Minority foundations demand extra time for property return

Minority foundations demand extra time for property return

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Minority foundations demand extra time for property return

Sveti Stefan Church is located in the historic Balat neighborhood of Istanbul is one of the returned properties. DAILY NEWS photo, Hasan ALTINIŞIK

The one year period given to minority foundations for the return of their property has expired, but complaints are still ongoing. The council members of various minority foundations have underlined that the process has gone well for a year, but that a one year period is not enough for them to receive back their property and extra time is needed.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News, Harutyun Şanlı, a member of the coordination committee of the Armenian Foundations Solidarity Platform, or VADIP, said they had met Foundations General Director Adnan Ertem in early August.

“Adnan Ertem said we had 600 properties, but were not working hard enough to take them back.
Foundation heads are all amateurs. A serious examination is required to reveal properties. Some of our lands are occupied, some had highways constructed on them. Such cases must be detected,” Şanlı said. “However, bureaucratic procedures and the indifference of some foundation heads make it difficult. We have neither sufficient data nor the 1936 declaration.”

Following the Lausanne Treaty, a law was passed in 1936 that suggested the recording of all minority foundations. Apart from the property recorded in the declaration, the foundations were prevented from obtaining new properties. With the Foundations Law enacted by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2008, it became possible for properties belonging to minorities to be returned to them.

“Extra time should be given, and the elections [of foundation heads] should be open to the whole of Istanbul. New legislation should be introduced to prevent the misuse of authority, so that foundation heads will not just act as they wish,” Şanlı said.

Within the one-year period, Armenian Foundations received some of their most important foundations back in Istanbul, including the historic Surp Haç Tıbrevank High School in the Üsküdar district, the Selamet Han in Eminönü, which belongs to the Yedikule Surp Pırgiç Hospital-Foundation in Zeytinburnu.

Controversial Mor Gabriel case

Meanwhile, the Mor Gabriel Monastery in the Midyat district of the southeastern province of Mardin - one of the most important monasteries in the Syriac world - has been engaged in a lawsuit since 2008.
The head of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation Kuryakos Ergün said the time limit was too short and that during the one year period given none of the properties belonging to foundations in the southeastern region had been re-possessed.

“The southeastern region was declared an emergency region because of terrorism. In 2008, the Land Registry Cadastre Office registered all of our property under their name and they also sued us. For trivial reasons, the Supreme Court of Appeals considered us squatters on our own property, and our appeal to take back one of our lands was suspended for three months,” Ergün said.

Hagia Dimitrios Church Foundation Head Dimitri Zotos said they experienced great difficulty in obtaining the land title records, and were trapped in the obstacles of bureaucracy. “We could not receive back even one of our foundations. We had taken this for granted, but each foundation has a different condition,” Zotos said.