News in Bet-Nahren, Assyria

Turkish Governor Bans Monasteries
by Republic of Turkey, 06/10/1997
Posted: Saturday, June 03, 2000 10:02 pm CST


Translation of Governor's letter to the Syrian Monastery Dayrulzafaran in Tur Abdin, Turkey.

Directorate of Security

Number: B.05.1.EGM. 06.10.1997 Subject: Activities of Church Foundations


During inspections carried out in church foundations established according to the Foundations Law No. 5404 and connected churches located in the administrative center and administrative districts of our province, it was determined that:

  1. poor students from the surrounding province and administrative districts, and visitors and guests from within and without the country were temporarily given shelter during the school term in places set up as guest houses (dormitories) within the annexes of foundation churches;
  2. students were given Syriac language lessons and instruction in religious subjects within the churches.

As is known, it is possible for legally recognized foundations to own real estate and make receive donations. However, in order for foundations to acquire property assets, it is necessary that such a provision be found in the charters that determine the statutes of said institutions. Because they did not include such purposes as acquisition of new property, whether through donation or purchase, and creation of dormitories, pensions, study centers or any such educational establishment in their declarations given in 1936 to the Directorate General of Foundations in place of a charter, it is not possible for the Syrian Church Foundations operating in our province to be involved in such activities.

Furthermore, there can be no residences within places of worship, because places of worship are devoted only to religious rites and worship. In order for there to be either temporary or permanent residence within the annexes of churches, as it is necessary that there be a stated intention to operate a social facility in the charters of church foundations, the presence of social facilities in institutions considered to be religious or charitable (Articles 2 and 3, Identity Notification Law No. 1774) is only possible if permission has been obtained from local security units before the opening of such places. Moreover, as necessitated by articles of this same law, it is a requirement that the general police forces be notified of the identities of persons staying in these facilities.

On the other hand, according to Article 24 of our Constitution, education and instruction in religion and ethics is carried out under the supervision and control of the State. Instruction in religious culture and moral education is compulsory in the curricula of primary and secondary schools. Other religious education and instruction is subject to the individual's own desire and, in the case of minors, to the request of their legal representatives.

All institutions of learning in Turkey and the Ministry of Education are found in Article 1 of the Unification of Instruction Law No. 430. Also, in Article 56 of the National Education Basic Law No. 1739, the following provisions are found: "According to the provisions of this law, the National Ministry of Education, on behalf of the State, is responsible for the operation, supervision and control of educational and instructional services."

In this situation, just as there will be no involvement in educational activities without first obtaining permission from the National Ministry of Education, which is responsible for supervision, control and operation of education and instruction, so such activity certainly violates the provisions of the Unification of Instruction Law.

Within the context of the foregoing evaluations, since they do not have authority in their charters to open places having the nature of social facilities in the name of dormitories, pensions and guest houses, I request that foundations (that have opened these sorts of places in the annexes of the churches, these being religious establishments) involved in educational activities -- in violation of pertinent laws -- discontinue said activities and that it be known that, if they continue in these activities, necessary legal actions will be taken.

Fikret GÜVEN

Copies distributed to:
Provincial Administrative Districts
Provincial Gendarmerie Command/Mardin
Chairman, Central Church Foundation

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