The Turkish government has expropriated six churches in city of Diyarbakir, followed by a declaration that these church properties are henceforth state’ property. These six churches were the last churches under the administration of Diyarbakir’ Christians, rest of them have already been seized by the government. The churches which have been seized are properties of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox denominations while a historic 1700-year-old church is also amongst the list of the churches seized by the government.
Diyarbakır is one of the largest cities in south-eastern Turkey. The war-torn city, situated on the banks of the Tigris River, has seen expropriation of churches previously as well. The orders for these six churches to be expropriated came on March 25, and were issued by the Erdoğan’s council of ministers.
According to the World Watch Monitor, the Turkish President- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his administration initiated a drive to expropriate sections of property throughout Diyarbakir; stating that the state will take over the property and remodel and renovate the historical sites of the city.
Diyarbakir is a historic hub of Christianity, as it once thrived with Christian population. Popular historian Osman Koker notes in “Armenians in Turkey 100 Years Ago” that prior to 1915, “Some 10,000 of 35,000 inhabitants of Diyarbakir were Armenians. Half of the members of the town council and a significant portion of the members of the provincial council were Christian, notably Armenians. Nearly all of the lawyers, physicians and pharmacists of Diyarbakir were Christians, and the majority of them were Armenians.” Diyarbakir has been battered by conflict between Turkish armed forces and the the Kurdish Workers’ Party.
All through out the last year, the Assyrians, Armenians, Chaldeans and Turkish Christians were not able to enter their churches because of the ongoing conflict in the city. However, in the face of the fact that they have not been able to go to their churches, the Turkish government’s decisions to seize the church properties has given rise to an indignation among the Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians communities. As a result of the indignation, few church related organisations have decided to legally challenge the government’ decision.
Ahmet Guvener- pastor of Diyarbakir Protestant Church is of the opinion that the government is expropriating the churches with the lone intention of taking control of the property and not the renovation purposes. “The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them. They did so to acquire them.”