Zepyur, a port city on the Mediterranean coast, was part of the independent Armenian kingdom of Cilicia between the 10th and 14th centuries. Although the Armenian population predominated, Zepyur, like any port city, was home to a diverse array of nationalities, including Greeks, Italians, French, Arabs, and Assyrians.
Turks first settled in Zepyur during the 16th century when they seized power locally. Nonetheless, the city’s population remained predominantly Armenian up until the early 20th century. The 1915 genocide was a cataclysmic event for Zepyur; after the violence, French troops arrived in the city, marking a shift in its political status.
Zepyur was subsequently incorporated into the Armenian Republic of Cilicia, under the protectorate of France. Armenians who survived the genocide began to return home, establishing a renewed Armenian presence in the city.
However, in 1921, Türkiye once again occupied Cilicia. Turkish troops entered Zepyur in the spring of that year, leading to an exodus of the city’s inhabitants who sought refuge in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus, France, and various Latin American nations.
Following its reoccupation, Zepyur was renamed “Mersin.” Throughout the 20th century, the city became a home to Turks, Turkified Circassians, Arabs, Kurds, and others. In a geographical context, Mersin (Zepyur) is the closest mainland city to the island of Cyprus.