Published original on Asbarez

LOS ANGELES – A lawsuit filed against the Republic of Turkey will proceed, after the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held that Turkey was properly served.

The case, Ghazarian et al. v. Republic of Turkey, was filed almost two years ago by 89-year-old Barkev Ghazarian and his son Garo B. Ghazarian. Turkey has actively sought to reject service in the matter, despite repeated service attempts made through U.S. statutorily-mandated processes.

On October 13, 2020, Kerkonian Dajani LLP, counsel in the matter, successfully caused service to be effected on Turkey by diplomatic channels through the U.S. State Department. On November 20, 2020, Turkey returned the court documents to the State Department with a diplomatic note stating that Turkey expects the U.S. District Court to refrain from exercising jurisdiction over the matter and even directing the U.S. State Department to share this information with the District Court “who should summarily dismiss these proceedings”.

Despite Turkey’s protests to the U.S. State Department, on March 16, 2021, the U.S. District Court agreed with Kerkonian Dajani LLP and specifically found that “Defendant was properly served.” Turkey has not responded to the lawsuit despite the December 12, 2020 deadline to do so.

Currently pending in the case is the Plaintiffs’ request for an entry of default for Turkey’s failure to appear before the U.S. District Court and respond to the complaint. Turkey’s failure to respond may result in judgment being entered against it for the claims brought by the Ghazarians.

The lawsuit alleges violations of international law as well as statutory and common law claims against Turkey stemming from conduct committed by Turkey’s agents in the United States. It specifically alleges that Turkey’s agents harassed, demeaned and degraded Barkev Ghazarian, an elderly man from Glendale, California, because he sought to exercise religious and cultural rights in Turkey as a native Armenian Christian in 2017.

The pleading further alleges that Turkey’s agents interfered with the inheritance of Garo B. Ghazarian, Barkev’s son, by thwarting his father’s efforts to identify his family’s sacred sites within the borders of Turkey and pass to his son direct knowledge of the same and the native traditions practiced by generations of Ghazarians there.

The acts committed by Turkey’s agents were undertaken pursuant to a specific policy of Turkey targeting native Armenian Christians, as described in detail in the pleading. Plaintiffs claim that, in implementing this policy, Turkey intended and ensured that Barkev’s direct knowledge of his family’s ancestral traditions and pilgrimage sites would not pass to future generations of Ghazarians.

The case, brought by Kerkonian Dajani LLP, is a seminal one litigating the rights of Armenians to access and use Armenian cultural and religious heritage under Turkish control, and to do so on the basis of being indigenous to the land.