Politics 13:12 26/07/2011

Congressional panel urges Turkey to return church properties to Christians

Author By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier

 The House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a strongly-worded measure on July 20, pressing Turkey to return all Christian church properties "to their rightful owners."

By an overwhelming 43-1 vote, the congressional panel adopted a sweeping amendment to the State Department’s Foreign Relations Authorization Act, urging "the Secretary of State in all official contacts with Turkish leaders and other Turkish officials to emphasize that Turkey should":
1) end all religious discrimination;
2) allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties to perform religious and social services;
3) return to their rightful owners all Christian churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties, including artwork, manuscripts, vestments, vessels, and other artifacts; and
4) allow the rightful church and lay owners of Christian church properties to repair all churches and other places of worship, monasteries, schools, hospitals, monuments, relics, holy sites, and other religious properties within Turkey.

Despite intensive efforts by Turkey’s Ambassador in Washington, Turkish and Azerbaijani organizations, and lobbying firms hired by Ankara, almost all members of the Committee, including Turkey’s staunchest supporters, voted in favor of the amendment, dealing Turkey a devastating defeat. The single negative vote was cast by Cong. Ron Paul (R-TX) because of his isolationist ideology and not his support for Turkey!

This near unanimous vote did not come as a surprise to me, as I had long advocated the passage of such a measure realizing that Members of Congress could not possibly vote against religious freedom. All fifteen Members of Congress who spoke during the hearing indicated their support for the amendment. Here are excerpts from some of their remarks:
-- Cong. Howard Berman (D-CA), who offered the amendment jointly with Cong. David Cicilline (D-RI), stated: "We want Turkey to return confiscated property to Christian communities and at a minimum to provide compensation for properties that can’t be recovered…. In this particular area, their [Turks’] practices for many years…have been atrocious."
-- Cong. Brad Sherman (D-CA): "This amendment is urgently needed to address the vast destruction of Christian religious heritage as a result of the Turkish government’s theft, desecration, and disregard of ancient Christian holy sites and churches."
-- Cong. Dan Burton (R-IN), one of the staunchest supporters of Turkey: "I do support the amendment. I do support religious freedom, and I hope that this amendment does pass."
-- Cong. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), co-chair of the Turkish Congressional Caucus: "Religious freedom is a tenet of American philosophy and it is a cardinal of our American values. I look forward to supporting the language."
-- Cong. Ed Royce (R-CA), co-sponsor of House Resolution 306 which formed the basis for the proposed amendment: "Turkey is identified as a country among the world’s top violators of religious freedom…. So we urge Turkey to return all confiscated church properties taken from these religions that were frankly stolen."
-- Cong. Eliot Engel (D-NY): "Turkey is an ally in NATO, and we recognize that. I wish frankly that they would act more like an ally to the United States than they have lately. They really have gone astray…. Their Foreign Minister has set out a policy of Islamism and has moved away from the European Union, the West, and the United States, and has behaved very poorly frankly with the flotilla and Israel and the whole bit."

Turkey’s Ambassador to the U.S., Namik Tan, disingenuously attributed the setback suffered by his country to the work of "radical Armenians." He must have forgotten that the Turkish government is the one paying millions of dollars to lobbying firms each year to influence Members of Congress, and that 43 out of 44 Foreign Affairs Committee members, including Turkey’s staunchest supporters, could not possibly be in the pockets of a handful of "radical Armenians."

Turkish leaders have not made a public statement after the adoption of the amendment, in order to hide this embarrassing episode. Surprisingly, Armenian government officials have not commented either on this issue. Obama administration officials have also remained silent and refrained from overt efforts to block the amendment in view of its overwhelming bipartisan support.

While Armenian, Assyrian and Greek-Americans have won the first skirmish, they have not yet won the final battle. The Authorization Bill along with this amendment will next go to the full House for approval. A similar Bill has to be adopted by the Senate. A joint committee of both houses will then attempt to reconcile the differences between the two versions. Turkish lobbyists and the Obama administration still have an opportunity to remove the amendment from the larger Bill. Supporters of the amendment must remain vigilant, urging their House and Senate representatives to vote in favor of keeping the church amendment in the Authorization Bill.

Even though the amendment has no legally binding effect, it is a moral victory for all those who cherish religious freedom, and a major political success for the Armenian-American community which went toe to toe against the mighty Turkish lobbying machine and dealt it a devastating blow. The amendment also exposes the alarming condition of Christian churches in Turkey, paving the way for other countries and international organizations, such as the Council of Europe and UNESCO, to support their restoration.

Yet, the most effective way of forcing Turkey to return the confiscated Christian churches to their rightful owners is by filing lawsuits in the European Court of Human Rights. The Turkish government has accepted the jurisdiction of that court and has readily complied with its verdicts.

Source Panorama.am
Share |


Ban Ki-moon’s message on International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women
The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a message on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. ...
NSS of Armenia releases video of criminal group’s arrest in Yerevan
The National Security Service (NSS) of Armenia released more details about tracking down an organized criminal group that planned to commit a...
President: Armenia shall remain as the most secure country in the world
“These undertakings shall be of preventive nature in the first place and in no way or manner shall upset the normal functioning of our...
Citizens will feel outcome of fight against corruption: Justice Ministry of Armenia
Armenian citizens themselves will feel results of the fight against corruption because the spheres where people are involved in everyday life...
B. Gasic: Serbia grateful to Armenia for its principled stand on Kosovo issue
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan received today Serbian Foreign Minister Bratislav Gasic, according to the press service of Armenian...
Edward Nalbandyan to attend meeting of Eastern Partnership Foreign Ministers in Tbilisi
Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan will travel to Tbilisi on November 26, Armenian Foreign Ministry said. In Georgia’s...
Draft law on probation service to be put into circulation in early December Deputy minister
The draft law on probation and the state probation service will be put into official circulation in early December, Deputy Justice Minister of...
Armenia safest country in region, but it remains under sight of terrorists since 2011, MP says
Armenian MP Tevan Poghosyan in an interview with Panorama.am commented on the arrest of a criminal group by Armenia’s  National...
Actress Varduhi Varderesyan to be buried in Komitas Pantheon on November 27
Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan chaired today a sitting of the government commission for the organization of the funeral of...
U.S. Ambassador opens school renovation thanks to American military support
A number of disadvantaged young Armenians in Gyumri now have better living conditions, thanks to efforts financed by the U.S. government. On...
Stepantsminda-Lars motorway open to traffic
As of November 25 Stepantsminda-Lars motorway is open round-the-clock to all types of vehicles with anti-skid chains, Armenian Ministry of...
Man who loved his nation with all his heart: Monte Melkonian’s birthday is today
 Today is the birthday of Monte ‘Avo’ Melkonian, a National Hero of Armenia. National Hero of Armenia and the Nagorno...
President Bako Sahakyan holds consultation ahead of population census in Artsakh
On 25 November Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan chaired a working consultation devoted to the issues of organizing a population census...
Weightlifter Andranik Karapetyan wins small bronze in Houston Championship
Armenian weightlifter Andranik Karapetyan (men’s 77 kg category) finished fourth at the 2015 Houston World Weightlifting Championship,...
Missing Russian jet pilot 'picked up by Syrian army'
A Russian pilot who went missing after his jet was shot down by Turkey over Syria was rescued by the Syrian army, Russia's ambassador to...
NSS: Criminal group aimed to organize grave crimes in Armenia
As a result of prompt investigative measures taken by Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), a criminal group planning grave crimes in...
Hilton hotels hit by cyber attack
US hotel chain Hilton revealed that hackers infected some of its point-of-sale computer systems with malware crafted to steal credit card...
NKR Defense Ministry: Azerbaijan violated ceasefire about 40 times
Yesterday, on November 24, and the night of November 25 the Azerbaijani side violated the ceasefire about 40 times on the line of contact...
Haykakan Zhamanak: Russia will not strike NATO member state
“Turkey is a NATO member state, and in this sense Russia will not be able to maneuver. If Russia strikes a retaliatory blow against...
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women observed on November 25
The United Nations General Assembly has designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women...
Haykakan Zhamanak: Russian military bases in region to be brought into higher state of readiness
The Russian military base in Armenia may be of importance in case of a deterioration of relations between Russia and Turkey, Ruben Melkonyan, an...
Expert reveals way Armenian delegation can use to bloc Karabakh-related reports of Walter, Markovic in PACE
The worsening of relations between Europe and Azerbaijan should be used for the good of Armenia, political scientist Hrant Melik-Shahnazaryan...
Armenian PM, Serbian defense minister discuss expansion of bilateral relations
Official visits and meeting in recent years have significantly promoted the political dialog between Armenia and Serbia and contributed to...
Expert: Draft report on Sarsang reservoir approved by PACE Committee is result of Armenian delegation’s inactivity
Approval of the draft report on the Sarsang reservoir in Nagorno Karabakh by the PACE Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable...
Constitution currently in force gives oppositionists no chance to work, they can only criticize: Hrayr Tovmasyan
The proposed amendments to the Constitution of Armenia restrict the presidential powers: the president can no longer participate in political...
Deputy FM of Armenia: Draft report on Sarsang reservoir only plays into Azerbaijani propaganda’s hands
Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia Shavarsh Kocharyan discussed - in an interview with News.am - the draft report on the Sarsang reservoir in...
Putin: Russian SU-24 fighter jet was shot down by Turkish air force over Syrian territory
The Russian fighter jet Su-24 did not pose any threat to Turkey, but was attacked and shot down by air-to-air missile from Turkish F-16 fighter...
Amateur rapid chess tournament held in Armenia on Bank Employee Day
The 8th Amateur Rapid Chess Tournament took place in Yerevan’s Tigran Petrosyan Chess House on the occasion of Bank Employee Day. The...
Turkish F-16 shoots down Russian fighter jet near Syria border
NATO has called an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday after two Turkish F-16 fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near Turkey's...
Military chronicler of Russian Empire testifies how greedy Khan of Erivan robbed Etchmiadzin Cathedral
The peaceful life, which commenced in Karabakh after the Persians’ defeat in the first Russo-Persian war, contributed to the increase of...

Follow us and get updates!

Most popular articles

{"core.blocks.header.spell_message1":"Selected mistake: ","core.blocks.header.spell_message2":"Send a message about the mistake?"}