European court rules Turkey violated rights of Greek church foundation

22 November 2022

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the rights of a Greek church foundation by refusing to allow it to register its land.

The court stated on 15 November that the Greek Orthodox Taksiarhis Church Foundation, part of the Greek Orthodox Church, had been subjected to discrimination by the Turkish authorities.

It ordered Turkey to pay €5,000 (£4,400; $5,120) in costs and expenses to the foundation, whose church was built in 1899 in the Arnavutkoy district of Istanbul.

The Greek Orthodox Taksiarhis Church in Arnavutkoy district of Istanbul [Image credit: Turkish Minute]

The dispute centred on the foundation’s attempts to register an 8,394 square metre plot of land, which it stated had been in its possession for a long period of time and had been mentioned in its foundation declaration of 1936.

The ECHR said Turkey violated the foundation’s rights by refusing to allow it to register the land without fairly and clearly establishing the facts of the dispute, and was engaged in discrimination.

It is the latest ruling by the European court against Turkey for violating the property rights of its Greek Christian minority. In March 2009 it ordered the Turkish authorities to pay damages to a Greek Orthodox foundation for failing to allow it to register its title to a church and lands on the Aegean island of Bozcaada.

The European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join, has called on the government to return seized properties to minorities and expand their religious and cultural freedoms.

Greeks were once a vast community in Istanbul, which was then called Constantinople. An estimated 1.5 million Greeks were killed by the Ottoman Turkish government between 1914 and 1923 as part of a policy of extermination of Christian minorities. More than 1.5 million Armenians and 750,000 Assyrian Christians are also thought to have died in the state-sanctioned genocide.

Give thanks that the European Court of Human Rights has recognised the merit of the claim of the Greek Orthodox Taksiarhis Church Foundation. Pray that the hearts of the Turkish authorities will be softened towards the minority Christian community and that the rights of our brothers and sisters will be upheld in the future. 

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