Church asks for return of orphanage

Church asks for return of orphanage

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Church asks for return of orphanage

The orphanage was home to numerous children of minority origin. Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was murdered in 2007, also received education in the orphanage and contributed to its construction with his brothers. RADİKAL photo, Tolga AKTAŞ

The Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church has filed a formal application with the Foundations General Directorate for the return of an Armenian orphanage in Istanbul’s Tuzla district that had been expropriated in the wake of Turkey’s 1980 military coup.

“Orphans and the children of destitute families used to reside in the camp. If the state is truly sincere and means well and if it is really determined to return what belongs to us, then it ought to hand back to our children their home,” Pasteur Krikor Ağabaloğlu, the spiritual head of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

They would initiate legal proceedings and even bring the case before the European Court of Human Rights unless the state returns the orphans’ camp, Ağabaloğlu said.

Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist who was murdered in 2007, also received education there and contributed to its construction with his brothers. “The Swallow Nest” was what Dink, the former editor-in-chief of weekly Agos, a paper published in both Turkish and Armenian, used to call the orphanage.

“The state has returned only about 100 from thousands of foundation properties,” Ağabaloğlu said in relation to the new Foundations Law enacted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), adding that he was skeptical about the government’s sincerity.

No formal reasons were ever provided as to why the orphanage lands had been expropriated, Ağabaloğlu said. “The state wants us to prove the title deeds of properties it expropriated. The state already knows why and what it expropriated. All the documents and title deeds are in their possession,” he said.

The camp bears great spiritual significance for us, Ağabaloğlu said, adding that Hrant Dink had also fought tooth and nail for the orphanage to be returned during the concluding years of his life.
Simon İş, a lawyer who represents minority foundations, told the Daily News, however, he thought the whole process of returning the property would be an agonizing one.

The camp currently lies in ruins, according to Ağabaloğlu, but it would undergo repairs if returned to the church, and its gates would then be opened once more to orphans and children of the destitute.
In August 2011, the Turkish government signed a historic decree to return property taken away from minority foundations 75 years ago.

Some of the property set to be returned to Armenian, Greek and Syriac foundations include schools, churches, stores, hundreds of houses, buildings and apartments, cemeteries, factories and even nightclubs.