On 11th July 2017 the Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, received written answers to three questions on Turkey; on religious freedom, confiscation of church properties and the Hagia Sophia.
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, what assessment they have made of recent reports that the Turkish Governor of Mardin has confiscated some 60 properties, including churches, monasteries and cemeteries.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Our understanding of the situation is that legal changes to local government structures in Mardin, where many important Assyrian religious sites are found, resulted in 2012 in the transfer of the title deeds to some religious sites from local bodies to central government, and eventually to the Government’s Directorate for Religious Affairs. Assyrian organisations are making legal appeals against these decisions. The British Embassy in Ankara will be closely following this process. We strongly support religious freedom in Turkey and have supported civil society organisations working in this area.