UN_2014/03/03-28_item3

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans (EFC)

Human Rights Council --25th session--

Geneva 3-28 March 2014

Item 3 - General debate

Delivered by Dr Dominique Morabito

The consequences of non-recognition of legal status of non-Muslim minorities in the Republic of Turkey

The Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which recognized the Republic of Turkey internationally, established and guaranteed the status of non-Muslim minorities in Turkey and upheld their rights. The essential clause gave the right to minorities to manage their religious and public welfare foundations such as churches, hospitals, schools, or cemeteries. Thus, the administrations of these foundations must be elected by the members of the Minority community. Despite this, successive Turkish Governments intervened against the clause abolishing illegally the Minority Council (1925), prohibiting elections in the Minority foundation councils and appointing a single administrator (1936-1950), prohibiting elections (1969-2003) and abolishing the Coordination Bodies supervising the Minority foundations in 1962. The worst violation occurred in 1974: after a ruling of the Higher Cassation Court of Turkey, stipulated that all real estate and legally registered properties in the name of non-Muslim Minority foundations during the period of 1936-1974 should be confiscated by the State, based on the spurious argument that “although the minority members hold citizenship of the Republic of Turkey, at the same time they are also foreigners”.

The present government (2003-2012) allowed the elections and the return of some of the appropriated real estate properties, but only 16% were returned and in some foundations no elections are carried out. The worst case is the largest Greek-Orthodox Foundation of Balikli Hospital and Elderly People’s Care Home where the present administration is in office since 1991, following an appointment by the Turkish Government. The appointee has denied the right to carry out elections while the Supervisory state authorities, the General Directorate of Welfare Foundation, remains inactive towards this illegal behavior. In January 2013, this Directorate abolished the Election Regulation of the Minority foundations without alternative policies. This means that, for an indefinite time period, elections cannot be held in Minority foundations.

Furthermore, Turkey does not recognize the legal status of religious authorities of the non-Muslim Minorities, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate, leading to severe obstacles in the Patriarchate’s ability to carry out its spiritual duties for more than 300 Million Orthodox-Christians.

The mentioned problems are directly linked with the lack of legal recognition of the Minorities and leads to serious problems related to religious and cultural rights. In this respect, the Turkish government is asked to proceed with necessary reforms by (a) issuing new regulations for elections at the Minority foundations. Moreover, it should (b) allow the Coordination Bodies between the welfare foundations and (c) return the real estate properties to their legal owners. Above all, it must (d) recognize the legal status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

UN_2013/11/26-27_item5

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans (EFC)

 Forum on Minority Issues --6th session--

Geneva 26-27 November 2013

Item 5

 Delivered by Dr Dominique Morabito

 The reconversion of museums once being churches to mosques is not promoting the interreligious cooperation and mutual understanding

The reconversion of museums once being churches to mosques is not promoting the interreligious cooperation and mutual understanding. Indeed, during the last years there has been a practice by state authorities in the Republic of Turkey to reconvert museums into mosques, monuments which were originally build as churches during the Byzantine period and then converted to mosques during the Ottoman era. These monuments, being of high architectural and historical value, are considered to belong to world cultural heritage and are reference monuments of the civilization that created. Furthermore, these acts are also contradictory to the scientific principles of monument preservation, as the conversions need significant structural interventions to the monuments and this is against their preservation for the next generations. Besides, these monuments are still primordial in Christian faith.

For example, the two historic churches of Saint-Sophia in Iznik (8th century Nicaea) and Saint-Sophia in Trabzon (13th century), despite their meticulous restorations with the care of prominent Universities and of the Republic of Turkey, were recently convert to mosques and signs of Christian faith covered.

Moreover, a couple a weeks ago, the Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Bülent Arınç called the conversion of Saint-Sophia of Istanbul to mosque. Turkish Airlines, a state majority company, published in August 2013, in its magazine “Skylife”, a key note article entitled “Saint-Sophia: Mosque of Sultans” advocating also the conversion of the Saint-Sophia from museum to mosque, despite the fact that this famous monument is a museum since 1934.

Also very recently, the largest Monastery of Byzantine era Stoudion, later known as Imrahor mosque, is announced to be reconverted to mosque being museum the last 50 years. Stoudion monastery was the place where all the ancient Greek texts were saved by reproducing, throughout the 4th to 15th centuries and passed to next generations.

We consider that these acts of reconversions do not ease at all interreligious dialog and cooperation in this particular period which is needed to stop the inter-communal clashes in many countries and in particular in eastern Mediterranean region. We believe these acts of reconversions are also reviving past contradictions between religions which are entirely unnecessary at present circumstances. Therefore, we call the Government of Turkey to reconsider the above policy of reconversions of Byzantine era monuments to mosques for the reasons we stated above.

UN_2013/03/22-2013/02/25

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans (EFC)

UN Human Rights Council --22d session--

Geneva 25 February - 22 March 2013

Dialogue with the Expert on Minorities

Delivered by Dr Dominique Morabito

Thank you Mr President.
The Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans (EFC) wishes to present to the Independent Expert on Minorities the case of the minority Greek-Orthodox community of Istanbul, Gökçeada and Bozcaada (Community), which fully applies to the Remedy and Reparations of the UN Resolution 60/147.
The legal status of the Community was established and protected by the Lausanne Treaty (24/7/1923). However, the Community suffered severe violations of its human rights since then. The numerous social, economic, educational and religious discriminations and deportation imposed illegally to the Community resulted to expatriation and therefore extreme shrinkage of its population. In Istanbul, the population went from almost one fifth of the City’s whole population of the time to only 3,000 people of 12 million today.
The EFC, through its efforts in the last years, has succeeded to present these extensive violations to the Turkish authorities in multiple steps and to claim the first major remedy and reparations of the rights of the expatriated population and the Community, as follows:

  • Restitution of the Turkish citizenship discarded unfairly in the past
  • Facilitation of the repatriation procedures to those wishing to return to their homeland
  • Allowance of the proper use and administration of the Community's and its welfare foundations real estate property
  • Return of the confiscated archives and library of the Greek Literary Society of Istanbul (1861-1922), the Community's valuable memory
  • Elimination of negative references in Turkish educational system for the minorities
  • Acceptance of EU citizens -and not only Turkish citizens- to enrol at the Community's schools
  • Recognition and application of equal rights to the Community as their Muslim Turkish co-citizens in all services and sectors of the State
  • Recognition of the legal status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its rights of proper use of its institutions.

Mrs Expert on Minority Issues, despite the fact that the report submitted on the protection of minority rights is very important, one can ask whether in the absence of remedy and reparations, the institutionalized human rights protection becomes vague as the results of gross human violations become fait accompli, considering the irreversibility of the perpetrators planned acts towards a minority, such as the Greek-Orthodox of Istanbul that has been almost banished from its homeland.
Thank you for your attention.

UN_2013/11/26-27

Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans (EFC)

 Forum on Minority Issues --6th session--

 Geneva 26-27 November 2013

 Delivered by Dr Dominique Morabito

  Problems arising of the restricted legal recognition of the Greek-Orthodox minority of Istanbul

The Greek-Orthodox minority community of Istanbul (Community) is an autochthonous minority which status was recognized by the international Lausanne Treaty (1923). This Treaty is also the founding act establishing the state of Turkey. In Lausanne Treaty, Section B (articles 38-42) is devoted to the protection of rights of non-Muslim minorities to whom also the Community belongs. Since this Treaty, 98% of the members of the Community were forced to leave their homeland because of the massive minority rights violations by the consequent governments of Turkey during the period 1923-2003.

Despite the Treaty, Turkey only recognizes the minority welfare foundations being legal bodies on individual basis which includes churches, schools, monasteries, cemeteries, an elderly care house and a hospital.

From 1923 to 1962, there were “Central Administration Boards”, which members were elected by the members of the minority, and that were supervising and coordinating the foundations. However, the Turkish Government abolished in 1962, these Boards following a ruling of the “Special Minority Committee” (“Azinilikar Taali Komisyonu”) which members were appointed by the state intelligence and security services. From 1962 to 2004, the assigned duty to this Committee was to plan and implement all anti-minority measures while the Committee had a superseding power of any legislative, executive and judicial power concerning the Community. Today, by not recognizing any legal representation to the minority Community, one has to appeal to numerous authorities in order to cope or to raise a minority problem. In order to solve this problem and taking into account the ongoing process of the structuring of a new Constitution of Turkey, the issue of recognition of minority entities should be solved.

In this regard, the Greek-Orthodox minority is requesting to the Turkish Government to

  • cancel the illegal abolition of Central Administrative Bodies allowing their functioning and
  • establish a competent and fair state authority to accept the complaints and requests of minorities and support the efforts to solve the problems faced by minority groups.

Furthermore, a serious pending problem of the Minority is the still continuing prohibition of the operation of the Heybeliada-Chalki Theological School which remains closed from 1971 after an illegal ruling of the Turkish Government. This prevents the education of clergyman to provide services to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the religious Centre of more than 300 Million Orthodox Christians of the World. The School should be opened immediately.