Top court's ruling on Hagia Sophia 'should set a precedent for unlawful use of Atatürk Forest Farm'

Turkey’s Chamber of Architects has said that the Council of State's last week ruling on Hagia Sophia should set a precedent for their argument that the constructions on Atatürk Forest Farm are in violation of the conditional donation of the estate by Atatürk. The Council of State last week said that Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror registered iconic Hagia Sophia as an endowment which could be used only a mosque and for no other purposes.

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Turkey’s Chamber of Architects is preparing to file a lawsuit for the Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ) in the capital Ankara to be allocated “for the use of the public,” saying that the Council of State's ruling on Hagia Sophia should set a precedent for this new case.

The Council of State, Turkey's highest administrative court, last week said that the 1934 conversion of Hagia Sophia into a museum violated the will of its endower, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror (also known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet).

The court said in its July 10 ruling that Sultan Mehmed II registered the iconic structure as an endowment which could be used only as a mosque and the state's 1934 conversion of it into a mosque violated the donor's wishes.

Tezcan Karakuş Candan, the head of the Chamber of Architects Ankara branch, said that they will use the same argument when arguing that the Atatürk Forest Farm is being used for purposes other than “the use of public,” which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkish Republic, had laid down as a condition when donating this land to the state.

Atatürk donated this huge recreational farming area to the state in 1937, some 12 years after founding it on previously barren lands. In his donation, he put forward the condition that the land will remain serving for “public purposes.” Currently however the AOÇ hosts several structures such as Presidential Palace, the amusement park Ankapark and the U.S. embassy building.

“While annulling 1934 Cabinet decree that turned Hagia Sophia from a mosque into a museum, the Council of State's 10th Chamber said Hagia Sophia belonged to Fatih Sultan Mehmet Foundation and cannot be used for any purpose other than a mosque as per its deed and it is not legally possible for it to be allocated for any other purpose,” Candan said on July 15, adding that Atatürk had similarly donated the AOÇ under certain conditions.

“Atatürk endowed the Atatürk Forest Farm for his estate to be rehabilitated, for the surrounding to be beautified and for the production of cheap and clean food,” she said.

“We will file an official application with the relevant institutions for the areas of the Atatürk Forest Farm, covering especially Unlicensed Palace [referring to Presidential Palace], Ankapark and the U.S. embassy, to be in line with Atatürk's conditional donation and will.”