ISTANBUL—Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu recently submitted a parliamentary inquiry directed at the Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik, questioning reports that a building had been rented out despite ongoing trials led by Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The inquiry focused on the fate of Sanasarian Han, which the Armenian Patriarchate claims ownership of, but asked a broader question about foundation properties in general. Tanrikulu noted the report in the Official Gazette announcing the tender allowed for the rental of the building for the next two decades and included the cost of renovations at around 11 million Turkish Liras.
The inquiry asked Çelik how he felt about the tender, and whether or not he had given any instructions regarding the building. Reports have surfaced over the months that claimed a hotel was to be built instead of the han, Doğan news agency reported.
Tanrikulu also questioned whether or not the minister would take any initiatives to “return the building to the Armenian Patriarchate” and if there was any significance to the date of the tender announcement, which came “ahead of the 100th anniversary of the 1915 events,” as Tanrikulu said.
The han, after being donated to Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate in 1881, was confiscated by the then government in 1935. Located in Istanbul’s Eminönü district, Sansarian Han was refashioned into the Istanbul Police Headquarters in 1944 and eventually gained notoriety as a bastion of ill treatment by the police, as many people, including a number of prominent poets and writers, were tortured there.
The Directorate General of Foundations, on the other hand, claims that the building did not fall under the jurisdiction of a law on the return of properties to community foundations that took effect in 2011 as it had been owned by an independent citizen.
The tender for renting the historical building, organized by the Directorate General of Foundations on July 18, was won by Özgeylani Construction Company, despite the ongoing trial over the ownership of the building.
The inquiry also asked the minister about the ongoing struggles of several foundations over property ownership, and whether or not the ministry was leading any proceedings on related matters.