Necessary but Insufficient

Armenian Weekly Editorial

During a dinner highlighted by pomp and circumstance on Aug. 28, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that properties confiscated from minorities after 1936 would be returned.

Ankara’s initiative looks more like damage control than anything else, and must be followed by broader, meaningful steps.

Partial lists of buildings and houses to be returned were provided through the media, and included properties belonging to the Armenian community (Tuzla Camp, Selmat Han, etc.). Hundreds of immovable properties were announced to be returned to several dozen minority foundations. (If third parties currently own these assets, the net worth of the property will be estimated and the foundations will be compensated accordingly.)

Now some historical context: In 1936, the government had asked minority foundations to provide lists of their fixed assets. In the decades that followed, properties were confiscated by the government for a variety of reasons; these included properties that had fallen into disuse in remote areas. In the 1970′s, as Turkish-Greek relations deteriorated over Cyprus, all minority properties acquired after 1936 were also confiscated. Thus, thousands of fixed assets (buildings, schools, camps, etc.) were transferred to the state.

Reporting on the announcement, international news agencies and several Turkish newspapers failed to mention that only part of these confiscated properties is set to be returned under the new decree. Most of the properties to be returned are found in Istanbul and, in many cases, foundations have already taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights, where—precedents indicated—Turkey was bound to lose.

Hence, Ankara’s initiative looks more like damage control than anything else, and must be followed by broader, meaningful steps.

As a first step, Turkey must return all properties confiscated after 1936 without exception. These include properties across Turkey, even in areas where there is no longer a minority presence.

Moreover, the properties listed account for less than one percent of properties stolen from Christian minorities in the early decades of the 20th century. Turkey should begin the process of addressing that mass-theft by returning church properties confiscated during that period.

In this context, Prime Minister Erdogan’s initiative is a necessary but insufficient step.

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4 Comments

  1. Halo said:

    I think it is of the UTMOST importance that Armenians NEVER accept monetary compensation for our properties. This would be a deadly and blunder on our part. Instead ALL our properties must be demanded – that is physically and none of it should be for sale – EVER!

  2. Vasken said:

    This sounds like the Claytons Drink “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink” – Only Obama the sucker believs this…

  3. John Ahmaranian said:

    We don’t need these churches where there is no Armenian to attend religious ceremony over there.
    Plus, yes, the use of them would be ours, but not the building. We need the cake and not its cream on top of it. We need the land not the permit to use it. We need Mount Ararat back ! Is Erdogan willing to do so?

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