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Turkey to announce new voting rights for minority religious foundations

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A Turkish diplomat has said that a new regulation allowing religious community foundations in Turkey to elect their own boards of directors will come into force in 2022, local media reported on Wednesday, citing Austrian news agency Kathpress.

The agency on Wednesday quoted Ozan Ceyhun, Turkish ambassador to Austria, as saying that preparations for the new regulation were “almost complete” and that it would “probably come into force in mid-April.”

The minorities weren’t officially allowed to elect those responsible for church foundations in Turkey, Kathpress said, adding that the regulation was expected to bring an end to the legal uncertainty in that area that had been going on for nearly eight years.

According to Kathpress, minority churches, monasteries, schools, hospitals and retirement homes are organized in Turkey in line with the system of Islamic foundations since state requirements for the election of the board members of these religious community foundations were lifted in 2013.

Since no new regulation was subsequently published, there have been no more elections since then, and church property is often no longer administered by elected committees, but by its administrative staff, the agency said.

Due to the legal uncertainty, Christian representatives in Turkey see the property of the non-Islamic religious communities at risk, Kathpress said.

The Austrian agency also quoted Ceyhun as refuting claims that the Turkish government was offering Christian places of worship owned by recognized church communities for sale, an allegation covered by many local and foreign news outlets, including Kathpress.

The right of disposal of real estate belonging to religious communities lies with the foundations themselves, Ceyhun said, adding that there were no official records proving the sale of a church belonging to religious community foundations.

In the past few years churches had been offered for sale on Turkish real estate platforms, some from unknown sources, according to Kathpress, with Garo Paylan, an Armenian deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), recently denouncing in a statement two such advertisements by real estate agents for churches in Mardin and Bursa provinces.

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