Before the horrors of the 1915 genocide, Malatya belonged to the Harput Vilayet. This region contained 279 Armenian villages, 204 Armenian schools, and 307 active Armenian Apostolic churches.
The genocide decimated two-thirds of the Armenian population in Malatya. Many Armenians were forcibly converted to Islam and Turkified, including the parents of renowned figure Hrant Dink. The survivors fled, becoming refugees scattered across the globe. Some of them landed in Yerevan, founding the famous quarter known as “Nor-Malatya” (New Malatya).
Today, there are approximately one million Armenians worldwide whose ancestors were refugees from the Harput Vilayet, with about 500,000 hailing from the Malatya region.
If the Malatian refugees returned to their ancestral home, the population of Malatya would be 1.3 million people, almost 40% (500,000) of which would be Armenians. Furthermore, if the Islamized Armenians (at least 100,000 in Malatya) returned to their Armenian identity, Armenians would constitute 46% of the population.
The remaining 54% of the population would comprise various groups, including Turks (about 24%), Kurds (around 20%), and Arabs, Circassians, among others (10% in total). Thus, if Armenian refugees returned to Malatya, they could become the predominant ethnic group once again, as it was prior to the genocide.
A Brief History of Malatya
Malatya is nestled in the west of the Armenian Taurus mountain range, which is in the southwest of the Armenian Highlands.
In the 2nd millennium BC, it was home to the Indo-European Hetto-Mushki tribes. Some historians mistakenly consider them to have spoken a proto-Armenian language. In fact, these tribes were a conglomerate of related Phrygian, Mushki, Hittite, and Luwian tribes that dwelled on the periphery of the Hittite and Hayasa kingdoms. They switched to the Hayasa language (Armenian), thus becoming part of the Armenian ethnogenesis processes.
Malatya became part of Urartu in the 8th century BC, and from the 6th to 4th centuries BC, it belonged to the Armenian Satrapy. From the 4th to 3rd centuries BC, it was included in the Kingdom of Lesser Armenia, and from the 2nd to 1st centuries BC, it was part of the Armenian Kingdom of Commagene.
From the 1st century BC onwards, Malatya fell under various empires – Greater Armenia, the Roman Empire (as part of the “Third Armenia” province), and the Byzantine Empire (as part of the Armenian theme of Armeniakon).
During the 10th and 11th centuries, it was ruled by different Armenian princely families and was part of the Armenian state of Filaret Varazhnuni.
The Seljuks captured Malatya in the 11th century, marking the beginning of Turkish rule (the Seljuk Empire, followed by the Ottomans). However, the area maintained its predominantly Armenian ethnic composition.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, during international negotiations about the status of Western Armenia, Malatya was always included as part of future autonomous Western Armenia.
In 1914, Russia and Turkey signed the Yenikei Agreement, acknowledging Malatya as part of autonomous Western Armenia.
In 1915, Malatya was subjected to the Armenian genocide by the Turkish authorities, ending the 4,000-year-old Armenian presence in this region.