Agos' archive: 1936 declaration - sword of Damocles

Today, in Agos' archive, there is "1936 Declaration".Consituting the ground for seizing the properties of the minority foundations, "1936 Declaration" was the subject of a news report that was published in Agos in 1988.

General Directorate of Foundations files lawsuit after lawsuit against minority foundations                 

General Directorate of Foundations filed a lawsuit against Samatya Surp Kevork Church for an asset in Şişli with the request of “returning it to the former owner”.

Since 1974, General Directorate of Foundations maintains the implementation of “returning the properties that are not listed in 1936 Declaration to the former owners by a court decision.” Lately, General Directorate of Foundations filed a similar lawsuit against Samatya Surp Kevork Church.

General Directorate of Foundations has been filing this kind of lawsuits against minority foundations since 1974. Currently, there are 5 lawsuits that were filed against Armenian minority foundations (3 against Yedikule Surp Pırgiç Hospital, one against Yeniköy Church and one against Samatya Surp Kevork Church) by General Directorate of Foundations. Armenian foundations had lost almost 30 assets because of the similar lawsuits. It is also known that Rum and Jewish foundations had also lost innumerable assets.

In 1974, Supreme Court Assembly of Civil Chambers ruled against Balıklı Rum Hospital and this ruling is considered as a legal precedent; after that, all courts ruled in accordance with that previous ruling of Supreme Court.

The process of returning to the former owner

When a court rules for a property to be returned to the former owner, any property, whether acquired through lottery, will, donation, or purchase, is returned to the former owners or inheritors. If a property acquired by purchase is returned, the foundation that had that property wouldn’t get any compensation. Interestingly, most of those properties have no inheritors and in such cases, the property is transferred to some governmental agency like the Treasury or the General Directorate of Foundations.

What is 1936 Declaration?

The list consisting of the numbers and addresses of the properties of the minority foundations is called “1936 Declaration”. This list was demanded by General Directorate of Foundations in 1936.

What does Supreme Court Assembly of Civil Chambers say?

In all the lawsuits that are filed as part of “1936 Declaration”, Supreme Court Assembly of Civil Chambers’ ruling against Balıklı Rum Hospital in 1974 is used as a legal precedent. In this ruling, all the minorities are defined as “non-Turkish people” and Supreme Court, in the justified decision, stated:

“The legal entities founded by non-Turks are forbidden to acquire immovable properties. Since the legal entities are stronger than natural persons, they would constitute a threat against the State if their right to acquire immovable properties wouldn’t be limited. It is possible for natural persons to acquire properties through purchase or inheritance, but it is not possible for legal entities.”

This unanimous ruling constituted a legal precedent and opened up the way for the confiscation of many properties acquired by the minority foundations after 1936.

*This article was published in Agos, on November 13, 1998


Special Reports