Turkish Government to Return Property Seized from Religious Minorities | Freedom House

Turkish Government to Return Property Seized from Religious Minorities

In an effort to gain admittance to the European Union and comply with its pressure to eliminate legislation targeting religious minorities, Turkey will compensate non-Muslim minorities and return property lost since 1936, according to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The announcement to return stolen property to Greek, Jewish and Armenian groups - including schools, hospitals, cemeteries and orphanages- comes despite parliamentary opposition to the decree. Minorities will receive financial compensation in the event the property was stolen or seized.

The Turkish constitution protects freedom of religion, but the state’s official secularism has led to considerable restrictions on the minority population in the country. Disputes over properties have been in and out of courts for decades—the European Court for Human Rights ordered Turkey to compensate a number of religious minorities. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced criticism and was previously banned from the political sphere for a reading a poem inciting religious intolerance.  But increased attention has been shown in recent years to the non-Muslim minorities in Turkey, including Jews and Christians. A number of measures have been implemented to increase minority rights, but they have often been driven by Turkey’s desire to join the EU.

Freedom House welcomes the move to compensate minority groups but insists the Turkish government implement legislation beyond the scope of joining intergovernmental bodies, and assure no law is misused to discriminate against religious minorities.