Armenian FM condemns sale, destruction of Armenian churches in Turkey
The Armenian Foreign Ministry has publicly condemned “Turkey’s policy of purposeful destruction of Armenian heritage.”
In early January, an unknown individual put up a historic Armenian Catholic Church for sale in the Turkish city of Bursa.
Another church is now on sale in the same city, and the Armenian Church of St. Toros was recently destroyed in the Kutahya province of western Turkey.
“Against the background of such vandalism against cultural and historical monuments, statements about regional peace and stability cannot inspire confidence’, says the statement disseminated by the press secretary of the Armenian Foreign Ministry Anna Naghdalyan.
About the church in Bursa
The story that an unknown individual put up for sale a historic Armenian Catholic Church in this Turkish city has been discussed in Armenia and Turkey since mid-January. The owner asked for 800,000 US dollars for the building.
And this is not the first time a sale has been attempted. At first, the church went up for sale in 2016 for 1.5 million USD, but they failed to sell the building, although “one or two buyers” were interested in it, according to an article by the Armenian weekly Agos, published in Istanbul.
This time, the 190-year-old building’s sale announcement says it could be used as a cultural center, museum or hotel.
The territory on which the church is located is considered a historical heritage and is protected by UNESCO.
Reaction of the Armenian Foreign Ministry
A reaction followed only two weeks later. But Yerevan harshly condemned the Turkish leadership’s policy of purposefully destroying the Armenian cultural, historical and religious heritage. The Armenian Foreign Ministry called on Turkey to comply with its international obligations.
The press secretary of the department, Anna Naghdalyan, commented on the recent statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, which he made in Antalya at the regional congress of the Justice and Development Party. Cavusoglu called on Armenia to “learn lessons from history”.
“No one has the right to speak with Armenia in the language of threats and to teach history lessons to the people who survived the genocide,” Anna Naghdalyan said.
The Armenian Genocide is a massacre in Ottoman Turkey in 1915. Before that, about two and a half million Armenians lived on the territory of the Ottoman Empire. As a result of murders and mass deportations, more than half of them died. Armenia, several Western countries and organizations officially recognize those events as genocide. Turkey categorically rejects this formulation.
Reaction in Turkey
The sale of the Armenian church in Turkey was touched on by a local MP, ethnic Armenian Garo Paylan.
“The Armenian Church of Bursa is up for sale. Is a place of worship sellable? How can society and the state allow this? Shame on you!”, wrote the MP on his Facebook page, attaching a screenshot with the announcement of the sale of the church.
The destruction of the Armenian church in Kutahya province was commented on by human rights activist Arlet Natalie Avagyan, who often criticizes the Turkish authorities:
“Do you have no respect for history at all? Destroying the history of Armenians, will you ignore the existence of Armenians in these lands?”
The destruction of the Armenian Church of Surb Toros (Saint Toros) in Turkey was also condemned by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
“USCIRF condemns the destruction of the Armenian historic Surb Toros Church in Kutahya, Turkey, despite its protected status. Turkey must ensure that its diverse religious and cultural heritage is protected, ”Commission Deputy Chairman Tony Perkins said on Twitter.