Religious Minority Property
"The new mentality to which Karakose is referring is the nine years of rule under the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has introduced a number of legal reforms aimed at resolving the seizure of hundreds of properties and lands by the Turkish state. Since 1936 strict controls had been enforced on the ownership of property by foundations belonging to non-Muslims. Churches, cemeteries, and schools were also among the seizures. But last month, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while attending a meal with leading figures of the non-Muslim community, promised closure on the controversy with a legal commitment to return all properties.
"'The days when a citizen of ours would be oppressed due to his religious or ethnic origin, or different way of life are over,' Erdogan vowed. 'This is not about doing a favor; this is about rectifying an injustice.'"
The decline of Christianity in 20th-century Turkey has not occurred under Islamists, but under militantly secular Turkish nationalists who feared that difference could lead the state to fracture under local nationalisms. It's under the Islamist AKP that conditions are improving:
"The return of properties is part of wider process of improving the environment for the non-Muslim minorities under the AKP government.
"Earlier this year for the first time, Istanbul's Greek minority, or Rum, as they are called here, held an exhibition celebrating their heritage. Once the community numbered in the millions, now it is down to a few thousand -- the result of discrimination and historical tensions with Greece. This month is the 56th anniversary of a pogrom against Istanbul's Rum population."