Posted 03 October 2010 - 10:34 AM
Sat, Oct 2 2010
By: Ayse Gunaysu
My Akhtamar visit was a huge pile of mixed thoughts and feelings,
mainly that of despair and indignation from being in physical contact
with evidence of the painful truth.
A lost paradise (Photo: The Armenian Weekly)
Images are engraved in my mind... Of the solemn and dignified faces of
Armenians praying, some touching and caressing the age-old stones of
the Sourp Khatch Church, some crying...The exquisite stonework
responding to my touch like a living being at the nearby
thousand-year-old cemetery, totally left to destruction by the forces
of nature... A land that lost its children without a trace... The official
sign informing visitors about the church without a single reference to
`Armenians'... The ragged mountainous landscape, once the homeland of
Armenians, now welcoming people with a gigantic crescent and star of
the Turkish flag, accompanied by the words `Gendarmerie-Commando'... The
Kurdish people of Van expressing an almost shy, warm hospitality and a
visibly apologetic way of displaying a readiness to help... But also the
treasure hunters, seeing this `historical' gathering as a good
opportunity to find Armenians from abroad for help in uncovering the
gold that their grandparents may have buried before being massacred or
taken on their death march... And a gathering in a bookstore on one of
the busiest streets of Van where Ara Sarafian, an Armenian historian
and the director of the Gomidas Institute from London, and Osman
Koker, the founder of Birzamanlar Yayincclik from Istanbul, are
presenting the book Aghtamar: A Jewel of Medieval Armenian
Architecture, which they jointly published for the Akhtamar church
service on Sept. 19.
My visit to Van allowed for extraordinary encounters. I met people on
my way to Van, at Van, and on my way back to Istanbul, all leaving
unforgettable memories in my mind.
I met an Istanbul Armenian who had lost three quarters of his lungs at
the hands of his torturers in 1979 in Adana because of his leftists
activities, and who years later found an entire tribe in the southeast
Turkey whose members told him they were Armenian, their ancestors
having converted to Islam in 1915.
I met two friends, ordinary Turkish Sunni housewives on Akhtamar
Island a day before the church service, totally unpoliticized, who had
bought their plane tickets months before just to be there on Sept. 19,
leaving behind their husbands whom, they said, would not even dare to
object, just to share the feelings of Armenians as a personal apology
for their sufferings.
I met a French Armenian journalist and photographer who showed me the
thousand-year-old gravestones on the island. He said the stones carved
by a real master of stonemasonry would talk to you. He said he found
all that happened around him in Van `strange, very strange.' His
beloved grandfather had died with his secrets; whenever he'd attempted
to talk of the past, he'd start to cry, and was never able to tell
what happened to his family. And for the love of his grandfather, the
French Armenian had decided to come to Van, and trace his
grandfather's past in his old homeland.
I met Kurds who were ready to do anything to make their Armenian
guests comfortable there. Yet, also met Kurds in charge of a
restaurant who refused to serve tea to a group of elderly Armenians
from Istanbul because the group's tourism agency had arranged a lunch
at another restaurant, and not theirs.
In yesterday's Vostan, (today's Gevash), the mountain slope facing the
Aghtamar island greets the Turkish military. (Photo: The Armenian
On Sept. 19, the day of the church service, I saw civil servants in
charge of healthcare services, members of the press, and locals from
Van, all in greater numbers than the Armenians who had come to pray.
Looking at the people praying and watching the liturgy on the huge
screens installed in the churchyard, I saw a visible fulfillment on
their faces, a satisfaction from just being on Akhtamar Island, so
close to the Holy Cross Church standing majestically as a witness of
the history of the Armenians. I also saw that, instead of the privacy
they needed, they were constantly surrounded by not only the press but
ordinary people who were wandering around them, taking photographs,
trying to capture the image of praying Armenians. The churchyard was
like a carnival, in total contrast to the historical setting and the
meaning of the day. There was almost an environment created of
disrespect - not only because of disrespectful individuals, but because
of the circumstances, because of what was going on: Nobody, after all,
except a few tourists, would walk around a praying Muslim in a mosque
to take his photograph. A praying Armenian, though, was `newsworthy,'
an interesting scene to capture-and where? In the very heart of old
Armenian land, in Van!
But of all these human stories and experiences during my visit to Van,
there was one that summarized the whole truth. I met a woman, a
Diyarbakir Armenian still living in Diyarbakir, who told the story of
an old Armenian lady from Yerevan. At the hotel in Van, just before
leaving for the concert organized on the occasion of the church
service at Akhtamar, a decent looking Turkish gentleman had kindly
asked the group whether anyone was from a certain old Armenian village
in Van; he said he wanted to hear about that village. When it was
understood that the elderly lady from Yerevan was the granddaughter of
a woman from that village, the man told them that he was an academic
and presented his identity card. The elderly lady was moved by this
stranger who wanted to know more about the village and her
grandmother's story, so she said she wanted to talk. The Armenian
woman from Diyarbakir accepted to act as the interpreter between them.
At the cost of missing the first half of the concert, the elderly lady
started to tell her grandmother's story, which was heart-rending. So
much so that at one point, the woman from Diyarbakir suggested they
discontinue the conversation. The elderly lady had become lost in sad
memories and the details made her ill. The last words of the man, the
last thing he asked, was if she knew of any buried gold in the
village; if there was any, he said he could help in recovering it, and
would share what they found! The woman from Diyarbakir, didn't
translate the last question for the elderly lady who had believed the
man was sincerely interested in her story and shared her feelings.
This was in paralleled to what is happening in Akthamar: One of the
few Armenian monuments that had survived to date was taken away from
its owners and given to the government of the state founded at the
expense of their annihilation. A treasure above the ground was taken
away from the people it belonged to. Meanwhile, the remains of old
Armenian buildings are still being destroyed not by the government but
by the members of the `governed' in search of a treasure thought to be
under the ground, of valuables left by the victims.
There's the `Old Van' beneath the towering ancient castle. The
Armenian quarter where, in 1915, the siege and resistance took place.
A bare land surrounded by a fence with a sign that reads: `PROTECTED
AREA.' There are the remains of walls here and there, but two
perfectly renovated mosques. The rest of the area feels surreal
because of the strangely undulating topography, one tumulus rolling
after another, like the waves of the sea, the remains of houses
covered in the course of time by the ground and grass. I say surreal
because in many places, the old neighborhoods are populated with new
inhabitants, constructing new-and ugly-buildings. But the Old City of
Van has strangely been left untouched, like a haunted place nobody
could dare go to or make any use of. It is there, keeping the memory
alive. And nearby, in fact side by side, there is another world,
another life going on, another reality that is totally disconnected
with this one. There, in the Old City, you can physically touch the
existence of a lost world, side by side with a living one, and you
lose your perception of reality.
So I ask myself, how can `permission' - given to Armenians to visit
their ancient and sacred land in Akhtamar after nearly a century - serve
as a real effort toward reconciliation if there is no mention of
Armenians in the sign welcoming the guests to the island?
Yes, it is good to see the Akhtamar Sourp Khatch Church renovated and
not left to dilapidation. I appreciate that. But there is still a lot
to do for real change in Turkey, even for a government who finds it
impossible to recognize the Armenian and Assyrian Genocide for
political, strategic, social, cultural, etc., etc. reasons. For
example: changing school textbooks and the official material on the
Armenian historical and cultural heritage in this country; removing
from office governors who use the word Armenian as an insult
(recently, the governor of Batman accused Kurds of being `servants of
Armenians' because they boycotted the education system by not sending
their children to school at the start of the school year); dismissing
members of cabinet who use hostile language to describe Armenians
(again recently, the state minister and vice-premier said the dead
bodies of PKK guerillas who were found to be uncircumcised were an
indication of the bond between `Armenian terrorism' and the PKK);
removing the foreign minister in whose office that shameful ECHR
defense was drawn up; passing laws penalizing racist and
discriminatory language against those other than Sunni Muslim Turks;
giving back the seized properties of non-Muslim foundations; and of
course many more.
But is there a collective will in the Turkish society - amongst the
`governed' - strong enough to urge the government to take such steps? I
don't think so. Not yet. But there are signs that it is slowly yet
erratically emerging. One sign was the two Turkish housewives on
Akhtamar Island, who said they wanted to be there at all costs to
share the Armenian visitors' feelings.
A sign much more meaningful than the half-hearted, poorly designed
gesture by the Turkish government.
Posted 04 October 2010 - 09:01 AM
October 4, 2010 | 19:20
Namaz in Ani church: eye for eye, tooth for tooth
October 04, 2010 | 12:12
Mutlu Tombekci, an analyst for the Turkey-based Vatan newspaper, severely criticized Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who, together with his supporters, performed a namaz at Ani church in protest at the liturgy in Surb Khach church on Akhtamar Island.
“Some asked why the ‘liberals’, who attended the liturgy at the Armenian church on Akhtamar Island, did not take part in the namaz in Ani chuch. My answer to them is:
“1. The permission for a liturgy at the Sümela Monastery in Trabzon was granted in December 2009, eight months before the 2010 liturgy.
“The permission for annual liturgies on Akhtamar Island was granted on March 25, 2010, seven months before the September 19 liturgy.
“As regards the unsanctioned namaz at Ani, I knew about it two days before. They got permission within 12 hours and performed namaz the following day. I did not understand the reason for their haste as well. Days run out? Only Bahçeli and his mob knew about the namaz just three days before?
“2. There is a great difference between the namaz at Ani and the liturgy in Surb Khach on Akhtamar Island.
“Ani Church is not a Muslim sacred place. Did Armenians hold a liturgy at a mosque that had been turned into a church? It is an Armenian church. Armenians built this church 1,000 years ago, and it served as an office of the patriarchate. They wished to hold a liturgy at a renovated church and had been waiting for it for three years. They got a permission and, as normal people, informed everybody of that. Everybody made their plans accordingly, and we went to observe the liturgy. One more thing: in what place of your country you cannot perform namaz? How many Muslims have to this day known about Ani? I tell you. None!
“3. Why was I to act like a child? Why Ani? Why in an Armenian city? Why a church turned into a mosque? Even to this day no sign in Ani contains the word ‘Armenian’, but it is another topic. But Bahçeli’s gang knew it was Armenian.
“The namaz performed by the Turkish nationalists did not look sincere at all. It followed the ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ principle. It was full of hate and smacked of revenge.
“So what you say. If you perform namaz not in Ani, but in the Voyvoda mosque, which was turned into a museum of Greek folk art in Athens. You will say: we have permission, let us go. You should know, I would be happy to come with you. We will perform namaz in the Greek capital and have kebab at an Armenian restaurant thereby giving them an answer.
“Come on, turn to the Athens Mayor for permission to perform namaz. Kebab at my expense, and do not be afraid – I will not treat you pork,” Mutlu Tömbekçi writes in her article.
The article evoked a wide response throughout Turkey. A number of journalists were highly critical of it in their articles.
News from Armenia - NEWS.am
Posted 08 October 2010 - 08:37 AM
And the lies go flying!!!
The liars club is working overtime.
In another two days it will be the one year anniversary of that farcical fiasco of the signing of the proctocols. The liars club headquarters may be in ankara , but it seems it has subsidiaries in Yerevan, While they are assuring the world that the talks are ongoing Mr. Nalbandian is refuting. Who is the bigger liar?
Look at these two stories. Technical problems? That the entire structure had to be reconstructed to accommodate the ten ton cross? That it will be installed before April 24, that it will take another 1.5 months?
September 03, 2010 | 10:07
Turkish authorities made dishonorable step, announcing they will not manage to put the cross on the dome of Surb Khach Church on Akhtamar Island, because of technical problems and will place it after the September 19 liturgy.
Deputy Patriarch of Constantinople Archbishop Aram Ateshyan arrived in Van to familiarize himself with the activities for the opening ceremony of Surb Khach. According to Ateshyan, Van Governor had said setting a 200 kg cross requires a special tower and they would not manage to place it till the opening ceremony, as it is a difficult process, Turkish Heberturk reports. The Governor had said the cross will be shown to everybody on September 19 and set on the dome after the liturgy.
The governors words were an unpleasant surprise to the Chairman of the Vans Trade and Industry Chamber Zahir Kandasoglu as well. The latter stressed they are entrepreneurs and consider many issues will be solved if trade and economic relations improve.
Later, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan and representatives of the Armenian patriarchate met with Mayor of Van, who promised to do everything possible to organize the event properly and honor the guests.
There were many stories between the above Sept. 3 and the below Oct. 2.
Note below that it took a three year technical problems" was resolved in a few hours? several (technical?)hours to install.
Cross on Surb Khach on Akhtamar Island consecrated
October 02, 2010 | 16:31
Head of the Religious Council of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople Abbot Tatul Anushyan consecrated the cross on the dome of Surb Khach Church (Holy Cross) on Akhtamar Island, Turkish Hurriyet daily reports.
As reported previously, on September 30, the cross was erected on the dome of the Surb Khach Church (Holy Cross) on Akhtamar Island. The cross was installed during several hours. October 1, tourists were prohibited to visit Akhtamar Island
AND THE BEAT GOES ON!!
Your favorite "armenian"?
Ps. This will be reposted under the topic Liars' Club
Edited by Arpa, 08 October 2010 - 08:39 AM.
Posted 30 August 2013 - 09:51 AM
ANTI-ARMENIA GROUP PLANS PROTEST AT AKHTAMAR CHURCH
Akhtamar, Armenian Church, Turkey
ASÄ°MDER, an anti-Armenian Diaspora association that "battles unfounded
Armenian claims," has announced that it will be placing flowers in
front of the Akhtamar Church, in commemoration of Turks killed in 1918,
the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The move is intended to counter a baptism ritual planned by Armenians
in the same historic church in the southeastern province of Van. The
baptism ceremony will be held in the recently restored ancient church
during an annual Divine Liturgy on Sept. 8.
Many Armenians in Turkey and from overseas flock to the 10th century
Church of the Holy Cross on the tiny island of Akhtamar in Armenian
in Lake Van to attend the ceremony, which has been held every year
since 2010. Turkish authorities restored the church between 2005
and 2007 before opening it as a museum, where the Divine Liturgy was
celebrated in 2010 for the first time in 95 years.
This year, a baptism ceremony will also take place during mass at
around 11 a.m. on Sept. 8 in the historical church, said Muzaffer
Aktug, head of the Van Culture and Tourism Directorate, according to
Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos.
Aktug said they expected more people to attend this year's service
due to the ongoing peace process.
Posted 09 September 2013 - 08:18 AM
Holy Mass served in Armenian church at Aghtamar Island on Lake Van
September 09, 2013 | 01:01
VAN. – Ninety-eight years after the Armenian Genocide, the fourth Divine Liturgy was served Sunday in Surp Khach (Holy Cross) Armenian Church at Akhtamar Island on Turkey’s Lake Van.
The event was held without any incidents and in a warm atmosphere (PHOTOS).
This year’s mass stood out by an active participation by Armenians from Armenia, the Armenian News-NEWS.am reporter informs from Van. But numerous Armenians from Turkey likewise attended the divine service.
The Holy Mass was offered by Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, the Armenian Deputy Patriarch of Constantinople, who informed that a baptism ceremony will be held at the church after 100 years. And following the divine service, the members of an Istanbul family, which had returned to their Armenian roots, and five persons from Armenia, including 8-year-old Van, were baptized.
Armenia’s well-known political and public figures, the US Consul in Turkey’s Adana, the mayors of Van and Gevas, an MP representing Van, famous Turkish actor and director Kadir Inanir, and many other well-known officials and individuals also were on hand at the Holy Mass.
The Turkish police were taking security measures at Akhtamar Island and the harbors toward the island. The police boats and helicopters were on duty around Lake Van, and rescue squads and ambulance staff were on duty on the island.
The security officers on Akhtamar Island claimed that about 3,000 people were on the island at the time of the divine service, and more people visited the island throughout the day.
Compare and contrast to this farce. at #530
Posted 29 October 2014 - 12:06 PM
09:50 29/10/2014 » ANALYSIS
Strangely, Turkey did not publicize correcting signpost of Armenian Church
By Harut Sassounian
I just learned that the Turkish government has quietly corrected the signpost near the historic Holy Cross Church (Sourp Khach) on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van, by indicating its “Armenian” origin.
For decades, Turkish authorities systematically concealed the true identity of thousands of Armenian churches and monuments so no one would remember that Armenians lived for thousands of years in lands presently occupied by the Republic of Turkey. By not disclosing the traces of Armenian civilization, Turkish officials calculated that there would be no need to explain the disappearance of Armenians — another manifestation of Turkish denialism.
Back in 2007, the Turkish government held an elaborate opening ceremony after renovating the 10th Century Holy Cross Church. While some Armenians naively participated in this Turkish propaganda exercise, I wrote several critical editorials pointing out that Turkish officials did not permit Armenian church services (except once a year), and refused to allow a cross displayed on its dome. Instead, the Sourp Khach Church was officially designated as a museum and placed under the administration of the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and not under the jurisdiction of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul. Since then, a cross has been placed on the Church dome.
One issue that I failed to mention back in 2007 was the inscription on the signpost leading to the Church. The original signpost made no reference to Armenians either in English or in Turkish. Below is the heading and first words of the previous inscription, written in English:
“Akdamar Island & Monumental Museum. Fee 5 TL [Turkish Liras]. Akdamar Island and Church. Akdamar Church was built by the monks of architects Manuel between 915-921 by the order of Vaspurakan King Gagik I….”
Last week, during a chance encounter in a Glendale Armenian bookstore, Senem Cevik, Assistant Professor at Ankara University, showed me two different photos of the Holy Cross Church signpost. The first, taken by her a year ago, showed the foregoing inscription. The second, taken by one of her colleagues last month, displayed the new inscription that refers to the building as an Armenian Church:
“Akhdamar Armenian Church of the Holy Cross. The Church was built by monk/architect Manuel between 915 and 921, by the order of Gagik I, King of Vaspurakan. Built at the form of a four-leaf clover and under the plan of a cruciform, the church was covered by a dome from inside and by a pyramidal cone from outside. The church has two gates, one at the southern and another at the western side. During subsequent periods, the Chapel of Zacharias I, a jamatun and a bell tower were added to the church and the Chapel of Saint Stephanos was built separately. Built in the name of the Holy Cross, the church has been transformed into a monastery in 1131. On the stone reliefs of the façade of the church, religious scenes taken from the Old and New Testament, palace life, hunting scenes as well as human and animal figures are depicted. These depictions are important as they distinguish the church from similar ones. There are various wall paintings representing descriptions taken from the Bible on the inner side of the church’s walls.”
This new inscription clearly designates Holy Cross, both in English and Turkish, as an Armenian Church. However, there is still a problem. While the church’s name is correctly written in English as Akhtamar, in the Turkish language inscription it is referred to by its Turkified name, Akdamar.
I can only speculate as to why the Turkish government did not make a public announcement regarding the revised inscription of the Sourp Khach Church signpost. Here are some possible reasons:
– Oversight by low-level Turkish officials who did not realize the P.R. value of publicizing the change.
– Reluctance of high-ranking officials to draw attention to the change, fearing that they would appear ridiculous taking credit for something so obvious that should have been done long time ago.
– Concerns by Turkish officials that making public the revised text would impress the outside world, while triggering criticism at home for catering to Armenians.
– Preoccupation of newly-elected Turkish leaders with other urgent matters. They may yet make an announcement at a later date.
It is equally puzzling that no one on the Armenian side, including the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, has made any mention of the revised inscription reflecting the Armenian origin of Holy Cross Church.
One hopes that this single rectification of the Akhtamar Church signpost would be a prelude to similar recognition of Armenian cultural heritage in museums, churches, and monuments all across Turkey, including the City of Ani.
Posted 29 October 2014 - 01:32 PM
The KH in the name is from Toumanians pun, word play, barakhagh AKH-TAMAR, just as in Yerevan we dont know what the Latin X is. Is it KH or GH as XAXOX?
Posted 21 December 2014 - 12:05 AM
good article on Aghtamar in a way. But instituting these niceties as described by the author does not provide justice for the genocide. A nation was criminally destroyed. The genocide also has effectively endangered the future of Armenians as a people. The only proper way to right the wrong is for the return of those lands to the Armenian people. The acknowledgement of the genocide by Turkey and their supporters (the US and Israel) is just a first step. It can't stand on its own, its really meaningless on its own. The return of those lands is the only just final outcome of that Acknowledgment. The turks will never do it on their own and no one will force them to do it, but that is the only proper true way to address the genocide. We really don't need an apology from anyone, Armenians need the homeland back, as outlined in the Treaty of Sevres. This is the key to the future of the Armenian nation. A tiny landlocked nation effectively owned and controlled by the Russians and local mafia elements is not a viable future for the Armenians still living there nor for the slowly assimilating Armenians living abroad.
Posted 23 November 2016 - 01:27 PM
Cross-stones have been recovered from the bottom of Lake Van, Milliyet reports.
The FIVA company, which cleans the bottom of the lake, has found two stones with a cross inscribes and two stone blocks and wooden pieces.
The company has kept relevant bodies informed, but there has been no response so far. “I think there are more stones like this in the bottom of the lake,” company official Ayhan Disari has said.
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