US Says Turkey Exerts Excessive Control over Religious Activity

ARMENPRESS–A recent report by the United States Mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) criticized Turkey for exerting excessive state control over minority religions–saying the Muslim country risks eroding the centuries-old Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul–as well as the historic Syriac and Armenian Orthodox churches.

The report–which was delivered to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw on September 28–also called on Turkey to clarify the legal status of 55 Protestant Churches that have been unable to register in Turkey and are vulnerable to closure and harassment.

"We regret that authorities continue to inhibit the opening of places of worship outside the Sunni Muslim mainstream and systematically disregard the OSCE’s 1990 Bonn Document by expropriating the properties of religious groups without compensation," the US statement said.

Concurrently–the European Court of Human Rights is weighing a decision on the property rights of two minority foundations in Turkey. The Soorp Purgich Armenian Hospital Foundation and the Fener Greek Boys High School Foundation filed cases against Turkey arguing that they are in compliance with the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne. The 1923 Treaty affords protection to foundations that provide public services for religious minorities.

In both cases–property gifted to the Armenian and Greek foundations were seized as the Turkish courts upheld orders declaring that the bequest violated a decree disallowing non-Muslims from donating real estate. If the court rules in favor of the foundations–hundreds of buildings seized in the past may be returned.


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