Armenian graves desecrated amid climate of hostility towards minority groups in Turkey

Vandalized cemetary

Some of the graves in the Armenian cemetery of either the Surp Pırgiç or Karasun Manug church foundation in the Sincan district of Ankara have been desecrated amid a growing climate of hostility and repression towards minority groups in Turkey, the Kronos news reported.

The incident was first reported by Diana Yayloyan, a researcher working on Armenian-Turkish Normalization Projects for TEPAV, an Ankara-based think tank. According to her account, the graves were probably vandalized during an attempt to find items of value such as gold teeth.

Talking to Kronos about the incident, İstanbul deputy and vice chairman of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Mustafa Yeneroğlu said it was an embarrassment that the graves were vandalized and that the bones of the deceased were scattered. “The bones need to be buried again and the area must be secured. To be civilized one has to preserve cemeteries and cultural heritage,” Yeneroğlu said.

The attack reflects a growing climate of hostility and repression towards minority groups in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In May a pro-government magazine, Gerçek Hayat, published a special 176-page edition that accused Armenians and other Christians in Turkey of terrorist activities and of participating in a failed coup in 2016.

On May 23 a man ripped a cross from the gate of the Armenian Surp Krikor Lusaroviç (Saint Gregory the Illuminator) Church in the Kuzguncuk district, on the Asian side of İstanbul. Less than three weeks before this attack a man had attempted to set fire to the gate of the Dznunt Surp Asdvadzadzni Church in İstanbul’s Bakırköy district.

Yeneroğlu said, after learning about the incident on social media, he had discussed the issue with Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavaş. According to Yeneroğlu, Yavaş is personally following the matter. “I would like to thank him,” he said. “Preserving the memory of all those who lived in these lands is among our most important responsibilities to the next generations.”

Ankara’s Sincan district was in the news last week with the rescue of a 24-year-old Yazidi slave by her relatives. The woman was originally abducted from Iraq by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants during the Sinjar massacre in August 2014 and sold to an ISIS militant who brought her to a house in Sincan, where she lived with his two wives and four children. Her family was able to broker a deal with the militant for her release.

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