The Armenian Orthodox Catholicos of Cilicia says returning part of the assets seized from Churches by the Turkish government after 1936 is not enough. He wants the return of everything seized and lost after the genocide as well as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – Recent steps by Turkish authorities to return properties seized from religious minorities after 1936 are “incomplete”, Catholicos Aram I Kechichian said in an open letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
For the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, whose titular see is located in the Turkish province of Cilicia, justice for the Armenian people will come only when Turkey acknowledges the genocide of 1915 and when private and Church assets seized at the time are returned.
Here is the text of his letter (translated by
By way of the press, we have learnt that your government plans to return properties seized from religious minorities after 1936. Such a decision undoubtedly stems from recent rulings by the European Court of Human Rights as well as inquiries by the US Congress into Turkish pressures on Christian minorities (See Nat de Polis, “Historic decision: Erdogan returns seized property to religious minorities
,” in AsiaNews
, 29 August 2011).
As spiritual and lawful head of the Holy See of Cilicia (Armenian Orthodox), which was uprooted from its historic see and installed in Lebanon, and as representative of the children of the Armenian Church who were exiled from Turkey and dispersed throughout the world, we consider your decision of 27 August 2011 to be incomplete and unjust.
The Holy See of Cilicia remains the lawful owner of numerous buildings, churches, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, cemeteries and other properties that belong to the church, seized by Turkish authorities at the time of the Armenian genocide of 1915.
The same is true for the children of the Armenian people, who are the lawful owners of houses, businesses, estates and other assets passed down from their ancestors and lost during the genocide planned and executed by the Ottoman Turkish government.
Your government’s decision may meet the requirements of the European Union, but it may never be considered as just or legally relevant.
Mr Prime Minister, although taken in the name of justice, your decision is biased and selective and denies history and democratic values and principles.
Of course, international institutions like the European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament and its parliamentary bodies are tasked with defending democratic principles and values and ensure that they are respected; however, the people is the conscience and memory of such principles and values.
As League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Nobel Peace Prize winner for 1922 Fridtjof Nansen said in Armenia and the Near East
that the Armenian people never lost hope, bravely working and waiting. “They continue to wait,” he wrote.
Allow me to add that the Armenian people will never cease to demand justice from Turkey for the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian people will never cease to demand the restoration of their human rights.
Mr Prime Minister, your attachment to justice and human rights will gain in credibility only when you recognise the Armenian Genocide.