The 452,000 square foot property located in the Zeytinburnu neighborhood of Istanbul, just across from the Holy Savior Armenian Hospital, was returned to the hospital foundation in a decision made by Turkey’s Directorate General for Foundations (VGM) that came following two meetings held by the VGM in October 2013. The property deed was officially changed to record the foundation as the owner on Jan. 22, 2014.
“Our dreams, after years of struggle, have finally come true,” said chairman of the foundation’s board of directors Bedros Shirinoglu. “Turkey’s Armenian community has regained a very important asset. This [decision] will enable our foundation and our society to view the future in a more secure light.” Shirinoglu thanked the prime minister and the relevant authorities for their role in enabling the property’s return.
In 2012, ten percent of the property was returned to the foundation. The most recent decision transferred the remaining bulk of the land to its rightful owner.
In 1936 Turkey’s non-Muslim community foundations and organizations were required to provide a list of their real properties to the state. In 1974 new legislation declared that any real property acquired by minority foundations between 1936 and 1974 was to be transferred back to its previous owner, or their inheritors. Property that did not indicate a previous owner or inheritor was appropriated by state entities. In that year, bulldozers entered the area, claiming that the deed listed no owner. The property was formally acquired by the state, and a large portion was subsequently sold to the Istanbul Municipality. The area presently features a neighborhood market site, a parking lot and both indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
Within the last 10 years, 143 of 661 properties seized from Armenian foundations have been returned, according to Agos’ report.