23 December 2019
On the Greek islands of Rhodes and Kos, there are a number of foundations belonging to Turkish Muslims. When the administration of the islands passed to Italy, it was decided that foundation properties would be managed by a commission. With the transfer of the islands to Greece in 1947, the law numbered 517/1947 was passed.
Although the said law stated that “the laws and regulations currently in force in the islands shall stay in force until necessary laws are enacted, provided that they are not in violation of Greek laws”, first a government executive was appointed with the purpose of controlling the community and foundation administration.
Today, foundations in Rhodes and Kos are subject to a real property tax of 0.6 percent. In other words, the real estate tax charged for the foundations’ immovables belonging to the Turks living in Rhodes and Kos is at the same rate as the tax paid by commercial institutions. Contrariwise, the Greek Church and the Orthodox Christian Church Institutions in Greece are exempt from all taxes. This unfair practice has turned into a mechanism used as a pretext for the disposal of foundation properties.
On the other hand, the Turkish foundations in Greece were established pursuant to the Ottoman State’s Legal System prior to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, and today they must be administered according to the Ottoman Law, the Islamic Law as well as bilateral treaties. In this context, foundation properties are either donated or sold in violation of the above-cited provision of the Foundation Regulations that states that “Foundation property cannot be bought, sold, acquired or inherited”, which is a fact everyone knows but refrains from saying aloud.
According to the treaty, all sales and donations made so far under the foundation regulation are invalid.
Under the foundation regulations, immovable properties such as mosques, schools, madrasahs, cemeteries and fountains that serve the faith community and public interest do not have title deeds. The legists who modulated the Foundation Regulations did not issue title deeds for the said monuments in order to prevent their sales. Therefore, the rule of law that states, “It is not possible to sell a property without the original title deed” should still be valid.
On the other hand, it is obvious that the protection of the foundation properties is an issue associated with the freedom of religion and religious practice of the Muslim Turkish population of Kos and Rhodes. Therefore, protection of these properties is essential for the faith community to use this freedom. In this regard, we believe that the liquidation processes undertaken by the Board of Directors appointed by the Greek Authorities are at the same time restricting the freedom of religion and religious practice.
In brief, according to ECHR and European Union’s criteria, all of these sales so far should be deemed irregular and invalid.
However, in recent years, properties belonging to Turkish-Muslim foundations are being undersold.
As we have done in recent years, we demand that the Foundation Administrations in Rhodes and Kos be determined by free elections and the properties of the foundations be used for the benefit of the society. We would like to express that Greece should not bind the restoration of historical and cultural monuments in the country to the seizure of the revenues and properties of the foundations.
We would like to provide the most recent but the most negative example to these. It involves the question of how to use the revenues obtained from the sale of 34 acres of Foundation lands, allegedly claimed by the Kos Foundation Administration to be used for the restoration of Kos Defterdar İbrahim Effendi Mosque.
Although the Kos Foundation Administration originally stated that it had brought the restoration works to a certain stage and submitted the project to the approval of the Archaeological Monuments Administration, the Kos Foundation decided “to transfer the income to be accrued from the rent revenues of the business premises located on the ground floor of the mosque to the Municipality by the foundation until the said costs are paid up.”
Another issue that needs to be explained is how the Greek authorities confiscate the revenues of the Foundation in return for restoration; and in the final stage, are rewarded with foundation property on a complimentary basis, and according to which agreement and under which conditions the duration and amount of the revenues of the Kos Foundation Administration are allocated to the Municipality.
Many immovable properties belonging to the Rhodes Foundation have recently been sold out in this manner. Today, there is almost no immovable property owned by the Rhodes Foundation.
On the other hand, we would like to bring forth another topic that we want to express in terms of the Problem of Religion and Religious Practice. It is known that two mosques in Kos have been registered as places of worship and the fate of the other is not known. Considering the fact that only one mosque, out of a total of 10 mosques, has been registered in Rhodes, the fate of the others remains unclear. In this context, it is necessary to clarify the issue of registration of mosques in Rhodes and Kos as places of worship and not to impose appointment of Imams to the mosques by the state; moreover, preferences of Muslim Turkish Minority members as religious officials should be taken as a basis for appointments.
We submit the situation to the attention of the world and Turkish public opinion.
Prof. Dr. Mustafa Kaymakçı, President
On Behalf of Rhodes, Kos and the Dodecanese Turks Culture and Solidarity Association (ROISDER) Executive Committee