By BosNewsLife News Center
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)– Turkey’s government has pledged to return hundreds of properties confiscated from the country’s Christian and Jewish minorities, but critics say the decree does not go far enough.
Properties to be returned to Armenian, Greek, and Jewish trusts include a former hospital, orphanage or school buildings and cemeteries.
Additionally, authorities plan to pay compensation for any confiscated property that has been sold in the last 75 years.
Yet, in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, September 8, rights activists warned that many Armenian Christians will not receive back anything as the measure only applies to properties taken after 1936.
“A significant proportion of property belonging to Armenian Christian groups were lost before this time and so are not covered by the decree,” said advocacy group Middle East Concern (MEC).
The group also cautioned that the “wording of the decree excludes payment of compensation in cases where the State did not benefit” financially.
“It’s a very trifle step,” added expert of Turkish studies Anush Hovhannisyan in comments published by Armenian radio.
At least hundreds of thousands of Armenians, and some say up to 1.5 million, were reportedly massacred during that time. Additionally 1.5 million Greeks were deported in a population exchange.
Hovhannisyan said the “loss of Armenians was immense, taking into consideration that the process of confiscation of Armenians’ property was continuous, especially during the genocide and the years that followed.”
Turkey has refused to recognized the deaths as “genocide” saying most Armenians died because of hardships related to the war.
However Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I reportedly saw some positive aspects, saying he hopes that the theological school of Halki, which was closed in 1971, would be returned and reopened.
“Not being allowed to operate a seminary within the country has caused a number of serious challenges,” MEC told BosNewsLife in a statement.
There are now some 100,000 Christians of different denominations, including 60,000 Armenians, and about 25,000 Jews among Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 74 million, according to church and other estimates.
Turkey has been pressured by the European Union to improve religious rights of minorities at a time when it seeks membership of the 27-nation club.