Catholicos of Cilicia Aram I sent the following letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:
Mr. Prime Minister,
By way of the press we were made aware of your government’s decision to return properties confiscated after 1936 from Turkey’s religious minorities. This decision is undoubtedly an effort to get ahead of the recent developments in the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the U.S. Congress’s inquiries into and proceedings on Turkey’s oppression of its Christian minorities.
As the spiritual and lawful leader of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, which was uprooted from its centuries-old Seat, and as a representative of the similarly uprooted children of the Armenian Church, who were exiled from Turkey and dispersed throughout the world, we consider your government’s Aug. 27, 2011 decision incomplete and unjust.
The Holy See of Cilicia remains the lawful proprietor of numerous churches, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, cemeteries, and other properties that belong to the nation and the church, and which were seized by the Turkish state in the days of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. The Armenian people continue to be the lawful owners of the houses, businesses, and estates—passed down from their ancestors—that became a victim to the genocide that was planned and executed by the Ottoman Turkish government.
Your government’s resolution may satisfy the requirements of the European Union. However, it may never be considered a decision based on principles of justice.
Mr. Prime Minister, although taken in the name of justice, your decision is biased and selective, and furthermore, it certainly denies history and rejects democratic principles and values. International institutions—for instance, the European Court of Human Rights, parliament, and parliamentary bodies—protect and implement democratic values and principles. Their conscience is the people.
As League of Nations representative and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Fridtjof Nansen observed in his well-known 1928 book Armenia and the Near East, the Armenian people have never lost hope, bravely working and waiting. “They continue to wait,” he wrote. And we would like to add that the Armenian people will never cease to demand justice from Turkey for the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian people will never cease to demand the reinstatement of their human rights.
Mr. Prime Minister, your declaration that your government upholds justice and human rights will be validated only when you recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Catholicos Aram I
Holy See of Cilicia
Aug. 31, 2011
A version of this letter was sent to the Turkish Embassy in Lebanon.