Turkey Returns Selamet Han to Armenian Foundation

The Foundation Applied for the Return of 19 Other Properties

ISTANBUL –The Selamet Han in Istanbul’s Eminonu are, which was among properties confiscated from non-Muslim religious minority, foundations in Turkey in 1974, has been returned to the Surp Pirgic Ermeni Hastanesi Vakfl (Armenian Holy Savior Hospital Foundation) thanks to the Law on Foundations passed in 2008.

Han is a business center. (This Armenian Hospital is the largest institution in the Diaspora and was selected among the top 10 hospitals in Turkey).

The law paved the way for the return of assets and property previously seized from the Armenians by the state. Minority foundations have thus far applied for the return of 410 assets, of which 96 have been given back. The Sabah daily reported on Saturday February 17 that the fate of the Selamet Han, which had been abandoned for years, has also changed with the passage of the law in 2008. The foundation had earlier applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for the return of the Han, but the court declined to hear the case.

Bedros Sirinoglu, a representative of the Armenian community and president of the board of trustees of the Armenian Surp Pirgic Hospital Foundation, said the foundation appealed to the relevant authorities asking for the return of 19 assets after the law went into effect and that seven of these have been approved so far, the latest being the Selamet Han. He said they have not received a response for the rest.

Noting that the current situation of the Han is “heart breaking” since it had been left deserted for years, Sirinoglu says the General Directorate of Foundations has recently drafted a restoration plan for the Han, which now waits approval from the directorate’s preservation board. “We want to put this Han into the service of Istanbul tourism as soon as possible as boutique hotel once it is restored,” Sirinoglu said.

Turkey seized some properties owned by the minority foundations in 1974 around the time of an intervention into Cyprus that followed a coup attempt by supporters of union with Greece. The country’s population of nearly 70 million mostly Muslim, includes nearly 65,000 Armenian Orthodox Christians, 23,000 Jews and fewer than 2,500 Greek Orthodox Christians. Most recently the ECtHR ordered the Turkish government to re-register a historic Orthodox orphanage to the Istanbul-based Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and also told Ankara to pay 26,000 euros in total to the patriarchate for both non-pecuniary damages and costs and expenses.

Caluste Gulbekian Donated the Building

Selamet Han had been endowed to the Hospital Foundation by the late billionaire benefactor Caluste Gulbekian in 1953.

A case ruling had granted ownership of the property to the General Directorate of Foundations in 1994.

Various foundations have applied for the return of combined 1,410 pieces of real estate.

Qualifying the new regulation as a reform, Sirinoglu stated that “we have applied for the return of 19 other properties, including the Zeytinburnu Stadium and we have received affirmative responses regarding seven of the properties requested.” The Zeytinburnu Stadium is located on 44,000 square meters of land which used to function as the hospital garden. Sirinoglu as that they need the revenue from this land in order to further serve the poor with medical assistance.

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