Home > Uncategorized > Turkish Prime Minister Takes Significant Step to Advance Religious Liberty

Turkish Prime Minister Takes Significant Step to Advance Religious Liberty

On August 28, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an historic decision to return property confiscated in 1936 to religious minorities.

The Prime Minister made the announcement surrounded by 150 Jews, Christians, and Muslims celebrating a Ramadan dinner. The properties will be returned to the Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian communities in Turkey.

Erdogan’s decree states that minorities who had hospitals, schools, temples, cemeteries, apartments, houses, and other property seized by Turkish officials have a twelve-month period to submit their requests for the return of their properties. The Prime Minister has also declared the rightful owners of property sold to a third party will be reimbursed by the Turkish Finance Ministry for the market value of the property.

Approximately 1000 properties will be returned to the Greek Orthodox Church and 100 to the Armenians.

“Holocaust survivors welcome Turkey’s announcement on the properties of religious minorities and now call on the Turkish authorities to return hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen property — particularly gold — hidden by the Nazis there during World War II,” Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said in a statement. “It is time for Turkey to come clean. If it wishes to enter the family of European nations, it should take the moral position adopted by the other European states and return to the victims — Jew and non-Jew — the properties stolen by the criminal Nazi regime,” Steinberg said.

In February 2008, the Turkish government attempted a similar decree. However the decree failed before it could be passed.

While this is a significant step, we still hold out hope that the returned property will include the Halki seminary and that further legislative changes will be made to advance and secure religious liberty in Turkey.

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