Turkey's Syriac community welcomes return of cemetery


Turkey's Syriac minority in Mardin province welcomes the imminent return of legal ownership of a plot of Mor Gabriel Monastery to their community, a monastery official told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Deputy Prime Minister Hakan Cavuşoğlu said Wednesday that an Assyrian Christian cemetery belonging to the monastery was mistakenly transferred to the state treasury.

"We are now transferring this cemetery back to its owners," Çavuşoğlu added.

Kuryakos Ergun, head of the foundation for Mor Gabriel Monastery, said the problem arose when Mardin Municipality's status was changed to a metropolitan municipality in 2014 and the title deeds of the monastery, church and cemeteries belonging to the Foundation of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel were handed to the Turkish state treasury.

Following intense opposition, the properties were first transferred to the Directorate of Religious Affairs and then the General Directorate of Foundations, Ergun said.

"We appreciate the return of the 2,000-year-old monastery, church and affiliated fields. These are properties of the foundation and our country," he said.

Mor Behnam Church Patriarch Gabriel Akyüz welcomed Çavuşoğlu's statement, calling it "good news."

"We also kindly request that [Çavuşoğlu] transfer [ownership of] other churches, monasteries and cemeteries to us, not only Mor Gabriel Monastery. These are the properties of the Syriac church, and most of them date back to the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries," Akyüz said.

Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation lawyer Mahmut Güven said the necessary official process was dealt with by the authorities.

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