Thursday, February 20, 1997
ISTANBUL - The Dikranagerd City Council informed the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul that a 2,000 sq. meter section of the Armenian cemetery will be taken over in order to widen a city street–the Istanbul-based Marmara newspaper reported Thursday.
The Patriarchate was notified by telephone about the expansion of Dikranagerd's 14th Street on Wednesday. The General-Secretary of the City Council–Mehmet Alkesh–asked the Patriarchate to assist in locating natives of Dikranagerd currently residing in Istanbul regarding the matter. Individuals who have loved ones buried in that section of the cemetery will–according to Alkesh–be asked to be present while their relatives' bodies are exhumed and reburied in a different location.
According to Alkesh–an individual by the name of Lufti–who is the State Religious Affairs Council's (VAKF) liaison to the Armenian churches–had agreed to the takeover by the city government.
Upon investigating the background of Lufti–the Istanbul Patriarchate discovered that he was a member of the Assyrian community in Turkey–and had agreed to the desecration of Armenian gravesites without consulting the Armenian community. The cemetery in question is shared by Armenians and Assyrians–however–he did not have the right to speak on behalf of the Armenian community–the Patriarchate said.
The Istanbul Patriarchate was never informed of the plans–and to date–the Council has not contacted them regarding this matter.
According to report in Thursday's Jumhurriyet newspaper–the St. Mary's Armenian Church in Ayoub was the target of explosives and Molotov cocktails this week–Marmara said. Jumhurriyet cited the Armenian Patriarchate as its source–however according to Marmara–the Patriarchate has not made such statements.
According to Jumhurriyet–the alleged incidents occurred on Feb. 13 and Feb. 15.
This is not the first instance of Turkish government attempts at destroying Armenian landmarks and religious edifices and the attempts to erase any remnant of Armenians still continues.