Turkish government has finally returned nearly 50 seized church properties, ending a decade-long dispute over land ownership.
Since 2008, Turkish authorities had seized tens of properties in the south-eastern province of Mardin from the Syriac Orthodox Church, claiming that title deeds proving the historic Christian community’s land ownership had lapsed.
The historic Mor Gabriel Monastery, which was founded in 397 AD, was returned to church ownership in November 2017. But church leaders continued to campaign for the remaining seized properties.
Following the return of the monastery, Gabriel Akyüz, Patriarch of the Mor Benham Church, told journalists, “We also kindly request the transfer of other churches, monasteries and cemeteries, not only the Mor Gabriel Monastery. These are the properties of the Syriac church, and most of them date back to the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries.”
In February 2018, the seizures were formally condemned by the European Union, which issued a resolution calling on the European Commission to take up the issue with the Turkish government. On 22 May, Turkish authorities formally returned the properties, which include monasteries, churches and cemeteries.