Information on the Rum ethnic minority; treatment by society and authorities [TUR38132.E]

The term Rum applies to the Greek or Greek Orthodox minority of Turkey (Greek Helsinki Monitor 24 Oct. 2000; Aim Press 31 Jan. 2000). Recent estimates on the size of this minority range between 2,500 and 5,000, with the majority living in Istanbul (AP 30 Mar. 2000; New York Times 7 Aug. 2000; U.S. Department of State section 1 Oct. 2001; IND Apr. 2001; The Swedish Institute of International Affairs 2001).

According to the U.S. Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report 2001, "The Constitution establishes Turkey as a secular state and provides for freedom of belief, freedom of worship, and the private dissemination of religious ideas" (section 2 Oct. 2001), and "Jews and most Christian denominations freely practice their religions and report little discrimination in daily life" (ibid. section 3).

However, according to the press service AIM, an alternative network of independent journalists: "A 1974 Council of State ruling has allowed Turkish authorities to seize all property that was not declared by the minority foundations in a 1936 registration. All acquisitions since, through donations or purchases, have been considered illegal, as (Greek, Armenian, Jewish) minority foundations were considered 'foreign' [...] and therefore had no right to acquire property in Turkey" (31 Jan. 2000). Istanbul Hurriyet also mentions restrictions on wealth, property ownership and inheritance for Greeks and Greek foundations (5 July 2000).

According to the U.S. Department of State' 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom: Turkey, "extremist groups or individuals target minority communities from time to time. Unknown perpetrators damaged Greek Orthodox community property" (intro. 5 Sep. 2000). In 1997-1998, there were a few reports of attacks on Greek Orthodox individuals and property, including the desecration of two cemeteries (Athens News Agency 5 Apr. 1998; Ankara Anatolia 28 July 1999), the murder of a Greek sexton (Athens News Agency 14 Jan. 1998) and the bombing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate (ibid.). The Swedish Institute of International Affairs reports:

When a Helsinki Watch mission visited Turkey in October 1991 it found that the government violated the rights of the Greek minority, e.g., by police harassment, restrictions on free expression, discrimination in education involving teachers, books and curriculum; restrictions on religious freedom, limitations on the right to control charitable institutions, and the denial of ethnic identity. Ethnic Greeks in Turkey have also witnessed their religious dignitaries and sites being targets of acts of violence, including desecration, assassination and bomb attacks (particularly against the Patriarchate's headquarters).
Nonetheless, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Bartolomeos I, recently declared that the Greek Orthodox community enjoys full freedom of religion and worship. But he stated that his community faces the following problems in the area of religion: The Turkish authorities do not accept either the term Ecumenical or the reference to Constantinople, which was renamed Istanbul in 1930. Regarding the Patriarchate, it does not have the status of a legal entity. With the closure by the authorities of private religious training institutions in 1971 it lost the use of its seminary on the Island of Halki. The Patriarchate is compelled to train its religious personnel abroad and is facing difficulties in administering its schools and enrolling students. Books in Greek are limited since the Greek Patriarchate still has no right to publish. This creates further obstacles for teaching, worship and information (2001).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Aim Press, Athens. 31 January 2000. Panayote Elias Dimitras. "'Dwindling, Elderly and Frightened?' The Greek Minority in Turkey Revisited." [Accessed 14 December 2001]

Ankara Anatolia. 28 July 1999. "Ministry Regrets Desecration of Greek Orthodox Cemetery." (FBIS-WEU-1999-0728 14 December 2001/WNC)

Associated Press (AP). 30 March 2000. "Facts and Figures on Turkey's Major Non-Muslim Groups." (NEXIS)

Athens News Agency. 5 April 1998. "Greece: Athens Protests Greek Cemetery Desecration in Turkey." (FBIS-WEU-98-095 14 December 2001/WNC)

_____. 14 January 1998. "Greece: Greek Orthodox Sexton Found Dead in Istanbul." (FBIS-WEU-98-014 14 December 2001/WNC)

Greek Helsinki Monitor. 24 October 2000. Statement on Albania, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Macedonia, Slovenia and Turkey at the 2000 OSCE Implementation Meeting. [Accessed 14 December 2001]

Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), Home Office, UK. April 2001. Turkey Country Assessment. [Accessed 14 December 2001]

Istanbul Hurriyet. 5 July 2000. Nur Batur. "Greece Prepares Demands for Greek Minority in Turkey." (FBIS-WEU-2000-0705 14 December 2001/WNC)

The New York Times. 7 August 2000. Douglas Frantz. "Historic Seminary in Turkey is Ready but Empty." (Greek Helsinki Monitor) [Accessed 14 December 2001]

U.S. Department of State. October 2001. International Religious Freedom Report 2001. [Accessed 14 December 2001]

_____. 5 September 2000. 2000 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom: Turkey. [Accessed 13 December 2001]

The Swedish Institute of International Affairs. 2001. "Minorities in Turkey." [Accessed 14 December 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases

World News Connection (WNC)

Internet sites including:


Human Rights Watch

International Religious Freedom Coalition

International Relations and Security Network

Middle East Report

Minority Rights Group

Minorities at Risk Project

Radio Free Europe

Turkish Daily News