23 October 2012

3374) A Turk, a Kurd, and an Armenian Walk into a Church

by Khatchig Mouradian


We had met the culprits earlier, near the lake—a large herd of sheep that covered the landscape stretching between two hills. (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)

We park the car near Lake Van and start our long hike towards the side of a hill where the ruins of a medieval Armenian monastery await us. It is a long hike over uneven surfaces thoroughly sprinkled with dry manure. We had met the culprits earlier, near the lake—a large herd of sheep that covered the landscape stretching between two hills. A few shepherds greeted us and offered some tea.

After nearly an hour, the church is in clear view. “I have never walked this long to get to a mosque!” one of my companions, a Kurdish activist from Diyarbakir, jokes.

I smile, but I also want to use the opportunity to make a point to everyone in our small group. “You know, I do not hike for hours to get to churches in the U.S. Or anywhere else for that matter,” I say half-jokingly. “This is about genocide, dispossession, and a search for meaning…”
. . .


He knows.

I am being preachy, my American friend’s eyes are telling me. I notice the box of Turkish delights she’d purchased earlier protruding from her handbag. “Your bag is so delightful,” I say, attempting to be funny. We soldier on.

“This is about genocide, dispossession, and a search for meaning…” (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian),

The monastery, historically known as Garmravak, but called Gorundu Kilisesi by locals after the nearby village, is perched majestically on the side of a hill. Two large holes on its dome face each other, indicating that the church was cannonballed before being left to the mercy of the forces of nature. Still, beautiful khatchkars (Armenian cross-stones) and engravings adorn the outside walls of the scarred, ravaged church.

We walk in. My Turkish companion, a soft-spoken urban designer from Istanbul, points to a large hole dug in the middle of the church: Treasure hunters have been here! After six trips to historic Armenian villages and towns over the past two years alone, this is an all too familiar sight for me.

A few minutes later, I am alone in the church. I slide my hand on its walls ceremoniously, like I have done with every single church I have visited in historic Armenia. I know it gives me strength.

I would like to believe that the church also wants a reassuring hand telling it, “Hang in there! I know in my heart that we will be whole again one day.”

Two large holes on its dome face each other, indicating that the church was cannonballed before being left to the mercy of the forces of nature. (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)


Beautiful khatchkars (Armenian cross-stones) and engravings adorn the outside walls of the scarred, ravaged church. (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)


“Hang in there! I know in my heart that we will be whole again one day.” (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)


About author
Khatchig Mouradian is the editor of the Armenian Weekly, the program coordinator of the Armenian Genocide Program at Rutgers University, and a PhD candidate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. He has lectured extensively and participated in academic conferences in Armenia, Austria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Norway, Switzerland, Syria, Turkey, and across the U.S. Write to him: editor@armenianweekly.com. Follow him on Twitter: http://twitter.com/khatcho

Armenian Weekly Editor Khatchig Mouradian just returned from a trip to Dikranagerd/Diyarbakir, Sassoun, and Van. This is the first in a series of articles written about that trip.


Comments
Chris, October 18, 2012
As I will probably never have the money or stamina to make the journey myself, given that my mother’s family originated in Van, I look forward to making the journey vicariously through your upcoming articles.

Armen Kassabian, October 18, 2012
A moving story. Wonderfully written article by Khatchig Mouradian.

Jacques Oskanian, October 18, 2012
I love this article that Khatchig Mouradian wrote… Must be read…

Tim Upham, October 18, 2012
Figuratively, that would be great if a Turk, Kurd, and Armenian could all walk into a church together. When I saw the khatchkars strewed around in Van, that constantly crossed my mind. I was with a photographer, who was photographing them for a calendar. When the calendar was completed, I gave one to a social worker at a refugee resettlement agency. He was Kurdish, and he was resettling Kurdish refugees from northern Iraq into the United States. We talked about how the Armenians were refugees after World War I, and how the Kurds were refugees after Iraq’s Anfal campaign, and how this calendar can serve as a reminder of both people who suffered. He said he was very much aware of what the Kurds did to the Armenians during World War I, and how the Kurds are now in the same position. Which showed us both, that human rights abuse is perpetual, and how an oppressor can turn into the oppressed.

WR, October 18, 2012
At the end of the article you mentioned Digranagerd/Dyarbakir. Dyarbakir is not the former Digranagerd. Dyarbakir was called Amida in the past. Digranagerd was situated at the town of Silvan. Between Silvan and Aghdam (Artsakh), where he also had a castle, King Dikran was ruling his kingdom from three more castles, most probably all called Digranagerd.

RVDV, October 19, 2012
There is the city of Diyarbakir and the province of Diyarbakir. I’ve read that Dikranagerd is located near Silvan- which is in Diyarbakir province.

Sarkis, October 19, 2012
There are supposed to be several Dikranagerts. The one in Artsakh is indeed on the road from Aghdam heading north, not far from the river Khachenaget, located on our liberated lands. The Azeris had ruined it and completely buried it underground.
Now it has been being excavated by Armenian explorers and revealed. It has foundations similar to Amaras church in the south. I was there in 2011.
There’s also a second church in Dikranagert up the hill behind the museum.
Sorry, but it seems to be impossible up upload pics.

AraK, October 18, 2012
Very touching!

Sebouh der Avedissian, October 19, 2012
My late Mother always referred to herself as Dickranagertsi and so did her relatives that were found over the years, so there has to be some connection between Diyarbakir and Dickranagerd. RVDV is probably right that Dickranagerd is in the province of Diyarbakir rather than the two being the old and new names of the same city.

Sarkis, October 19, 2012
Beautiful story, touching choice of words!
It gives us strength too!
Thank you for sharing it with us.

Maral M. K., October 19, 2012
Thank you for the meaningful and inspiring article Khatchig.

istanbul, October 19, 2012
Wellcome to home Mr. Muradyan. You are touching to souls as well, and i beilive that, souls’ nationalty is humanty.

i wish you can stay and live here, in your motherland.

ARx, October 21, 2012
We already stayed and lived there, in our motherland, istanbul-Christian Constantinople. And what did the Turks do to us? Now we’re “invited” to live there again among unrepentant, unremourseful, unapologetic Turks? No, thanks. We will live there as free Western Armenia not Republic of Turkey.

gaytzag palandjian, October 20, 2012
With due respect to all [posters.All are in praise of the fanciful and well compossed article by Mr. Kh.Muradian.no doubt.
But only the last two are to be commented upon by me as STRANGE,to say it rather softly…
I refer ,first to Mara M.K.’s one totally out of place word “inspiring”
what on earth dloes she wish to convey _-=-
That we be inspired as to what,that the great Turkey is to offer us on silver platter thoe half ruined churches some day,or what inspiring us to do what…
As to the last one, in spanish one would say ,”esto ya es el colmo”
translated, this is already the top or summit…meaning “irritating” sickening.. I WISH YOU CAN STAY AND LIVE ,IN YOUR MOTHERLAND…
wHAT iSTANBULLA, HAVE YOU GUYS DECIDED TO WELCOME US BACK TO OUR LANDS AND STAY AND LIVE THERE…
INDEED, THIS IS A VERY incognito phrase…..
What come and live side by side with people that near ……did us in….
AND UNDER THEIR VERY PROTECTIVE RULE/FLAG…
Are you in search of more Tashnags ,who took the bait..in 1908, when the Young Turks were supposedly comrades in arms with the Armenian Young?
If there are Armenians who still believe that the Turk has changed.They are welcome to go and live with those Arkadash Turks.Not those like me who have truly accepted with my father hs nmarrated to me (from Erzeroum , till age 17 and on till 38 ion Istanbulla!!!!
I know enough to say to God allmighty PLEASE KEEP THE FRONTIERS WITH GREAT TURKEY CLOSED FOR AS LONG AS JUSTICE HAS NOT BEEN DELIVERED TO MY ARMENIAN PEOPLE.REPENTERS REALLY KNEELED DOWN LIKE THE GERMAN chancellor at Aushwitz and begged forgiveness OFFICIALLY AND THEN HIS GOV. AND SUCCESSIVE ONES PAYING ABUNDENTLY TO THE VICTIMS HEIRS…..
THEN WE SHALL GO AND LIVE -NO NOT WITHIN THEM BUT SIDE BY SIDE AND RESPECTING EA OTHER EQUALLY AND TRY TO BE CIVIL-LIKE.LIKE GERMANY AND FRANCE,LIKE gERMANYU AND iSRAEL….
THAT IS AFTER SETTLING PENDING ACCOUNTS….THIS BTW WHAT i TOLD THE TURK AFTER pROF. rICHARD g. hOVANIISIAN IANS DISCOURSE AT A u.s. UNIVERSITY ,WHEN i TOLD THE EX OFFICER tURK AND HE WENT AWAY MUTTERING YES SETTLE THE ACCOUNTS SETTLE THE ACCOUNTS(AFTER i HAVE TOLD HIM YOU ARE RIGHT WE SHOULD LIVE LIKE BEFORE SIDE BY SIDE AS BROTHERS AND SISTERS…
iN BRIEF THEY WILL SOON-MARK MY WORD SOON-COME AND KNEEL AT tSITSERNAKAPERT,LIKE jEMAL PASHA´S GRANDSON DID.BUT…..
NO REPARATIONS NO RESTORATIONS NO GIVING BACK WHAT THEY CONFISCATED FROM MY UNCLES AND GRANDFATHER…
tHOSE ARE BYGONE, A SMART tURK WOULD TRY TO CONVINCE SOME OF US NOW tURKEY IS A VERY dEMOCRATIC COUNTRY.aLL NEIGHBOURS RESPECT AND ARE KIND TOWARDS US.YOU SHOULD ALSO FOLLOW THEM….
mY gOD HOW SIMPLE DO THEY THINK THE THICK OF OUR PEOPLE ARE. oNLY A FEW YES.LIKE THE bISHOP IN gERMANYU WHO KINDLY ENTERTAINED VISTING tURKS,COME FOR SOFTENING AND ……(READ hAIRENIK mR. kH.mURADIAN´S aRMENIAN VERSION nEWSPAPER..THEN UPON NEARING I CANNOT BELIEVE MY EYES THE fOOL OF A bISHOP THAT ONE KISSES THEM GOODBYE….aSK ME NEXT i SHALL GIVE DETAILS TOMORROW …NEWSPAPEERS DATE AND ALL…
wE DO HAVE SOME LIKE THAT ONE…

istanbul, October 20, 2012
Dear Gaytzag Palandjian, I am a Turk, i was born in Yozgat, have been living in ?stanbul. I dont know which country you are living? I have been living with Armenians in here from my childhood, like lots of other Turkish people.
Turkey and Turkish people are changing, this is not about democracy, because they are learning, we didnt know what happend in the history. In Turkey right know more than 30 different ethnic group living together, of course i am not talking about a dream country. Turkey will change faster because people want to learn truths. I am not inviting Armenians to my home, here is your home as well, here is my motherland like yours. This is my feelings and my opinons, like my wife, my little kid, my friends and lots of people from here.

My English is not very good sorry about it, but i am sure you can understand me, we are not from same mother but we are from same motherland.
Best wishes from Republic of Motherlands.

ARx, October 20, 2012
Yes, istanbul (originally Constantinople–the capital of Christian Byzantine empire), there in modern-day Turkey, long before the intrusion of the Seljuk Turks, was Armenians’ home as well, and there was our motherland before almost all the Armenian inhabitants were savagely mass murdered and forcibly deported by the Turks. What do you, Turks, should do now? Apologize to the descendants of the victims or attempt to lessen your guilt by saying “we didn’t know what happened in history”? This is not something that a 21st-century man should say. In the era of the Internet and digital access to materials in various world repositories, to say “we didn’t know what happened in history” is lame and immature… or just Turkish.

boyajian, October 21, 2012
Istanbul, yes, many Turks and Armenians and others live peacefully beside each other in Turkey. But that doesn’t change the fact that your people, your government, your nation must admit to the savage crime committed under the cover of WWI and apologize and make reparations. Without this there will never be healing and real peace. It is no longer acceptable to say “we didn’t know.” You know now. What will you do?

jda, October 21, 2012
istanbul, what we call Bolis,
Your comments are humane.

However your state and culture are not hospitable to Greeks, Armenians, Gypsies, Assyrians, Europeans or Arabs. “Armenian” is an insult in common usage.

If you want to see what my grandmother lived through, watch the first 12 minutes of America America, in which Armenians are burned alive in their vilage church.

Your Generals and Admirals are still killing Christians, as was the case in Malatya. The killers encouraged each other to bring extra towels to soak up the blood.

Your state wants every single Armenian dead. Those in Yerevan, and those in Turkey. Do not be deceived by the spread of liberalism into believing Genocide is in the past. Your countymen simply ran out of Armenians in the east to kill.

necati, October 21, 2012
Istanbul,
I was same as you , a humanist, before i met AW.

After 2 years of conversation with them, now i am an ultra-nationalist/anti-ermenian.

I thank all of ermenians who helped me to find reality.

Margo Babikian, October 20, 2012
Beautiful writing.And great photos too.

Tom Vartabedian, October 20, 2012
A story written wuth passion and meant to elucidate a community. May not have been uncovered unless somelike took the time and effort to perceive such a subject matter. The striking photography is a further complement.

HarryA, October 20, 2012
I am thankful for Khacho for posting this article and bring to readers attention the state of monuments in former Armenian capital, the historic city of Van. I like to add the following clarification, the Karmrakvank is the historic monastery on shores of Lake Van and the church is Surp Astvadzadzin. I strongly recommend reading the details on “www virtualani org / karmrakvank”. There are large number of Armenian churches scattered all around lake Van, and this is one of the surviving example, the largest complex is the monastery of Varakavank, with seven churches. On first week of October, the Varakavank was in headline news, when the owner of the church decided to secure a permits to build a mosque in the grounds of this church complex, an Armenian Activist Nadia Oygun exposed the story and let the world know, it turned out the owner of the church complex is Fatih Altayli, the chief editor and owner of Haberturk. She was successful in cornering this Turkish media mogul and force him to corner where he agreed on returning the SEVEN CHURCHs to the Armenian Patriarchate of Bolis OR the Turkish antiquity department… not calling a victory yet, but the news is very welcoming and need to be echoed in Armenian and world media.

gaytzag palandjian, October 20, 2012
Dear ARx,
You have amply contested/replied to Istanbulla.
I have neithr the disposition nor time to write and explain more …to some one who writes like he does.Very much ala turca.

Priam, October 20, 2012
Upon entering the Church, the Armenian will ask “where is the Russian?”, the Turk will pinch him to wake him up from his dream since it is Turkish territory, then the Armenian will take it personal (because the Armenian Catholicos who lives in Russia has hijacked his brain) a fight will break out between the two, the Kurd who sees this from a distance will join in acting with his heart rather than his logic & the Kurd will kill the Armenian to help the Turk, hence he does not have a protectorate as Armenia (France, Russia, Great Britian) and feels safer with the Turk. (In hindsight looking at the Syrian’s, Palestinian’s, Iraqi’s who have resisted zionism & have been doomed to fail)

Sella, October 21, 2012
Priam,
What a wild and sick imagination you have.

Tim Upham, October 21, 2012
I am sure the Kurds feel safe with Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The Great Powers are no longer intervening on the Armenians behalf. That is when they were subjects of the Ottoman Empire. The Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to settle it out themselves.

Armen Kassabian, October 21, 2012
Dear ARx,
I appreciate your comment about unrepetant, unremorseful, and unapolgetic Turks. It is certainly true that there are many in the population who may feel that way. That being said, there may be a few Turks who are remorseful. I don’t know without speaking directly to them. In my opinion, boundaries of countries, in general, can only be changed by force of arms. The alternative is dialogue and education from a place of reconciliation with preservation of integrity and justice. Blanket condemnation of every Turk is certainly the right of every one, but may not be an effective strategy. Just my 2 cents.

ARx, October 22, 2012
Perhaps there are remorseful Turks, but I haven’t seen single Turk posting in these pages who’d unambiguously say: “my nation has perpetrated genocide against the Armenians–i.e. a deliberate mass extermination of a particular ethnic group–and I personally offer an apology to the descendants of the innocent victims”.

Boundaries of countries can be changed not only by force of arms. Internal disintegration, revolution, and self-determination movements also change boundaries. Consider the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Kosovo, to name a few.

Avery, October 22, 2012
One Turkish individual, RVDV, who visits us regularly @AW has unambiguously stated that he, as a Turk by choice, has no doubt that OT and CUP Turks committed Genocide against Armenians.

He has in fact gone beyond mere acceptance: he strongly and proactively confronts Denialists of all stripes on the pages of AW.

Regarding the apology: my personal feeling is that no individual Turk needs to apologize for the deeds of people who they had no control over. If they apologize, fine: nice of them to do so. If they don’t: no strike against them, as I see it.

But for me it is far more important for righteous Turks to confront and shame their Denialist compatriots everywhere they find them, and join us in our efforts to defeat the worldwide AG Denialist campaign. Merely accepting the AG in the year 2012 is too little, too late.

Tim Upham, October 22, 2012
I have interviewed people, who were taken in and hidden by Turkish and Kurdish families. One woman told me, how a Turkish family hid them in a cellar. If the Armenians did not know Turkish, they would make up another minority like Arab, or say they were deaf. Villages were combed all of the time for hidden Armenians. So their task was just as dangerous as Poles hiding Jews. There needs to be an Avenue of the Righteous Gentile for those Turkish and Kurdish families, and the three Ottoman governors who got removed from office, when they refused to have the Armenians removed from their provinces.

john the turk, October 21, 2012
HarryA
You said Fatih Altayli who is owner of the church was going to built a mosque but he was exposed. What kind of person are you? Fatih Altayli most probably doesn’t believe in any religion let alone he will built a mosque. Why do you need to distort something you really do not have to do? I think that this is an Armenian habit to change or distort the stories ha?

Betty Apigian Kessel (Serpouhie from Keghi), October 21, 2012
I continue to be overwhelmed at the beauty of our ancient Armenian churches. I had to bear the unbearable, to view Mouradian’s magnificent photos of Akhtamar knowing it is considered a museum. How simply magnificent it must have been for Arshile Gorky (Vosdqanig Adoian) to have lived near Akhtamar and to have been inspired by its unbelievable surroundings to create his marvelous paintings. We Armenians long for the return of our lands and for our people to be reunited for the good of all Armenians everywhere. If I can never make this same trip, I hope Mouradian continues to do so for enriching all of us with his knowledge and sensitivity to his dedication to being Hye. Please continue to reveal the Republic of Armenia and Historic Armenia to me. I love and treasure looking at all the photos with amazement and pure wonder. I remain proud of Armenian art and dedication to their Christian faith. I too want to run my hands over the surface of the church’s walls and to feet the art work, if not on earth, then in Heaven.

istanbul, October 21, 2012
Hi again, first off all, i will not change my mind, i beilive that this country belong to many different origin people. Who feel belong to this land they must be live here.
History is bad, not only for Turks also for other nations, even all nations.
Istanbul was constantinapole sure but before Khalkedon (Greek colony, now Kad?köy) before, a neolithic settlement (now Fikirtepe, also neolithic settlement in Sarayburnu) before paleolithic settlement in the Yar?mca caves, at that time there was no nation. Nation is not very old if you think the human history. Probably somebody want to use people that is why they produced ‘nation’ ‘religon’ they need nationalist and religois people, because this kind of people dont need to think they just beilive. I have read many racist coments in Armenian weekly, from Turks and Armenians. I beilive that, they have same surname only their names different.
Best wishes from motherland.

gaytzag palandjian, October 22, 2012
Istanbull*la..is now turned the page and is advocating the soviet style…that of All nations are one___
My foot especially the turks of Axerbaiajn and great Turkey.
The first one, the AXER…after 70 yrs of harsh soviet rule*also advocating BROTHERHOOD….did not push any brotherhood into the Axerbaijai*turkish heads.As to Contantinopla…welll my Armerican crossing latter,rather staying there a few days, before coming to meet me*us -on business in T..in 1953,told us , that he has seen the maddened, ferocious Truks of Istanbulla burning stores of Greek ownership on main Istanbul*la thoroughfares-streets.
he was then incognizant that his country the U.s. would as of that date appoint great Turkey as its main ally in the Middle Easat*and Israel…pumping into both over a HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS…with no return condition …now, we are seeing how the effect has been especially in great Turkey…
Hence to talk of NO NATION AND BROTHERHOOD NEIGHBOURLY COUNTRIES and that of a person of Turkish origin is tantamount to ZERO.
Certainly like some above have noted there may be ONE or a few in a million that feel and opine differently but the majority is what it is unfortunately AND BELIEVE YOU ME ARMENIANS IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS WILL NOT BE TAKEN IN AGAIN AND AGain…

Hakan, October 22, 2012
all radicals…before you start telling you fabricated lies..tell me why did your radical superstars husnak and tucnak kill neutral armenians businessman, priests and so on..why? because these radicals where inhuman..posined with Russian propaganda..of great armenia…and than radicals started to kill destroy kurdish and turkish muslim villages like in 1912 in the Balkan wars…because of orthodox evil radicals muslims turks bosniaks and albanians , chechens laz tatars were all killed and displaced in millions…before you ask as anything..first admit ask us for forgiveness for your evil deeds. Radicals choose the wrong side..that’s all..blame your radicals …thanks

.

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