142 Armenians leave Turkey in one day amid rising anti-Armenian sentiment

One hundred forty-two Armenians left Turkey yesterday amid rising anti-Armenian sentiment following Azerbaijani-Armenian clashes, according to a tweet by Yetvart Danzikyan, editor-in-chief of the Agos newspaper, published in both Turkish and Armenian.

“142 of the Armenian nationals living in Turkey returned to their country today,” Danzikyan said in his tweet. “I know only a handful of people will care. We are losing. We are losing and bleeding all together.”

Clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the southern Caucasus have triggered a new wave of anti-Armenian sentiment in Turkey, exploited and fueled by ultranationalist elements, and has increased the pressure on its Armenian citizens.

In a previous interview with The National, Danzikyan said, “Whether it’s Karabakh or a decision taken by the US legislature on [recognizing] the Armenian genocide, unfortunately, Turkish-Armenians feel that the spotlight is suddenly turning on them, and of course it creates anxiety among them.”

A demonstration was held by Turkish nationalists in front of the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul last month to protest Armenia and support Azerbaijan. Describing the move as a provocation by the Turkish government, Garo Paylan, an Armenian-Turkish deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), warned authorities, saying: “I call on the government to take the necessary measures for our patriarchate and [Armenian] institutions. The result of hate speech is hate crime. Put an end to the politics of hate!”

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an HDP deputy and human rights activist, also questioned the approval for the demonstration granted by Turkish authorities, asking whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was planning for “new September 6-7 incidents.“ The lawmaker was referring to the 1955 İstanbul pogrom against minorities, including Greeks, Armenians and Jews.

Several attacks have targeted the Armenian community in Istanbul this year. In May a man had attempted to set fire to the gate of the Dznunt Surp Asdvadzadzni Church in İstanbul’s Bakırköy district. Three weeks later, a crucifix from the gate of the Armenian Surp Krikor Lusaroviç Church in the Kuzguncuk district, on the Asian side of Istanbul, was ripped down. A threatening letter was also sent to the Hrant Dink Foundation, which was established in 2007 following the assassination of Hrant Dink, the founder of the Agos weekly.

In August some of the graves in the Armenian cemetery of either the Surp Pırgiç or Karasun Manug church foundation in the Sincan district of Ankara were desecrated.

A hate-speech report by the Hrant Dink Foundation, titled “Hate Speech and Discriminatory Discourse in Media 2019 Report,” revealed that Armenians, Syrian refugees and Greeks were at the top of the list of groups targeted with hate speech by the Turkish media in 2019.

According to the report, Armenians were the most targeted group in 2019 with 803 hate speech items. They have been portrayed as enemies and associated with violence, terrorism and massacres in the context of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict.

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