Istanbul Patriarchate Sues for Return of Property

The Sanasaryan School in Erzerum

ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News)—The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul filed a landmark suit in Ankara for the return of the historical Sansaryan School in the eastern province of Erzerum that was the site of the 1919 Erzurum Congress, an assembly headed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“Some other foundations belong to [minority] communities, but the Sansaryan Foundation was granted to the patriarchate by philanthropist Meguerdich Sansaryan in the 1800s. The administration and management of the Sansaryan Foundation legally belongs to the patriarchate,” lawyer Ali Elbeyoglu, who represents the Armenian Patriarchate in court, told the Hürriyet Daily News Sunday.

The patriarchate also demanded the return of other properties in Sivas formerly owned by the Sansaryan Foundation in the lawsuit it filed on March 14.

“We are not going to content ourselves with the mere return of historical buildings. We are also going to demand compensation from the Foundations General Directorate for all material losses incurred by the patriarchate since 1936,” Elbeyoglu said.

Upon the government’s request, Turkey’s minority groups in 1936 gave the government declarations detailing their real property. Over the years, however, many of these properties did not remain registered under the minority foundations’ names, and some were even sold to third parties.

Turkey’s Foundations General Directorate expropriated the Sansaryan Foundation citing the 1936 Declaration, according to Elbeyoglu.

The Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate also filed another suit against the Foundations Directorate General in recent months demanding that the Sansaryan Shopping Center in Istanbul’s Eminonu district be returned to the Patriarchate. However, the head of Turkey’s Foundations Directorate General has said it will not be returned despite a ruling by an Istanbul court to impose an interim injunction over the building.

“This runs counter to all international legal [norms] as well as the Treaty of Lausanne. The Patriarchate is still in possession of the title deed,” Elbeyoglu said.

The Armenian community currently owns three small foundations across the whole of Anatolia. If the patriarchate wins its lawsuit, it will mark the first time that Turkey’s Armenian community has regained control of a foundation in Anatolia.

“If the Armenian community had not hesitated for various reasons, they could have filed this suit in 1936, as they are legally in the right. There is a case dated to 1936, and its files indicate that the patriarchate officially owns Sansaryan. Our research shows that the best-preserved archival documents are located at the Land Registry Cadastre,” Elbeyoglu said.

Elbeyoglu also dismissed suggestions indicating a link between the lawsuit and the Foundations Law that recently came into effect. The Turkish government enacted a measure that went into effect on Aug. 27, 2011, to return properties seized from minority foundations through the 1936 Declaration.

The Foundations Directorate General still classifies Sansaryan as a property left without a manager and whose ownership consequently passed onto the Foundation Directorate General, but for that definition to hold up in court, it would require there to be no citizens of Armenian descent in Turkey, according to Elbeyoglu.

The Sansaryan Foundation was established by Meguerdich Sansaryan, a Russian-Armenian philanthropist. The police used the Sansaryan Shopping Center in Istanbul for a long period during which torture was widespread.


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. Stepan said:

    This could be the beginning of an important initiative. The return of properties driven by the patriarchate is important as it is one of the most recognized internal Armenian institutions in Turkey. These are Turkish citizens using the Turkish court system to pursue justice. It will certainly test the sincerity of the government. Our expectations should be tempered, but this is an opportunity for leadership and credibility.

  2. Varoujan said:

    It’s about bloody time that the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul started legally demanding the return of our stolen assets instead of being pawns of Turkish dog and pony shows.



  3. Alex Postallian said:

    Good luck,if you can get a nickel,out of those greedy turkies.So camel attaturkey modernized the country,at the expense of other people.See how DUMB and Blind the turks are,always covering their rearend.camel attaturkey was their hitler,only worse.

  4. Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

    This photo is prove for what the Ottomans did…
    Odd combination …Church with minaret…
    They are real thieves…
    I think this photo should be distributed widely…
    Before they abolish it with clear explanation…


  5. Pingback: Daily Thrace | Istanbul Patriarchate Sues for Return of Property Asbarez Armenian News

  6. Aram said:

    My fellow Armenians, do you really feel you are honoring the Armenian martyrs by insulting Turks and
    resuming the hatred of the past between our two neighboring countries on this tiny planet?

  7. hayko yesilkoyluian. said:

    parev as a turkish armenian today turkish-armenian community leaders slave of turks they do what is say erdogan turkish armenia foundation leader bedros sirinoglu triator he is one of richest person in Turkey and owner of biggest factoring company in Istanbul plays with million dolars but nothing give to armenians schools he was support of erdogan during the turkish election 2011 he supported erdogan after election for his honor erdogan give to him hotel in mecidiyekoy istanbul karagozyan hotel skyscraper please diaspora armenians dont trust turkish-armenian community they do what is turks say .and Sylva-md-poetry this picture nothing if you come and see armenians and greek churches school how looking in istanbul you would faint by mad we cant make nothing living with 15 million enemy no hope no safety no money sometimes bright future for us in armenia nor north america mostly turkish armenian dont want live anymore in istanbul or where is turks kurds cherkes and balkan people all citizens of turks or same mentality owners. in Turkey nationalist and conservative votes 75%00 how an ethnic community can live in a peace and freedom…

  8. Kirk said:

    We should all thank Catholicos Aram I,who is pursuing internationally the return of Armenian churches and church properties.
    However,I have one concern:I am afraid that an unnecessary rivalry and competition will start soon between
    Istanbul Patriarchate and Holy See of Cilicia on the ownership of these valuable properties.
    I hope and pray that I am wrong.

  9. David K. said:

    Great news! But can we call the “Istanbul Patriarchate” by its proper name: Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople?

  10. hayko yesilkoyluian said:

    After conquering Constantinople ( Istanbul ), the Ottoman Empire allowed the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople ( Istanbul ) to stay in the city. But Sultan Mehmed II allowed the Armenians to establish their own church in the new Ottoman capital, as part of the Millet system. For a short period, the Syriac Orthodox Church was also placed under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate.
    The first Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople ( Istanbul ) was Hovakim I, who was at the time the Metropolitan of Bursa. In 1461, he was brought to Constantinople by Sultan Mehmed II and established as the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. Hovakim I was recognized as the religious and secular leader of all Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and carried the title of milletbaşı or ethnarch as well as a word istanbul more usable