Armenians and Assyrians raise expropriation of religious property by Turkey to Foreign Minister


SYDNEY: On April 1st, the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) sent a joint letter to Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

The joint letter addresses the issues and concerns of both the Armenian and Assyrian communities in regards to the decision made by Turkey to take ownership of more than 6000 properties in the Sur district of the Diyarbakir region, including Saint Giragos Church, which is the largest Armenian Church in the Middle East, as well as the Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church.

This expropriation comes after a violent crackdown on the Kurdish minority in the region, further contributing to the questionable human rights record that Turkey has with respect to the treatment of its minority groups.

The letter makes references to the reports covering this ruling. It also references statements made by Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament and member of the Kurdish Peoples’ Party (HDP), the Co-chair of the HDP, Figen Yüksekdag, as well as the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

The letter stressed that this “immediate expropriation” violates the right of property, and explicitly contradicts the Turkish Constitution’s Expropriation Law, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The letter stated that there could be no justifiable “security” grounds to expropriate churches and other religious sites or property. Even more so because of Turkey’s atrocious record of destroying and desecrating both Armenian, Assyrian and Greek religious and cultural heritage, especially during and after the Genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915.

It was stressed that this was a renewed attack by President Recep Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the Christian Communities of Turkey whose heritage and existence is increasingly under threat.

ANC Australia and the AUA jointly call upon the Australian Government urgently to:

add its voice to our Communities’ concerns;
convey its objection to the expropriation of these Churches (and all other religious sites and property) to the representatives of the Republic of Turkey; and
request the immediate return of all Churches and other religious sites and properties back to their rightful owners.

ANC Australia Executive Administrator, Arin Markarian said: “It is important that in times like these we stand united with our minority partners and ensure that religious and cultural centres for people to gather in are not under Turkish state control.”

“That is why the Armenians and Assyrians strongly condemn these expropriation actions taken by Turkey, and urge the Australian government to condemn this decision as well.”

See full letter below…