Same old Turkish Trick: Make Promises, Get Praised, but Deliver Nothing

Harut Sassounian


Turkish leaders came up with a new ploy last week to impress world public opinion with fake magnanimity toward the country’s long-oppressed minorities.

Prime Minister Erdogan signed a decree last Saturday that supposedly will return hundreds of buildings that belonged to Christian and Jewish community foundations or charitable trusts. There are currently 162 such trusts (vakfs) registered in the Republic of Turkey.

Back in 1936, the Turkish government demanded that all non-Muslim foundations declare their property holdings. In 1974, Turkish courts illegally stripped these foundations from all properties acquired after 1936, and even some that belonged to them before that date. Last week’s decree requested the foundations to submit to the government within the next 12 months the list of properties confiscated from them — now worth billions of dollars — including schools, hospitals, orphanages, and cemeteries. If and when Parliament adopts this decree, the Turkish government is pledging to either return the seized properties or pay compensation for those sold to third parties. It is important to note that this decree does not cover the hundreds of thousands of private properties that were confiscated by the Turkish authorities from Armenians and other minorities during and after World War I.

Before anyone starts thanking the Turkish leadership for its “kindness” or “fair mindedness” toward its non-Muslim citizens, one needs to scrutinize Ankara’s motives and anticipate its possible next steps.

Although Erdogan’s ruling party has more than sufficient votes in Parliament to pass the proposed measure, no one should be surprised if this “generous” offer is considerably watered down in terms of the number and types of properties it covers and their current value, conveniently blaming these restrictions on the opposition parties! Erdogan’s previous promises to return confiscated properties to minority foundations were mired in bureaucratic red tape, causing lengthy delays and failure to honor almost all requests.

Most probably Turkish officials decided to issue this decree after losing several major property claims filed by Armenian and Greek foundations in the European Court of Human Rights. Clearly, Turkey can ill afford to lose hundreds of similar lawsuits. Adnan Ertem, head of Turkey’s administration of charitable trusts, told Sabah newspaper that by dealing internally with non-Muslim foundations, the government would be able to avoid paying much larger sums, including damages and court costs, should it lose the lawsuits filed in the European Court. Ertem claimed that there are 370 confiscated properties that should be returned to minority foundations.

More important than saving money, Turkey would spare itself the embarrassment of losing hundreds of court cases which would tarnish its reputation in the eyes of the world, particularly at a time when it is trying to join the European Union. In addition, Turkey has already scored a major propaganda coup by merely promising to return these properties. The international media has published glowing news reports of this “magnanimous” Turkish gesture, before a single piece of property has been returned to the minorities. No one should be surprised if Turkey uses this new decree as a propaganda tool to counter recent US congressional demands for the return of church properties to their rightful owners.

Likewise, no one should be surprised if Turkish leaders brazenly demand that the Armenian, Greek, and Israeli governments reciprocate with a gesture of their own toward Turkey. Turkish officials should be reminded that by returning the confiscated properties they are not doing a favor to the religious minorities. Such misplaced gratitude would be akin to a robbery victim thanking a thief who for selfish reasons decides to return a small portion of what he has stolen.

Even though the Turkish media has prematurely characterized the Erdogan decree as “historic” and “revolutionary,” in practice, it is less enforceable than the Turkish government’s obligations under the Treaty of Lausanne which provides the country’s Armenian, Greek and Jewish minorities much greater protection under international law. While domestic laws can be amended at any time, Turkey’s international treaty obligations can not be restricted by governmental decree. Fearing for their own safety, none of the non-Muslim communities have dared to file a complaint with the United Nations or international courts, despite the fact that successive Turkish governments have violated the provisions of the Lausanne Treaty since its ratification in 1923.

My advice to Turkey’s minorities would be not to withdraw their lawsuits from the European Court of Human Rights until they recover their confiscated properties or receive appropriate financial restitution.

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  1. Hratch Babikian said:

    it’s one big Lie , Turkey will never give up any lands that it siezed long time ago, or short time ago, just like the 2009 protocol process! where is that now? the enlightened muslim country? yeah that hates and will destroy any other culture that does not agree with theirs , christian or muslim.Turkey is the spoiled bastard child of europe. in effect it’s like Israel , if Israel gives back ansesteral Palestinian lands to the palestinians Then Turkey will give back the armenian ansesteral lands back to the armenians.if they can not admit to genocide , how are they to admit confescating the lands from us? They won’t!

  2. Nazim said:

    This is amazing. Turkey makes this grand gesture, and you spit on it. Your hatred appears to know no boundaries. It seems that nothing less than the following will satisfy you: Turkey gives 50% of its land to Armenian (by the way, where are you going to find Armenians to populate this land? Even Armenia itself is being rapidly abandoned), and it pays you $100 trillion in damages for genocide, kneels down and kisses your feet and begs you pardon.” The funny thing is, even then, I dont think you will “forgive” Turkey. You know why? Because you will never forgive it for defeating you in 1915 with such spectacular success? That blemish will always stay on your nation’s memory, and nothing will make you forget it. And I dont blame you for that. What I blame you for is being dishonest: you will hate Turkey no matter what!

    • Armenia4Life said:

      Listen you moron. If you call giving stolen property to those who rightfully own it a “grand gesture” then you’re just as stupid as every other monkey Turk. If you’re too stupid to read the article let me sum it up for you…Turkey forcefully took lands and property from many different nationalities that didn’t belong to Turkey. It is nothing spectacular nor is it a monumental event to give a person their own property and to give them their own belongings. But being an idiot like yourself and from a country that has taken everything it has from other people you probably wouldn’t know that. By the way I congratulate you on your “spectacular success” in 1915 in killing unarmed women, children and the elderly. If only every country were as noble and courageous like Turkey. I mean the strength and military strategy it takes to kill defenseless individuals can’t be put into words. But, just like we beat your Azer-gay-jani boyfriends the time will also come when your people will be staring into the barrels of your guns as well…just DON’T expect any mercy from us. This time we are not defenceless, and have a strong military to ensure that disgusting human beings like the Turks don’t ever dare to do what they did to us and other nationalities in 1915.

      • Nazim said:

        Armenia4Life, if I were an Armenian, I would be ashemd of having you as a compatriot. You display utter lack of civility and filthy racism. I will not lower myself to your level.

    • Basilius said:

      The whole point of the article is: Turkey makes a lot of grand gestures. Nobody spits on it, even that would be the right reaction.

      I want to see Turkey give away one m² of land and just recognize the genocide, then we could talk about unforgiving Armenians.

      An another note: Turkey pretty much defeated its own population in 1915. Of course, the holdup murder of a whole minority needs to covered up, better yet justified, by antagonizing its victims.

      But its interesting, your way of thinking shows what the main problem of Azeris today is. You gave it away, without even noticing. Its about losing wars, isn’t it? Ones you started, pretty much like all wars in Turkish history.

    • Gregory said:

      “Turkey gives 50% of its land to Armenian (by the way, where are you going to find Armenians to populate this land? Even Armenia itself is being rapidly abandoned), and it pays you $100 trillion in damages for genocide, kneels down and kisses your feet and begs you pardon.”

      That would be nice. But let’s see the Turkish government acctualy carrying this out. After all, actions speak louder than words. And at the end of the day Turkey was the one who drew a cover over the protocols not Armenia. And it was Turkey who laid down preconditions on the protocols in regards to the Nagorno Karabakh issue.

    • ashot said:

      you remember 92 93 94…:) well never again be victim…we will fight..and die..and kill every last turk before we do….

  3. aram said:

    Thank you Harut great artickle
    We have to remember Countries have short memorries when it comes
    to enforce fines on Turkey. Thats why Turkey never cares about
    anyone but moslems in turkey.We can be sure turkey is trying to take
    all left properties of Armenians.When we see the deeds we can (trust)them

  4. Armenian said:

    Only a Turk would call wiping out 1.5 million men, women and children, burning their homes, looting from them, starving them to death, torturing them and marching them into the desert a “great success”. Then you wonder why so many Armenians have animosity towards you? What an idiot.

  5. Nazim said:

    Armenian, do not impose your narrative on me. I do not believe 1915 was a genocide. You guys fought against Turkey with Russians. Jews did not get killed because they actively fought to dismember Germany; no, they were killed simply because they were Jews. Turks had no such purpose. By great success, I meant that Turkey repelled such designs by its internal enemeies. As its citizens, Armenians betrayed their government by siding with the enemy. True, many innocent children and women died in the process. But this happens in all civil and World Wars.

  6. Vzgo said:

    Any Turk who doesnt know or care about the atrosities of the Ottomans, must first educate themselves of the horifying past of their ancestors then discuss history.
    Armenian friends; I urge you please do not get manipulated by these idiots nor give them a chanse to do more lies and cover ups. It is just a waste of time and energy to discuss thigs with animals , who have no standards of life . Do not discuss things which is above their capacity to comprehend how to act human and act humanly towards minorities in turkey , The ignorant turks will always createw a lie and untrue expressions which they think the whole world is idiots and do not understand their owful behaviour .

  7. Ararat said:

    Nazim Turkey and Turks like you should be spit on not once but a thousand times. I can tell from your cunning words you are a very “loyal” and “good” Turk. When the hell are you two-faced scheming Turks going to join the civilized world and give up your mongoloid Asiatic genocidal mentality? You call this evil Turkish plot a grand gesture, much like the renovation of Akhtamar Church on lake Van was.

    When the Turkish government was being squeezed from all sides to admit to its past crimes it instead devised a hollow and insincere plot to renovate this church to falsely appease the world but only allow its congregation to hold prayers once a year and use the church as a tourist site for the remainder of the year for profit, some gesture ! You may be able to fool the world for a while but to us you are like an open book.

    The players have changed but the game has remained the same. Under pressure, the Ottoman Sultans used to promise the European Powers to implement reforms in Anatolia (Western Armenia) but soon after they would turn around and massacre Armenians who dared ask for reform. It’s funny you call Armenians the citizens of Turkey. The Armenians, at best, were 2nd class citizens in their own homeland. The most uneducated Turkish peasant had more rights than any Armenian.

    You naturally may think I say these things because as an Armenian I am biased. These are facts because they did not just happen in Anatolia. Study the Balkan history and you will find out that Bosniaks, whom your FM Davutoglu, aka Osmanoglu, recently visited and called his home, are fake Moslems in disguise. They are non-Turkic, non-Moslem indigenous people disguised as Moslems because under the Ottoman discriminatory Sharia laws you had to be a Moslem in order to have rights, avoid heavy taxation, and attain equality, wealth and prominence. Imagine what hardships these people were subjected to that had to resort to such despicable treason.

    Your mentality and your logic is laughable. According to your logic I guess the Germans should bring in the Nazis and wipe out the two million plus Turks in Germany because their loyalty lies with Turkey.

    To Armenians, you Turks at best are wolves in sheep’s clothing !

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