Cash-strapped Turkish Muslim foundation ‘forced to sell properties’
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The properties of a Turkish Muslim foundation on the Greek island of Kos (İstanköy) have been put up for sale under pressure by the Greek government. The Education and Culture Association of Kos Muslims, another foundation, has condemned both the sale and the donation, expressing its expectation that the decisions be withdrawn.
Education and Culture Association of Kos Muslims President Kadir Memiş condemned the move and sent a letter to the board of the Charitable Muslim Foundations, asking them to halt the sale.
In his letter, Memiş said the board could find other resources in a bid to prevent the sale of foundation properties. The board should apply to the Greek government for tax exemption which has been the main reason behind the group being left cash-strapped, he noted.
The board of the administration for Charitable Muslim Foundations in Kos put a 34,000-square-meter land up for sale upon the instructions of Greek authorities, Mustafa Kaymakçı, the chair of the İzmir-based Rhodes, Kos and Dodecanese Turks Culture and Solidarity Association, told Hürriyet Daily News.
The same board members also decided to donate a 38,000-square-meter land for a symbolic price for the construction of a hospital, upon the request of the Greek government. The auction is slated for Jan. 31 and non-Greek citizens cannot purchase these properties, he said.
The decisions were imposed by the Greek authorities, Kaymakçı said, noting that this move was just the latest of such pressure imposed by the Greek government on Turkish Muslim foundation properties in Rhodes and Kos for many years. Several real estates were “sold or donated by force since 1947 in order to erase our identity,” Kaymakçı added. Last year, Turkish associations prevented the destruction of the Sulaymaniyah Madrasah, but the property was later handed over for a university compound, he said.
All members of the board are appointed by the Greek administration and the Muslim population has no say over the affairs of the charitable foundations, he stated.
The board members justify the sale to pay off the debts of the foundations, which have been derived from the tax burden imposed on the Muslim foundations and for astronomical personnel costs, according to Kaymakçı.
Although religious foundations in Greece are exempted from tax according to the Greek constitution, Turkish foundations in Kos and Rhodes are subjected to 0.6 percent property tax.
Kaymakçı said they believe there are 2,000 Muslim Turks living in Kos, while the number is 7,000 in Rhodes. Greek authorities have shut down Turkish schools unilaterally, leaving youngsters unable to learn Turkish, he noted.
Turkish foundations in Greece were founded on the basis of the Ottoman Law System before the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923, and thus should be governed in accordance with the Ottoman Law, Islamic Law and mutual treaties today, meaning “foundation assets cannot be purchased, sold, possessed or inherited.” Kaymakçı stated that this is also recognized by the United Nations.