The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Tuesday that Turkey violated the rights of the Greek Orthodox Taksiarhis Church Foundation by refusing to allow it to register its property.
The ECHR said that Turkey's refusal to the Greek Orthodox Church to declare its property constitutes discrimination and ordered the country to pay 5,000 euros in costs and expenses.
The Taksiarhis Greek Orthodox Church is one of the foundations under Turkish law of the Greek Orthodox Community of Istanbul. The church was built in 1899 in the Arnavutkoy district of the city.
Greeks, or Rum as they are known in Turkey, were once a vast community in Istanbul, which was then called Constantinople. They numbered nearly 1.8 million in 1910 but the population was devastated following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I.
Subsequent Turko-Greek wars, a population exchange agreed upon between Turkey and Greece in 1923, and continuous political pressure on the community have reduced their numbers to several thousand.
Their foundations, churches, and their properties have also become a major political topic in Turkey as governments seized, closed or denied them registration.
According to Bia.net, a Turkish independent online news website, there are currently 167 foundations belonging to minorities in Turkey, including seven Rum, 54 Armenian, 19 Jewish, 10 Syriac/Assyrian, three Chaldean, two Bulgarian, one Georgian and one Maronite foundation.
The government introduced a new regulation in June concerning the election of the foundations' governing boards, which minority representatives and experts say aims to increase its control over the country's shrinking minority groups.
"It is good that these cases are reaching the European courts, and I hope Turkey will quickly comply with these directives. It is good that there is publicity for such matters, not only for cases concerning only Turkey but also for minority cases concerning Greece," Aarbakke Vemund, assistant professor at the School of Political Sciences at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, told BIRN.
BIRN sought a reaction to the ECHR ruling from the Rumvdader Association for the Support of Greek Community Foundations in Turkey, but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.