Sunday, December 30, 2012

Special Issue of ‘Armenian Review’ Discusses Genocide Reparations

The Armenian Review recently announced the publication of a special issue about “The New Global Reparations Movement,” the growing movement to require reparations for cases of mass human rights violation.
1x1.trans Special Issue of ‘Armenian Review’ Discusses Genocide Reparations
The cover of the special issue.
Professor Henry Theriault of Worcester State University is the guest editor of the special issue, and also contributes his analysis of the moral imperative requiring reparations for the Armenian Genocide. International law expert Dr. Alfred de Zayas argues the case that the UN Genocide Convention is both applicable to the Armenian Genocide and requires that reparations be made.
For many years, reparations had not been a central element in political, legal, or ethical engagements with past group harms. Since the 1988 decision by the United States to compensate Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, however, reparations have been raised by victim groups as a key requirement for justice and have become intertwined with truth and reconciliation processes.
Thus the articles in the special issue present many of the other key reparations movements. Jermaine McCalpin and M.P. Giyose discuss the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and connect it to other cases: McCalpin to African-American and Native American reparations, and Giyose to the legacy of former colonies burdened by the huge state debts incurred by their former rulers. Patrick Sargent analyzes South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Haiti as four cases of such “odious debt.” Kibibi Tyehimba analyzes the need for reparations for the historical legacy of sustained violence against African-Americans, and Haruko Shibasaki presents the legal movement in Japan for reparations for the “Comfort Women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II. A group of authors present the issue of reparations for indigenous peoples who were dispossessed by Argentina’s military during the country’s “Campaign to the Desert” in the 19th century.
The special issue of the Armenian Review, volume 53, no. 1-4, may be ordered by itself or as part of a subscription to the academic journal from its website, All subscription, order, and renewal inquiries should be addressed to the publisher by writing to the Armenian Review, Inc., 80 Bigelow Avenue, Watertown, MA 02472-2012; by e-mailing; or by calling (617) 926-4037.

Thursday, December 27, 2012



We address this to everyone Armenian and Non Armenian throughout the world.
Whether you speak or understand English, French, German or Armenian, please, watch this 90 minute presentation and come to your own conclusions

Spread this link. Let ordinary people of the world, intellectuals of this world, clergymen of this world, politicians of this world, heads of states of this world, let them all see and hear what is documented in this presentation.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Turks Help Publicize Genocide Centennial

On the eve of the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2005, Mehmet Ali Birand, a prominent Turkish commentator, wrote an article in Hurriyet urging the Turkish public to be prepared for the upcoming “Armenian tsunami.”
Earlier this month, the Turkish newspaper Gazete Kars published a similar editorial titled, “The Armenian preparations for 2015,” alerting Turks of the approaching 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, and advising them to take effective counter-measures.
The editorial reflects how closely Turks are following Armenian preparations for the genocide centennial and how anxiously they are weighing the impact of the forthcoming Armenian activities on Turkey.
The lengthy column reports that Armenia and the diaspora are expanding their joint campaign against Turkey on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The article warns that “Armenians through their lies will raise the entire world to its feet,” and suggests that “the Republic of Turkey immediately put into action all its resources and take preemptive measures to bring to naught this deception.”
Gazete Kars complains that Armenians are “tarnishing Turkey’s reputation by launching powerful attacks on 40 fronts. To counter these attacks Turkey must take far greater defensive and offensive measures. There is not a single minute to waste. The world is swallowing their lies.”
The editorial proceeds to outline the activities of notable individuals and organizations in preparation for the genocide centennial. The newspaper specifically mentions Prof. Taner Akcam, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, the French and Armenian governments, Berlin University, and Hayk Demoyan, the director of the Genocide Museum in Armenia, who is quoted as saying, “the struggle for genocide recognition must be combined with an understanding for restitution. … We must pursue legal avenues to assign responsibility for this crime.”
Gazete Kars also lists the Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian National Institute, Zoryan Institute, and Gomidas Institute as organizations that have succeeded in bringing the Armenian Genocide to the attention of scholarly and media circles worldwide. Prominent Turkish novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak, who have bravely condemned Turkey’s distortions of the Armenian Genocide, are accused of enjoying the backing of “Diaspora Armenian lobbying organizations.”
The Turkish newspaper reports the formation of a central coordinating committee in Yerevan on April 23, 2011, to prepare the program of activities for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The committee, chaired by Armenia’s president, convened its inaugural meeting on May 30, 2011.
The Turkish editor then focuses on my articles, wrongly identifying me as “Ara” Sassounian, publisher of the California Courier. I am quoted as saying that “demanding genocide recognition is no longer useful for Armenians. On the contrary it is harmful. Turks are happy that we are satisfied with this demand. What we should demand is justice.” It continues, “When he is asked what does justice entail, he explains that it means financial, moral, and territorial restitution.”
The Turkish writer further elaborates on my views: “Sassounian believes relations between Armenia and the diaspora are not perfect, and that it is imperative to have a common understanding, especially on issues related to ‘Hay Tad’ (the Armenian Cause). Sassounian also believes that more serious results could be achieved by bringing together Armenians living in 100 countries under the umbrella of a Diaspora Parliament composed of 350 representatives.”
Gazete Kars concludes its editorial by outlining some of the Armenian activities planned for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide:
1) Prepare publications in seven languages: Armenian, English, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
2) Produce films and documentaries, organize concerts and exhibitions, and publish books and scholarly materials.
3) Enlarge threefold the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan.
4) Create a central coordinating committee.
5) Organize media conferences, establish contacts with press agencies in 89 countries, and invite diasporan TV and radio journalists to Armenia in advance of the 100th anniversary.
6) Using modern technology, publish e-books in various languages, and establish contacts with academic and cultural figures, media, and civil society, and international organizations conducting genocide research.
7) Produce an Armenian Genocide film with well-known Indian director Shekhar Kapur and Puerto Rican screenwriter Jose Rivera.
Since Turks are expecting a flurry of activities for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Armenians should do everything possible not to disappoint them!
The editors of Gazete Kars do not seem to realize that Armenians in fact welcome Turkish attempts to counter the upcoming genocide centennial activities. By doing so, the Turkish side would be helping to publicize the Armenian Cause beyond what Armenians are capable of doing on their own.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Akcam: Turkey and the Armenian Ghost

The Armenian Weekly publishes the full text of a talk delivered by Dr. Taner Akcam (Clark University) during a panel on ‘Overcoming Genocide Denial’ organized by Fordham Law School’s Leitner Center for International Law and Justice on Dec. 4. Speakers included Akcam, Gregory Stanton (George Mason University), and Sheri Rosenberg (Cardozo Law School).
1x1.trans Akcam: Turkey and the Armenian Ghost
Empty chairs in Mush (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)
“Why do we Turks continue to deny the genocide?”
Or, stated another way, Why do we Turks feel like lightening has struck our bones whenever the topic is brought up?
I’ve been dedicated to researching the subject of the Armenian Genocide since 1990, more than 20 years. This question keeps getting asked over and over again with unerring consistency. The question is a simple one, but as the years have passed my response to it has changed. At first, I tried to explain the denial through the concept of “continuity,” namely, governmental continuity from the Ottoman Empire through the Turkish Republic. Another way of formulating this thesis might be by titling it, The Dilemma of Making Heroes into Villains.” The argument is very simple: The Turkish Republic was actually established by the Union and Progress Party (Ittihat ve Terakki), the architects of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The founding cadres of Turkey were essentially Union and Progress members. And so, a significant number of the founding cadres of Turkey were either directly involved in the Armenian Genocide or they enriched themselves by looting Armenian properties. But these individuals were also our national heroes—they are the founding fathers of our nation. If Turkey acknowledges the genocide, we would have to accept that a number of our national heroes and founding fathers were either murderers, thieves, or both. This is the real dilemma.
Those individuals, as we were taught in school, were men who “created our nation and the state out of nothing.” They define who we are. This is true not only for the early generation of the Turkish nation, but also for the opposition movements of the country, including the largest wave of a democratic-progressive movement Turkey had ever seen: the 1968 student protest movement. The representatives of this wave and its political organizations strongly identified themselves with the founding cadres of the republic. They called themselves, in analogy with the founding fathers, the second “Kuvayi–Milliyeciler” or “national front,” a specific term that we use only to define our founding cadres. This strong identification with the founding fathers was not particular to the progressive ‘68 generation. It has been true for any of the groups active in Turkey: nationalist, Islamicist, or other right wing circles.
In other words, in order to accept the genocide, in our present state, we would have to deny our own national identity, as it exists today. That is a very difficult task, an almost impossible one, and very destructive. Instead of dealing with the identity crisis and the emotional and political fallout that will result from accepting the genocide, think about it: Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to just deny it?
I started to modify my response to the question “Why do Turks deny the genocide?” over time. I added one more reason for Turkish denial. It is also a very simple argument. If Turkey accepts that the genocide took place, it will be obligated to pay reparations. The argument has some wider consequences than whether the events of 1915 should be termed “genocide.” Let’s assume that 1915 was not genocide, and imagine that the Union and Progress Party had deported the Armenians from a cold, mountainous, and infertile area to a sunny warm and fertile region; pretend, in other words, that the Armenians had been dispatched to Florida. However, everything that these people owned was confiscated in the process and not a single penny was paid back to them. Even if you refuse to accept the events of 1915 as genocide, you have to accept the fact that the country of Turkey today was formed on the seizure of Armenian assets, and now sits on top of that wealth. As a result, if you accept and acknowledge that something unjust happened in 1915 in Turkey, you have to pay back compensation. Therefore, in order to avoid doing that, denying genocide outright makes a whole lot of sense.
I have continued to add some additional factors to explain Turkish denials, such as the phenomenon that occurs when you repeat a lie. Even in ordinary daily life, how easy is it to reverse yourself once you’ve told a lie? The lie about genocide has a history of decades and has become calcified. A state that’s been lying for 90 years can’t simply reverse course. Even when you know you’re telling untruths, they acquire the veneer of reality after so many years.
But these points are only useful for explaining why the state has continued to deny the genocide. As the years passed, I started to write that the term “Turkish denial” was inadequate for fully explaining the situation. I questioned the validity of the use of the term “Turks” to reflect a homogeneous entity that defines not only the people of Turkey but the state of Turkey, as well. I suggested making a distinction between state policy and the attitude of the people of Turkey towards genocide. I argued that the term “denial” was adequate in explaining state policy, but not that of society. The attitude of society should more accurately be portrayed as one of ignorance, apathy, fatalism, reticence, and silence, rather than denial.
Turkish society is not a monolithic block, and can be considered analogous to a train. It’s made up of lots of different cars, and each car represents a different sub-cultural ethnicity with a different attitude towards what happened in 1915. I’ve stated many times that a large portion of Kurds, Dersimians, and Alewites have accepted the reality of what happened in 1915, and that the real problem is that these different groups have not been able to express their thoughts on it in a way that was forceful, firm, and especially written. I used the terms silence and avoidance not only in the sense of a single attitude that is jointly held by all segments of society, but also to mean not openly taking a stance toward the official state narrative. One has to accept that all of these distinctions are important, and perhaps vital, to understanding the development of civil society in Turkey today, but that they are still not enough to explain why denialism is such a dominant part of the cultural landscape in Turkey.
So, my thinking has begun to change, yet again, recently. I don’t mean to say that my previous explanations were necessarily incorrect. Just the opposite: I still believe that these factors play a major role in the denial of the Armenian Genocide. However, I have now started to think that the matter seems to have roots in something much deeper and almost existentialist, which covers the state as much as the society. The answer to the question seems to lie in a duality between existence and non-existence—or, as Hamlet would say, “to be or not to be.” I believe our existence as a state and a society translates into their—Christians in Anatolia—non-existence, or not-being. To accept what happened in 1915 means you have to accept the existence of them—Christians—on Turkish territory, which is practically like announcing our non-existence, because we owe our being to their non-existence. Let me explain.
In order to provide more clarity, I would like to introduce Habermas to the topic. Habermas points out that within the social tissue and institutions of societies resides a “secret violence,” and this “secret violence” creates a structure of communication that the entire society identifies with.[1] Through this way of “collective communication,” the restrictions and exclusion of certain topics from public discourse are effectively institutionalized and legitimized. What is meaningful to note here is that this structure is not imposed on the society by the rulers, but is accepted and internalized by those who are ruled. There is a silent consensus in the society.
I would like to borrow another term from author Elias Siberski to shed some light on this condition–“communicative reality” (die kommunikative Wirklichkeit). Siberski uses this term to describe a very important characteristic of secretive organizations.2 According to Siberski, secretive organizations create an internal reality through a method of communication that is totally different from the real world. The situation in Turkey today resembles this very closely. As a society, we are like a secret organization. Since the establishment of our republic we have created a “communicative reality,” which sets out our way of thinking and existence over “state and nation.” It gives shape to our emotions and defining belief systems, or, in other words, our entire social-cultural net of relations. In sum, the things that make us who we are or at a minimum who we think we are. What is important to note is the gap between this “communicative reality” and actual reality.
In the end, this “communicative reality” has given us speakable and unspeakable worlds, and has created a collective secret that covers our entire society like a glove. It has created one big gigantic black hole. We are, today, a reality that possesses a “black hole.” This existence of a huge “black hole,” or the possession of a “collective secret,” or creation of a “coalition of silence”—these are the terms that define who we are… We simply eradicated everything Christian from this reality. This is how we teach Ottoman history in our schools, this is how we produce intellectual-cultural works about our society.
My opinion is that the secret behind the denial of the Armenian Genocide, or the unspeakableness of it, lies somewhere in here. What happened in 1915 is Turkish society’s collective secret, and genocide has been relegated to the “black hole” of our societal memory. Since the founding of the Republic of Turkey, all of us, rightists and leftists, Muslim, Alewite, Kurds, and Turks, have created a collective “coalition of silence” around this subject, and we don’t like being reminded of this hidden secret that wraps around us like a warm, fuzzy blanket. The reminders have an annoying irritating quality and we feel confronted by a situation that leaves us unsure of what to do or say.
Because, if we are forced to confront our history, everything—our social institutions, mentalities, belief systems, culture, and even the language we use—will be open to question. The way a society perceives itself is going to be questioned from top to bottom. As a result, we don’t appreciate the “reminders.” We view reminders as “force,” and react quite negatively to them. All of us, rightist and leftist, search for excuses, but we together seem to be crying out, as if in chorus, “Here we are minding our own business, not bothering anyone, when you appeared out of nowhere. Where did you come from?” It is as if we, as a nation, are making this collective statement: “If you think we are going to destroy the social-cultural reality we created with such great care over 95 years, with one swipe of a pen, think again!”
The Armenian Genocide is a part of a more general framework that is directly related to our existence. The republic and the society of Turkey today have been constructed upon the removal of Christians—the destruction of an existence on a territory that we call our homeland. Since we have established our existence upon the non-existence of another, every mention of that existence imparts fear and anxiety in us. The difficulty we have in our country with speaking about the Armenian issue lies within this existence-non-existence duality. If you’re looking for an example that comes close to this, you don’t need to look far: The history of the Native Americans in the U.S. bears similarities.
So, I think we have to reverse the question: The central question is not why Turkey denies the genocide, but whether we the people of Turkey are ready, as a state and as a society, to deny our present state of existence. It seems that the only way we can do that is by repudiating how we came to be and by creating a new history of how we came to exist. Are we capable of doing that? That’s the true question.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Surprise: Genocidal Sudan ‘Fully’ Supports Baku

Surprise: Genocidal Sudan ‘Fully’ Supports Baku

Sudan’s parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir
BAKU (Trend)—Sudan fully supports the just position of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Sudan’s parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir said on Sunday during a meeting with the Azeri Ambassador to Sudan Shahin Abdullayev.
Abdullayev, who is also Baku’s envoy to Cairo, Al-Tahir and briefed him on the ongoing Karabakh peace talks, saying he appreciated Sudan’s position.
Al-Tahir said that he was satisfied with the bilateral relations within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other international organizations.
Adbullayev highlighted the role of Azeri Milli Majlis (Parliament) plays in international inter-parliamentary relations and emphasized the importance of creating friendship groups between the parliaments of Sudan and Azerbaijan.
The Speaker said that the parliament of Sudan is ready to create a friendship group between Sudan and Azerbaijan and to organize visits of members and the heads of these groups for strengthening inter-parliamentary relations between the two countries.

Reflections of a Righteous Turk: Can Germany Be a Model for Turkey?

If it were possible to clone prominent Turkish commentator Orhan Kemal Cengiz and make multiple copies of his kind heart and righteous conscience, the Turkish government would then be able to come to grips with Armenian demands from Turkey in a humane and just manner.
Cengiz visited Germany recently with a group of Turkish journalists and human rights activists at the invitation of the European Academy of Berlin with the financial support of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Turkish visitors participated in a conference titled, “Difficult Heritage of the Past,” on how today’s Germans face crimes committed by Nazis.
After returning to Turkey, Cengiz wrote two poignant articles published in Today’s Zaman: “Can Germany be a model for Turkey in confrontation with past atrocities?” and “Turkey and Germany’s past atrocities.”
Cengiz confesses that before his visit, he thought that “Germans were forced to look at their troubled past by external powers who had them on their knees after World War II.” He wonders whether Germany could serve as a model for other countries in facing their past voluntarily. To his surprise, he discovered that even though Germans had begun confronting their past after a devastating defeat, they were determined to create a new country “based on an endless process of remembering, commemorating, and confronting the past.”
The righteous Turkish writer was “extremely impressed and touched” after seeing a brick wall in a Berlin kindergarten: Every year, teachers would ask students to identify themselves with Jews who once lived in the neighborhood before being killed by the Nazis. The students would then write the Jewish names on bricks and put them on top of each other, forming a wall. It became clear to him that “remembering has become a part of daily life in Germany.”
Cengiz hopes that someday Turkish “children would do a similar thing. I imagined children in Istanbul building a wall by writing on bricks the names of Armenian intellectuals who were taken from their homes on April 24, 1915 and never came back again.” He is convinced that “confronting the past is a clear state policy here in Germany. Museums, exhibitions, and the school curriculum all show how the state apparatus invested in this endeavor. So little by little I started to realize that Turkey can significantly benefit from the German experience on this difficult terrain of confrontation with the past.”
In his second article, Cengiz boldly describes the 19th and 20th centuries as “centuries of genocide,” which included the Armenian Genocide. He explains that contrary to the mass crimes committed by other nations, the ones perpetrated by Germans and Turks were against “neighbors with whom they had lived side-by-side for centuries. I think this alone is the most distinctive element of the German and Turkish example. … When you kill your neighbors, it creates a black hole, a gap in your national identity.”
In seeking to emulate the German experience, Cengiz hopes that he will see memorials erected in Turkey about “Armenian massacres, pogroms targeting Jews and Greeks, massacres targeting Alevis and others. When Turkey starts to remember and commemorate past atrocities, the Topography of Terror Museum, which is built on a former Nazi headquarters, the Jewish Museum of Berlin, and others might be good examples to follow. … Turkey has a lot to learn from Germany in coming to terms with past atrocities.”
While Turkey’s acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide is long overdue, the actual process of reconciliation could begin by removing the names of the Turkish masterminds of the Armenian Genocide from schools, streets, and public squares throughout Turkey. The Turkish government should also dismantle the shameful mausoleum of Talat Pasha in Istanbul and replace it with a monument dedicated to the Armenian Genocide. It should also pay billions of dollars in compensation to descendants of Armenian victims, similar to German payments to Jews. Most importantly, Turkey should return to Armenians the occupied territories of Western Armenia!
Germany too, as Turkey’s close ally in World War I, has an obligation to Armenians—to acknowledge its role in the Armenian Genocide. It should apologize and make amends to the Armenian people. Only then would Germans fully deserve the praise heaped on them by Orhan Cengiz for honestly facing their past.
While Turkey’s genocidal precedent served as a model for Nazi Germany in committing the Holocaust, it is now Germany’s turn to become a role model to Turkey for reconciling with its genocidal past.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

‘2012 Declaration’: A History of Seized Armenian Properties in Istanbul

After two years of painfully detailed research through thousands of documents, the Hrant Dink Foundation in Istanbul has produced a monumental work on the history and present status of the properties that once belonged to the Armenian charitable foundations in Istanbul—properties that were all seized by the Turkish government during the last few decades. The comprehensive study, some 400 pages long, for the first time compiles a list of the seized properties, illustrating the overall picture and enormity of the plunder suffered by the Armenian schools, orphanages, churches, and hospitals in Istanbul that were dependent on the property income for survival.
1x1.trans ‘2012 Declaration’: A History of Seized Armenian Properties in Istanbul
Map 1
The book’s title, 2012 Declaration, is a reference to the Turkish state’s 1936 Declaration ordering all minority charitable foundations to list their assets and properties. During the height of the Cyprus crisis in 1975, the state arbitrarily legislated that any properties that were obtained by minority charitable foundations after 1936 through donations, inheritance, wills, and gifts, were deemed illegal, since they had not been listed in the 1936 Declaration. 2012 Declaration makes reference to this illogical legislation and exposes the legalized but unlawful seizure, or state robbery, that took place years ago, and the recent small steps taken to undo the gross injustice.
The book is not a mere historical document providing an inventory of physical properties, or statistical records and legal statements. Rather, it is a story of enormous human suffering, ranging from children being thrown out of their schools, to orphans no longer being able to find a home; the most tragic story involves the seizure of a summer camp complex of buildings literally constructed by orphan children (including Hrant Dink himself) by the Turkish state, to be sold to Turkish individuals.
The four members of the Hrant Dink Foundation—Mehmet Polatel, Nora Mildanoglu, Ozgur Leman Eren, and Mehmet Atilgan—sifted through the patriarchate, church, and school archives, government deeds and title records, foundation lawyers’ personal archives, old maps and surveys, purchase and sale agreements, and Hrant Dink’s own research files, to produce this concise history of each charitable foundation, including the location and type of properties gifted to each foundation and then seized by the state, and more than 200 photographs. The most heart-breaking aspect of this historic document are surely the photographs, some of which are reprinted here. The research team’s attempts to obtain documents from government offices, however, were mostly unsuccessful, even though they were equipped with the force of legislation called the Freedom of Information Act; they were told that the 1915-25 era deed and title records of the Armenians are still not open to the public, due to the official paranoia that exists, defined as “threats to state security.”
This article will attempt to summarize the 400-page document and give some striking examples of Istanbul-Armenian history.
First, some excerpts from book’s Introduction Section: “This book is not the story of seized buildings made of stone or cement, but the story of flesh-and-bone human beings. These seized institutions and buildings were the cherished belongings of human beings rich and poor, young and old, men and women, who had worked hard to create or acquire them. These unjustly seized buildings gave life to the schools, churches, orphanages, and retirement homes of the whole community. The social and cultural fabric of the Turkish-Armenians depended on this economic foundation. It is our wish that similar injustices will not be carried into the future, as people read in this book the documented ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the attempts to wipe out the life and culture of our community. The issue is not only the seizure or return of the properties, but understanding this dimension of history and passing it on to future generations. As long as the ancestral people of these lands are marginalized or defined as ‘others,’ as long as minorities are not seen as equal citizens, the democratization efforts in Turkey will be stunted. It is our wish that this study will contribute to facing history.”
The book then lists the Armenian charitable foundations and their assets. There were 53 Armenian charitable foundations in Istanbul, administering 18 schools and orphanages, 48 churches, 2 hospitals, and 20 cemeteries of the Istanbul-Armenian community, supported by the rental revenue and assets that they owned or received through wills and gifts. These foundations owned 1,328 properties, of which 661 were seized by the state for several reasons. The study could not determine the fate of 87 properties. After exhausting all legal means available to get back the seized properties from the state through the Turkish courts, over the last 10 years some of the foundations have taken their cases to the European Human Rights Court. As they began to win all of their cases, and since the European court decisions were binding on Turkey through European Union accession expectations, the Turkish state recently decided to amend the 1975 legislation related to the foundations (which had enabled their legal but unlawful seizure). With an improved piece of legislation, 143 properties, or about 10.77 percent of the 1,328 properties, have now been returned to the Armenian foundations.
1x1.trans ‘2012 Declaration’: A History of Seized Armenian Properties in Istanbul
Map 2
The types of seized properties were residential apartment buildings, residential apartment units, house dwellings, vacant lots, orchards, fountains, stores/shops, warehouses, factories, commercial buildings, office buildings, office units, hospitals, workplaces, summer camps, churches, schools, and cemeteries.
The “owner status” of the seized properties are listed as unknown, municipal government, state treasury, public building, vacant, lost deed/title, individually owned, owned by other foundation, or owned by the State General Directorate of Foundations.
The process by which the foundation obtained properties is listed as follows: donation, will, purchase, by Ottoman Sultan decree. The process by which the foundation lost properties is listed as follows: seizure by state, made public by state, sale to individuals or corporations.
The book explains some of the stories of seizure in great detail. Some examples are provided below.

Mkhitaryan Bomonti School
This is the tragic story of a 200-year-old Armenian school that ended up being a tenant in the building it used to own. Nevertheless, it is a story with a happy ending.
The Armenian Catholic Venice Mkhitarists founded a boys’ school in 1830 in the Pera neighborhood. In order to serve the increased student population in better educational facilities, the school foundation decided to move the school to a larger building, and in 1958, purchased the present site at Sisli-Bomonti neighborhood for 710,000 Turkish liras from a woman named Emine Tevfika Ayasli. The school name was changed to the Private Bomonti Armenian Catholic Primary School. In 1979, the State Charitable Foundations Directorate started a court case against the Armenian school; since this school was not listed in the 1936 Declaration, they argued, the purchase of the new school building was illegal. The directorate demanded that the purchase be cancelled and the building returned to the seller, or the heirs of the seller. The court accepted the argument, and in 1988 the Appeal Court turned down the Armenians’ appeal. The school building deed was turned over to the former owner, who was deceased; as per the directions of her will, it was deeded to her brothers and to the Ankara Ayas Municipality. (It is interesting to note that Ayasli’s will was prepared years after the school building was legally sold to the Armenian school foundation.) The brothers sold their share of the building to a construction company specialized in apartment buildings, named Miltas. In 1998, the Ankara Ayas Municipality entered into a tenancy agreement with the school and started charging rent. But the other owner, Miltas, objected to the tenancy agreement and started court proceedings to have the school vacate the building. In February 1999, Miltas won the case, and the same day the school’s contents (including students’ desks, library shelves and books, kindergarden toys and the school piano) were moved outside into the school yard. Faced with an incredible situation of suddenly having no school in the middle of the winter, the Armenian parents, in an exceptional fashion, resorted to civil disobedience, and start camping out in the school yard. The public outcry forced the mayor of the Istanbul Sisli Municipality to intervene, and he arranged to buy the shares of Miltas, the construction company. He also struck an agreement with the Ayas Municipality to have the school continue to function by paying rent to the Ayas Municipality. Naturally, the school lost most of its students after these disturbances and the student population dropped to 35. Meanwhile, the school foundation went to court to re-claim the building. In November 2012, two days before the publication of this book, the court case ended with victory for the Armenian school and now, the deeds have finally been returned to the Armenian foundation and the school has stopped paying rent.

Tuzla Armenian Children’s Camp
In the 1950’s, the Armenian Protestant Church in the Gedikpasa neighborhood of Istanbul served as the arrival point for many poor and homeless Armenian orphans, especially from Anatolian settlements. These children, numbering in the 60s, received their education at the Gedikpasa Armenian Protestant School in the winter under tolerable conditions, but had nowhere to go during the summers. The church foundation decided to purchase a vacant treed lot near the Marmara Sea in the Tuzla municipality for a summer camp for these children. In October 1962, the purchase was completed from an individual named Sait Durmaz, and registered in the church title, according to all applicable legal procedures. From then on, every summer, the children, aged 8-12, were given the task of building camp buildings, supervised by a builder named Tuzlali Hasan Kalfa. The children first erected the poles and the canvas tents they would live in during construction. Then they dug a water well, taking turns pumping the water needed for construction. Then the foundations were prepared. Since the sea was only 500 meters away, they carried all the sand and gravel from the beach by wheelbarrows. Slowly but surely, over three summers, the vacant land was transformed into a summer camp complex with buildings, dormitories, dining halls, play areas, a soccer field, pond, and gym. The children stocked the pond with frogs and ducks. Armenian boys and girls learned how to talk, sing, play, cook, and clean together in Armenian. Hrant Dink was one of those boys; his wife Rakel was one of those girls.
Happy days came to an end when the State Charitable Foundations Directorate applied to the courts in February 1979, to reverse the purchase agreement and have the property returned to its previous owner, arguing that the Gedikpasa Church Foundation had no right to purchase the property. After four years of trials, the court cancelled the summer camp deed and returned the property to its former owner, Sait Durmaz, including the extraordinary facilities that the children had constructed. The camp, imprinted in the memory of 1,500 Armenian children, became abandoned, with rusting bed frames, broken windows, and overgrown weeds. In 1987, the Appeal Court approved the previous court decision. The owner sold the camp to new purchasers, who in turn sold it again. Several court applications by the Armenian foundation in the 2000’s, and most recently in August 2011, were all turned down. One of Hrant’s last articles titled “Humanity, I take you to court!…” was a solemn cry in the face of this gross injustice.

Kalfayan Orphanage
In 1865, a cholera epidemic in Istanbul left many children behind as poor orphans. An Armenian nun named Srpuhi Nshan Kalfayan decided to care of 17 orphan girls, aged 2-10, at her home. She also started teaching them handcrafts and sewing. These personal efforts led to the founding of one of the most important Armenian educational institutions in Istanbul, the Kalfayan Orphanage School. The orphanage survived until the late 1960’s, when the school building was expropriated without compensation and demolished, in order to build the expressways leading to the Bosphorus Bridge crossing between Europe and Asia. The foundation owned a large parcel of land where it planned to transfer the orphanage school. The State Charitable Foundations Directorate argued that since this land was not registered in the 1936 Declaration, building a new orphanage there could not be allowed, and that the orphans and their teachers should be redistributed to other orphanages. Repeated applications did not yield any results and 150 people, the combined total of orphans and staff, spent the next 30 years in various dilapidated buildings, until a new arrangement was made in 1999 to share the school building of the Semerciyan School in Uskudar.
In a previous article in the Armenian Weekly, dated Aug. 31, 2011, and titled, “Special Report: What is Turkey Returning to the Armenians?” I referred to another significant state seizure of Armenian properties. The Surp Agop Cemetery lands, which was decreed by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman to the Armenian community in 1550 as a reward to his Armenian cook, Manuk Karaseferyan of Van, who had uncovered a plot to poison the emperor by German spies during the siege of Budapest. The cemetery was used for 400 years until the 1930’s, when the Istanbul municipality expropriated the lands after years of legal wrangling. At present, these lands, which have become one of the most valuable and fashionable districts of Istanbul, are occupied by the State Radio and Television Headquarters, the Turkish Armed Forces Istanbul Headquarters, the Military Museum, many expensive hotels such as Hilton, Regency Hyatt, Divan, and several apartment and office buildings, as well as the expansive Taksim Park, which has some walkways made from marble of the Armenian tombstones.
The 2012 Declaration book documents the Armenian properties lost in Istanbul, mainly during the 1970’s, with the illogical but legal argument that if the charitable foundations had obtained properties after 1936, they would be deemed illegal because they had not been included in the 1936 Declaration. But the extent of this gross injustice would pale in comparison when we consider the amount of seized or lost Armenian properties after 1915, not only in Istanbul, but all over Anatolia, especially in historic Armenia. To illustrate the sheer enormity of the loss, consider these numbers: There were more than 4000 Armenian churches and schools in Anatolia, each with its own land, each with its own income generating additional lands, properties, and assets. The recently reconstructed Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir had over 200 separate deeds and titles to different properties such as shops, houses, farms, and orchards, which were taken over by the government and private individuals, erecting apartment buildings, office buildings, state schools, shops and houses, even a highway. Thankfully, the process to take these properties back has already started in Diyarbakir. The above-mentioned figures are only for Armenian churches and schools, that is, community owned buildings. Add to those numbers the properties owned by private Armenian individuals, such as houses, shops, farms, orchards, factories, warehouses, mines, and so on, and it becomes quite difficult to grasp the enormity of this wealth transfer.
No wonder there is resistance in facing history or acknowledging the facts.
To learn more about the book, visit; it is also available for free from the Hrant Dink Foundation.