syriac community were surprised by the developments, with some arguing that the land was only given in return for the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin, over which there is an ongoing conflict regarding ownership of the land.

Syriac intellectual Sabo Boyacı harshly criticized the government for the latest developments. “I don’t believe the government’s sincerity. They delivered this land to us in order to silence us on the matter of Mor Gabriel Monastery. It is clear that they want to cause conflict between the minority communities. The government simply aims to make a good impression on the European and Turkish public,” Boyacı said.

Syriacs have struggled to obtain land in Istanbul’s Yeşilköy district for three years. The Istanbul Syriac community – amounting to 25,000, according to church records - used to worship in the churches they rented from Latin Catholics.

Bakırköy deputy mayor Yervant Özuzun told the Hürriyet Daily News that a part of the land was delivered to the Syriac community. Özuzun said the land was a protected area with a chapel and graveyards, adding that they received required authorization from the Monuments Board and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

“Only a part of the cemetery was allocated [to the Syriac community]. And the conditions of protecting the chapel and gathering the graveyards in one specific point were achieved. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has possessed the land since 1951,” Özuzun said.


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Notice on comments

Murun Buchstansangur

12/17/2012 9:03:44 PM

@DutchTurk. Good to know that the brand new mega-mosque being built in Cologne has got nothing to do with Diyanet (sorry, the Diyanet Foundation!) and it is just a 'former public building' being given a lick of paint by 'Turks taking care of their local community'.


12/17/2012 4:51:29 PM

@Murun, go sleep, your few penny taxes arent going to the Netherlands since we have build our own with hard working people, that also managed to give some of their money to have a Mosque and a sort of cultural center. Secondly there arent even coming a lot of new Mosques. Secondly the Turkish mosques in Europe are not Mosques like in Turkey, they are mostly former public buildings, so go donate money for your own sect or something and keep your tax money away if your gonna make false drama about


12/17/2012 4:44:57 PM

@Murun, Once again there is no state money going into Mosques, Churches and Synagoges in Turkey. Prove the opposite, sue the state, if you can't prove.. than shush. As for the Turkish mosques abroad, every penny is payed by the Turkish citizens in those countries. I know it since my parents also contributed for those mosques. As for the Arabic mosques in Europe, rich Arab sheiks give money for those. But for us Turks, we took care for all by our own community in a certain district anywhere in EU

Murun Buchstansangur

12/15/2012 1:19:48 PM

@DutchTurk. Diyanet contributes to the Diyanet Foundation - a 'separate' organisation (headed by the same imam) - which then spends money on building mosques both in and outside Turkey. There is not much transparency of transactions between the two bodies but there is enough evidence to prove that public funds from Turkish tax payers (irrespective of religious or non-religious affiliation) are being spent on Sunni mosques. Period. Maybe my taxes are paying for a mosque near you in Holland? x

Murun Buchstansangur

12/15/2012 8:57:39 AM

@DutchTurk. Are you really citing something that the Prime Minister said as evidence for what you would like to believe as the truth? Sue the Government? This is Turkey mate not the Netherlands where you live! Not only does public funding build mosques in Turkey, it is also funding mosques abroad. This is part of political Islam's expansionist agenda. Some call it jihad. And yes, taxpayers money is funding this whether Sunni taxpayer, Alevi, atheist or Jedi. Secularism? Now who's ignorant?


12/14/2012 6:59:43 PM

To all ignorants here NO MOSQUE IS MADE BY THE STATE !!!! Prove the opposite and sue the state !!! Ministry of Diyanet has a budget for education, seminars, charity inside and outside Turkey etc. Even on 2 August Erdogan once again stated that no mosque is made by the state. Who do you think you are fooling? So?

mara mcglothin

12/13/2012 4:56:34 PM

DUTCHTURK If what you say is true, then why does the Religious Affairs Directorate need a multi-BILLION dollar budget? What are they doing with all that money???? Please advise since you should know these things.

Murun Buchstansangur

12/13/2012 4:48:26 PM

Let me try again to get a comment past the Moderator. Diyanet has a budget in excess of 4bn TL funded from taxation. It does not own or repair mosques per se. But the Diyanet Foundation does. Both organisations are headed up by the same guy and significant monies are transferred from one to the other. Hence, we the taxpayers do definitely fund the building and repair of mosques. Period. DutchTurk and Ismail Demir are wrong. What is the Moderator scared of here?


12/11/2012 10:20:51 PM

Rich Murphy welcome to the real world my friend. Lesson 1 Turkey is a secular country. No state money goes in mosques, mosques are build with private charity funds !!!! So no exception for the Syriacs, build your own and maintain it yourself is the answer to every single citizen. Sorry your just laughable.

Jack Manougian

12/11/2012 8:03:06 PM

Foreign View, you are misinformed. What you write has no basis in history, and I have read a lot of history from that region.
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