Turkey’s Assyrians to sue for return of confiscated churches

Assyrians Christians in Turkey are preparing to sue the state for confiscating churches, monasteries and cemeteries and handing them over to the Treasury, Bianet reported.

The ownership of Assyrian churches and monasteries in Mardin, southeast Turkey, was transferred to Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs in 2013 by a commission after the city was given metropolitan status. The new status meant the Assyrian villages, which had owned the property, were now classified as districts and no longer legally permitted to have ownership.

Following pressure from Assyrian civil society organisations, the Interior Ministry overturned the commission's decision, but the properties were then given to the Treasury.

Confiscation means removing the sole financial source of the minority foundations, said Yuhanna Aktaş, who was the head of the Assyrians of Mardin Foundation until it was shut down by an emergency decree in July.

There are about 20,000 Assyrians in Turkey, of which some 2,000 live in Mardin.