LOS ANGELES — Descendants of victims of the Armenian Genocide recently filed a lawsuit in US Federal Court against the Turkish government and two leading Turkish banks seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in potential damages, citing the illegal seizure of their homes, business and farmland, a portion of which now houses a key US airbase used to support military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The lawsuit accuses the Republic of Turkey, the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey and TC Ziraat Bankasi, one of Turkey’s largest and oldest banks, of stealing and then profiting from land that was illegally seized during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23, when the Ottoman Turks drove them from the Adana region, a center of Armenian culture and religion.
The three Armenian Americans who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars as compensation for their families’ seized property and repayment of rent and other illegal proceeds collected over the past century.
This is the first lawsuit filed in a US court against the Turkish government in which the plaintiffs are seeking reimbursement for specific parcels of property illegally seized during the Armenian Genocide, said their attorney Vartkes Yeghiayan, whose wife, Rita Mahdessian, is one of three Armenian American plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Mahdessian’s ancestor was a wealthy Armenian landowner who was forced to flee Turkey with his family in 1915, leaving behind his home, some farmland, a dry goods store and an insurance business.
Their lawsuit seeks “fair market rents and other relief for Plaintiffs, the rightful owners and their heirs, of approximately 122.5 acres of property located in the Adana region of Turkey,” according to the filing.
The Inçirlik Air Base, which is located at the crossroads of Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, is considered strategically vital to US interests in the region. During the Cold War, the base was used for US spy plane missions over the Soviet Union. Today, the base is a vital transportation hub supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and humanitarian missions throughout the region. Fast food giants Baskin-Robbins, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are among the US companies operating on the base, according to the lawsuit.