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Return Our Churches: Murder, Theft and Denial

Property restitution is an indispensable step to right the wrongs of the past and, thus, to legitimize one’s system as free and just; hence a democracy. The Republic of Turkey projects itself as a modern democracy, a state that has successfully fused secular and religious elements and aspires not only to represent the Muslim world in the West, perhaps even join the European Union, but also to serve as a paradigm of peacefully channeling Islamism into democratic forms. For all the self-advertisement, however, Ankara fails an important litmus test of democracy. It has consistently refused to return property stolen from its citizens. Most egregiously, this concerns Christian churches taken away from the Armenians and others.

Throughout history, property confiscation and looting have always figured prominently in conflicts and power struggles. While the theft may not always be carried out in the same fashion, the end goal is universal-control over (or extermination of) the captive peoples and self-enrichment for the “victors.” The confiscations tend to be conducted in conjunction with arrests, deportations, exile and murder of so-called enemies. The twentieth century witnessed massive takings by the Communists, Nazis and Ottomans (later Turkish Republic) from their class, racial and ethno-religious enemies, respectively.

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