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#1 Arpa



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Posted 28 October 2011 - 10:53 AM

Who cares about churches there, like St. Kirakos when both chuches in Syracuse are closed.

Why is he so fascinated and obsessed with furkey?
I can’t find it now. At one time Yervant severely reprimanded me when I aired such suspicions that he may be an SPY, a closet furk. in disguise..


Why is he so enamored with diyagagir and erzgugum?
Which of those are Armenian towns?
How about, for a change, among others he write about Gavar, Goris and Gumri?

Yerevan to Diyarbekir and Back: Reconnecting with a Fading Past
Hrant Gadarigian

14:05, October 28, 2011
Last week I and two friends hopped in a Japanese jeep and headed off from Yerevan for the reopening of the Armenian Apostolic Church of St. Kirakos in Diyarbekir, Turkey.
The only reason I mention that the jeep was of Japanese manufacture is because the wheel is located on the right side. This served to constantly amaze curious onlookers as we winded our way through the mountains and valleys of eastern Anatolia.
Even though I had travelled to Turkey before (Istanbul, Ankara, Van), it was always by plane. Now, I'd get a chance to see the people and landscape up-close and in person.
Turkey by Way of Javakhk
Given that Turkey refuses to open its border with Armenia, we had to first head to Georgia and the border crossing with Turkey at Posof.
We travelled through the Armenian region of Javakhk, stopping for some eye drops for our driver, a French-Armenian photo-journalist, in Akhalkalak.
Some locals gathered round and asked who we were and where we were headed. They noted that the western Armenian we spoke reminded them of their own dialect, given that many in the district trace their roots back to Erzeroum.
There’s a closer border crossing with Turkey at Akhalkalak but it too is closed. Local Armenians couldn’t tell us why.
We passed through the larger town of Akhaltskha and then climbed the mountains to Posof. Things went smoothly until the Turkish customs officials told us that the jeep had to be inspected. It was a very thorough search and my friend Max said it was the first inspection he had ever been subjected to in his many trips to Turkey by the same route.
Given the green light, we drove in the approaching darkness bypassing the old fortress town of Kars and the battlefield of Sarikamish, site of the WWI battle between the Ottoman and Turkish armies.
Erzeroum: An Armenian Neighborhood in the Old Quarter
Tired and bleary-eyed we finally reached Erzeroum late that night and were fortunate to get a room for the three of us at the local dormitory for visiting Turkish teachers and college instructors.
At this point, I should mention that the third member of the group was Khachik, a former Istanbul-Armenian who moved to Armenia some twenty years ago. He was to serve as our resourceful translator, my Turkish being rudimentary at best.
When we awoke the next morning, the city was covered in a blanket of snow. It was still falling when we headed to the dormitory cafeteria for a breakfast of olives, cheese and tea. The latter beverage is a staple in the eastern districts of Turkey and served in small cylindrical glasses.
Luckily, Max had also brought alone a small coffee maker that proved invaluable to a morning coffee addict like myself.
Before heading off, Max took us to an old Erzeroum neighbourhood of semi-ruined stone buildings. He’d visited the place before on a prior trip. Max claimed it was a former Armenian neighbourhood.
Presently, the entire neighbourhood is slated to be razed by the Erzeroum Municipality. Those still living there are being bought out by the local government.
I and Khachik tramped around the empty streets, trying to keep warm, while the ever intrepid Max disappeared around a corner searching for his next big photo.
Heading South to Bingyol and Diyarbekir
After an hour or two, we bundled into the car and took the southerly road out of Erzeroum. Our next stop would be Bingyol. The ascending route through the mountains proved treacherous due to the snowy conditions. Periodic road construction made the passage even worse.
The snow finally let up as we approached the small town of Bingyol – inspiration for the famous melancholy song of lament and loss whose first line goes, “Dear sister, can you tell me the way to Bingyol”.
We stopped for something to eat in this overwhelmingly Kurdish populated community. Max also wanted to buy a cheap pair of shoes. The pair he had on in Erzeroum were soaked to the core due to the slushy streets. Hey, what did he expect, the soles already had holes in them.
The landscape had changed to a series of mostly treeless valleys and sloping hills. The expanses were vast and scenic. A lost paradise?
A bit of etymology regarding the name. Following the Arab conquests in the 7th century, the Arab Bekr tribe occupied this region, which became known as became known as the Diyar-ı Bekir (landholdings of the Bekr tribe). In 1937, Atatürk had the city renamed Diyarbakır, which remains its current name.
It’s the unofficial capital of Turkey’s Kurdish regions with a population of just over 800,000.
As to why Armenians call the city “Dikranagerd” remains somewhat puzzling. I read in Wikipedia that Armenian historians once theorized that the city was the site of the ancient Armenian city of the same name and that by the 19th century Armenian residents were using the name. Maybe readers of this will have other hypotheses.
We got a room in a hotel down a narrow alleyway off the main square in the old part of town. The alleyway was so narrow that an athletic person might have been able to jump from our hotel window to that of the hotel across the way.
Amid – City on the Tigris
It was Wednesday, the 19th. We could already spot the Armenians from Istanbul and elsewhere walking around the streets of the old town. I mean, even to the untrained eye, they and we, stuck out like sore thumbs.
Max, carrying around his camera with the protruding lens, became a constant magnet for the street kids looking for a handout. These were children ranging in age from 5 to 8 or nine; tops.
“Hello”, “English, English” or “Money, please”, were just a few of the lines the kids used as they approached. They probably learned them from the older kids who were now working in the market stalls as porters or tea shops as waiters. However, I did spot some really young kids pushing around wooden trolleys to transport a variety of items through the cobblestone streets.
After checking in, we made our way to the district where St. Kirakos is located. Max was again on the lookout for some good photos and the local residents seemed to oblige his request to be captured on film. Many invited him in to their courtyards as he poked his head in this any open door.
We stumbled upon the Syrian Orthodox Church and entered the large garden. There we met some Armenian women who had travelled from the Syrian town of Khamishli on the Turkish border for the church celebrations.
We talked to an Armenian man in his 50’s who was born in Diyarbekir but now lives in Istanbul. In fact, most people we talked to said that there were at most just a handful of Armenians, mostly elderly, left in the city. Two were serving as caretakers at the Chaldean Church.
It was then off to St. Kirakos where we met Aram the local caretaker. Aram says that he is Armenian on one side of the family. I can’t remember which. An energetic, affable man in his 40’s, Aram was supervising the preparation for Saturday’s re-consecreation of the church and Sunday’s religious service.
And there was a lot still to be done. Construction material was scattered all about the church courtyard. Aram assured us that local workers would be hired to clear it all away in time.
Lice – Islamicised Armenians and a Ruined Church
Before leaving him to it, Max asked Aram if he could direct us to any nearby villages where Islamicized Armenians were known to reside. He said there were plenty and promised to provide us with details and some contacts.
True to his word, the next day we were met by a relative of Aram’s who offered to take us to a cluster of villages near the town of Lice, midway along the Diyarbekir to Bingyol highway.
There we met with several “Kurdicized” Armenians who told us that their grandparents or great-grandparents, mostly on the maternal side, were indeed Armenian. These local residents were the offspring of young Armenian girls taken during the massacres and winding up as brides.
That was the extent of their Armenian identity – little else was passed down through the generations. It wasn’t exactly prudent to identify yourself as Armenian during a period when the young Turkish republic was embarking on a state policy of Turkish national consolidation.
These “Armenians” that we met along the way appeared uncomfortable talking to us regarding such issues in the presence of their Kurdish neighbors. It was only when we split away from the larger group that they opened up to us.
One could sense that something was different in their manner as well. They were animated and expressive, even the woman, in the presence of three male foreigners who had entered their closeted rural world.
When we told them we had come from Armenia they asked questions and even wanted to know what “Jerevan” was like.
Aram’s relative escorted us to a ruined structure that closely resembled an Armenian church atop a hill. Its name and history was a mystery even to him. All he could tell us was that the area once boasted a large Armenian presence. Few traces, if any, remain today.
We returned to Diyarbekir, leaving our newly found compatriots behind but not forgotten.
Mardin: A Mountain Fortress
The next day we decided to head south, to the ancient city of Mardin, perched high on a rocky mountain overlooking the plains on northern Syria.
During 1915-1916, Arab, Assyrian/Syriac and Armenian Christians of all denominations were massacred or driven away. No Armenians are said to live in Mardin today.
The city is a series of ascending terraces and narrow streets with passageways leading up to the next level. Scattered about in the narrow alleys are craftsmen plying their trades in small shops – woodworkers, tinsmiths, jewelers, blacksmiths... The entire old city is a jumbled mosaic of homes, shops, mosques and churches – the latter mainly Syrian Orthodox.
There is however the St. George (Sourp Kevork) Armenian Church in Derik, a western district of Mardin Province, that still stands. In 2006, Archbishop Mesrop Mutafyan, Patriarch of Istanbul, visited the church in Derik and spoke with the last three remaining Armenians - Kevork, Naif, and his wife, Srpuhi, Demirci. Are they still there? Never making it to Derik, we cannot say.
St. Kirakos: What Future Awaits the Church?
On Saturday, the day of the re-consecration of the restored 16th century St. Kirakos Church, it was standing room only. There were local dignitaries, top ranking clergy and other invited guests including former foreign minister of Armenia and the leader of Armenia’s Heritage Party, Raffi Hovhannisian, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardione, Dositheos Anagnostopulos, spokesperson for the Istanbul-based Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Yusuf Çetin, patriarchal vicar of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir and Sur Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş.
Walking around the side of St. Kirakos, event organizers had installed a series of pictorial panels displaying the former presence of Armenians in Diyarbekir. The pictures and text reminded visitors that Armenians played a leading role in the arts and trades and other sectors.
I picked up a leaflet entitled “What sort of place was Diyarbakir in 1869?” The population of the city was broken down according to religion. Out of a total population of 21,372 souls, 6,853 were adherents of the Armenian Apostolic Church and 831 were Armenian Catholics. Thus, 1/3 of residents were Armenian. 9,814 were listed as Muslim, not specifying nationality. The remainder was an assortment of Assyrians, Assyrian Catholics, Keldani, Greeks, Protestants and Jews.
The leaflet notes that there were four Armenian schools and four Christian cemeteries. No traces exist today. If memory serves me correctly, one of the posters noted that Dicle University, on the eastern outskirts of Diyarbekir, was built on the site of a former Armenian village.
On Sunday, the Divine Liturgy was offered at St. Kirakos for the first time in over thirty years.
During WWI, the church was “appropriated” by the German military as a command center. It was the used as an apparel depot by the state-owned Sümerbank until 1950. The church was then handed back to the Armenian community, following a long legal battle.
The church went into disuse and disrepair in the enduing decades as the Armenian community dwindled in numbers. Many moved to Istanbul or further afield. Some made the return trip to their hometown just to be present for the church’s reopening.
And it is a massive structure covering 3,200 square meters that can accommodate 3,000 people. Who will use it (there are no Armenians left in Diyarbekir) and how it will be used remains an open question.
(To be continued)

Edited by Arpa, 29 October 2011 - 12:40 AM.

#2 Yervant1


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Posted 28 October 2011 - 11:23 AM

Guess what Arpa? I'll do the same again. Please remove the swear words, you know which ones. It seems to me that you are stuck at a time frame from which you will not move forward an inch. I didn't find anything wrong with the article except that he doesn't know why the city is called “Dikranagerd”. We can't live in a bubble, whether we like it or not they are our neighbours and we need to find a dialogue.

#3 Yervant1


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Posted 29 October 2011 - 10:10 AM

Hrant Gadarigian

13:29, October 29, 2011

I was introduced to Zakaria Mildanoglu, the Armenian architect who
worked on the restoration of the Holy Cross Church at Akhtamar. He
told me that St. Kirakos now legally belongs to the Foundation set
up by Istanbul-Armenians who spearheaded the restoration.

In addition, given that the Patriarchate in Istanbul has no legal
status per-say, it is the Foundation that must assume the court battle
to receive compensation for former church properties that have been
used to build stores and other commercial enterprises.

Given that St. Kirakos belongs to the Armenian community, unlike
Akhtamar, it can hold religious services and cultural events whenever
it wants. I assume that the Foundation, probably with the consent
of the Patriarchate (read Locum Tenens Archbishop Aram Ateshyan),
will set the agenda.

Archbishop Ateshyan's Words Anger Many

But given the conservative nature of the Patriarchate, a
complaint I heard by many in attendance, including a fair number of
Istanbul-Armenians, it remains questionable whether St. Kirakos will
grow into something more than a religious site for periodic worship.

I heard of plans to hold concerts and other cultural events - even
organizing Armenian language classes. Let's hope the visionaries
win out.

In fact, many found Ateshyan's words at the event a bit too
condescending to Turkish sensibilities. His homily began with a
rhetorical homage regarding the tragic death of Turkish soldiers
at the hands of "terrorism" - a referral to a recent PKK attack in
the south. Many saw it as yet more proof of the Archbishop's "raya"
mentality of the Ottoman past.

In contrast, Diyarbakir Mayor Baydemir spoke of the need to pay
respects to all "victims" of terror and hate - a veiled reference to
the innocents slaughtered in 1915.

In short, the entire affair was a nuanced dance around an issue -
the 1915 Armenian Genocide, Kurdish participation and Turkish state
policy - that needs to be critically dealt with before any real talk
of dialog amongst the sides involved takes place.

The reopening of St. Kirakos in the heart of Kurdish Turkey is just
the beginning, albeit an important one.

As Raffi Hovannisian aptly put it - "It is exceedingly important for
the two peoples to engage in dialogue, but without forgetting that
great, dark disaster of history, like genocide."

We left Diyarbekir after the Sunday service at St. Kirakos. There
was a long road ahead of us back to Yerevan.

Taking the north-eastern route, we passed through Silvan and Bitlis -
William Saroyan country.

Van: Tremors at Night

We hit Tatvan as night descended, unaware of the tragic scene awaiting
us at Van.

Max got a phone call from his wife telling us about the massive quake
that had hit the area. But it was too late for us to turn back.

Pulling into Van that evening, we immediately saw the effects of the
quake. Much of the city was without power. Traffic lights weren't
working and cars ferrying frightened folks out of the city had created
impassable jams.

A maze of confusion and despair.

Everywhere, people wrapped in blankets, were wandering the darkened
streets, seeking refuge from the freezing night air. Hundreds of
people were camped out in the main square, huddling around fires of
whatever fuel could be found.

Max finally found his way to a hotel he had stayed during a prior
trip. The young Kurdish clerks told us that there were plenty of
vacant rooms - no one wanted to stay inside due to the ongoing tremors.

With more than a bit of trepidation, we decided to book a room. The
alternative was to freeze outside. The clerk told us to keep the room
door open if we needed to make a mad dash outside during the night.

Khachik said he remembered reading somewhere that usually a major
earthquake's subsequent tremors diminish in strength. We hesitatingly
took this bit of unverified fact as comfort and went to sleep fully

Soon after, a powerful tremor shook the hotel room. We made in out
and downstairs in record time. But we were exhausted and sleep got
the better of us. Early the next morning we were back in the jeep
and heading north around the shoreline of Lake Van.

The next morning, we took a walk around our hotel. To our surprise
we noticed that just two blocks away a corner building had collapsed.

Work crews were digging through the rubble.

Earthquake Epicentre

Max wanted to go to the epicentre in Ô±O~@Õ³Õ¥Õ· - Artchesh (now
called ErciÅ~_). More photo opportunities were in store.

On the main road leading to this town of some 70,000, we saw Turkish
military trucks carrying troops and equipment. Ambulances quickly
passed by.

We entered the city, parked the car, and headed off on foot.

Building flattened like pancakes greeted us. Heavy construction
equipment - bulldozers and excavators - made their way down the narrow
two lane main street now full of people.

Turkish police, automatic rifles at the ready, were helpless at
maintain any semblance of organization. Large crowds had gathered at
each collapsed building, watching frantic emergency crews trying to
remove the tons of concrete and rubble.

It was a weird scene of destruction. Most of the houses that collapsed
from the earthquake's might appeared to be structures of four or more
stories. Many of those remaining standing bore large cracks in the
walls and would probably have to be razed.

It seemed like the main fault line ran right down the main street -
destroying some buildings while others remained intact. After visiting
the area by helicopter, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan lashed out at
those builders who cut corners and built such death-traps.

I and Khachik walked the streets while Max went off on his own.

The Turkish press had descended on the town in full force; news
cameras and reporters were scurrying here and there.

We saw victims of the quake being carried out in body bags from the
local hospital as frantic friends and relatives of those unaccounted
for waited for news of their fate.

In the midst of the unfolding melee, local and state politicians
soon arrived to survey the destruction and pay their respects. I
witnessed Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition CHP,
being mobbed by residents as made his way to the center of the town.

Huge white tents, trucked in by the army, were being carried away by
those left homeless and those who were too afraid to go back to their
homes. Back in Yerevan, I read reports that many of the incoming
military trucks had been looted of their tents, many of which were
being sold on the black-market.

Even Erdogan was forced to admit on Turkish TV that the initial phase
of the search and rescue effort had been lacking in organization and
efficiency...little comfort for those in the disaster zone.

We finally regrouped at the jeep and left Ercis heading north and
the border.

Back to the Border

More scenes of the quake's wrath dotted the road as we made our way
to Horasan, the Erzeroum highlands, and the Georgian border beyond.

Hours later and under the cover of nightfall, we pulled into the tiny
hamlet of Posof, high in the pine forested mountains.

Another detailed search of the jeep awaited us at the Turkish border
crossing early the following morning.

>>From there it was another hour or two through Georgia till we
reached the border with Armenia at Bavra.

We had travelled some 3,000 kilometers all told.

It was a journey to remember and one I hope to repeat soon. Just
another attempt to reconnect with a fading past.

#4 Karen


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Posted 29 October 2011 - 12:28 PM

Arpa, just a few words of what I think about it.

I'm not a big supporter of political (!) "dialogue" between Armenia and Turkey. There is nothing to be discussed anymore. Turkey's lost its chance to ratify damned Protocols, Armenia has pulled out from ratification process. Now it's Turkey who must make a step forward. And the only content of negtiation would be the liquidation of consequences of the Genocide. This is what Serge Sargsian, Edward Nalbandian and all other Armenian officials say. No talks about what happened in the past (as for us it's clear it was Genocide). No attempts to re-qalify what happened into something else, something less dramatic. Only talks about fixng the problem. What would suit Armenian Government in terms of having turks fixing the consequences of Genocide - that I don't know.

Now, as far as contacts of so called "civil society" of the two countries are concerned... What problems do you see here? Yes, Hetq is the type of media which is always in opposition to the Government no matter what. They are the kinds like Levon Ter-Petrosyan who would only survive and go on as long as US, EU and Turkish cash injections to them are made. And I can care less. For one Armenian media resource of that kind there are same number of pro-armenian, helthy, sober, steightforward media. AND THEY ALSO COVERED WITH JOY THE OPENING OF ST. KIRAKOS IN DIARBEKIR. It's jus the news coverage, that's all. And it relates to us, Armenians. So, why ignore it.

Personally, I can see only advantages of St. Kirakos affair. Firstly, local kurdified Armenians can finally find themseles a place of legal, official worship, a place where they can by a copy of Bible in Turkish or Kurdish and read it, etc., etc. Secondly, it becomes a good precedent for Armenians of Turkey to claim back and restore other hundereds upon hunderds of churches around the country. It's definitely better to do that as it saves out historical heritage along the line - compared to bulding of dozens of new churches in Istanbul area. Finally, it's a mutual step towards each others between kurds and armenians which leaves turks out of the process, makes them merely a bystanding observer. (I have no illusions about kurds but we can benefit from their relative tolerance to us and get back some of our properties, etc.)

Summarizing, I see nothing wrong, if properties of turkish armenians expand to include churches (and not only churches) in Armenian Highland and adjusent areas. What ours - shall belong to us. If turkish armenians are the only ones who can realize their property right and restore the title - let them do it. If these assets attract some couple of thousand visitors from Istanbul, couple of dozen from Yerevan, and 3-4 people from Diaspora - I see no harm.

Edited by Karen, 29 October 2011 - 12:33 PM.

#5 Yervant1


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Posted 29 October 2011 - 01:05 PM

Very well put Karen, we need to engage the people of that area to our advantage and benefit from it rather than ignore it. We can't go on hating forever!

#6 Yervant1


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Posted 17 January 2017 - 09:31 AM

January 15, 2017

Armenian Businessman Mehmed Demir from Diyarbakir Wants to Invest $30 Million in Armenia


By Nairi Hokhikyan

Hetq online 

The city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey suffered terrible damage during the 2015 clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdish armed groups.

Thus, many residents, estimates range up to 200,000, fled the city.

Mehmed Demir, an Armenian businessman, also left Diyarbakir, and today mostly divides his time between Istanbul and Izmir. Demir says that the necessities for survival are lacking in Turkey’s eastern regions and that, when it comes to working, he had no option but to leave for western Turkey. Nevertheless, he says that the economic crisis all over the country has gotten worse these past two years.

The 52-year-old Demir tells me that his ancestors miraculously survived the 1915 Armenian Genocide and for many years identified themselves as Kurds. While the Armenian origins of the Demir clan isn’t openly talked about, all in Demir’s circle of friends know that the family once bore the surname Demirjian.

Mehmed Demir complains that the Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate does little to support Armenians still living in the provinces, regarding them as little more than liars when they claim to be Armenian.

“There’s the one function Armenian church in Diyarbakir, St. Giragos. But there’s no priest. So how can Armenians their express their identity? Will they only look at the stones? Will they say that only their grandfathers were here one hundred years ago, during the genocide? If we were to collect those openly speaking Armenian in Diyarbakir, a part of western Armenia, there’d only be thirty people. Why? The reason is simple. It’s due to that leaderless mentality,” says Mehmed Demir, adding that despite the hurdles, hundreds are openly saying they are Armenian and are filing conversion requests at local municipal offices.

Mehmed Demir has been to Armenia three times. He’s gone to the Tzitzernakaberd Genocide Memorial in Yerevan, familiarizing himself with the history of the tragedy, and has also met with state and civic leaders. Demir confesses that he’s jealous to see his compatriots in Armenia speaking about their own state and government. He cannot do the same. During debates in Turkey, Demir often accuses the Kurds of carrying out the genocidal orders of the Turks.

“During the genocide, the Turks gave the orders, but who carried them out? Didn’t the Kurds commit massacres. They did. The idea was prompted that whoever kills Armenians would go to heaven. The Kurds were also complicit in this. The Kurds were in the Hamidye Corps that massacred Armenians. But now, the Kurds ask for forgiveness. So too do the sons and grandchildren of those who committed the massacres. They say that their fathers or grandfathers did dishonorable things. It was really treasonous.”

Demir, who has carved a successful career in the auto repair field in Turkey, says that one must look forward and must overcome the challenges with something other than enmity.

“They will respect you if you are economically strong and politically stable,” Demir stresses. Thus, he wants to invest heavily in Armenia and help foster light industry.

“One cannot talk about a developed economy in Turkey. There are some large factories in a few cities that provide the country’s entire manufacturing output. If investing a few million dollars in Turkey is considered a small figure, in a small market like Armenia, I would think that thirty million dollars could be quite attractive.”

Demir wants to try producing textiles and plastic items in Armenia. Neighboring Turkey and Iran are giants in these sectors and Demir doesn’t see why Armenia shouldn’t join them. He doesn’t want any help from the government, just the permission to invest and create factories. Demir also isn’t looking for tax privileges, since he has sales contracts for the finished goods in the European market. The Eurasian Economic Union will afford him additional marketing opportunities.

So why invest in Armenia, a country that doesn’t have normal diplomatic, and some would say unfriendly, ties with Turkey?

In response, Demir asks how long will stereotypes govern our lives?

“There is no superpower that can reconcile Turkey and Armenia if there isn’t pressure from within. Turkey has committed a crime and must come to grips with its bloody past. But it will not do this because there is still no internal pressure to do so. I’m Armenian. My forefathers were Armenian, but they were stripped of their identity because of that country. Now, I know who I am. I have lived in western Armenia. So has my grandfather and his grandfather. Maybe I’m an atheist, but all the same, I’m Armenian. Sure, the economy is an important part of peoples’ lives, but money isn’t everything. As the Turkish proverb says – money is important, but it’s not the end all.”


#7 Yervant1


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Posted 18 February 2018 - 12:32 PM

Feb 16 2018
Diyarbakir's signature dessert is multicultural tradition
Kadaif is a popular sweet for Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern people. Posted Sept. 20, 2017.
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — First you mix at least three different kinds of flour with water, making sure that you end up with a dense milky liquid. Let the liquid rest for six to eight hours, mixing it only at the end. Then you drop the mix on the special cast-iron stove that spins it. The mix becomes crisp, golden colored threads. You gather a heap in your hand and twist it into a circular shape that Turks call “burma.” Walnuts and pistachios are added to the center. Sweet sherbet is poured on top, and the kadaif, also known as shredded wheat dessert, is done.
Turks, Greeks and Middle Easterners claim kadaif (or kadayif or kataifi), a delicious dessert that can be made into different shapes. In the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, locals believe that the dessert was first baked in the Armenian houses of the cosmopolitan city in the 18th century. As the dessert became popular, the Armenians taught it to the Muslim population in the 19th century, mainly migrants from Bingol, a small city to the north, who had come to Diyarbakir looking for jobs.
“My grandfather Riza Ansin learned the art of making kadaif from an Armenian chef called Agop,” Ahmet Altunay, the third generation of a family of kadaif makers, told Al-Monitor. “After the Armenians left [Diyarbakir in the beginning of the 20th century], we took over the business. Nowadays, all the kadaif makers are from Bingol.”
He added, “When my grandfather died in 1990, he was 85 years old. Our family has been making and selling kadaif for more than 100 years now. My grandfather taught my father, and my father taught me and my four brothers. I am currently teaching my own children how to make kadaif. I take them to the shop the weekends and tell them to look and learn. They will end up running the business one day.”
Altunay said that his father taught many bakers, most of them from the Gurpinar neighborhood in Bingol, how to make kadaif. “There are quite a few kadaif makers in Ankara and Istanbul, and most of them learned the trade from my father. My brother is one of the best kadaif makers of Turkey. When a kadaif maker has a problem he cannot solve or has a large order he cannot handle alone, he comes to my brother for help,” he added.
Altunay said that kadaif is made with only a little butter, so it is not heavy on the stomach. “Even if you ate a whole kilo, you would not feel stuffed because it is not greasy,” he said. The six Altunay sweet shops produce about 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of kadaif a day. “Gaziantep is known for its baklava and Diyarbakir is known for its kadaif,” said Altunay. “If someone pays a visit to Diyarbakir, people expect him to return home with half a kilo of kadaif.”
Diyarbakir Municipality managed to trademark the round "burma kadaif" in November 2017 as a local specialty, just like city's other two best known products, watermelon and a special cheese. But the people who make Diyarbakir’s local dessert are all from Bingol, said Altunay. “Our whole neighborhood makes kadaif,” Altunay explained. “This is because our people, once they learn a trade, they teach others. When you look at the neighboring village, half are kadaif makers and the other half are bakers.”
Altunay’s business is growing, with a new branch in Ankara and prospects for another in Istanbul. He's shipped kadaif all the way to the United States. “There was an Armenian who moved to New York from Diyarbakir. One day, he called and asked us to send to the United States 10 kilos [22 pounds] of kadaif. We told him it would be too expensive, but he asked us to send it anyway. So we sent him 10 kilos of kadaif — the shipping costs were twice as much as the cost of the sweet. We send the dessert to most of the European countries. We have a customer who works with Boeing and we ship him his kadaif wherever he is.”
The kadaif bakers are mostly men, but the municipality of Diyarbakir offered a training course for women in 2014. Some 50 women were trained, but very few ended up working in the business. Altunay said it's a difficult job and often physically too exhausting for women. “The revolving oven has to be 100 degrees Celsius [212 F] all the time. It is no easy job working with it the whole day,” he said.
Mahmut Bozarslan is based in Diyarbakir, the central city of Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. A journalist since 1996, he has worked for the mass-circulation daily Sabah, the NTV news channel, Al Jazeera Turk and Agence France-Presse (AFP), covering the many aspects of the Kurdish question, as well as the local economy and women’s and refugee issues. He has frequently reported also from Iraqi Kurdistan. On Twitter: @mahmutbozarslan

#8 Yervant1


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Posted 04 February 2019 - 12:16 PM

A thief by any other name still a thief! Are you listening Turks!!!!!!!!

Ahval News

Feb 3 2019
Armenian land: the case of Diyarbakır’s most valuable soil

In the heart of Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır, a 400-acre plot of land filled with wheat and barely has been attracting attention as citizens have been entrenched in a decades-long legal battle over its rightful ownership.


Because the land is located in the city, realtors have estimated that each acre is valued at 1 million Turkish lira. Aside from a railway that passes through the middle of the plot and a couple of buildings, there’s been no other construction on the land.

The history of the land dates back to the Armenians who fled or were killed during the 1915 Armenian Genocide. It is said that a significant parcel of the land belongs to Şurupçu Agop Efendi, an Armenian man who supposedly lived in Diyarbakır before the genocide but has never been heard from since.

However, during the cadastral survey study that began in Diyarbakır in 1950, the land, which was registered with a title deed in several peoples' names, brought along with it several years of legal struggles. Cadastral surveying is the process of establishing boundaries for the legal creation of properties.

The first lawsuit was filed in 1954 by Hüseyin Uluğ and Ahmet and Mehmet Arcak in Diyarbakır’s Civil Courts of First Instance alleging that their 350 acres of the land was only shown as 147 acres on paper.

Then Nuri Özbostancı and his heirs claimed that the plaintiffs in the case resorted to completing their land registration with fake documents while their own names were registered during the cadastral survey works in the 1950s. Özbostancı wanted the case to be thrown out.

The court that decided the case in 1964 ruled to revise the land registry. However, a year later, the Supreme Court overturned the decision on the grounds that the Cadastral Court had the authority to take over the case.

Meanwhile, several people and institutions claiming to be the rightful owners also turned to the courts. The Treasury claimed that the land should be given to them since it had belonged to non-Muslims who were fugitives, lost, or whose whereabouts were unknown.

According to Neymetullah Gündüz, an attorney with nearly 40 years of experience in Diyarbakır, the legal basis for the Treasury to seize property from non-Muslims stems from Ottoman history.

"In 1915, the Law on Liquidation was enacted in order to confiscate the property of non-Muslims. According to this law, which is still in force, if the non-Muslim Ottoman citizen was a fugitive, if they were wanted or if the person has used weapons against the state, their citizenship was taken away, and their goods were seized and transferred to the Treasury,” Gündüz explained.

In addition to the Treasury, other institutions such as the General Directorate of Highways, State Railways, and the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality also became involved in the case, increasing the number of plaintiffs to 180.

In 1987, the Diyarbakır Civil Court of First Instance decided not to issue a ruling for land registration cases that had different date, instead merging these cases in the Diyarbakır Cadastral Court.

The Cadastral Court ruled against the plaintiffs in 2006 by stating that their land registry records did not fully meet the conditions in obtaining immovable property. As part of its ruling, the court cancelled the deeds and agreed with the Treasury that the land and property once belonging to non-Muslims who were fugitives, missing, or whose whereabouts were unknown now belonged to the state.


The deeds for the 440 acres of land was to be given to the Treasury. However, the legal department of the Supreme Court intervened and disregarded the decision of the local courts and stated that the location of the boundaries claimed in the case should be researched more thoroughly.

The Diyarbakır Cadastral Court re-opened the case in 2018. The court ran contrary to its previous decision and rejected the lawsuit filed by the Treasury regarding its claim that the land belonged to non-Muslims. The court argued the claims made by the plaintiffs matched with the land registration records.

Thus, the court decided to reinstate the deed registries that had been cancelled to Nuri Özbostancı for 46,526 square metres of land, 189 acres to Salih Atilla Üçok, and 190 acres to Mehmet Arcak and to 25 other people in the case.

Then 15 acres of land were recorded on the registry and deeds were given to heirs who had the last name Özkoçak, Özbostancı, and Arman. Furthermore, 27 acres of land was given to the Turkish State Railways and 23 acres for roads.

The citizens who did not get the result they were hoping for will appeal, and the decision made by the Supreme Court will finalize this long-standing case.

Gündüz, who is experienced in cadastral survey cases, followed the suit on behalf of the Cemiloğlu family for three years. He told Ahval News that when the records for the title deed were made in 1862, very few Muslims aside from aristocratic families then had deeds as most belonged to the non-Muslim population.

Gündüz added that the government had ordinances such as the Law on Liquidation in place.

“This ordinance was widely applied in the region, and the property of Armenians, in particular, was confiscated. On top of this, there was a law numbered 1515 on the liquidation of those who lost their legal assets. With this law, the lands of Armenians and other non-Muslims that were empty were transferred into the names of other people," he explained.

According to Abdulbaki İzci, who is an attorney who followed the case for four years, one reason as to why the lawsuits were so complicated was due to the fact that the boundaries in the old land registries were not well defined. Instead, the boundaries of the land were described in vague terms by fields, gardens, roads, streams, and mountains around them.

“Because there are no coordinate points on the deeds, the boundaries are not fixed. Over time, the number multiplied, and the number of parties in the cases came to be in the thousands.”

Another reason the duration of the lawsuits spanned decades, Izci said, is that it sometimes takes years to notify parties of the court’s decision.

“Let’s say that a person who took part in the case 50 years ago died, and it’s unclear who that person even is. There is a name but no address or identification number. Or the plaintiff and the defendant are non-Muslims. We look into it, but we can’t find them anywhere; for this reason, it takes two to three years to notify them. Currently, many of our cases have been decided, but because notifications cannot be sent out, the lawsuit isn’t over.”

Many of the claimants who have been involved with the lawsuit since the beginning have passed away without seeing the result, Izci noted, adding:

"Some of my clients say 'my grandfather followed this case, but he didn't live long enough, my father followed it, but he left us too. Will I too not be able to see the end of it?' With the inclusion of the heirs of the deceased in the case, the number of people involved has ballooned."




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