The White House continues to talk about Turkey not only as a regional ally but also as a model for reform in the Middle East. It has been several years, however, since Turkish reforms contributed to democracy.
The latest case in point is Turkish real estate reform. The Turkish government has announced new regulations. Here is the rub: While the government has removed onerous rules and regulations that made navigating Turkish real estate a nightmare, the government has in effect legislated its traditional hatreds.
Armenians, for example, need not apply. They are by law unable to own housing or businesses in Turkey. Greeks have it better. They are merely banned from purchasing houses or stores in Istanbul and coastal provinces. Such discrimination is rooted in Turkish historical animus. During World War I, Ottoman forces killed perhaps one million Armenians. Much of the world recognizes their death as a deliberate genocide, albeit one Turkish officials dispute to this day. Less well known was the ethnic cleansing of Greeks and Christians from Istanbul and the Aegean provinces of Turkey although, to be fair, the transfer of populations went both ways.
The Turkish government explains its discrimination in reciprocity. That may be true when it comes to bans on North Koreans buying property, although North Koreans don’t exactly drive the beachfront property market with their disposable income. Rather, it seems that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s animus toward his Christian neighbors plays more of a role. According to Hürriyet Daily News:
Citizens of Greece are banned from acquiring property in 28 coastal provinces, including Istanbul, as well as the province of Edirne, which borders Greece. There is no such limitation in place for Turks in the Greek region of western Thrace in Greece.
“Greek citizens were not allowed to purchase property in the coastal band around Turkey according to the previous regulation. And if a Greek inherited property in the coastal band, that person was asked to liquidate it within one month, as they are not eligible to own any property there,” Atilla Lök, an Istanbul-based lawyer with expertise in property cases told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Welcome to the new Turkey, same as the old.