Turkey returning land to Syriac monastery

PanARMENIAN.Net – Turkey is returning a 12-acre parcel of land that belongs to a Syriac monastery which was seized from Mardin’s Syriac community in 2005 by the Treasury, a move that came after the government launched landmark reforms as part of a democratization package in a bid to extend the democratic rights of certain social and religious groups, Today’s Zaman reports.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ar?nç said on Monday, Oct 7, that the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) had agreed to return the land that belongs to the Mor Gabriel Monastery, ending an extended saga over the property rights of the Syriac community regarding the monastery and its surrounding area.

Last year, Turkey’s Aramean (Syriac) community was disappointed by a Supreme Court of Appeals rejection of a plea to overturn an earlier judgment that gave the land of the Mor Gabriel Monastery to the Treasury.

The conflict over Mor Gabriel began when land officials for the Turkish government 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 in compliance with European Union instructions.

The officials finished this work across nearly half the country in less than five years. In addition, several new laws have been passed that require the transfer of uncultivated land to the Treasury and, in some cases, that re-zone other land, such as forest land, transferring it to the jurisdiction of the Forestry Directorate.