Below are excerpts from the article by Iraqi writer Laila Qasrani published in the Canadian newspaper “Oye! Times.” Qasrani recently visited Turkey to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide and visit the places mentioned in her latest novel.
“An Arabic proverb says that travel has five advantages. No one probably knows what these advantages are, but I got a lot from my recent trip.
The journey began with my arrival in the southern part of Turkey – in Diyarbakir – to participate in a ceremony dedicated to the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. We paid tribute to the memory of more than a million souls that had been deported and perished in the desert of Syria.
The first thing I did on April 23 was a pilgrimage to the Armenian church of Surb Kirakos. The first person I saw there was Gafur Turkay, who was sitting in the courtyard of the church with several French men and women, as well as some Kurds who had discovered that their grandparents were Armenians, which motivated them to convert back to Christianity, the faith of their people.
It was a gloomy, cold day when I visited the “Cry of silence” exhibition by French photographer of Armenian descent Antoine Agujian. That evening, I again went to the Armenian church to attend a concert by pianist Raffi Petrosyan.
To my surprise, the majority of the audience were Kurds from Diyarbakir, as well as many Armenians who arrived from Europe, especially from France, and from other parts of the globe. City officials and the mayor of Diyarbakir attended the ceremony as well.
In the meantime, we went to the ruins of the Armenian church of Surb Sarkis which had been used by the Ottomans as a weapons depot during World War I. We stood in front of the church to draw attention to the need for its restoration.
When the official speeches ended, we gathered under the ruins where the holy altar had once stood. Some Armenian women and men formed a spontaneous choir and began to sing the anthem of Armenian composer Komitas “Ter voghormya” (“Lord, have mercy”). Perhaps for the first time in more than 100 years, prayer has risen from this place.”