Turkey has long been celebrating Foundations Week in the second week of May every year. But over the recent years, it has acquired a special meaning for many foundations belonging to the country’s minority communities.
“There was no such thing until today to invite minority foundations to the events held for the foundations week,” Bedros Sirinoglu, head of the Armenian Foundations Union in Istanbul, told Anadolu Agency in an interview.
“They have accepted us as foundations, but they did not invite us to the events,” he said.
“Now, all foundation managers, Muslim or non-Muslim, are being invited,” he added, for which he thanks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“We owe this to our president and we are grateful to him,” he said.
Many foundations across the country come together throughout the week and hold several events, which were halted for two years due to the pandemic.
“It is important in terms of bringing all foundations together and creating the opportunity to chat with the minister, general manager (of foundations) and regional managers,” said Sait Susin, president of the Syriac Kadim Foundation.
The Turkish Jewish Community Foundation also took part in the events throughout the week
“In this context, an exhibition and a concert are held every year in our Grand Synagogue of Edirne, which was restored by our State’s General Directorate of Foundations,” Ishak Ibrahimzadeh and Erol Kohen, presidents of the Jewish Community of Turkey, told Anadolu Agency in an email interview.
Minorities of Turkey
When asked about how it feels about being an Armenian in Turkey, Bedros Sirinoglu said: “Living in Turkey gives us happiness. This country is our country. We are citizens of this land.”
“I am a man who has traveled the world, spent 24 days touring America, but missed my country, Turkey, on the 10th day,” he said.
In recent years, he said a church was built and many churches and schools were renovated without any hurdles from state institutions -- something unheard of in the past.
Sait Susin of the Syriac community said: “Assyrians, who have a history of 5,000 years on these lands, were born in the last century, left their places of residence and dispersed all over the world. Currently, a large part of our population of 25,000 people lives in Istanbul.”
Kohen and Ibrahimzadeh said Jewish communities have settled and lived all over Turkey.
They underlined that the weight of this "rich cultural history” is a huge responsibility for the present-day “considerably diminished Jewish community.”
The first synagogue ruins ever discovered in the world are located in Turkey, in the ancient city of Sardis, right on the border of Izmir, the representatives of Turkish Jewish community recalled. “These ruins are estimated to be 2,200 years old,” they said.
Regulations regarding minority foundations
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year in March announced a “human rights action” plan, including several reforms and regulations regarding the community foundations of the minorities.
“This plan was highly welcomed by our community,” Ishak and Kohen said.
“We look forward to its release and implementation (at the) soonest possible,” they added.
The Syriac community also welcomed the plan and some legal amendments, Susin said. “For the first time in the last 20 years, we have a school that provides education in Syriac language."
We are also trying to build a church in Istanbul on land that was allocated to us by President Erdogan -- setting a precedent in Turkey, Susin said.