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Abolishment of gov’t regulation leaves minority foundations in limbo

Turkey's minority foundations have been unable to elect presidents for almost two years as the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) has failed to draft a new regulation following the annulment of the previous one, a daily has reported.

The issue has been taken to the courts by four representatives of the Greek minority community, the Bugün daily reported on Wednesday. Katina Evdokiye Veriopoulos, Evdoksia Galanopoulo, Keti Vuças and Evangelos Mihailidis applied to the Bakırköy 7th Civil Court of First Instance claiming that the VGM had failed to deal with the issue either intentionally or out of neglect, according to the report.

The regulation, enacted in 2008, was annulled in January of 2013 purportedly due to concerns over conflict regarding unearned income from real estate owned by minority foundations.

The third section of the regulation pertaining to the constituency of the elections, Article 29 regarding the creation of a board of directors and election period, Article 30 concerning the conditions of voter eligibility and Article 33 regarding election procedure had been abolished by the VGM.

Cem Murat Sofuoğlu, the lawyer of the four Greek community members, stated that his clients had requested that the judge intervene and elect the administrators if the foundation members themselves were not allowed to, the report said.

A request was made to reach a decision and determine the election procedures at the Balıklı Rum Hospital Foundation; one of three hospitals belonging to the Greek minority community which has had the same president for 23 years. In the application it was stated that the democratically elected board had been in place since 1991. “There have been no elections since 1991. The current administration does not even inform the Greek community about its decisions. The 90-year-old president, Dimitri Karayanni, has been assuming the role of foundation president for 23 years.”

 Leaders of foundations, opinion leaders express concern over inability to elect administrators

Representative of minority foundations at the Foundations Council, a branch of the VGM, Laki Vingas resigned from his post due to the abolishment of the regulation 22 months ago.

Vingas stated that he “resigned because he wasn’t able to conscientiously approve of the situation.” He also remarked that then Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç contacted and assured him that the problem would be solved and that he should withdraw his resignation. “I believed him, trusted him and withdrew my resignation but no new regulation has been passed,” Vingas said, adding: “Some foundations aren’t able to reach decisions. Administrative problems are arising. Those with terms filled are unable to operate. This type of situation causes rifts in small communities such as ours.”

Jewish community leader Silvyo Ovadya stated: “I don’t understand why the regulation is not drafted. Elections aren’t able to take place because of this. Without elections the foundations will become like czardoms. They will be able to rule the foundations as they wish as no one can be elected.”

Around 45,000 members of the 60,000-strong Armenian population in Turkey are thought to reside in İstanbul. The community has 55 churches, a nursery and 17 primary schools in addition to the Armenian Church. Likewise, 22,000 of the 25,000 members of the Jewish community in Turkey live in İstanbul. The Jewish community has 36 synagogues, three schools, 18 foundations and two hospitals. In addition, a 4,000-strong Greek population runs 15 primary schools, six high schools, with two newspapers published in Greek, 75 foundations and 90 out of a total of 108 places of worship still under use.