Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs ( Alling ) to the Assistant to the Legal Adviser ( Flournoy )
Mr. Flournoy: You will recall that article 34 of the treaty signed at Lausanne on July 24, 1923, between the Allied Powers and Turkey made the following provision with respect to Ottoman nationals, natives of territory detached from Turkey, who habitually resided abroad.
“Subject to any agreements which it may be necessary to conclude between the Government exercising authority in the countries detached from Turkey and the Governments of the countries where the persons concerned are resident, Turkish nationals of over eighteen years of age who are natives of a territory detached from Turkey under the present Treaty, and who on its coming into force are habitually resident abroad, may opt for the nationality of the territory of which they are natives, if they belong by race to the majority of the population of that territory, and subject to the consent of the Government exercising authority therein. This right of option must be exercised within two years from the coming into force of the present Treaty.”
Apparently few Syrian emigrants took advantage of the provisions of this article during the period allowed and we are informally advised that, with a view to giving such persons another opportunity to acquire Syrian nationality, the French and Turkish Governments entered into an agreement on May 29, 1937, extending for one year from that date the provisions of the above quoted article of the Treaty of Lausanne in so far as persons of Syrian and Lebanese origin are concerned.
We are further informed that in carrying out the provisions of the Agreement of May 29, 1937, the French Consulate General in New York has circulated a statement such as is contained in the fifth and sixth paragraphs of the attached letter from Mr. George Ferris12 and that application blanks, similar to that enclosed with Mr. Ferris’ letter, have been distributed to persons of Syrian and Lebanese origin. The question arises as to what effect the signature of such an application by a naturalized American citizen of Syrian or Lebanese origin, and the subsequent granting to the applicant of Syrian or Lebanese citizenship, would have upon the American nationality of the person concerned.
It will be observed from Mr. Ferris’ letter that if persons of Syrian or Lebanese origin, residing habitually abroad, fail to opt for Syrian or Lebanese nationality prior to May 29, 1938, they will be considered as Turkish nationals. Many persons of Syrian or Lebanese origin [Page 932] living in the United States are sorely tempted to opt for Syrian or Lebanese nationality in order that they may be assured of the right to inherit real property in Syria and the Lebanon. In this connection it is understood that foreign nationals are barred from inheriting real property in Syria and the Lebanon unless the laws of the State of which they are nationals permit Syrian and Lebanese nationals to inherit such property. Since the laws of Turkey do not permit foreign nationals to inherit real property in that country, Turkish nationals are of course barred from inheriting real property in Syria and the Lebanon. One can understand therefore why persons of Syrian and Lebanese origin in the United States are anxious to avoid being placed in the position where they will be considered as Turkish nationals.
In connection with this general question I attach copies of notes exchanged in 1921 between the French High Commissioner for Syria and the Lebanon and the American Consul General at Beirut, by which the French authorities recognized the right of the United States to extend protection to naturalized American citizens of Syrian and Lebanese origin until such time as the presumption of expatriation had arisen against such citizens. It may be added that the enjoyment of American protection is of considerable importance in Syria particularly in cases involving litigation before the local courts. Persons enjoying such protection may have their cases heard by the Mixed Courts, on which sit a majority of French judges, rather than by the native courts, which are composed solely of Syrian or Lebanese judges.
We have already had several letters on this general question and we have asked the American Consul General at Beirut to discuss the matter with the appropriate authorities. I expect that we shall have a considerable number of additional letters from persons of Syrian or Lebanese origin in the United States and that the Department may shortly be called upon to rule definitely as to the effect which the granting of Syrian or Lebanese nationality, following the execution of an application for such nationality, may have upon the American citizenship of applicants of Syrian or Lebanese origin.