Rental of historical Armenian building in Istanbul creates controversy


The Directorate General of Foundations has initiated a tender to rent the historical Sansaryan Han, belonging to Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate, at a time when the legal process over the building’s ownership is still ongoing.

Sansaryan Han, which is located on Istanbul’s historical peninsula, became an issue of controversy after the Directorate General of Foundations initiated a tender to rent the building to a third party, even though the case is still going through a court process.

Şahin Gezer of the Armenian Patriarchate Real Estate Commission told the Hürriyet Daily News that they did not want to make any comment until the tender was finalized. “I hope the controversy will be handled and we will solve the problem through reconciliation,” said Gezer, stressing that the legal case was continuing. “We have all the documents to show that Sansaryan Han belongs to the [Armenian] Patriarchate.”

The han, which was donated to the Armenian Patriarchate in 1881 by Mıgırdiç Sansaryan, a Russian Armenian, was confiscated by the then government in 1935. The patriarchate took action against the Directorate General of Foundations upon a ruling on the return of the minority assets in 2011. While the case is in court, the tender to rent the han to a third party for 50 years was published in the Official Gazette. The tender is expected to take place on July 18.

The Directorate General of Foundations declined to make any statement on the topic for the Daily News.

Laki Vingas, minority foundations representative for the Directorate General of Foundations, said it was natural that the patriarchate claimed the rights to the historical building as an open will of the endower about the donation’s purpose was present. Vingas said the controversy arose because patriarchates and community foundations did not have legal entity status and a change in the law was needed to overcome these problems.

“There are foundations that are listed as “unregistered” though they belong to communities. These foundations can be returned [to the owners] by an amendment to the law,” added Vingas.

Sansaryan Han was famous for torture during the time the building was used as the Police Department. The renowned Turkish poet Nazım Hikmet, writer Ali Nesin and Armenian intellectual Aram Pehlivanyan are among the people who were tortured in the building. The han also served as a court house for a while.


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