Armenian Patriarchate’s bold move to sue the Turkish Government
By Harut Sassounian, Publisher, The
We must commend Acting Patriarch Aram Ateshian and the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul for making the bold move of suing the Turkish government for the return of historically significant Armenian properties.
Turkish officials normally view such legal actions with hostility and exert great pressure on judges to reject property claims filed by minorities, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to win similar lawsuits. Nevertheless, this is a necessary first step in order to be able to appeal the Turkish court’s expected negative ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, where a plaintiff has a much better chance of a fair hearing.
The lawsuit filed by the Patriarchate on March 14 seeks the return of Armenian properties belonging to
Prior to 1915,
Garin was an important base of operations for the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnagtsoutyoun) and its leaders who had taken residence there before 1915. One of ARF’s founders, Rostom, was appointed as superintendent of Garin’s school system, which included
Some meetings of the momentous ARF 8th World Congress were held in 1914 at
Ironically, a few years later, Garin was converted from a hotbed of Armenian activism to a center of Turkish nationalism with the convening of the historic Erzeroum Congress by Kemal Ataturk in 1919. Currently, the
Commenting on the lawsuit, Ali Elbeyoglu, the Armenian Patriarchate’s lawyer, told Hurriyet newspaper: “The Sanasarian Foundation was granted to the Patriarchate by philanthropist Mgrdich Sanasarian in the 1800’s. The administration and management of the Sanasarian Foundation legally belongs to the Patriarchate…. We are not going to content ourselves with the mere return of historical buildings. We are also going to demand compensation from the government’s General Directorate of Foundations for all material losses incurred by the Patriarchate since 1936.”
Earlier this year, the Armenian Patriarchate filed a separate lawsuit against the Directorate General of Foundations seeking the return of the
In the past, when I criticized the Patriarchate for making public statements against Armenian national interests, I was accused of not fully appreciating the special circumstances under which Armenians live in Turkey, and was told to show more sensitivity to the fact that they are basically hostages in the hands of the Turkish government. Since this article commends the Patriarchate’s bold legal action, I am concerned that my words of praise might make some Armenians in