The St. Gabriel Foundation, which manages a good deal of at least 110 confiscated Aramean Christian properties in 2017, received today 50 of the 55 returned title deeds from the Turkish Government. Recently, parliament voted in favor of a bill dealing with the return of these assets after the expansion of the municipality of Mardin, a city in Southeast Turkey.
Picture: H.E. Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas, Metropolitan of Tur Abdin, and Kuryakos Ergün, head of the St. Gabriel Foundation,display the 50 returned title deeds to the foundation.
Last year, the Turkish authorities seized at least 110 properties in and around Mardin. With the expansion of the Mardin municipality, the regional government seized the properties and transferred them to a special committee of the Ministry of Finance, which transferred them to the Directorate for Religious Affairs. Following intense dialogue and negotiation between the relevant authorities and the Aramean Christians, a bill was presented to and adopted by the Turkish Parliament.
WCA is pleased to inform that today, 22 May 2018, 55 title deeds were successfully returned to their rightful owners, 50 of them were returned to the St. Gabriel Foundation. WCA President, Johny Messo, underlines the importance of the implementation of the aforementioned bill, stating: “We are grateful to the Turkish Parliament for the return of these critical Aramean assets. We remain hopeful that the remaining Aramean properties and lands will also follow soon.”
The expropriation of private and public properties of Arameans in the Mardin region did not start in 2017. They follow an earlier large-scale expropriation of lands dating back to the 2008 court cases of St. Gabriel Monastery (founded in 397) as well as of many other monasteries, churches and private landowners in Southeast Turkey that are still waiting to be resolved.
Less than 2,000 Arameans are still living in Tur-Abdin, which is Aramaic for “Mountain of the Servants” of God. This region in Southeast Turkey is sometimes called “The Mount Athos of the East,” owing to its ancient monasteries and churches. In the last decades, thousands of Arameans, who still speak the ‘language of Jesus’, have escaped from their ancestral homeland in this ancient plateau. Mainly as a result of the growing repression by their Kurdish neighbors in the 1970s and the conflict between the state and the Kurdish separatist organization PKK in the 1980s and 1990s.
More on this: New Turkish Bill and European Parliament Resolution on Christian property issues (9 February 2018)