Turkey: “Properties of charitable foundations cannot be transferred under any circumstances.”

Turkey: “Properties of charitable foundations cannot be transferred under any circumstances.”

The prohibition of the transfer of property belonging to charities such as Hagia Sophia, was one of the reasons for the decision of the Council of State of Turkey to annul the decision of the Council of Ministers of 1934, when the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was turned into a museum.

According to the summary of the decision of the Council of State for Hagia Sophia, which is exclusively owned by IBNA,

Summary of the Council of State Ruling on the Hagia Sophia

The Court:

Ruled for the annulment of the Nov. 1934 cabinet decision that converted the Hagia Sophia mosque into a museum.

Noted that the Hagia Sophia was among the properties mentioned in the foundation deed of the Wagf (Islamic Trust) of Mehmed II dated 1470.

Recalled the principle that “properties of charitable foundations cannot be transferred under any circumstances.”

Stressed that “there are no provisions whatsoever in the Convention {Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage} that prevents … the usage of the Hagia Sophia ..in accordance with domestic law.”

Recalled that “there are numerous {heritage} sites which are still being used as mosques ..such … the Blue Mosque.”

Underlined that “the state is merely a custodian of endowed properties” and therefore cannot “use them.. in any way it deems fit” under Turkish law.

Established that, whereas ancient foundations are protected under Turkish law and all endowed properties must be used in accordance with the endower’s will, the Hagia Sophia mosque, which is part of the Mehmed II waqf, was converted into a museum in violation of relevant laws.

In light of those findings the Court ruled the annulment of the 1934 cabinet decree./ibna