Purchase of Immovable Property by Syrian Nationals in Turkey and Legal Evaluation of Their Immovable Property
A couple who are Czech Republic citizens and whose birthplace is the Syrian Arab Republic and which I can now call my clients, saw the news on Al Jazeera and a few other TV channels regarding the immovable properties(real estate) they acquired in Turkey in 2015 that the immovables they acquired could be confiscated by the state of the Republic of Turkey at any time or after their death. I write this information paper after they panicked and tried to reach out to me and because discussions about it have emerged in different places as well. As a matter of fact, the acquisition of immovable property by foreign nationals in Turkey has been a subject that is constantly discussed and debated both among academics and in practice, and various articles have been written on this issue from the past to the present.
Legal Basis for Foreign Nationals to Acquire Immovable Property in Turkey
The purchase of immovable property by foreign nationals in our country is basically regulated in the Land Registry Law No. 2644 dated 22/12/1934. However, since the enactment of this legislation, various regulations have been introduced. The most important of the new regulations is undoubtedly the Law No. 6302, which led to a modification of Article 35 of the Land Law No. 2644 and entered into force on May 18, 2012. With this law, the principle of reciprocity, which has been used for a long time and which is one of the basic principles of international law, has been removed from the text of the law, and the foreign nationals of which state can acquire immovable properties in Turkey and under which conditions they can acquire immovable properties is left to the decision of the head of state, who takes the international bilateral relations and the conditions required by the country's interests( to increase investment etc.) into account. Today, people from Arab and Islamic countries can acquire immovable properties in Turkey, with the exception of Syrian nationals.
Reciprocity is a diplomatic term used to refer to the state of reciprocity. It defines the principle of reciprocating the same behavior in international relations. One of the most commonly cited examples of this principle is that of inter-state visa applications.
Purchase of Immovable Property by Syrian Nationals in Turkey and Status of Their Immovable Property
Problems regarding the acquisition of immovable properties between Turkey and Syria date back to the 1920s. The fact that Syrian laws do not take into account the right to property and imposes serious restrictions on this right, and that foreigners cannot acquire immovable property through inheritance, have caused many citizens of the Republic of Turkey to suffer damage and loss of rights. Due to these negative developments, with the law dated 28.05.1927 and numbered 1062, all immovable and some movable properties of all Syrian nationals in Turkey were confiscated, and the purchase of immovable property by Syrian nationals was prohibited. An annotation called "1062 Annotation" was placed in the title deed records regarding the immovable properties acquired by Syrian nationals in Turkey before the effective date of this law, and the power of disposition of these immovables was given to the General Directorate of National Estate. Although there have been talks between the two States to resolve the aforementioned problems, a definitive solution has not yet been reached. Since the civil war that has been going on in Syria for the last 11 years brings with it much more grievous problems, it is not possible to hope for solutions to these problems in the near future. There were similar problems between Turkey and Lebanon, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece in the past. In practice, there is a possibility that the immovables acquired by Syrian nationals who acquire immovables despite the ban may be seized later on. The fact that people have the citizenship of a third state does not eliminate the possibility of confiscation of the immovables they have acquired.
In the recent history, in the instruction dated 17.09.2021 and numbered E-36189470-125.01.01-1475992 of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre, Department of Foreign Affairs, it was stated "... in cases where it is understood from the documents submitted by the applicant, from the applicant's statement or from the inquiries made during the procedure that one of the parties has more than one nationality and that there is Syrian citizenship among them, or this situation is expressed by the relevant person(For example, if the person has applied with a Swedish passport or country ID, but at the stage of determining the Foreigner's Identity Number, it is determined in the GöçNet records that s/he is a Syrian national at the same time or it is understood from the MERNIS record that s/he is also a Syrian national), before the action on the subject is established the matter should be referred to the General Directorate of National Estate and the proceedings should be directed according to the opinion to be received."
In the instruction of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre, Department of Foreign Affairs, dated 16.11.2021, which was also reflected in the news, the relevant institutions were instructed as follows: Considering the 13th and 35th Articles of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, if the person with multiple citizenship is also a Turkish citizen (including Syria) regardless of the person's dual citizenship status, all title deed transactions are met within the framework of the procedures that Turkish citizens are subject to and if one of the nationalities of a person with multiple citizenship is in a country where the acquisition of immovable property is not allowed(citizen of two states other than the Republic of Turkey) in Turkey, the transaactions shall not be carried out. In addition, the Constitution art. 35 and according to Protocol No. 1 attached to the European Convention on Human Rights, if the owner of the immovables acquired them before this instruction and only after 25.06.2012 (since the principle of reciprocity has been abolished) and is also a citizen of one of the countries where the acquisition of immovable is not allowed or is allowed to a limited extent, it was stated that the transaction requests should be made by the land registry directorates, taking into account the citizenship based on the acquisition of real estate. On the other hand, all kinds of requests of Syrian citizens regarding the transfer and establishment of rights in rem on immovables registered in the land registry or transferred to their names by court decision regarding inheritance or by other means and other requests based on court decisions regarding these immovables were asked to be taken to the General Directorate and it was stated that the new immovable property acquisition requests should be directly rejected as Syria is not on the list of countries that can acquire immovables in our country.
As a result, it can be said that Syrian nationals cannot acquire real estate in Turkey regardless of which state they are currently a citizen of, if Syrian nationals are Turkish citizens it is possible to acquire immovable properties like Turkish citizens, the immovable properties acquired between 25.06.2012 and 16.11.2021 will be protected if the person who acquired is a Syrian national and also a citizen of one of the countries whose citizens are allowed to purchase immovable property in Turkey and acquired immovable property with the passport of that(permitted) country. In the event of death if the heirs are Syrian nationals, it can not be said that the immovables in the estate will automatically pass to the heirs and be protected and however, in case of a possible seizure, litigation is open in accordance with the Constitution, the provisions of the ECHR and the relevant decisions of the Council of State.
NOTE: This short information paper is not written with the promise of advice or conclusive results. For legal assistance please contact Atty. Enes Teker.