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WikiLeaks: 2006-03-29: 06ANKARA1668: GOT Plans to Renovate Churches, Synagogue

by WikiLeaks. 06ANKARA1668: March 29, 2006.

Posted: Sunday, February 05, 2012 at 12:37 PM UTC


Viewing cable 06ANKARA1668, GOT PLANS TO RENOVATE CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06ANKARA1668 2006-03-29 13:30 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy
Ankara
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #1668/01 0881330
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 291330Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4378
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU
RHMFISS/CDR USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001668 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2026 
TAGS: KIRF OSCE PGOV PHUM PREL TU
SUBJECT: GOT PLANS TO RENOVATE CHURCHES, SYNAGOGUE 
 
REF: 05 ANKARA 2750 
 
ANKARA 00001668  001.5 OF 002 
 
 
Classified by Polcouns Janice G. Weiner; reasons 1.4 b and d. 
 
1. (U) ConGen Istanbul contributed to this report. 
 
2. (C) Summary: The GOT's Directorate General for Foundations 
(DGF) is planning to renovate seven historic churches and a 
synagogue this year, marking the first time the agency has 
renovated non-Muslim places of worship.  Christian and Jewish 
representatives view this as a positive, though symbolic, 
step.  End Summary. 
 
---------------------------- 
Renovations Planned for 2006 
---------------------------- 
 
3. (U) Yusuf Beyazit, DGF director, told us March 28 that the 
DGF plans to renovate seven churches -- including Greek 
Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syriac, and Catholic facilities 
-- and a synagogue in 2006.  The projects would mark the 
first time the DGF has renovated non-Muslim places of worship 
in its 82-year history. 
 
4. (U) The DGF expropriates non-Muslim foundations, and their 
affiliated properties, when the size of the non-Muslim 
population in a particular district dwindles.  The agency 
also administers a large number of Muslim foundations 
expropriated after the secular Republic was established in 
1923; non-Muslim foundations comprise only a tiny portion of 
the 41,550 organizations controlled by the DGF. 
 
5. (C) Many of the DGF-administered properties are 
rent-generating, providing the agency with its operating 
funds.  Beyazit said the church and synagogue renovations are 
now possible thanks to major improvements in the DGF's 
rent-collection system.  In the past, the agency failed to 
collect most of the revenue it was due, and could only afford 
two or three renovation projects a year.  Improved 
collections have enabled the agency over the past couple of 
years to increase this rate to more than 700 projects a year; 
the church and synagogue projects will be among approximately 
750 planned for 2006.  "All of the properties we administer 
are part of our heritage," Beyazit said.  "We do not 
discriminate against any of them."  The properties scheduled 
for renovation are all under DGF control. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Religious Minorities Appreciate Gesture 
--------------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Turkey's religious minorities have long been critical 
of the DGF and the practice of expropriating foundations. 
Nevertheless, representatives of the Armenian Orthodox and 
Jewish communities say they consider the renovations a 
positive, if limited, step.  Armenian Orthodox Patriarch 
Mesrob II told reporters the renovations are a "demonstration 
of goodwill" and said he hopes such efforts continue.  Lina 
Filiba, executive vice president of the Jewish Community of 
Turkey, told us the DGF effort is "positive and encouraging." 
 Still, she said, it is a symbolic gesture -- the DGF will 
renovate a synagogue in Edirne, where there are no longer any 
Jews left to worship.  Filiba said the property could serve 
as an historical site for visitors.  The Jewish Community has 
been cooperating with the DGF on the project, though it is 
"not a cooperation among equals," she said. 
 
7. (C) Metropolitan Meliton of the Ecumenical Patriarchate 
was more skeptical about the renovation plans.  He noted to 
us that the Greek Orthodox properties slated for renovation 
are among those the Patriarchate sought to reclaim under 
recent reform legislation, only to be turned down by the DGF. 
 He added that the DGF never contacted the Patriarchate to 
discuss the plans, which he learned about from the media and 
an acquaintance affiliated with one of the churches. 
 
------------------------------ 
Comment - Much-Needed Goodwill 
------------------------------ 
 
ANKARA 00001668  002 OF 002 
 
 
8. (C) We have met with Beyazit frequently to discuss the 
expropriation of non-Muslim properties.  Though he is a 
staunch defender of the status quo system, he appears sincere 
in his efforts to improve relations between the Turkish state 
and the religious minorities.  These renovations should 
generate some much-needed goodwill.  Further improvements may 
be on the horizon if the GOT follows through on its 
commitment to pass a new law on foundations by July, though 
earlier drafts of the bill indicate it will have a limited 
impact (reftel). 
 
 
Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at 
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/ 
 
MCELDOWNEY

 

 


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