Collectif 2015: Réparations
While new acts of destruction of Armenian heritage sites are taking place in Turkey, as a continuation of the politics of effacing the Armenian past in the wake of the genocide of the Armenians at the beginning of the 20th century, the Collective 2015: Réparations joins those in Turkey who have dared to oppose these political operations of the State.
The destruction of Armenian heritage sites continues at this very moment under cover of urban renewal projects, as several articles of such newspapers as Agos, Radikal and also Taraf in Turkey have pointed out.
On the hills of the city of Moush in Eastern Turkey [Western Armenia. Armeniaca], in the citadel quarter (the former citadel of Moushegh, from which attacks against the Armenian inhabitants had been launched in June 1915), the town council, led by the AKP party, has undertaken the demolition of hundreds of formerly Armenian houses under the pretext of building new housing developments. These 150-year-old houses used to be homes to about 7,500 persons before the genocide. If we count the surrounding villages, more than 75,000 Armenians used to live around this city. The homes which had not already been destroyed at that time have been, for the most part, occupied until our day.
Amongst the inhabitants, about 20 homeowners have protested against the destruction. They have been intimidated by the police forces. In this quarter there is also an Armenian church in ruins which is also in danger of being totally demolished. The building project plans to construct a social housing development which will house the present homeowners, amongst others. According to an article that appeared in Agos on June 28, 2013, more than half of the houses of the citadel have already been demolished. Digging into the ground and the walls of the houses, local inhabitants allow themselves to search for the treasures which are reported to have been hidden by Armenians at the beginning of
the genocide. Some homes are still standing, thanks to the resistance of the few homeowners who are skeptical about the form of compensation imposed by the city government. Almost no political figures have opposed this project, and the subject was only briefly mentioned in the Turkish
Parliament by a deputy of the Party for Peace and Democracy (BDP).
At the other end of the country, in Thrace, the little town of Malkara close to Tekirdag (formerly Rodosto), was also recently mentioned in the press when a Turkish journalist from this town revealed the project of constructing a restaurant on an Armenian cemetery. Before the genocide, there was a population of close to 3,500 Armenians in this town. The project in question whose call for bids was won by a member of the AKP party, is also part of the politics of destroying Armenian heritage
sites. The city government has been responsible for displacing tombstones from the cemetery, disrespectfully using them as sewer blockage, and for discarding bones from the opened tombs. Since the site has already been disfigured, the restaurant project coordinator claims that he was not
aware that it was the site of a cemetery. Even if that is the case, there is no question of suspending or modifying the project. As for the church of Malkara, although it figures on the list of historical
monuments of the town, it has been left in ruins and has no protection.
Thus, the little that remains of the Armenian presence in Asia Minor is continuing to disappear. We can enumerate a great number of material assets of the Armenian Nation--recognized and referenced as such before 1915--that have been looted, vandalized, occupied, abandoned, and have
fallen into ruin.
If the recent projects of the townships of Moush and Malkara emphasize the continuation of anti-Armenian politics of the State, we observe that their mention in the press and, to a lesser extent, in the political sphere, is a new element. Furthermore, in spite of all the efforts of the Turkish State and its successive governments to eradicate all traces of the Armenians, the citizens of Istanbul are rediscovering the existence under their very feet, close to the famous Gezi Park, of the old Sourp Hagop Cemetery. This cemetery which had been, like so many others, victim of urban renewal projects, disappeared from the face of this city which takes such pride in its multiculturalism. Today, Taksim Square is the target of renewal projects and during recent work there, around 20 tombstones were unearthed. This news was officially revealed by the Turkish minister for Culture and Tourism in the Parliament. The existence of this cemetery, little-known by most Istanbulites, has resurfaced. The cemetery was mentioned in the international press, such as The New Yorker (June 28, 2013).
What future for the Armenian heritage of Turkey?
At the approach of the centennial of the Armenian genocide, a growing awareness, although held only by a minority, seems to affirm itself in Turkey, putting the State's political position in question. Collectif 2015: Réparation supports the initiative taken in Turkey to once again give Armenians their place in this country, and it makes an appeal to Turkish citizens as well as to Armenians of the Diaspora and of Armenia to join the courageous stance of certain journalists, intellectuals and
organizations in Turkey which work towards the preservation of heritage sites in this country.
Amongst these, we communicate the recent petition against the destruction of the Moush houses launched by the Turkish organization Dur De ("Say Stop"), and which we invite you to sign.
Using all possible forms of pressure to stop the process of destruction and denial, we may be able to preserve what still exists and to put a term to the cultural impoverishment that Turkey has suffered for over a century. A more positive future for Turkey cannot be imagined without taking into account all of the composing parts, and without rendering justice and reparation to those who have been built up as "enemies of the interior " and who are meant to be completely eliminated. The restitution of a place for Armenians amongst the peoples of Turkey goes hand in hand with the necessity of justice for an imprescriptible crime, and for a harmonious relationship between the Turkish and the Armenian peoples.
(Armeniaca: Collectif 2015: Réparations has been supported by the Organization Terre et Culture since its inception in 2004)