Minorities cautious despite CHP’s initiative for dialogue

Minorities cautious despite CHP’s initiative for dialogue

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Minorities cautious despite CHP’s initiative for dialogue

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (C) sits with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew (L) and Turkey’s Chief Rabbi İshak Haleva (R) at the dinner reception in Istanbul. DHA photo

Prominent members of the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) met with representatives of Turkey’s minority communities on the evening of May 8 to elucidate the party’s position on minority issues, despite minorities’ reservations.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and deputy CHP leaders Faruk Loğoğlu and Osman Korutürk, a former ambassador and the son of Turkey’s sixth president Fahri Korutürk, held talks with representatives and religious leaders of Turkey’s minority groups to discuss such issues as the fate of the Khalki Seminary on Heybeliada Island, Syriac Christians’ need for a church of their own, and matters pertaining to equal citizenship.

New approach
“The new CHP has now transformed into a modern social democratic party. We keep stressing this point at every turn,”Korutük told the Hürriyet Daily News.

However, there are also doubts about the party’s new position. “The CHP says it has changed, but the practical implications of this have yet to be seen. Kılıçdaroğlu said they would provide backing if problems concerning minorities were to come before them, but nothing tangible has happened yet,” Sait Susin, the head of the executive board of the Istanbul Syriac Church of the Virgin Mary Foundation, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The CHP is ready to back any efforts by the government to re-open the Khalki Seminary, Osman Korutürk told the Daily News, adding the party would also try to find a solution to the Syriac community’s need for a church. The 15,000-strong Syriac Christian community in Istanbul currently worships at a rented church.

Prominent journalist and writer Oral Çalışlar said he thinks minorities are right to maintain their distance from the CHP, adding that the CHP’s efforts are nonetheless positive. “The CHP is an important party. If they want to change and transform, there is no reason why we should oppose that. The opportunity lies before them [to prove their point]. If concerns regarding the Khalki Seminary and the Syriacs’ problems [obtaining a church of their own] figured into the talks, [the CHP] could make some efforts on these matters. They could try to get involved in the new process regarding [minority] foundations and lend their support to [efforts to return properties to minority communities],” he said.