Armenian, Turkish locals in court over land rights

Armenian, Turkish locals in court over land rights

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Armenian, Turkish locals in court over land rights

The disputed 3,000 acres of territory covers four villages. Acar, Heybetli, Balbaşı and Çağıl villages are all located in Sason district of the eastern province of Batman. DHA photo

An Armenian community that was forced to vacate their villages in the southeastern province of Batman 25 years ago due to politically motivated violence in the region has mounted a legal battle to retrieve disputed land.

“They could not retrieve their homes and land when they decided to return back. The Directorate of Land and Cadastre has forged illegal documents on behalf of those who occupied [the properties],” lawyer Şeyhmus Kabaday, who represents the villagers in court, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Acar village headman M. Şirin Ekmen claimed otherwise, however, when speaking on the occupant villagers’ behalf.

“We, too, are in possession of documents, and we will also present them to the court. The [inhabitants of] Acar bought 1,300 acres of territory from İsa Demirci, a prominent Armenian villager, in 1986. We have the documents,” Ekmen said.

Some 3,000 acres of territory are at stake in the lawsuit filed by the villagers, who left their land and homes behind to emigrate to Istanbul in 1987 due to the regional violence spurred by clashes between government forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), unsolved murders and the Kurdish issue.

“They say they have deeds, [but] the signatures are fake, and there are no originals. They are all photocopies. My clients, on the other hand, are still in possession of their title deeds, and we have presented them to court,” lawyer Kabaday said.

 The next hearing is scheduled for May 4 at the cadastre court in Batman’s Sason district for the lands located in the villages of Acar, Heybetli, Balbaşı and Çağıl.

‘Rights to be retrieved’

 Speaking to the Daily News, a high-ranking state offcer said beneficiaries would retrieve their rights if they filed a suit.

“[The Directorate of] Land and Cadastre entered places where it held no authority. We have been pursuing the matter for the past three years,” he said.

“If such repression existed as claimed, then these people would not have continued living here. People emigrated due to concerns about terrorism. Now we are collecting input for the archives,” he said.
Some of the Armenians who left their land currently live under Muslim identities, the official added.

The damages incurred on people who abandoned their villages due to fear of terrorism will be
compensated in accordance with Article 5233, which was legislated in 2004, if their claims can be verified, he said, adding that villagers from Acar had already appealed to them. “We are the aggrieved party. We [the inhabitants of] 38 households hit the road due to fear for our lives, and we could never return back. We want to return back to our village, but we are concerned about our security,” Osman (Hovsep) Demirci, one of the litigants, told the Daily News.