Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2005

12 February 2005
Source: Turkish Daily News
Author: Mehmet Ail Birand
Comment: The following article appeared in Turkish Daily News on 12 February 2005.
A Briton who regrets ever coming to Turkey
"The Parish family, after retiring in 1997, sold everything they owned in Britain and moved to Milas. They bought 800 square meters of land and built a house there. Five years later, the Turkish state knocked on their door. Since then, their life has been a living hell."

The Parish family, after retiring in 1997, sold everything they owned in Britain and moved to Milas. They bought 800 square meters of land and built a house there. Five years later, the Turkish state knocked on their door. Since then, their life has been a living hell.

Turkish society has a strange fear.
Foreigners coming and purchasing land are seen as a "violation of the motherland" or even as "selling out our heavenly country." Some go even further and claim Arabs are buying land in the Southeast and Hatay, while others say the Greeks are trying to establish a new Pontic Empire by purchasing large tracts of the Black Sea region. While the Greeks are busy to the west, some say, Armenians are close to achieving their "Greater Armenia" dream by acquiring homes in Kars-Ardahan. The strangest thing of all is officials taking these claims seriously and investigating the hearsay. A few people stir up trouble, and the rest are all affected by it.

This was considered such a potential problem that until very recently no foreigner was allowed to purchase land anywhere in the country. Such bans still exist in certain regions. Military permission must be granted for such sales to take place.

While the rest of the world does its best to attract foreign investment and invite foreigners to buy property, we do our outmost to keep them at bay.

Actually, we need not do anything special to keep them away.

Our bureaucracy itself and the inherently unjust system that currently exists are enough to protect (!) our country from any foreign encroachment.
The Parish family is just a simple example.

How we crushed the Parish family
Nigel Parish and his wife are in their 60s and live in Milas. After retiring from their positions as top executives at a British bank, they decided to move to the Turkey they loved so much. They sold everything they owned and bought three parcels of land from three different owners in the town of Ă–ren.

Their first shock came soon after they begin building their home. They were told that there was a ban on building homes in the region imposed by the military. Turks ruin the beautiful Aegean coastline by building illegal shanty homes and no one says a word, but when a foreigner comes along, we suddenly hammer down the letter of the law.

The Parish family didn't understand their friend's suggestions: "Don't worry. Just register your house in the name of a Turk you know well and everything will turn out just fine." They failed to make sense of our habit of deceiving ourselves. But, by then, the bureaucratic wheels had already been set in motion. They received a document from the Land Registry stating there was no reason why they couldn't build a house on the land they owned. They finally completed the house in 1998. They thought their dreams had come true. So much so that when a young English teacher came to them to ask for their assistance, they agreed to help him paint the soulless local school classrooms. The headmaster of the school was a very modern, open-minded person, and not before long they had developed a warm relationship.
However, everything changed in 2002.

The Finance Ministry then told the Parishes that one of the pieces of land they had bought was actually owned by the ministry. A year later it was the Forestry Department's turn; they staked a claim on another piece of their land, filing charges against them.

The Parish family failed to understand what was happening. They presented the land deeds they had, and brought forward witnesses. After expert testimony, useless lawyers, investigations and tons of money spent, the court decided in favor of the state, effectively ignoring the Land Registry. On top of that, the court also found it appropriate to fine the Parish's TL 675 billion.

You can imagine how shocked the Parishes were. Whatever you might say, it just doesn't make sense. It's bureaucratic chaos that even we, who are used to such trouble, might find hard to understand.

The Parish's have no idea what to do and are very distressed. I guess they regret ever deciding to sell everything they owned in England and make Turkey their second home. I am sure when their British friends hear the story, they'll never consider buying anything in Turkey.

As I said, there's no reason to impose military bans or pass restrictive laws in order to keep foreigners out of our country. Our bureaucracy, sales procedures and the condition the Land Registry and justice system find themselves in are all we need ensure no foreigners will want to buy land here.

The Parish family can take meager consolation from one sad fact. They were not a special exception. They did not face this kind of treatment simply because they were foreigners; this is just everyday Turkish bureaucracy. If they only saw what some Turks had to face, they might forget their woes and try to console us instead."