Monday, 31 January, 2022
General Manager of the Cyprus Foundations Administration (Evkaf) Dr İbrahim Benter, has welcomed the decision by the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) to allow him to become a party to the lawsuit regarding an immovable property in the Maraş/Varosha district in Famagusta.
Dr Benter said that the IPC’s decision was an important step in protecting the historical property rights of the Turkish Cypriot people.
According to a written statement made by the Evkaf regarding a case brought by a Greek Cypriot plaintiff, it was the first time that the Evkaf had been involved in a dispute regarding its rights to be an interested party.
Referring to the statement issued by the IPC on Friday, 28 January, Benter said: “We appreciate this important and reasonable decision of the Immovable Property Commission, which has recognised the Evkaf ‘s interest in this case and allowed us to be a party to the case. We consider this decision as an important step in protecting our historic property rights.”
Noting that the IPC, was established in accordance with the provisions of the European Court of Human Rights, to evaluate the property claims of the Greek Cypriots who had held land in Northern Cyprus before July 1974, Benter said, “In 2020, the Evkaf applied to the IPC to be a party to the case numbered 1732/2011 on behalf of the Abdullah Pasha Foundation, which it undertook the administration. But the Greek Cypriot plaintiff objected to the Evkaf being a party to the lawsuit and a legal dispute arose. After hearing the arguments for and against, the IPC became convinced that the Evkaf had legitimate reasons to participate in this lawsuit, and then the application”.
Dr Benter also noted that it was the first time that a dispute had arisen about permitting the Evkaf to be an interested party in a Greek Cypriot immovable property claim in Varosha. He pointed out that the Efkaf had taken part in earlier claims with the consent of the plaintiffs.
The head of the religious foundation said the following: “The Evkaf argues that 100% of the lands in Maraş are legally owned [by the foundation] and that when Cyprus was under British colonial rule (1878-1960), its assets were unlawfully transferred to individuals and institutions and organisations. According to the laws to which the Evkaf is subject and international agreements to which Britain is a signatory, the assets of the Evkaf cannot be sold or transferred”.
History of Evkaf
An article in Turkish ‘Daily Sabah’ on 9 November, 2020 which covers the history and formation of the Evkaf in Cyprus writes that: There were some claims that the British compensated Turkish Cypriots for the waqf properties. “The U.K. authorities offered Turkish Cypriot community leaders Küçük and Denktaş some 1 million British pounds in exchange for buildings used by the colonial administration, as we understand from some newspaper reports. Some reports claim that the British paid this amount for all waqf properties and some claim that this was paid for the properties in Varosha alone,” a former board chairman of the Evkaf Foundation Işılay Arkan, said.
“I discussed this issue with Mr. Denktaş, and this money was taken conditionally. Yes, this amount was given for the buildings that the British were using in exchange for schools, hospitals and hotels to be built, and the Turkish Cypriot community acted in line with this provision,” he adds.
“As time passed, we managed to collect some rent for the properties but not for those that remained in the hands of Greek Cypriots. Not a single penny was paid to the Evkaf Foundation for the properties that were located in Varosha,” Arkan said, adding that the region, formerly dotted with farms and marshes, had developed into the primary tourism location in Cyprus and a commercial hub with international companies making significant investments in the region.