Wednesday, 21 January 2015

London conference to shed light on real owners of Maraş / Varosha

Closed off since the summer of 1974, the battle for ownership of Famagusta's popular seaside resort Maraş continues

A former director of the Cyprus Islamic Trust (Kıbrıs Vakıflar İdaresi) will be in London to give a series of conferences about the ownership of Evkaf land in Cyprus. Taner Derviş, who headed up Kıbrıs Vakıflar İdaresi for five years, will shed light on the hotly contested ownership of Maraş / Varosha – a seaside town uninhabited since the 1974 War in Cyprus.

In recent years, the international community has called on the Turkish side to allow the original owners to return to the once popular resort town in Famagusta, in northeast Cyprus. The issue has been at the centre of various European court cases and last autumn, Maraş was also the focus of an ITV documentary.

The Turkish side reject Greek Cypriot claims of ownership, asserting that Maraş is primarily Evkaf property – that is land owned and gifted by Cypriot Muslims to fellow Muslims for their use and enjoyment in perpetuity.

Keynote speaker Taner Derviş. Photo: Kıbrıs Gazetesi
The Kıbrıs Vakıflar İdaresi is a religious charitable trust that was founded in Cyprus in 1571 – the year the Ottomans conquered the island. Evkaf property continues to be administered by this trust to this very day, and its remit and terms of operation have not changed since its inception nearly 450 years ago. The body is a member of Brussels-based European Foundation Centre and it is also acknowledged in the Republic of Cyprus constitution as the primary religious trust for the island’s Muslim population.

It is in this legal and historical context that keynote speaker Derviş is expected to explain why Evkaf continues to assert it is the real owner of property in Maraş and indeed the largest landowner in Cyprus. His talk will cover the status of the Cyprus Islamic Trust, international agreements governing such trusts, how Evkaf land was expropriated in Cyprus, and suggestions on restitution and compensation for the property owners in Maraş and other parts of Cyprus given the current political stalemate on the island.

"the British authorities illegally transferred ownership of Evkaf land"

BTCA deputy chair Ersu Ekrem
Ersu Ekrem, the deputy chair of the British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA) and himself a keen researcher into Cyprus’ recent historical affairs, told T-VINE he had seen a draft of Derviş’ talk and believes the findings will be fascinating for Cypriots and others with an interest in the island.

“In 2005, Xenides-Arestis, a Greek Cypriot refugee, won a famous victory at the European Court of Human Rights claiming ownership and compensation for her family land in Maraş. Yet the court ignored the clear fact that the British authorities had illegally transferred ownership of Evkaf land to her grandfather in 1913. Not only did they have no such right – Evkaf land cannot be expropriated under any circumstances – the transaction took place before the British even had sovereign control over the island!” said Ekrem.

Taner Derviş will speak at three London seminars – two in English and one in Turkish – which are being organised by the BTCA and Southwark Turkish Cypriot Association, both members of the UK Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (Konsey). All three events are free and open to members of the public. However attendance at the Parliament event requires advance registration.

The dates and venues for next week's conferences are as follows:

  • Tuesday 27 January, 7pm at London University – Jeffrey Hall, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1 OAL. Seminar in English. 
  • Wednesday 28 January, 6-8pm at House of Commons – Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House. Seminar in English (prior registration and photo ID for attendees is required). 
  • Thursday 29 January, 7.30pm at Regency Banqueting Suite – 113 Bruce Grove, Tottenham, London N17 6UR. Seminar in Turkish.

Event info and registration for Parliament talk via BTCA: email: 


Embargoed! human rightsgroup Cyprus Property Factsheet, 21 Sep. 2010

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