|Lakis Vingas, second from left, council member of the General Foundations Directorate for the non-Muslim foundations, meets with Maria Otero, Under Secretary of the U.S. State Department, far right, on Thursday, July 12, 2012.
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On Thursday, July the 12th, Mrs. Maria Otero, the Under Secretary from the US State Department responsible for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights accompanied by the U.S. Consul General in Istanbul, Mr. Scott Frederic Kilner and the Vice Consul Mr. Paul D. Palmer, paid a visit to Mr. Lakis Vingas, council member of the General Foundations Directorate for the non-Muslim foundations. The meeting took place at the premises of the Greek Community in Istanbul at Taksim Square and was attended by representatives of other minority groups such as Mr. İskender Şahingöz from the Armenian community, Mrs. Deniz Saporta and Mrs. Lisa Tavası from the Jewish community, Mr. Sait Susin from the Syriac and Mr. Costas Santaltzidis from the Greek community.
The visit aimed to update the Under Secretary regarding the current situation of Non-Muslim minorities in Turkey especially as regards to the enjoyment of their religious, property and educational rights.
Mr. Laki Vingas took the floor first emphasizing the importance of the returning of the immovable property back to the Non-Muslim communities, since as he noted, this guarantees the future of the minorities in this country.
He added that the minority groups contribute greatly to the preparations of the new constitution as they believe and want to build up a solid future in their country where they would enjoy equality before the law. Finally, he underlined the need for the government to give honest incentives to those members of the minorities who had been forced to leave the country in the past and who wish to return nowadays (such as for military service, citizenship, housing, social security etc.).
Each of the other participants welcomed and thanked Mrs. Otero for her visit while raising different aspects of the minority issue in Turkey.
The representative of the Syriac community stressed the need of a second church in Istanbul as the one church belonging to them is insufficient for cover the growing number of Syriacs, a demand that the government still has not approved. While Mrs. Deniz Saporta from the Jewish community, referred to the need of a hate speech law in Turkey which will protect its citizens from discrimination based on any ground such as religion or belief, ethnic origin, sex, political etc.
The Under Secretary Mrs. Maria Otero, congratulated the communities for their courageous steps and the will they have shown and expressed her satisfaction towards the improvements of the rights of the Non-Muslim communities in Turkey indicating her full support to their lawful demands.
At the end of the meeting, guests were offered books edited and published by the Non-Muslim communities on topics of history and aspects of their cultural heritage.