An Armenian Protestant church in Diyarbakir province has been leased to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for a period of 10 years to serve as a public library, Turkish media reported.
According to the protocol, the ministry will pay a monthly fee of 1000 TL ($ 120) to the General Directorate of Foundations.
The decision sparked an uproar from the Armenian community in Turkey. In a video message shared by journalist Aris Nalcı on Twitter, Krikor Ağabaloğlu, leader of the Armenian Protestant community in Turkey, said the decision caused them great pain and they absolutely condemned it.
“Every human has the right to worship,” Ağabaloğlu said. “It is the property of the Armenian Protestant community. … As the spiritual leader of the Armenian Protestants in Turkey, I asked for it to be handed over to us.
Diyarbakır’daki Ermeni protestan kilisesinin kütüphane olarak kültür bakanlığına kiralanması üzerine Ermeni Protestan Cemaati dini önderi Gedikpaşa Protestan Kilisesi Vakfı Başkanı Krikor Ağabaloğlu’n pic.twitter.com/XhiJmVssEK
– Aris Nalcı | Նալճը (@arisnalci) August 27, 2021
According to Ağabaloğlu, the Armenian community handed over the church to the government in 1983 due to security concerns. But it was not returned to the Armenian community despite requests. Before the last move, the church was used by the provincial governor’s office for carpet weaving lessons.
“Can you imagine that? There is a church where people can worship. There is a community, and it is not put back for their use, ”Ağabaloğlu said. “They don’t think it’s appropriate to use this building as a church and assign it to other people to be used for different purposes. … This cannot be considered appropriate, either from a religious or ethical point of view.
Arat Karagözyan, president of an Armenian nonprofit organization, said the area where the church is located is closed to civilians until 2023. “Given this, we wonder why they made a decision if hasty, ”he said.
The preservation of Armenian cultural and religious sites in Turkey is of constant concern. On January 17, the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos reported that a 19e The Century Armenian Church was listed for sale on a Turkish real estate site. In the ad, the church, located in the province of Bursa, was described as “perfect for a tourist attraction as it is in a UNESCO protected area”.
On January 26, Agos reported that an Armenian church dating from 1603 in the western province of Kütahya that was on the preservation list of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism was demolished after it was acquired by a private party.
Another Armenian church, Surp Yerrortutyun (Holy Trinity), will serve as “World Masters of the Art of Humor” as part of a project to establish a “Village of Humor” in Akşehir District , in central Turkey, the birthplace of the famous 13e century Turkish satirist Nasreddin Hoca.