Armenian Ayntap in Cilicia

Armenian Ayntap in Cilicia

Ayntap (presently Gaziantep) was a city in the south of modern Turkey located on the banks of the Sajur River, a Euphrates tributary. Now, called Gaziantep, it is the administrative center of the Gaziantep Province.

Since the beginning of the 16th century, this city has been part of Turkey. In the 18th century, there were more than 100 villages inhabited exclusively by Armenians in the vicinity of Ayntap. Subsequently, the Turkish authorities settled Kurds here, and the Turkish language was imposed on the Armenians.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Ayntap was 50 thousand people, of which about 20 thousand were Armenians. The local Armenian population was mainly engaged in trade and crafts.

At the end of the 19th century, thanks to the establishment of Armenian schools, the Armenian language re-entered the life of the Armenian population. There were 6 Armenian churches and 17 schools in Ayntap. An Armenian newspaper was based here as well.

During the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the Armenian population of Ayntap was deported to the Deir ez-Zor desert.

After the defeat of Turkey in WWI, the Armenians who had escaped death returned to Ayntap. However, the Turkish authorities continued to implement their policy of persecution of Armenians.

From April 1920 to February 1921, Armenians fought defensive battles against the Turkish assailants. But after the French troops left Cilicia, local Armenians were forced to emigrate to Syria, Lebanon, the US, and many other countries. Part of Ayntapians settled in the Armenian SSR.

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