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17 April 2014, Thursday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 
COLUMNISTS 12 July 2012, Thursday 24 0
0
ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ
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ORHAN KEMAL CENGİZ

How was a monastery robbed in Turkey?

When there is no deep, profound change in his neurosis, a neurotic person repeats his old habits, no matter how much he has changed on the surface. Well, Turkey has changed quite dramatically and this government has made a lot of reforms, but old habits have not changed fundamentally and irreversibly.

Look at what is going on in the Mor Gabriel Monastery case. This monastery has existed since before we Turks arrived in Anatolia. It is a 1,600-year-old, ancient institution. Today, our Treasury claims that the lands of the monastery belong to it. And we got to this point through very well-known legal tricks.

First, the villagers who live in the neighboring villages brought legal cases against the monastery from 2008 onwards. They claimed that quite significant portions of the land were actually theirs and the monastery was illegally occupying them. I know from my experience very well that if some “citizens” bring an organized action against non-Muslims in Turkey, it is almost certain that the state somehow has a hand in it. There must have been some dark circles operating behind the curtains to motivate the villagers to take action against the monastery. In this regard, I do not think it is surprising that these cases and the return of the Arameans from abroad to their homeland somehow coincided. The legal action was a kind of welcome home present for the Arameans.

Well, after seeing all the changes that have taken place in Turkey, we were expecting that the government would intervene in this situation and would look into who was actually behind these legal cases which suddenly popped up. What happened instead was mind-boggling. The Treasury joined the villagers in this intimidation and attack campaign. The Treasury claimed that these lands belonged to it. The Treasury is a body that operates under the strict orders of the government. So there is no room to argue that this institution took all this legal action on its own initiative. Even if it did at the beginning, it was not possible for it to pursue these cases so far and to such an extent without having the consent of the government after all the criticism directed at these cases.

I do not want to bore you with the legal details but it is necessary to quote a few parts to understand what is really going on in these cases. The court of first instance rejected the citizens’ claims, drawing attention to these details: Yes, it was true that the land was not registered in the name of the monastery at the Land Registry. However, two documents prove that the monastery was the legal owner. The first document was the so-called 1936 declaration, which was given to the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) by the monastery in 1936 in compliance with an order that year for all non-Muslim foundations. We see in this declaration that these lands belonged to the monastery. The second group of documents is the tax records of the monastery. All these documents show that the monastery was the owner of these lands and paid regular taxes for them.

When the Treasury appealed against the decision by the court of first instance, the first shocking decision came from the Supreme Court of Appeals, which says the monastery has no document proving its ownership of the land. The monastery this time requested a “decision correction” from the Supreme Court of Appeals and this time included all the documents on which the court of first instance based its decision. Nothing, however, has changed; the Supreme Court of Appeals declared again that the Treasury is the rightful owner of these lands.

This is exactly the same Supreme Court of Appeals which deprived non-Muslim foundations of all their properties before. Seeing non-Muslim citizens as “indigenous foreigners,” a term once used by it, is embedded in its genes. However, the other part of the story needs quite a serious explanation. How can this government, after developing all these minority-friendly policies, be the architect of such a deeply embarrassing action against our handful of Aramean citizens and their ancient church? Well, my answer was in the first sentence, and if there are others, I am very much willing to listen to them.

COMMENTS
The Syriacs are also known as Arameans. The name Assyrians is NOT correct. Just a small part of the Arameans calls themselves Assyrians.
Aram
Surely any mosque, temple or church is built on desecrated land? Thus churches in Cyprus became mosques etc: and I personally find that respect very fullfilling and human- they were not pulled down just transformed and respected as places of worship.
Agnes
"gen sherman," I was surprised and shocked at the unfortunate insult thrown at the Assyrians. Just because they are Christian, does Not make them terrorists or criminals. And FYI, and this if you did Not know, Muslims enjoy broader freedoms in Christian countries. My wife and I have been to Germany,...
Preston Bagrationi
The confiscation of the lands of the monastery is not merely a problem of material appropriation. It is more a problem of symbolic appropriation. The artificial "purism" of the Republican era persuaded the Turkish people that the minorities cultures were alien.They had to be discarded by various me...
anastasia
@Mark The Turks have been in Anatolia for 400 years well before the Greek immigrants that settled on stolen abourigenie land in Australia. You should ask this question to an abourigenie! Ignorance at it's best from a Greek in denial! 
LEVENT
How was a monastery robbed in Turkey? Well the same way the Turkish Cypriots where robbed in Cyprus by the Greek Cypriots! 
LEVENT
if the Scythians and Cimmerians would be considered as Turkic people, then maybe The Turkic people been around Anatolia longer than what is considered their first arrival by the Caliph's Army before the Saljuks.
ZN
@Gavur, what's your problem with the statement you've quoted? All Turkish history textbooks say Turks arrived in Anatolia in 11th century - more specifically in 1071. Kindly explain why OKC should be charged with anything other than stating an historical fact taught to millions of Turkish citizens ...
Aziz
The very root of these artificial and government-induced anti-minority and anti-Christian policies in Turkey is the fact that the Republic of Turkey was built upon the corps of its indigenous Christian natives the Turks murdered. To hold on to a land that is anything but Turkish at its core and to a...
Ararat
This comes as no surprise to Kurds. Anyone who stood against the tide of Turkification is deemed as an enemy and Turkey does not tolerate anything or anyone which/who is a testament of the non-turkic ethnicity of Anatolia.
David Palch
Seljuk Turks invaded Armenian Highlands around 1000 AD. Prior to that, indigenous Armenians (and proto Armenians) had been living there and South Caucasus for about 4,000 years: that is the approximate age of stone writings and such traced back to proto Armenians as of now. Ottoman Turks conquered C...
Avery
I sensed that you missed the sarcasm in my post.
Gavur @ Mark
The old agage has it that you kick the weakest hardest. These are those whom you perceive as your enemy, probably because you fear them most,not because of their physical strength,but of their moral worth, and your sublimated guilt and shame. You fear them because you, or your ilk, your kind, sought...
Rudolphus
Assyrians got what they deserved for collaborating with foreign imperialists. No tears need to be shed for these terrorists. More attention is needed on the far worse treatment of the Muslim minorities in Russia.
GeneralSherman
@Gavur - can you tell us how long Turks have been in Anatolia, your auddience needs to be educated?
Mark
@history, many muslim businesmen go bankrupt due to wealth tax too.And government forced many muslims to work coal mines were dead.These were war conditions. OKC, why did you insist to call assryians as wrongly arameans, probably to put jesus in this issue.
aydin
Thank you for shedding light on this tragedy in the making. Who is to blame for this and similar despicable treatment of religious minorities? Secularist Kemalist Turks or pious Muslims or more likely both?
Baran
First look at the history of England and the United States and their role in the new world order. They have encouraged all christians to leave their homeland in the last 20 years through out the middle east . Turkey and the neighbouring state does not have any say in these matters . Good luck.
eli
We have unfortunately seen the same "wealth tax" before in history. All over the world law students study the infamous case of how Muslim business men were confiscating Jewish propterty. Over 10 000 Jewish families left Turkey after that. Some who not able to pay the tax ended up in labor camps.
History
?indigenous foreigners,?? Seriously? How Orwellian! Thank you for discussing this issue. It's serious and the anti-minority attitude and actions can still be found at the heart of the Turkish government.
Random Armenian
"This monastery has existed since before we Turks arrived in Anatolia" So, is Mr. Cengiz a) lying b) a crypto-Armenian or c) should be prosecuted under 301 for insulting Turkishness? Hint: All of the above :)
Gavur
This case will definitely end up in the EU court
VTiger
The only rights Christian minorities have in Turkey it seems is the right to get robbed by the State-again and again. Turkish law is unethical and immoral and the Courts are instruments of criminal behavior. The ECHR will have to get involved in this case.
Joachim Weiskopf
Turkish governments have been stealing property from Christian citizens for many decades, why would anyone expect it to stop now? It's a penalty-less crime in Turkey and very lucrative. The Judges are rewarded for issuing decisions against Christians, they have great motivation to do it. Minorities ...
Christoph
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