The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has faulted Turkey for violating a Syriac foundation’s rights by expropriating a property that was used by the minority community for centuries in Mardin province, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported, citing the Deutsche Welle Turkish service on Tuesday.
The Strasbourg court concluded that Turkey violated the property rights of the Mor Gabriel Foundation while dismissing the foundation’s complaints regarding freedom of conscience and discrimination.
The case originated from land registry work in 1986 and 2007 that resulted in the registration of a 140-square-meter (1,506 square feet) piece of property as treasury-owned, in spite of the Assyrian community’s claims of ownership.
The foundation had launched litigation in domestic courts, which ruled for the return of certain cemeteries in the area to the group but not the property in question on the grounds that it was no longer a cemetery due to construction work done on it.
Once a sizeable ethnic minority during the Ottoman era, the Assyrians suffered a mass slaughter in 1915 that some refer to as a genocide. Subsequently, they faced pogroms in the early days of the Republic of Turkey, after which some of them fled to neighboring Syria.
Despite being a predominantly Christian minority, the Assyrians were not granted minority status under the Treaty of Lausanne, a provision from which other non-Muslim groups benefit, namely Armenians, Jews and Greeks.
Their number in Turkey is currently estimated at 25,000. Most of them live in İstanbul, having fled their hometowns in the southeast of the country due to the Kurdish conflict.