By Cengiz ?andar
This is the day of the opening of a “church-museum,” which the Minister of Cultural Affairs turned into a mess. Whatever the intention was, it looks like a “cultural genocide.” Today is indeed the day of the opening of the Ahtamar Church, which has been just restored, to “tourism,” and which is expected to attract many tourists to Eastern Anatolia.
However the Ministry has renamed the 1000-year-old Armenian capital “Ani” as “Anı” (which means “memory” in Turkish), and also removed the cross and the bells from the Ahtamar Church, which it renamed as “Akdamar” (which means “white vein” in Turkish.) This obsession with renaming, the cultural and religious intolerance shown towards the cross and the church bell, might well be perceived in the world as a “cultural genocide”; nobody should be surprised if that turns out to be the case.
The obsession with renaming:
The name Akhtamar comes from a myth about the lake Van. It is about the story of a young man, who was looking forward to reunite with his lover, Tamar, who was on the island along with the church in question. The man yelled “Ah, Tamar” while he was drowning. Why in the world we change that name into “Akdamar”?
What kind of a lack of imagination is that? We have renamed many historical areas within Turkey with completely made-up names like “G?zelyurt” (Beautiful Home), “Yeşilyurt” (Green Home), “Yeşilk?y” (Green Village), “G?ndoğan” (Rising Day). And now, “Ani” turned into “Anı”, and “Akhtamar” into “Akdamar.”
You restore a historical church and find absurd reasons for not putting a cross and a bell onto it? Who will believe that you are secular, or that you “respect all faiths,” or that you represent “the alliance of civilizations against the clash of civilizations.”
What you do is simply “cultural genocide.” How come you have the right for that? And why?
Here is an excerpt from a news story published in the weekly Agos on March 23, and which tells about the letter sent by a group of intellectuals from the Istanbul Armenian community to Minister of Culture, Atilla Ko?:
??Emphasizing that the church on the island is named ?Ahtamar Sourp Ha? Church? and that it gets its name from the Sourp Ha? festival celebrated on the second Sunday of every September, the intellectuals say: ?This is an important day and an important festival for Armenians. This is also the reason for the existence of that church. Therefore, we think it would be appropriate to have the name of the church, just like the name of the island, to be changed to fit the its religious and historical significance? If required, the ownership of the property can be given to the community and the operation right to the relative state body. However, if this site will also be [serving as] a church, then it needs to be blessed and open to prayers'.?
Turkish Armenian Patriarch Mesrop II says: ?Is it possible to have a church without a cross at the top? Furthermore, religious services will not be conducted at its opening. If I will not have a role there as a [man of] religion, there will not be a point in my going there.?
Appear righteous and benefit politically:
What do you think ?our set? are trying to do? If you ask me, they would like ?to appear righteous and benefit politically.? And naturally they make a mess out of it. The initial plans were for the opening of Ahtamar to take place on Apr. 24. A real cunning idea… As it is known to be the ?Armenian genocide remembrance day in the world,? a trump for propaganda would have been used on that day.
Then the date became Apr. 11. According to the ancient Armenian calendar, Apr. 11 coincides with Apr. 24. They probably knew this also. They were still pursuing another cunning idea. At the end, it was decided that the opening of Ahtamar, now ?Akdamar,? would take place on Mar. 29, as a restoration opening of a museum-church, without a cross or a bell.
What a disgrace. The cross a symbol for the Christian world that represents Jesus Christ's suffering for all humanity. Even if Muslims do not believe in the cross, and even if there are negative connotations of the cross throughout history for Muslims, would it not be necessary to ?show respect toward everyone's faiths? in a secular country in 2007? Would such an attitude not glorify a Muslim Culture Minister and his government?
On one hand, they constantly pronounce Fatih Sultan Mehmet's name, yet on the other, they cannot even come near what he has done 550 years ago or his tolerance. They have learned nothing from him.
Hrant Dink foretold it:
A reminder, just in case you have forgotten, that Hrant Dink was treacherously murdered with a shot in the back on Jan. 19. During the time of his murder, the last Agos newspaper he prepared, Agos's 564th issue has just hit the newsstands. The headline of the newspaper was on Ahtamar and so was the editorial, which Hrant wrote and signed as ?Agos.?
Here's what Hrant Dink wrote in his editorial:
?The opening of the restored Surp Ha? Armenian Church of Ahtamar Island has turned into a comedy. It could only be possible to put a right job on a wrong course so successfully. The impossible-to-hide hidden motive could not be more revealing. A real comedy? A real tragedy? The government hasn't still been able to formulate a correct approach to the ?Armenian question.? Its real aim is not to solve the problem, but to gain points like a wrestler in a contest. How and when it will make the right move and defeat its opponent. That's the only concern. This is not earnestness. The state calls on Armenian historians to discuss history, but does not shy from trying its own intellectuals who have an unorthodox rhetoric on the Armenian genocide. It restores an Armenian church in the Southeast, but only thinks, ?How can I use this for political gains in the world, how can I sell it??
They shot Hrant on the day this article was published. It lost its charm in entity. There has been no charm ever since that day. Bad smells come from the Hrant Dink murder investigation.
And today, they replace the cross with the icing on the cake, when they open the Ahtamar Sourp Ha? Church as ?Akdamar.? Then the ?alleged genocide? and ?alliance of civilizations? rhetoric will follow.
Source: “Turkish Daily News”, 30 March 2007