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Surp Giragos Church (Diyarbekir)

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Church before reconstruction

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Surp Giragos Armenian Church among Expropriated Properties in Diyarbakir

March 28, 2016

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—A list of lands and buildings in Diyarbakir’s Sur district—including the Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic and the Armenian Catholic Churches—have been expropriated by the Turkish government, according to reports.

Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos reported that an “urgent expropriation” cabinet decision was taken regarding 6,300 plots of land, citing the March 25 issue of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey (T.C. Resmi Gazete), the country’s official journal that publishes new legislation and official announcements. Based on the report, the Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church, and the city’s Protestant church have also been expropriated.

Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural Heritage Director Nevin Soylukaya told Agos that some properties belonging to the municipality have also been expropriated, and that the local government will initiate legal action. She also urged owners of other expropriated properties to take legal action. Armenian Weekly contributor and member of the Surp Giragos Church reconstruction project Raffi Bedrosyan said that there will be a strong effort to reclaim the lands. “All legal and political channels will be mobilized within Turkey and internationally to stop this legalized robbery,” Bedrosyan told the Armenian Weekly.

According to Agos, lands in Abdaldede, Alipaşa, Cemal Yılmaz, Camikebir, Cevatpaşa, Dabanoğlu, Hasırlı, İnönü, İskenderpaşa, Lalebey, Malikahmet, Özdemir, Süleymangazi, Savaş, Şemhane, and Ziyagökalp neighborhoods, as well as two neighborhoods in Yenişehir province have been expropriated through the decision.

On Feb. 14, reports emerged that the Armenian Catholic Church of Diyarbakir had suffered extensive damages during clashes between Turkish armed forces and Kurdish militants in recent months. A series of images depicting the extent of the damage to the church were posted on the “Armenian Church Surp Giragos and Surp Sarkis in Diyarbakir” Facebook page. The Armenian Catholic Church is located in the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir, which has been a target of military operations by the Turkish state.

Bedrosyan in a Jan. 7 article had written that “[The historic Sur district] is now mostly in ruins. Most of the buildings have been destroyed by rockets and cannon fire from army tanks. The Surp Giragos Church has escaped relatively unscathed with only broken windows and some bullet holes. But the Armenian Catholic Church had its doors broken down and some internal damage. The most important mosque in Sur, the historic Kursunlu Mosque—originally the St. Theodoros or Toros Armenian Church, converted to a mosque in the 16th century—has been completely burned down.”

Armenians from around the world flocked to Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir on Oct. 22, 2011, to attend both the consecration of the largest Armenian Church in the Middle East and the Badarak held the following day. The church was renovated by the Surp Giragos Armenian Foundation, with the support of the local Kurdish-controlled municipality of the time.

http://armenianweekly.com/2016/03/28/breaking-expropriated-properties-in-diyarbakir/


A Brief History of Largest Church in Middle East and Christianity in Diyarbakir

By: Rev. Dr. George A. Leylegian

Recently it was reported that the Armenian cathedral of Sourp Giragos in Dikranagerd, Turkey, is undergoing major renovation. I thought that our readers might be interested to read about the history of this famous sanctuary.

Amid (alternatively, A-Mi-Da, Amida, Amith, Omid, and later Diyar-Bakir, Diyarbekir, and among the Armenian community, Dikranagerd or Dikrisagerd) is situated on the west bank of the Tigris River and is one of the oldest, continually inhabited cities in the world. Because of its strategic position, both commercially and militarily, Amid has boasted a cosmopolitan population, representing nearly every ethnic and religious group in the area.

It is unknown when and by whom Christianity was introduced into the city of Amid. It is historically probable that early missionaries, either directly from Jerusalem (the seat of James) or by emissary from Antioch (the seat of Peter) or from Edessa (the seat of Thomas) proclaimed Christianity there. The Armenians maintain that Thaddeus and Bartholomew preached in Amid on their way north into the Armenian highlands, while the Syrians credit Thomas, Addai, and Mari with the introduction of Christianity there. No one can be certain except to say that a church was established in Amid during the first century. It is also unclear who the first bishop of Amid may have been, and what type of persecution befell the community during the first three centuries of Christian formation. What is known is that in 325 AD, a bishop named Simon of Amid attended the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea. Whether he were ethnically Syrian, Greek, Armenian, or Assyrian remains unclear, and secondary to the importance of episcopal representation of Amid.

Owing to its geographic location, Amid has been influenced and invaded from every direction. Not surprisingly, every theological creed and dispute has been manifested within the many churches inside the city at various points in history. For that reason, it is improbable that anyone could truly determine either the origin or the subsequent denomination of a particular parish over the course of the first 15 centuries of Christianity in Amid. Greeks, Armenians, West Syrians, East Syrians, and Arabs commingled and collided in the same buildings, and each voiced conflicting claims to ownership. Prior to the first Muslim invasion in the 7th century, it is believed that there were more than 30 churches within the city walls. Research is required to determine who built which sanctuary and which denomination claimed specific rights.

After Amid was conquered by the Ottomans in 1517 and the millet (nationality-based) system of administration was imposed, the Christians in the city settled into a modus operandi with regard to the religious demarcation of properties and liturgical services. There was further definition (and friction) in the late 18th century when certain groups aligned themselves with the Roman Catholic Uniate organizations that had recently moved into the area. In the 19th century, other groups associated themselves with various Protestant denominations. Each time a group broke away, ancient church buildings were also requisitioned for use as either Uniate or Protestant places of worship.

By the end of the 19th century, the following denominations maintained churches and related schools in the city: Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Armenian Protestant; Syrian Orthodox (West Syrian, sometimes called Jacobite), Syrian Catholic, Syrian Protestant; Greek Orthodox (both Greek-speaking and Arabic-speaking), Greek Catholic (also called Melkites); Assyrian Orthodox (East Syrian, sometimes called Nestorian), Assyrian Catholic (also called Chaldean), Assyrian Protestant; Roman Catholic (also called Latin, serving mostly Europeans); Arab Catholic, Arab Protestant.

In 1518, the Ottomans confiscated the largest Armenian Apostolic church in Amid, called Saint Theodore (“Sourp Toros”), and converted the sanctuary into a mosque, renaming it Kursunlu Cami. The community was devastated by the confiscation and was likewise pressured to accommodate the dislodged congregation. There was a smaller church, called Saint Sergius (“Sourp Sarkis”), which was upgraded to the position of cathedral for the Armenians. Sourp Sarkis was later renovated, and eventually contained five altars. Until 1915, Sourp Sarkis was famous because it preserved the valuable relic of the right-side nail used in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This relic was brought out in solemn procession several times each year, and was venerated by all of the Christians in Amid. When Sourp Sarkis was pillaged in May 1915, the relic of the Holy Nail was either stolen or lost. During most of the 20th century, the building has been operated as a warehouse, and has consequently fallen into ruins.

In the early 18th century (perhaps in 1722), the Ottomans decided that the city was too overcrowded; consequently, all of the cemeteries (Christian and Muslim alike) were to be exhumed and the remains re-interred in new cemeteries located outside of the city walls. On the grounds of the earlier Armenian cemetery in the middle of the city was a funeral chapel. This chapel had been donated by a grieving family in loving memory of their daughter and her infant son, both of whom passed away shortly after childbirth. Appropriately, the name of the chapel was Saints Cyriacus and Julietta.

Briefly, toward the end of the third century, the widow Julietta was persecuted for her adherence to Christianity. She was arrested and brought before the local judge who demanded that she renounce her faith. She refused. In order to intimidate her, the judge seized hold of her three-year old son, Cyriacus. The little boy, attempting to defend his mother, also began to proclaim “I am a Christan! I am a Christian!” The judge became so infuriated that he grabbed Cyriacus by the feet and, swinging the child, dashed the little boy’s head against the stone steps, killing him. It is said that Julietta died of fright at seeing this gruesome persecution of both Christianity and her son. The solemnity of their martyrdom spread quickly throughout the area, and countless churches and shrines were built in memory of Saints Cyriacus and Julietta. They are likewise venerated by all Orthodox and Catholic Churches throughout the world. In Armenian, Cyriacus is “Giragos,” and Julietta is “Houghida” or “Oghida.”

After the relocation of the cemetery, the city land still belonged to the Armenians, who decided to build a new church on the site. Accordingly, the new church was consecrated in the names of Saints Cyriacus and Julietta. During the course of the 18th and early 19th centuries, the edifice was renovated and enlarged on several occasions. Tragedy struck on June 10, 1880, when the entire sanctuary was consumed in a devastating fire.

The Armenian community decided to rebuild and even enlarge the structure, which was completed in 1883. At the time, the new church of “Sourp Giragos yev Houghida” was purported to be the largest Armenian basilica in Anatolia. The external dimensions are 31 meters in length by 35 meters in width. The basilica is renowned for having seven altars, constructed with mosaic tiles and overlaid with gold: five on the ground floor and two on the second story. From the northeast to the southeast: Saint Gregory the Illuminator (“Sourp Krikor Lousavoritch”), Saints Cyriacus and Julietta, the main altar in the center dedicated to the Holy Birthgiver-of-God Mary (“Sourp Asdvadzadzin”), Saint John the Baptist (“Sourp Garabed”), and Saint Stephen the Protomartyr (“Sourp Sdepannos”). Upstairs: Saints Peter and Paul (“Sourp Bedros yev Sourp Boghos”) and the Holy Archangels (“Sourp Hreshdagabedk”).

Church services were held every morning and every evening. Holy Badarak was offered every Sunday as well as other days during the week, often at one of the various altars in commemoration of a particular saint’s day. The Dikranagerdtsis were fond of entering the cathedral throughout the day, and especially as they would pass by to and from their daily tasks.

The basilica was built with 16 monolith columns forming 20 arches that supported a flat roof; there was no dome surmounting the structure, though the sanctuary was constructed with giant windows all across the northern and southern walls to allow plenty of sunshine. Around the interior was a second story gallery that extended across the western, northern, and southern walls. It is said that more than 3,000 faithful could be comfortably accommodated on both floors during services.

It was decided that the headquarters of the diocese of Dikranagerd would be relocated from Sourp Sarkis to Sourp Giragos, making the new church the cathedral for the diocese. Surrounding the cathedral were a series of buildings: chapels, rectories for the priests, classrooms for the Sunday School, bookstore, kitchen for preparing food daily for the poor and elderly, and the offices for the prelature. At its peak, there were more than 100 clergy and laity on the staff of the cathedral. For a brief time, there was also a parochial school for boys and girls located within the compound.

Over the course of several centuries, Sourp Giragos accumulated a substantial financial endowment. Either through bequests or by purchase, the church came to own numerous residential and commercial properties within the city walls, as well as livestock and numerous acres of farmland in the surrounding villages. The properties produced rental income to the church, and the farms provided both food and work for the people. The bank investments produced annual returns for the salaries and maintenance of the staff and charitable foundations. Medical services, daily meals (both served and delivered), orphan care, and elder support were all part of the services ministered by the church and out of the endowment. The church also owned and maintained critical water wells and fountains inside and outside the city. In addition to the cemeteries, the church was also responsible for several chapels and shrines that were visited regularly during pilgrimages.

The first bell tower of the cathedral, which was built in 1884, was struck by lightning on Holy Saturday morning, 1913. It was rebuilt that same year, and when it was completed, it was the tallest structure in the city. The bell was cast by the famous Zildjian Company. The spire would become a point of contention with the Muslims, since the Armenian bell tower was taller than any of their minarets.

On May 28, 1915, as the Ottomans were dragging the Armenian prelate, Mgrditch Vartabed Chulghadian, off to be tortured and eventually martyred, the artillery cannon from across the city took aim at the bell tower and shot it to pieces as the prelate was forced to watch. Even though the church continued to operate during the 20th century, the bell tower was never rebuilt.

Most of the Armenians living inside the city were trapped, and neighborhood by neighborhood, the Ottomans pillaged property and killed the helpless Dikranagerdtsis with nearly full-proof entrapment. The gendarmes sealed off each street and then raided the houses without reproach.

After 1918, the few Armenians still residing both in the city and surrounding villages congregated around the large complex of Sourp Giragos, and attempted to revitalize the community. Until 1985, there was a permanent priest living inside the compound, and services were continued daily for the remaining 100 or so families.

In the early 1990’s, during a series of severe snowstorms, sections of the roof of the cathedral collapsed, eventually leaving the basilica with just four walls and no protection from the elements. Vandals caused serious damage to the altars as they chipped away the mosaics and tore out the artwork and gold overlay. The floor of the basilica was mired in mud and debris for many years, and most of the metalwork has corroded in the interim.

Within the compound was a small chapel dedicated to Saint James (“Sourp Hagop”). The Armenians would utilize this chapel for their occasional services when a priest would visit from Istanbul.

The deteriorating economic and political conditions in Diyarbakir forced most of the Armenians to leave, either to Istanbul or to Europe. Today, there are just a handful of Armenians living in the city. It should be noted that the other Christians living in the city were also persecuted by the Ottomans in 1915. Many were massacred and others were forced to leave. Today, only the Syrian Orthodox and the Chaldean Catholics have been able to keep their ancient churches in the city.

It gives a very different meaning to the words of our beloved song: “Umoonuh daran, yesi chi daran, key amoh.”

New Bell To Be Installed In St. Giragos Armenian Church Of Diyarbakir

armradio.am 12:05 18.10.2012

A century after its establishment, the historical Surp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir reopened for worship last year. Now, the church is set to completely return to its former glory with the installation of a new bell on Nov 4. The new bell, which weighs 100 kilograms, was produced in Moscow, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

"The new bell, which weighs 100 kilograms, was produced in Moscow and presented as a gift from the Russian Armenian community to the Surp Giragos Church. It's already been delivered to Diyarbakir and presented to the public," Istanbul-based Canadian artist Raffi Bedrosyan, who contributed to the restoration of the church, told the Hurriyet Daily News.

The tower was destroyed by cannon fire in 1915 on the grounds that it was taller than the minarets of mosques. The new bell has been crafted in a style similar to the original.

"This church, the greatest Armenian Church in the Middle East, is a clear evidence of Armenian influence in Anatolia before 1915 and now it has become a pilgrimage place for all Armenians from Turkey, Armenia and the diaspora," Bedrosyan said.

The church was used as a command center by German officers during World War I, and later used as an apparel depot by the state-owned Sumerbank until 1950. It was finally returned to the Armenian community following a lengthy legal struggle. The church reopened for worship last year, a century after its construction.

Bedrosyan also hopes to restore the historical Varagavank Monastery located in the eastern province of Van. "Both Ankara and Van agreed to launch the restoration project, but social and natural obstacles delayed the process. We wish to restore this church with the cooperative efforts of both Turkish and Armenian experts," Bedrosyan said.


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The Identity Awakening of Islamized Armenians in Diyarbakir

23 September 2016

In this interview, Gafur Türkay provides an update on the recent destructions committed by the Turkish army in the historic downtown of Diyarbakir, a city which, before 1915, was home to many Armenians. He also stresses the importance the the restoration of the Armenian church of Surp Giragos in 2011, which is considered as a haven of peace for visitors and has been immediately made their own by the small community of Islamized Armenians in the area. The " Infidel Quarter " has now been annihilated. Is only left standing the Surp Giragos church whose interior has nonetheless suffered important damages. Gafur Türkay also discusses the question of Islamized Armenians in Diyarbakir and around, as well as the many identity issues they are faced with today. Finally, he lists the difficulties met by some Islamized Armenians who decide to get baptized.

REPAIR : How would Islamized Armenians living in Diyarbakır and the region describe their identities?

Gafur Türkay : For us to understand this we need to look at who those Islamized Armenians are. We are talking about third, forth generation that survived accidentally the Armenian genocide. These people who were a community with their own culture were disconnected from it, their religion changed. They were Islamized, they had no ground where they could keep their language alive and they kept living with other languages. What we call Islamized Armenians are the third and fourth generation. They were unfortunately part of assimilation for centuries. These people had to live a life that didn’t belong to them, all fragmented. They felt the need to hide their Armenian identity due to difficulties they had to face up today. The Armenian word had always been used in this country in a pejorative sense to humiliate people. They never had a chance to live with their own identity nor their own culture. In order to get rid of that “bad” Armenian opinion of people, some tried to mask their identity by praying and worshiping more than would worship a Muslim. They had to continue their lives on these territories under Muslim identity in agony and difficulty and this for centuries.

Did this situation started to change after a certain point?

Of course when you talk of a community assimilated for three-four generation, there is some type of acceptance. One feels obliged to continue life with familiarization with this religion, language and culture that don’t belong to them. When you are resigned to live in another culture, be it by force or without force, it is not that easy to consider going back to the culture of their grandfathers after a century. But there is a fact: while these people were hiding themselves, Muslims didn’t allow them to forget their identities. Let’s say in a neighborhood, there is a disagreement between an Islamized Armenian and a Muslim, the Muslim would not abstain from reminding the other one his/her identity, just for tyrannizing them. Therefore these people were Islamized and they disconnected from their own culture and they never let them forget they were Armenians. Now there are some people accepting their Armenian identity within Islam and some other fully integrated Islam. Some are in a situation where they are ashamed of being Armenian and don’t talk about Armenian identity and react whenever the subject is on table. But among those who have higher education level and those who are from left wing, there are recently some groups facing their own reality. Some of them re-appropriate or want to re-appropriate their own identity and some say “I am a Muslim but Armenian”. The assimilation process was so strong during the century that people are devastated. How many are those who got back their Armenian identity? When they ask me this, I say, “It is a drop in the lake”.

Did the renovation of Saint Giragos church in 2011 to become a place that can be visited by people change anything?

There were many historical building that belonged to Armenians centuries ago in this region. The assimilation continued with the destroying of the cultural texture. When you place a structure belonging to Armenians such as Saint Giragos at its own place, you create a huge positive atmosphere among the Islamized Armenians. People came and visited it many times; they embraced it.

This was a place for people who were in search of their identity. There were no such other places before the renovation right?

In the region and in Diyarbakır, there were no places where they could find a piece they could relate themselves with, there is a huge destruction in that sense. Saint Giragos is the biggest Armenian Church in the Middle East region. Here we talk of a place that had a serious mission in the past. During the Armenian Genocide in 1915 all Diyarbakır Armenians were killed. Those who survived from the surrounding cities found shelter in Saint Giragos. In that sense Saint Giragos is not only a church. When it was renovated, people came a lot; they embraced it.

According to your observations, what were the main needs and requests of those who went to the church, among those who got intouch with you?

Those who came there were before anything else, people who were injured with this century long devastation and we felt that they found themselves there. We heard a lot this during our conversations: “I feel very peaceful here.” When we asked them what they meant by that, they said they didn’t perceive this in a religious sense, that they found themselves there, that that was a place that belonged to them and that they made peace with themselves. When I asked them why they cried, I saw people saying, “My grandfather was baptized here, such person got married here” and grieving, remembering their roots and past.

I remember you organizing breakfasts once a month at Saint Giragos.

Some Muslim Armenian friends would not come and pray so we were organizing events with more social aspect. Once a month people would come together, a breakfast table was set. Those who were coming were not attending the religious ceremony but they were attending the breakfast. Saint Giragos was more than a church. We had a piano recital for example. Why piano? Well in the past Armenian community used to have piano concerts once a month. And also when you look at the inventory list of Saint Giragos in 1915, you’d see a piano belonging to the church. Because of such a past of the church we wanted to organize piano recitals in memoriam. A century ago they carried society’s social needs to the church. That’s what we tried to do in order to come together with the Islamized Armenians; we organized breakfasts and lunches.

You were also organizing some cultural and historic trips and started Armenian language courses. But you were saying you didn’t have enough information sources while you did those activities.

As you would appreciate, we are people that were disconnected from that culture for a century. That devastation and assimilation created such an atmosphere that on one hand we were trying to do something and on the other hand we were learning. In the past, there were in Diyarbakır many Armenian schools teaching until high school level. A century later we opened Armenian language course in Diyarbakır. We tried to learn Armenian. We organized picnics and trips. We went to Harput for instance. Why Harput? Not because we wanted to travel there, we went there because we wanted to discuss, think about the link of this place with the past. We organized another tour to Çüngüş. We visited a canyon where people were massacred during the genocide in Çüngüş. We went two years in a row to Armenia with a group of 50 people. We had the opportunity to see in person the structures in Armenia and meet with people.

Did you organize these activities according to the demands?

Let’s say we initiated it. There were some demands and some common points during the discussions, but it was mainly about what we could bring to those people disconnected from their culture, what they could see or read or experience.

Those activities have stopped as of last September 2015. Due to conflicts and curfew, you didn’t even have access to the church until recently. What is the actual situation?

We have not been able to go there or organize any event since last August. There was a program foreseen for August 15, 2015, but couldn’t be done. Due to the incidents, people from abroad could not come for the program so we had to cancel it. Since that day, due to the region’s situation we haven’t organized any activity. We are talking about a region where the curfew had been on for almost 6 months and Saint Giragos is at the heart of that region. I, myself, have been able to go inside the church for instance. But of course what we have seen there was very significant. The city was all destroyed. There were no streets, no neighborhood. All destroyed, houses, shops… We came upon a flat area. The church’s shops were destroyed. There were no damage at the main block, the roof or the bell tower; they only drilled the wall from one side. But inside the church the damage and loss are significant. For instance the place where we were selling souvenirs is devastated. Other objects, accessories, materials were either broken or disappeared or damaged. Inside the church was used as a base, they installed a stove.

The church was used as a base by the security forces?

Probably, but as it is a closed book, we can’t know who used it, who damaged it. For the moment it is entirely under the security forces control.

Can the church be reached right now?

There is still no access. We were able to go inside with a dispensation.

What kind of feelings you have when you see the neighborhood destroyed?

We have this feeling of devastation. This neighborhood was a place where Armenians lived a century ago; maybe 95% of the population was Armenian. With the church’s renovation that lifestyle was no more a memory but part of their conscious. Unfortunately nothing is left now. The church is there but all the houses that are destroyed were Armenian stone houses. Mıgırdiç Margosyan has a book named “Infidel Neighborhood” talking about this place. A friend of ours used to joke with us before all these incidents started, “The infidel has gone leaving behind the neighborhood” he was saying. Yes the infidel left already but now there isn’t any neighborhood either. People were killed a century ago and now their place had been destroyed.

Is there a development regarding the expropriation in the district of Sur including the Saint Giragos Church also as published in the Official Gazette last march?

Applications for the cancelation of expropriation have been placed and are presently being processed by the court. Various institutions made applications and as the foundation we have also applied. The court is not yet finalized. No actual action has yet been taken, so all stay as it is. However when the ministers and high officials visit Diyarbakır, they all verbally announce that the district will be restored and no party will be victim. Actually the district is totally ruined so it is hard to tell what will be restored. Again it has been verbally declared that the church will not be expropriated. When the prime minister and the ministers come to Diyarbakır, they verbally announce that places of worship cannot be and will not be expropriated.

However all these are only verbal declarations and therefore are non-binding, right?

Verbal, of course. From a legal point of view the picture is very clear, they took possession of it through the process of "urgent expropriation".

Some shops that were owned by the church which you said were demolished, were being illegally occupied by people and you were planning to take action or were already taking action to retrieve them. Now they are non-restorable and ruined let alone retrievable?

These properties were already under occupation. Now there is physically nothing left to retrieve. As it is, its land is owned by the state. The government says that they will not victimize us regarding this issue. But as of this moment we do not know what will be done.

We talked about the search of those who wanted to return to their Armenian identity. Those who want to become priests for example, what kind of difficulties awaits them?

There are some formalities and rituals demanded by the patriarchy one needs to follow. There is a 6 months religious training process. In the past, we have done two baptism by consulting the Patriarchate in Armenia. The Patriarchate has some rules. They say, "nobody needs to get baptized in Armenia beyond our knowledge". " “If there is demand", they say," We will do here what needs to be done". A person with such a request is first required to go and change the section about his/her religion as written on the ID, s/he needs to get written Christian on the ID’s religion section. In the past, a court decision was necessary for this however now it can be done at the civil registry office. These rules are normal. Patriarchate says " Why baptize someone I do not know, furthermore that person might even not be Christian?" They are right from that point of view. On the other hand, the person with such a request can sometimes also be the member of a family that has been Islamized four generations ago, a family whose identity is well known by everybody. So if a person has such a request to return to his/her original identity, this can be through following some formalities.

Can it be the problem that the faith cannot stay within the boundaries of private life in Turkey? A person, in Turkey, cannot say " let me not change the religion section of my ID but be a Christian faith in my own private life".

In the past, in the religion section of IDs it used to write " Armenian" or " Syriac". That is no more the case, now it is just written " Christian". The Patriarchate is right from their own point of view, however it is a distressed process for the people who have been disconnected from their identities for a century.

If you can have access again to the church and restart your activities, would you again consider organizing activities such as Armenian language courses? And are you getting any support from Armenian institutions in Istanbul?

We will most probably organize again such activities. We want to learn our language, our culture and everything. This issue has two aspects; first is the economical aspect. Organizing such an activity is a costly issue. However the most problematic part is to find a teacher who can live in Diyarbakır or who is available to travel regularly to teach. We are having a hard time with resolving this issue. It is difficult to bring a teacher who grew up and lives in Istanbul to Diyarbakır. The situation of the Armenian schools in Istanbul is also not very bright; the number of teachers is already not sufficient. But having such problems does not mean we will give up. We will strive to re-start the lessons.


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Source: http://repairfuture.net/index.php/en/identity-standpoint-of-turkey/the-identity-awakening-of-islamized-armenians-in-diyarbakir

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