House Panel Adopts Turkey Churches Accountability Act

Beats Back Ankara’s Attacks

WASHINGTON—The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a powerful religious freedom measure this morning holding Turkey accountable for the return of thousands of stolen Christian holy sites and urging the immediate opening of the Halki Theological Seminary, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) led the effort which received broad bipartisan support despite a last minute campaign led by pro-Turkey lobbyists to gut the measure. An amended version of H.R. 4347 was adopted by voice vote.

“Americans of Armenian, Greek and Assyrian heritage—the descendants of those subjected to genocide by Ottoman Turkey from 1915-1923 and whose churches continue to be held captive by the Turkish Government—join with friends of all faiths in welcoming Committee passage of the Royce-Engel Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “The adoption of this measure sends a strong signal to Ankara that it must stop its anti-Christian conduct and start coming to terms with its moral, material, and legal obligations to Armenians, Syriacs, Cypriots, Pontians, and other victims of Turkey’s still unpunished genocidal crimes.”

Introduced in March of this year by Chairman Royce along with the panel’s Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), H.R. 4347 would require that the U.S. Department of State formally report to Congress on an annual basis about the status of Turkey’s return of stolen Christian churches and properties in Turkey and occupied Cyprus. H.R. 4347 builds on a measure (H.Res.306), spearheaded by Chairman Royce and then House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), which was overwhelmingly adopted by the House of Representatives on December 13, 2011. That resolution set the groundwork for H.R.4347 by calling upon the government of Turkey to honor its international obligations to return confiscated Christian church properties and to fully respect the rights of Christians to practice their faiths.

In the days leading up to the vote, the ANCA worked closely with Armenian American religious leaders and Hellenic American groups including the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and American Hellenic Council (AHC) in securing Committee passage of the measure.


  1. Without a clear mechanism of sanctions in the event of Turkey ignoring the resolution, I am afraid Turkey will just ignore it.

  2. YES, Return Our Churches

    We will repair them by our scared tearful, artful hands,
    You took all and pummelled, pulverised them on the ground . . .
    Confiscated the best once’ transforming to barbaric temples,
    To shout from our Belfries, so-called minarets,
    “Allah Akbar, Arrive Turkish race and slay Armenians!”
    We can repair all with our honest, dedicated,
    Ancient hands, full of countless arts!


    July 26, 2014

  3. To be perfectly honest this bill is not worth the paper its written on as there is no mechanism to trigger sanctions in the event that Turkey ignores it.

  4. Then what? Who thinks this bill moves any forward? That is all you guys can get out of your voting power.

    • “Who thinks the Bill moves any forward”? If the Bill is endorsed (and Turkey refuses to return its stolen Churches), sanctions against US trade with Turkey will be imposed, its EU membership will be halted (it includes the return of Churches in Cypress), its NATO membership (already being questioned for its support of terrorists in Syria) will be challenged and even Sophia Hagia, which your corrupt dictator, Erdogan, wants to convert to a Mosque will be illegal.
      Which US politician (even those bribed by Turkey) wants to go down as a bigot who will be voted out of office by its primarily Christian constituents? Time will tell. Any more questions, Ahmet?

  5. I have not seen the official documents, but I guess talking about “stolen sites” is the language of this article only. I strongly condemn this language. If there is an injustice what one needs to do is to apply to the relevant court, not lobbying at parliaments. I can not name these futile efforts to defame Turkey in vengeance, and I don’t understand how and why parliamentarians take such demands seriously. What happpened to the sites of Muslim mosques and other religous buildings in Yerevan and other settlements in Armenia? What needs to be done about them I wonder.

    • Selma,

      Your bilious reaction typifies what the Turkish government, Grey Wolves et al say on reflex. Nobody cares. We are not inflamed. Same old, same old. And I bet you are no spring chicken.

      First, are you seriously suggesting that the Patriarch go to a provincial Turkish court and litigate title to the properties? Even a Sunni Turk knows that the system is corrupt. He also cannot do so because he must protect the lives of the 50,000 hostage Armenians left in your glorious cesspool of a country.

      Second, your own beloved PM loves to make his own pronouncements about Serbia committing Genocide against Muslims, and the Chinese doing likewise to its Muslim citizens. Do you seriously think that the US has no rights of speech in such issues?

      Third, the word “defamation” means a falsehood which detracts from the reputation of the victim in some fundamental way. The concept does not apply to states.

      Truth is a defense. Do you seriously dispute that Armenian church and private properties were stolen by the state and state actors, the same glorious men who committed Genocide and killed 5,000 Priests,always in the sacred Turkish art of torture?

      If you do, start reading the works of two young Turkish scholars, Ugur Umit Ungor and Mehmet Polatel, “Confiscation and Destruction: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property” (London,/New York; Continuum, 2011) profiled in these pages 4/22/2011. Try also the work of Bishop Bilakian on the torture issue.

      You Nazionalist [Nazi for short] Turks find offense and emotional trauma so easily. Sounds like the great warrior nation is reduced to sobbing 8 year olds.

    • Selma,

      PS: Turkey’s rep can’t sink lower, even with neocons:

      1. Mavi Marmara ravings by your PM

      2. Free passage to Jihad terrorists err rebels to destabilize Syria and Iraq, most of whom will destabilize Turkey sooner or later with training grounds in Turkey

      3. Corrupt PM

    • You strongly condemning ‘this language’ has as much currency at this site – ArmenianWeekly, as in Armenian – as the AG denials we are subjected to regularly by our denialist Turkic guests.

      As to courts, lobbying, etc: the last thing we need is advice from a denialist Turk on what we should or should not do.
      As to allegedly ‘defaming’ the denialist genocidal State of Turkey:
      1)In court, truth is an absolute defense against defamation.
      2)If your leaders think Turkey is being defamed, then let them sue Armenians for libel and defamation: PM Erdogan has a habit of suing everyone in Turkey who allegedly has ‘defamed’ him. Let him, in the name of Turkey, sue Armenians and see how it goes.
      What is he waiting for ?
      And why is Turkey lobbying in parliaments and US Congress routinely against passage of such legislation, instead taking the matter to courts ?

      As to mosques and other religious buildings in Yerevan:

      Since denialist Turks have a hard time understanding the simple concept that time moves forward in the real Universe we all live in, it will be my pleasure to explain again to our Turkish guest.
      a)Christianity is about 600 years older than Islam.
      b)Armenians adopted Christianity about 1,700 years ago, 301AD.
      c)Islamized nomadic Turkic tribes ‘arrived’ in Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands around 1,000AD.
      d)Therefore, Armenians had had about 600-700 years or so to construct multitudes of churches throughout Armenia by the time Turks showed up
      e)When nomadic Turks from Uyguristan and nearby regions _invaded_ Christian lands (Armenian Highlands, Asia Minor), they proceeded to destroy and convert churches and Christian religious artifacts. This nomadic Turkic savagery continues even in modern times*.
      f)There were a number mosques and churches in Yerevan before the Bolsheviks took over Caucasus.
      g)Mosques and Churches were destroyed by the Bolsheviks everywhere they took power, including Yerevan.
      h)One functioning mosque remains in Yerevan, the famous Blue Mosque, and is jointly cared for by the RoA and Islamic Republic of Iran governments.

      btw: why should there be _any_ Mosques in Yerevan ? Are there any Churches in Riyadh, Mecca ?
      * Your Turkic kin in the terrorist state of Azerbaijan completed the destruction of 1000s of Armenian khachkars (cross-stones) in 2005. Barbaric acts documented on video and satellite imagery. Some of those irreplaceable Christian religious objects were close to 1,500 years old.

    • [Alevi house of worship set on fire]
      (@HDN August/25/2012)
      {Arsonists attempted to set fire to a cemevi (Alevi house of worship) in Istanbul’s Kartal district, a day after the homes of 25 Alevi families were marked by unknown people in the same neighborhood, an Alevi association has claimed.}
      {“The fire was put out by chance after a local resident saw it. Apparently, he called the firefighters and they prevented the fire from spreading inside the cemevi. “The Alevis are clearly threatened, and with impunity now. We want the perpetrators to be found as soon as possible,” Kenanoğlu said.}
      {Attacks on Alevis have risen in recent months in Turkey.}

      [Alevis angry at discriminatory university text book]
      (@HDN June/30/2014)
      {Alevis in Turkey have reacted angrily toward a university text book, which includes humiliating and discriminative expressions about their customs and beliefs. The grammar book included expressions that talked about the “ill ceremonies” practiced by Alevis, as well as other offensive expressions and phrases. The university had apologized upon hearing the students’ complaints, but failed in removing the same offensive sections from the new editions.}

      Yes, that’s right: a _university_ textbook.

      Maybe our (denialist) Turkish visitors should show more concern about their fellow Muslims in Turkey, instead of worrying about mosques in Yerevan and ragging on Christians.

    • “If there is an injustice what one needs to do is to apply to the relevant court, not lobbying at parliaments.”

      Scenario 1:
      “My family was murdered, I want the murderers to be punished”
      “Who killed your family?”
      “You had it coming you traitor.”

      Scenario 2:
      “I want my stolen property returned.”
      “Who stole it?”
      “You, after you murdered my family.”
      “That’s what you get for being a traitor and back-stabber.”

      And that’s why you don’t take your case to a kangaroo court. Any questions?

  6. I shall try to give a picture of what I saw on Armenia´s H1 TV. only a few days ago, 27th or 28th inst.Scene opens at U.S. Congress. Discussion and voting…then a youth walks in with a small round tray , carrying demi tasses of ¨turkish coffeee¨passing them around amongst Congressmen and offering them….
    This is the scenario.But wait .
    I wrote at length an article my viewpoint re above. ACT!!!!
    A Tragie -comedy. that is if one thinks seriously….
    Even if some or all of those churches are given back to rightfull owners,the Armeninas mainlyu-less the Assyrians and or Pontic greeks..-ARE THERE ANY CONGREGATIONS AROUND THESE,say in VAn,Bitlis Moush and other Armenian populated cities (before Eviciont-Genocide???
    And if not, who is going to attend church there and hold Holy Mass, have any of the Congresmen(the honorabley9 given thought to that, or hyou guys.???
    Think again

    • There is a hope, for “Turkified and Islamized” Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians, to get back to their ancestral roots, and embrace Christianity once again…

  7. The entire Turkish land belong to Byzantine and Armenian civilization, and I wonder, how house foreign committee vote will save the effect of magnificent Hagia Sophia Church to Mosque again.

    And I wonder how proud Turkish “stolen Palace” will go back to her real owner, Kasabian family, and I wonder what Turks have to offer toward world civilization, beside Turkish delights!

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