Armenian foundation seeks to regain property rights to school

September 27, 2012, Thursday/ 16:49:00/ ELA DEMİR

An Armenian foundation is seeking to regain property rights to a plot of land that hosts the Bomonti Mihitaryan Elementary School, located in the Şişli district of İstanbul, which was seized by a municipality in Ankara province in 1982.

An Armenian foundation, the Surp Gazar Armenian Catholic Mihitaryan Monastery and School Foundation, which previously owned the plot of land in Şişli, lost the parcel in 1982 after encountering legal obstacles imposed on the sale of land to minority foundations. The foundation has been struggling to reacquire the land ever since.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, the foundation's president, Rita Nurnur, said they tried to resolve the problem through bureaucratic means before filing a lawsuit, adding that they sued the Ayaş Municipality upon the advice of Adnan Ertem, the head of the Directorate General for Foundations (VGM), an autonomous body that deals with properties of Muslim and non-Muslim foundations. “We are sure this 33-year injustice will soon be resolved,” Nurnur noted.

A directive was introduced in Turkey in 1936 that prohibited foundations run by minorities from buying any property in Turkey, after which the Turkish government ordered all minority foundations to declare all of their assets and properties.

The Armenian foundation bought a plot of land from a Turkish woman, Emine Tevfika Ayaşlı, in 1958 to establish a school. The foundation had to sell its land in Moda, located in İstanbul's Kadıköy district, to buy the land in Şişli. According to the 1936 directive, a foundation run by minorities can buy a property on the condition that in return it sells a property it owned before the release of the directive.

The foundation had never encountered any difficulties until the death in 1979 of Ayaşlı, from whom they bought the land on which an Armenian school is currently operating. Ayaşlı bequeathed three-fourths of her properties to the Ayaş Municipality in Ankara province, and the property rights were officially conveyed to the municipality in 1982. The foundation's battle to acquire ownership of the land has been ongoing since 1982.

The municipality initially forced the Armenian foundation to vacate the land and close down the school even though the foundation has a deed to the land. The municipality later allowed the foundation to pay rent for the school. The foundation filed a lawsuit with prosecutors to regain the property rights to the school, and legal proceedings for ownership of the land began last year. The fifth hearing of the case was held at the İstanbul Courthouse in Şişli's Çağlayan neighborhood on Monday.

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