Turkey returns Selamet Han to Armenian Foundation

Bedros Şirinoğlu


The Selamet Han in İstanbul’s Eminönü area, which was among properties confiscated from non-Muslim religious minority foundations in Turkey in 1974, has been returned to the Surp Pırgiç Ermeni Hastanesi Vakfı (Armenian Surp Pırgiç Hospital Foundation) thanks to the Law on Foundations, which was passed in 2008.

The law paved the way for the return of assets and property previously seized from non-Muslim foundations 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 yesterday 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 Şirinoğlu, a representative of the Armenian community and president of the board of trustees of the Armenian Surp Pırgiç 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 “heartbreaking” since it had been left deserted for years, Şirinoğlu says the General Directorate of Foundations has recently drafted a restoration plan for the han, which now awaits approval from the directorate’s preservation board. “We want to put this han into the service of İstanbul tourism as soon as possible as a boutique hotel once it is restored,” Şirinoğlu said.

Turkey seized some properties owned by 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 reregister a historic Orthodox orphanage to the İstanbul-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.