In June 2022, Turkey finalized the long-awaited updated regulations for non-Muslim foundations. In practice, due to Turkey’s mandates for non-Muslim worship, this means that many Christian churches in Turkey can elect leaders and board members for the first time in eight years.
Under the new regulations, foundations can select their own board and hold elections every five years. There are 167 community foundations in Turkey, including 77 Greek foundations, 54 Armenian foundations, and 19 Jewish foundations. ICC’s Turkey report from 2020 indicates that “The only options available to churches in Turkey to obtain legal status are the poor substitutes of registering as a foundation or association. Traditionally, a religious foundation (Turkish: vakıf) is a pious endowment of property and gives a building, such as a church, a protected legal status provided the foundation can maintain its membership, conduct elections etc. A foundation does not give a religious community a suitable legal status because it only concerns a church’s financial or property assets.” Churches that register as an association places them into the same category as sports or social club.
The report continues, “since 2013 the government has failed to provide election regulations for non-Muslim community foundations, hindering them from exercising their right to elect new board members. Because the government insists community foundation elections cannot take place without a government-drafted regulation, the normal active functioning of these foundations is inhibited. They are therefore prevented from reclaiming properties assigned to a third party, and their existing assets are put at risk.”
The most recent regulations, which went into effect on June 17, give Christian ministries and churches back some of their ability to act and carry out the needs of the group. The elections for new board members can only be held in the city where the foundation is located and follows similar protocols of electoral constituencies as in parliamentary elections.