Turkey Moves To Compensate Religious Minorities

In a move to improve Turkey’s standing in Europe, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told representatives of Christian and Jewish groups that properties taken from them decades ago will be returned or compensation will be offered.

Turkey has applied to join the European Union, and officials there say the country stands a better chance of gaining admission if it repeals old laws that discriminate against non-Muslims. Although legally a secular state, Turkey is culturally Muslim, and Erdogan’s government has ties to Muslim groups. Less than 1 percent of the country’s 74 million residents are non-Muslim.

During the 1930s, the country’s leadership seized a number of schools, hospitals, orphanages, cemeteries and other institutions operated by non-Muslims. In 1974, government officials passed a decree barring non-Muslims from buying new properties.

Erdogan told representatives of Christian and Jewish groups that the days of such discrimination are over, reported The New York Times.

“Like everyone else, we also do know about the injustices that different religious groups have been subjected to because of their differences,” Erdogan said. “Times that a citizen of ours would be oppressed due to his religion, ethnic origin or different way of life are over.”