An ancient Armenian cemetery in Turkey’s eastern province of Van was destroyed by bulldozers last week and bones were strewn on the ground, sparking outrage from the Armenian community and opposition politicians, reported the Mezopotamya news agency.
Murat SarÄ±saÃ§ of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) submitted a parliamentary question on the incident calling for a full investigation. “We have seen that tombstones have been destroyed and bones have been scattered,” he said in a speech to parliament. âThere have been previous incidents where churches and cemeteries have been desecrated because sufficient security measures were not taken. “
SarÄ±saÃ§ said the authorities need to be more careful when it comes to protecting Armenian religious and cultural heritage sites.
Gayane Gevorgyan, an Armenian living in Van, said cemeteries such as the one destroyed in Van were very important to the Armenian diaspora. “Many descendants of Armenians who were victims of the atrocities and forced deportations perpetrated in 1915 are looking for the remains of their families in these cemeteries,” she said. âThey commemorate their dead in these cemeteries, but they were deprived of them. “
According to Gevorgyan, new apartment complexes will be built on the cemetery site. She said it was heartbreaking and urged landowners to stop digging and destroying land that once served as cemeteries.
It was not the first Armenian cemetery to be damaged, with an old Armenian cemetery destroyed during construction in Ankara’s Ulus neighborhood as part of a gentrification project in March.
Concerns over the preservation of Armenian cultural and religious sites in Turkey have increased. On January 27, the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos reported that an old Armenian church was allegedly rebuilt after its destruction in a 1603 rebellion in the western province of KÃ¼tahya which was on the preservation list of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism was demolished after being acquired by an individual.
Just ten days earlier, Agos had reported that a 19th-century Armenian church had been listed for sale on a Turkish real estate website. In the ad, the church, located in Bursa, was described as “perfect for a tourist attraction as it is in a UNESCO protected area”.
The seller, whose name was not disclosed, also said the church was a good investment as it could be “used as a hotel, museum or art gallery.”
The Armenian Surp Toros Church, built in 1835 in the Turkish province of Kayseri, was vandalized in June by treasure hunters.