Europe

Muslim group's assets in Greece being sold illegally

Rich Ottoman architecture on Greek islands is in ruins, but Greece won't allow restoration, says head of NGO

20.01.2019
Muslim group's assets in Greece being sold illegally Mustafa Kaymakci, head of the Culture and Solidarity Association of the Turks of Rhodes, Kos, and the Dodecanese

By Fatih Hafiz Mehmet

ANKARA

The assets owned by a Muslim Turkish foundation on the Greek island of Kos are being sold off "illegally," the head of an NGO told Anadolu Agency.

According to an official announcement seen by Anadolu Agency, a plot of land spanning over 34,000 square meters (some 366,000 square feet) belonging to the foundation is set to be sold off in an auction later this month.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Mustafa Kaymakci, head of the Culture and Solidarity Association of the Turks of Rhodes, Kos, and the Dodecanese, said there are around 9,000 Turks living on Rhodes and Kos, two Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.

The group is a non-governmental organization founded by Turks who emigrated to Turkey from the islands, which belong to the Dodecanese group of islands in the southeastern Aegean near the Turkish shore.

The Nov. 27 announcement by the Kos Muslim Foundation Asset Administration -- a group appointed by the Greek government -- says the plot of land on Kos will be sold in an auction on Jan. 31.

"On Kos, the foundation’s assets are being sold illegally," Kaymakci said.

He said there are international principles regarding foundations which are recognized by the UN.

"According to these principles, foundations’ assets definitely cannot be transferred or sold. But Greece isn’t abiding by this," Kaymakci said.

He added that under the Greek Constitution, religious foundations are supposed to be exempt from property tax.

Because of this, he said, Christian groups in Greece pay no property tax, yet Turkish-Islamic foundations are still unfairly required to pay tax.

"Here's what we're saying to Greece,” said Kaymakci.

“Firstly, foundation assets cannot be sold or transferred.

“Second, whatever [policies] are applied to other religious foundations, the same must apply to our [Turkish-Islamic] foundations. That is to say, we must be exempt from property tax."

Rhodes and Kos' historic mosques in ruins

Kaymakci said Rhodes and Kos -- both islands former holdings of the Ottoman Empire -- boast "very impressive" specimens of Ottoman architectural heritage.

This rich heritage includes mosques, fountains, almshouses, and a library, but over the years these buildings were left neglected and fell into disrepair, he said.

The mosques on Rhodes and Kos have deteriorated to near the point of collapse, he said.

Although Turkey wants to restore this invaluable heritage, Greece forbids it, he said.

Kaymakci said the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) -- the state-run development aid agency -- has carried out many projects restoring Ottoman architecture in the Balkans, with full consent of the local governments, but Greece has blocked TIKA from doing the same in Greece.

"Greece wants to see the mosques and almshouses collapse. That is to say, it wants the traces of Turks and Muslims to disappear," he said.

Kaymakci said the Turks currently living on Rhodes and Kos also face a number of problems maintaining their traditional culture, dating back many centuries.

"The primary problem is that they lack the right to learn their mother tongue," he said.

In 1972, bilingual schools teaching both Greek and Turkish were closed down, Kaymakci said.

He said since that time, Turkish children in Rhodes and Kos have been hindered from learning their mother tongue, and a rapid assimilation process had begun.

"One of the most basic human rights is the right to learn your own mother tongue," he stressed, but on the Greek islands, that fundamental right is being deprived.

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