07ADANA122

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WikiLeaks Cable

Reference ID	Created	Released	Classification	Origin
07ADANA122	2007-10-30 14:27	2011-08-24 01:00	UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY	Consulate Adana

VZCZCXRO2980 RR RUEHDA DE RUEHDA #0122 3031427 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 301427Z OCT 07 FM AMCONSUL ADANA TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4623 INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1166 RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1007 RUEHYE/AMEMBASSY YEREVAN 0007 RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 0010 RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 0008 RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 1226 UNCLAS ADANA 000122

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: TU AM PGOV PHUM PREL SUBJECT: TURKEY'S SOLE ETHNIC ARMENIAN VILLAGE SAYS IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON

¶1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Turkey's only remaining Armenian village, Vakifli, is fighting demographic and social pressures by developing niches in organic farming and religious tourism. The Village elders said Turkish officials treat Vakifli well, including providing help with church renovations. While the leaders also recognized Vakifli's unique status is a draw for tourists and journalists, they wish the latter would focus on their region's economic potential instead of dwelling on the stale "genocide" controversy. END SUMMARY.

BACKGROUND


¶2. (U) Turkey's sole remaining ethnic Armenian village, Vakifli, lies on the slopes of Mount Moses in Hatay province, 35 kilometers from the Syrian border. According to village leader Berc Kartun, in 1915 inhabitants of Vakifli, along with six other Armenian villages, chose to hunker down rather than comply with the Ottoman order of expulsion. The villages resisted successfully - and long enough to see Hatay's terrority ceded to French-administered Syria until 1939, when the province was relinquished to Turkey. After the handover, many of Mount Moses' ethnic Armenians migrated to Lebanon and Syria, and those who remained consolidated their numbers in the village of Vakifli, where the current population stands at 132. Other areas of Hatay likely have an additional 120 or so ethnic Armenians, Kartun said.

LET'S MOVE ON


¶3. (U) According to village leaders, Vakifli enjoys a status indistinguishable from other villages and the support of local government. To underscore this last point, Church leader Garbis Kus said the sub-governor's office donated funds to restore the village church, where over 100 mostly foreign tourists visit weekly. Vakifli's main activity is the cultivation of 29 types of organic fruits and vegetables and was the first village in Hatay province to earn EU organic farming certification. Leaders want to expand export markets in hopes of retaining the village's thinning population and, of course, generating income for the village. Kus estimates 500 of Vakifli natives are now living in Istanbul and Europe due to economic and social factors. Kus said there are few marriageable women in the community, and young Vakifli males often opt to travel to Istanbul or abroad to find a partner. ¶4. (U) Kus and Kartun harshly criticized how the press handles AGR issues, and lament it's the same routine year after year. When giving TV interviews, they said they'd much rather talk about innovation in their organic products than a subject that should be left to academics to discuss. After a recent 17-day trip to Armenia, the two leaders believe the key to "moving on" lies with Turkish Armenian rapprochement, political and economic. (Both Kus and Kartun commented they had no problem entering Armenia with their Turkish passports, and were surprised to find their western dialect of Armenian and the language of Yerevan were very different.) ¶5. (SBU) While the village leaders had no complaints about overt GOT pressure or discrimination, the reality is that mandatory Muslim religious classes for elementary school students and a ban on Christian theological schools (the church therefore lacks a priest) makes it challenging for Vakifli to preserve its Armenian culture and language. Still, Hatay province is known for tolerating and even celebrating its unique religious and cultural diversity, and local GOT administrators seem to share Vakifli's enthusiasm for promoting religious tourism. Other cities are also joining the effort to safeguard Vakifli's cultural roots; media report the Development of Vakifli, an Istanbul-based organization, will soon implement a project to restore the traditional stone houses of the village.

¶6. (SBU) COMMENT. Ironically, the sustained interest of outsiders will likely be key to maintaining the village's internal charm and authenticity. The steady stream of media attention and foreign tourists will help anchor Vakifli's place on the newly trodden path of Hatay's faith-based and eco-tourism, and help the village promote its organic products. END COMMENT.

GREEN