Mor Gabriel Monastery granted title to seized land

The Turkish government has given the Mor Gabriel Monastery, a holy site for the Aramean (Syriac) community, title to lands around the church that had been seized, as promised in a democratization package announced last year, the Taraf daily reported on Thursday.

“It was very good for all of us,” said Kuryakos Ergün, chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, on Tuesday, Taraf reported.

The deed for the 12-acre parcel, which was seized in 2005 from Mardin’s Aramean community by the Treasury, was received by Samuel Akta?, metropolitan bishop of Tur Abdin, a hilly region between the southeastern provinces of Mardin and ??rnak.

The dispute over the Mor Gabriel Monastery’s lands has been ongoing for more than five years. The disagreement started when land officials redrew the boundaries around the monastery and surrounding villages in 2008 in order to update the national land registry as part of a cadastre modernization project to comply with European Union standards.

Ergün said the community was happy to receive the deed. Recalling the announcement of the democratization package, he said, “Then, I said it was a good start and that our happiness would be complete when we received title to the land.”

“It got better both for us and for our country. Hopefully, the returning of the rest of the lands will be settled as soon as possible,” Erdün said.

A 250,000 square meter parcel of forestland that the Aramean community lays claim to is still officially owned by the Treasury.

Mor Gabriel is a holy place for the Syriac community, said Kenan Gürdal, deputy head of the ?stanbul Syriac Kadim Church Foundation. “Mor Gabriel is the al-Quds [Jerusalem] of the Syriac community, a sacred place. Visiting [Mor Gabriel], Syriacs are making a pilgrimage.”

Gürdal said the 1,600-year-old Mor Gabriel Monastery has witnessed various miracles. “This already belonged to us. For bureaucratic reasons, however, these lands were taken as state property. Mr. Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdo?an] and Mr. President [Abdullah Gül] approached this issue with sensitivity and justice has been served. The restitution pleased the Syriac community and we are looking forward to getting the forestland back too.”

(Cihan/Today’s Zaman)