PRESS RELEASE by Gomidas Institute
Contact Person: Roland Mnatsakanyan
TURKEY'S SHAME: AGHTAMAR ISLAND AND THE DESTRUCTION OF ARMENIAN CULTURAL PROPERTIES IN TURKEY
Over the past two years, Turkish authorities made much of the restoration of a 10th century Armenian church on Aghtamar island in Lake Van. Until recently, it was not clear whether this restoration project was a peaceful gesture to Armenians, or a crude glossover the reality of the Armenian Genocide and the destruction of Armenian cultural properties in modern Turkey.
Today, the head of the Turkish Historical Society, Yusuf Hala?oğlu, commented on the opening of the restored Holy Cross church on Aghtamar Island on April 15th, 2007. We hope his words do not reflect official thinking in Ankara.
According to The New Anatolian, Hala?oğlu stated that “We [Turks] don't have anything to hide… Opening the Agdamar Church will be a gesture to Armenians and the whole world. After the conquering of Anatolia, the Turks didn't damage foreign assets. Nothing was destroyed. In this way, these assets have survived through to today.”
Hala?oğlu's words will surely prove to be an embarrassment to Turkey. Should the guests invited to the opening of the church on April 15th decide to look around them, they will see that Aghtamar Island is an exception.
On the eve of World War I, there were scores of medieval Armenian churches within 20 km of Aghtamar Island alone, and practically none of them remain standing today. Most of them have been completely destroyed during the life of the Turkish Republic. Today grave diggers enjoy a free hand looting these localities while Turkish state authorities continue to turn a blind eye to these acts of desecration.
Halacoglu's words only add to Turkey's shame.
See the Gomidas Institute link for photos of some Armenian Mediaeval Monasteries near Aghtamar Island.
All photographs taken in October 2006 (Copyrighted to Ara Sarafian)
– Renovated Sourp Khach (Holy Cross) Monastery on Aghtamar Island.
– Garmir Vank (west of Aghtamar Island).
– Armenian church in Kantzak village (west of Aghtamar Island).
– Saint Thomas Monastery (west of Aghtamar Island).
– Remians of an Armenian village church near Saint Thomas (west of Aghtamar Island).
– Sourp Haroutiun Monastery (north west of Aghtamar Island).
– Charahan Sourp Nishan Monastery (south east of Aghtamar Island): Completely destroyed.
– Sbidag vank, Dzovahayats Sourp Asdvadzadzin or Pertatsoro Monastery (south east of Aghtamar Island):
Completely destroyed. Road going through monastery complex, graves looted and desecrated.
– Karasoun Khoran Saint Mary Monastery at Ilu (south of Aghtamar Island): Completely destroyed.
– Seljuk Cemetery (south east of Aghtamar Iisland): Beautifully preserved and protected.