Turkey's Armenian, Jewish minorities voice support for Afrin operation

Published 24.01.2018 00:13

Minority communities in Turkey have expressed their support for the ongoing cross-border counterterrorism operation in Syria's Afrin to sweep PKK-affiliated groups from the region.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey wished the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) success in Operation Olive Branch in a statement on its official website on Monday.

"We pray for the end of terrorist activities and the establishment of peace and common sense in the region." the statement said. "As we always do during our rites, we will continue to pray for the unity of Turkey and the well-being of our society. May God accept our prayers."

On Saturday, the TSK launched an operation in Syria's Afrin to clear its border of the PKK's Syrian affiliates, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), to prevent them from establishing an autonomous region, which Turkish officials call a "terror corridor," by connecting the northwestern Afrin canton to the Kobani and Jazeera cantons in the northeast.

"Non-Muslim communities of Turkey have always stood with their state during difficult times, as other parts of the society," said Markar Esayan, a Turkish-Armenian member of Parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). "We hope the operation will be successfully completed by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) without significant losses."

Turkey's Community Foundations, an organization that dates back to the pre-republic period and represents charity organizations for non-Muslim Turkish citizens, also announced their support for the operation.

"Community Foundations wish success to our armed forces in Operation Olive Branch and hope that common sense, peace and constructive cooperation will prevail in our region and in the world," a tweet from the official account of Community Foundations read.

The official Twitter account of the Turkish Jewish community also voiced its support saying, "Amen," to the cited tweet by the Community Foundations.

Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın later thanked the minority foundations for their support.

"Community Foundations, the Turkish-Armenian Patriarchate and the Turkish Jewish Community are standing by our army. We thank all of them," Kalın said on his Twitter account, adding that the unity is "Turkey's biggest strength."

Since the AK Party came to power in 2002, Turkey has sought to restore the rights of religious minorities as well as the worship houses of minorities, including those of Assyrians, Jews and Greeks. Many of the sects' properties have been returned – decades after they were forcefully confiscated by the Turkish state — while the government continues to pursue a policy of restoring abandoned historical buildings.

Recent examples of this, a 19th-century church built by the Bulgarian community in Istanbul was restored and reopened earlier this month in a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

Likewise in 2013, a Bulgarian Orthodox Church was returned along with a 59,000-square-meter piece of land in central Istanbul that once belonged to the foundation running the church.

In early November, Aya Yorgi, another historic church in the city's Edirnekapı district, was reopened after state-funded restoration and marked in a ceremony attended by Turkish and Greek Orthodox dignitaries.

More examples of state-sponsored restoration in recent years are the Great Synagogue of Edirne, the Aya Nikola Church in Gökçeada, the Syriac Catholic church of İskenderun, Diyarbakır's Sur Armenian Protestant Church, the Nizip Fevkani Church in Gaziantep and the Taksiyarjis Church on Cunda Island.

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