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Colonial Cases

Heirs of Abdul Hamid, 1930


Heirs of Abdul Hamid

Mixed Court, Constantinople
25 November 1930
The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 December 1930



Abdul Hamid's Heirs at Work.


CAIRO, Nov. 25.

   The Turco-British Mixed Court in Constantinople has before it what is probably one of the biggest inheritance cases on record.  It is brought against the British Government by the relatives of the former reigning house of Othman, who have constituted themselves into an association known as the "heirs of Abdul Hamid."  These claimants are seeking to recover the vast estates all over the Turkish Empire which were the personal property of the Sultan Abdul Hamid.  They have behind them various syndicates floated in Europe for the express purpose of assisting them to obtain their rights.

   The present action is for the properties confiscated in Palestine and Iraq, which include the Mosul oilfields.  The heirs of Abdul Hamid claim that these oilfields were never part of the Government Domain, but were purchased by Sultan Abdul Hamid himself and carefully registered as his personal property.  He was a far-seeing man, and, realizing what important place oil would fill in the future, he took the precaution of earmarking that rich oil-bearing area as his own.  According to the claimants the present Turkish Government gave a decision which supports the contention that the oilfields were the Sultan's private possession.

   Considerable interest is taken in this case because of the big financial interests involved.  It is the last of a series of similar cases which have been heard during the past ten years by the French, Greek, and Italian Mixed Courts, established like the British under the Lausanne Treaty.  In each instance the court, dealing with claims in respect of Abdul Hanid's estates situated in what is at present French, Greek, or Italian territory, decided against the heirs.

There are in all twenty-seven claimants, mostly living in poverty.  The male heirs are all in exile; the female heiresses are still in Turkey, Kemal Pasha having decided that the women of the Imperial houses should be excepted from the decree of exile and be allowed to live in Turkey as Turkish subjects.


... The property in Turkey of the male heirs has been sold by leave of the Angora Government.  But none of the proceeds has reached the women; it has all gone abroad to the male descendants.

   The financial backers of the present case believe that they will in the end get the support of Angora in this matter.  They contend that, while the Turkish Government might not be prepared to interest itself on behalf of the exiled make members of the Imperial house, it might well be induced to help its own subjects domiciled in Turkey, and it is thought that if the British Tribunal at Constantinople follows the other International Tribunals and decided against the claimants to the Mosul oilfields, Angora will support an application to refer the matter to the Hague International Court.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School