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Lraper: Armenian Patriarch in Ankara again


The law on minority foundations focus of discussion

ISTANBUL, 16 January 2002 (“Lraper” Church Bulletin)–
His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and All Turkey, flew to the Turkish capital city Ankara this morning for another round of meetings with government officials, concerning the amendments to be made to the law on non-Muslim minority foundations. The Patriarch had met, last week, with His Excellency Mr Bulent Ecevit, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, who is scheduled to meet His Excellency President George W. Bush of the United States of America today.

In Ankara, Patriarch Mesrob hopes to meet the chief representative of political parties who are represented in the National Grand Assembly of Turkey. Today, he is scheduled to meet Their Excellencies Mr. Mesut Yilmaz (Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Motherland Party), Mr. Husamettin Ozkan (Deputy Prime Minister), Mr. Nejat Arseven (State Minister in charge of Public Trusts and Foundations), Ambassador Volkan Vural (General Secretary to the European Union), opposition leader Mr. Recai Kutan (Head of Saadet Party). Mr. Devlet Bahceli (Deputy Prime Minister and Head of Nationalist Movement Party) and Mrs. Tansu Ciller (Head of True Path Party) have not yet responded to the Patriarch’s wish to meet with them. The Patriarch paid a courtesy visit yesterday afternoon to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Head of the Justice and Development Party, in his office in Istanbul.

The main subject brought up during the visits of the Patriarch is the amendment proposed by the State Ministry for Foundations, which seeks to revise the Foundations Law No. 227. The proposed law directly concerns the Turkish Armenian community and other non-Muslim communities in Turkey.

Lawyers, representing around fifty-five Armenian community foundations in Turkey, have submitted to the Patriarch a legal analysis of the petition prepared by the State Ministry for Foundations. The Armenian Orthodox community is the largest non-Muslim community in Turkey, and like in the case of other non-Muslim minorities, since 1936, it has been denied the right to own new community properties. The non-Muslim citizens of Turkey have almost equal opportunity before the Turkish laws in terms of personal citizens’ rights, however there are pending legal issues that must be solved in the sphere of communal rights.

The Patriarch had said to the Prime Minister last week: “As the Government updates the law [on foundations], there is only one thing that the non-Muslim religious minorities wish. The non-Muslim foundations that have survived the Ottoman Empire should be allowed to have the legal right to receive, own and manage new immovable properties, in order for them to realize their humanitarian, social, religious, educational, health and cultural endeavours.” The Patriarch had added that if this much could be achieved, then the discrimination between the Muslim and non-Muslim foundations in the Republic of Turkey would be relegated to history books.

“Just as any Turkish citizen, regardless of religion, has the right to own property, the foundations established by any group of Turkish citizens which are legal personalities should enjoy the same prerogative,” explains the Patriarch, and underlines, “Again regardless of their religion and without any artificial conditions.” Patriarch Mesrob voices his hope that the amended law would not achieve anything less than this equality.

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