The new report from the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) comprehensively outlines the systematic discrimination the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople faces. It delves into the threats targeting religious properties in Turkey, spanning places of worship, religious institutions, and cemeteries.
Also highlighted in the report is the Treaty of Lausanne, which initially offered protection and religious freedom to non-Muslim communities. However, it vividly depicts how these rights were often curtailed, particularly in actions taken against significant Christian sites. The data reveals a concentration of attacks on Greek Orthodox and other Orthodox churches in the Marmara region of Constantinople, primarily impacting non-Muslim populations.
The report also emphasizes the freezing of property as a means of retaliation. For instance, the seizure of the Prinkipos Greek Orthodox orphanage in 1964 by Turkish authorities stands as a stark example. The lack of maintenance led to its dilapidation over time.
Even after the Ecumenical Patriarchate regained ownership through an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the building had suffered extensive damage and neglect. The responsibility for repair and maintenance, incurring significant financial costs, fell upon the Greek Orthodox community.
While direct bombings and terrorist attacks have decreased in the past decade, the report underscores a rise in incidents like vandalism, arson-driven destruction of religious property, and looting. Alarmingly, the lack of prosecution for these offenses has disproportionately affected the Greek Orthodox and other Orthodox communities in Turkey. Overall, the report suggests these findings point to a larger political apathy towards safeguarding the property rights of the country’s non-Muslim minorities.
Source: ANA-MPA, Translated by: Konstantinos Menyktas