President Gül meets with minority groups

President Gül meets with minority groups

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
President Gül meets with minority groups

An Alevi federation criticizes a fast-breaking dinner that brings together President Gül and another Alevi group for misrepresenting the nation’s Alevi community. AA photo

The leaders of Turkey’s eight minority foundations have been hosted for the first time at the presidential summer compound in the history of the Turkish Republic. The visit was significant, as it represented the first time the leaders of minority communities together have been hosted at the presidential summer compound in the history of the Turkish Republic.

The strongest cases at the meeting would belong to three Syriac foundations, according to information Hürriyet Daily News gathered from Syriac Catholic Foundation head Zeki Başdemir and Midyat Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation head Kuryakos Ergün before the meeting.

The Catholic Syriac group planned to put forward its readiness to relocate the Church’s Patriarchate in Beirut to Turkey, and demand the return of their historical Patriarchate building in Mardin, which has been turned into a museum. In previous months, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held a series of negotiations with Syriacs on the topic, and proposed bringing the Beirut and Damascus Patriarchates to Turkey.


Ergün said his foundation would express its reaction to a Court of Appeals decision describing the monastery as an “invader” and demand support from Gül.

In addition to Ergün and Başdemir, Armenian Surp Pırgiç Foundation Hospital head Bedros Şirinoğlu, Armenian Catholic Foundation leader Bernard Sarıbay, Syriac Orthodox Foundations representative Sait Susin, Greek Foundation representative Andon Parisyanos, Jewish community representative Sami Herman and Bulgarian community representative Vasil Liyaze attended the meeting, which was organized through the efforts of Vingas.

While the Syriacs planned to discuss their problems at the meeting, the Armenian and Greek communities (except the Catholic Armenian Foundation) said they would thank President Gül for his support of the Foundations Law, which went into force last year. The Bulgarian and Jewish communities avoided making any statement. There was a crisis just before the meeting when it was revealed that a request from the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Bible Church to attend the meeting and discuss the problems of Protestants living in Turkey had been refused. Chaldean Catholics, on the other hand, did not want to attend the meeting, although they were invited. Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Bible Church representative Cem Ercin expressed the church’s reaction to the refusal. “They call us ‘missionaries’; they won’t give us a church building when we request it, they shut us in apartments and then insult our churches because they are in apartment buildings; this is a great contradiction,” Ercin said.

Speaking to the Daily News, Vingas said he had paid a visit to the president early in the summer to facilitate this meeting. “We want to express the results we have experienced from the Foundations Law. Also we will express our expectations regarding the perception of citizenship one more time before the preparation of the new constitution,” Vingas said.