Syrian Orthodox monastery in Turkey wins court case over land

ISTANBUL – A Turkish court has ruled that a Syrian Orthodox monastery in the southeast of the country is the legitimate owner of lands that the monastery has owned for centuries. The land rights case was closely monitored by the international community, including the EU, and thus became a measure of the degree of religious freedom in Turkey.
The 1,600 years old monastery of Mor Gabriel (Holy Gabriel) is the oldest and most important monastery of the Syrian Orthodox minority in Turkey. In recent years surrounding villages have snatched land from the monastery, even with the cooperation of the land registry office. They drew up new land boundaries on maps of the area and thus made official traditional use of pastures by local farmers and shepherds. About 110 hectares of land were at issue.
The court ruling contradicts a ruling by another court in 2008. At the time it was decided that the new boundaries set by the land registry office were legitimate. A ruling in the appeal by Mor Gabriel was postponed six times. Meanwhile three other court cases are pending, for example regarding forests utilised by the monastery. A ruling on those cases has been postponed.

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