In light of the elucidations of Turkish documents and publications

Anush R. Hovhannisyan

The Armenian wealth was seized by the Young Turk government in 1915. The money, comprised of the sequestered property of the murdered or focibly deported Armenians, was moved out of Turkey and placed in Austrian and German banks. After the war, in an official memorandum presented to the British Prime Minister, there was information that the sum of 5,000,000 Turkish gold pounds (equaling to about 30,000 kilograms of gold), deposited in the Reichsbank of Berlin by the Turkish government in 1916 and taken over by the Allies after the Armistice, was largely Armenian money. After the forced deportation of the Armenians in 1915, their current and deposit accounts were transferred to the State Treasury in Constantinople by government order. Most of the movable property was looted by mobs and houses, farms, lands, and shops were sold at a fraction of their value by the members of the special committees on the Armenians’ “abandoned property” to friends, and the money was either kept by committee members or sent to the Central Treasury. In addition to the slaughter and expulsion of more than 1.5 million souls, the Turkish government stole Armenian assets, seized Armenian property, and destroyed Armenian historical monuments. According to Dickran Kouymjian: “These actions collectively represent an enormous illegal transfer of individual and community wealth from the Armenian to the Turkish and Kurdish population through a carefully planned crime”.

The question of “abandoned property” was again underlined in article 144 of the Treaty of Sevres of August 1920. Provision was made for: 1) the cancellation of the law of 1915 relating to “Abandoned Property”; 2) the return of the Armenians to their homes; and 3) the restoration businesses and all movable and immovable property. Commissions of arbitration were to be appointed by the Council of the League of Nations to consider the Armenian claims. Even if former Ottoman subjects (i.e. the Armenians( had acquired citizenship in new countries, their property and interests in Turkey were to be restored in their original condition.

Of course, these have never been implemented; even worse, the Turkish government began to issue new laws of confiscation. The 1922 Ankara Agreement with France, protecting the Armenian property in Cilicia after the French withdrawal, was made a mockery by a new Turkish law confiscating all “abandoned” property in the areas “liberated” from the enemy.

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