Armenian Church As A Sheep Corral – How Armenians Of Kharberd Preserved The Cultural Structure

This time, as part of our exploration of Historical Armenia, we will go to the northwest to see who lives in historical Kharberd and what historical and cultural treasures we have remaining there.

Today, only 10 Armenian families live in Kharberd, but it is thought that the number of Armenians here exceeds 3000. This is questionable though because not all of them openly speak about their nationality or participate in public life.

In almost all the settlements of Historical Armenia, if you look for Armenians who have preserved their Armenian identity, there will certainly be people who will tell how their grandparents miraculously survived the massacre or became Kurds and Turks in order to save their lives.

Kharberd is one of the historical settlements of Historical Armenia and for centuries was an obstacle to trade relations of past superpowers.

There are many versions of the origin of the name Kharberd. Some argue that Kharberd was named after the nearby village of Khar. Another group of historians mentions that it originates from the name of the fortress Kharo – a stone fortress associated with the local historical fortress.

The inhabitants of Kharberd built their legendary fortress here more than 4,000 years ago in the times of the Kingdom of Van. They named their legendary fortress Kharberd, but today, Turkish historiography is trying to erase everything connected with the Armenians.

The name Kharberd does not exist today in official sources or in the public consciousness. Elazığ – this is how Kharberd is now called. It’s sometimes also called Harput, which seems to be distorted “Kharberd”.

However, when you talk to the locals, they recall that people still sometimes call their city Kharberd because that is the name the Armenians used before the Genocide.

In Kharberd, we met local Armenian Mustafa Balaban.

He spoke about the current state of the Armenian city, the Armenian region, and the social situation of the Armenians. Mustafa Balaban regretfully said that local Armenians often cannot unite to preserve the existence of any Armenian values but immediately added with joy that they had recently managed to unite to prevent the destruction of the Armenian Protestant Church in Kharberd.

And they succeeded.

In the spring of 2017, the media talked a lot about the Armenian Protestant Church in Kharberd. The Armenian Church is registered under the name “Assyrian Church” in the list of cultural and natural heritage conservation of Diyarbakir.

However, this did not prevent the local government from trying to demolish the century-old structure. Turkish building owner Joshkun Duran received permission to build a hotel on the site of the church.

To officially privatize the building (which is Christian heritage), Turkish experts stated that the building cannot be religious since it has two floors and many windows.

Before that, the Armenian Protestant Church was used as a flour mill, a fair, and a corral for sheep. Located in the right-center of Kharberd, now, it is one of the most popular parking lots in the city. Not only the area around the church but also the inside of the building are used for parking.

People had to fight to save the national monument. And they fought and succeeded, not only preventing the demolition of the church but also arranging the restoration of the building as a monument of history and culture.

“Come to Kharberd soon. This is also Armenia,” Mustafa Balaban said.

Saying goodbye to us in Kharberd, our local compatriot promised on his next visit to show other Armenian historical and architectural structures of Kharberd and also promised to introduce us to other people of Kharberd.

Nairi Hokhikyan, Նաիրի Հոխիկյան,

Mustafa Balaban

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