Wherever the Turks stick their wicked snout, they, first of all, exterminate people and then destroy the spiritual and cultural heritage of those killed. They have one goal – to destroy all traces of the presence of the peoples native to the land they now live on. The Turks have done this during their existence, which is about five hundred years.
Modern Turks have come up with a more sophisticated way of destroying the spiritual heritage of Armenians as the old methods would no longer work due to the protection of the cultural heritage of Armenians by UNESCO. Now, the Turks claim that in the walls of Armenian churches and even the houses which Armenians used to live in is hidden wealth. This is enough for the greedy Turk to turn ancient structures into dust.
This process is gaining catastrophic momentum, and not only in the territory of Historical Armenia. About a year ago, Vigen Cheterian, a columnist for the “Agos” newspaper, reported that the Turks still continue to plunder churches, monasteries, cemeteries, and other property that has belonged to the community of the historical Syrian city of Midyat for centuries. This is a community of Syrian Christians now living in southern Turkey. The center of their religious life is the famous Mor Gabriel Monastery.
The second news came from Istanbul: the pressure of the religious groups that want to turn the Hagia Sophia into a mosque is increasing again. One of the activists of the Turkish Felicity Party, who led the May 29, 2017, march that advocated the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, said:
“Inside the Hagia Sophia, there is nothing that makes it special. But God told us that this is important.”
May 29, 1453, is the date when Ottoman troops led by Mehmet II conquered the Byzantine capital Constantinople. Hagia Sophia was built in 537. At one point, it had been converted into a mosque and remained as such until the Kemalists turned it into a museum in 1935.
Nevertheless, for many, Hagia Sophia remains a symbol and the best example of Byzantine architecture, and the transformation of this Orthodox masterpiece into a mosque will make it inaccessible for many people.
Cheterian also writes that the entire Middle East is burning today. New conflicts threaten to destroy everything that civilization has accumulated over the course of millennia.
Now, the discourse “Sunni against Shiites” is dominant – this conflict has not been so aggravated since the times of the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1623-1639. The Islamic State is rapidly falling, leaving behind death and destroyed Christian shrines, the priceless archaeological treasures of Palmyra, Nineveh, the Mosul Museum, and the 9th-century mosque of Al-Nuri in the Old City of Mosul in Iraq.
We refuse to learn from our history, ignoring the fact that 1/5 of the population of the Middle East – Orthodox Greeks, Assyrians-Chaldeans, and of course, Armenians – were deported and killed during WWI. Their property was looted by their former neighbors and state. Their cultural heritage and temples were destroyed or, at best, transformed into prisons, stables, and mosques.
Politicians and spiritual leaders pretend that this did not happen. Our intelligentsia is trying to uncover the truth, wants to draw attention to crimes committed on their land, to human rights violations, but people have been and still are indifferent to the death marches in the deserts and the first modern genocides that took place in their own districts and villages.
We do not see that today’s absence of the people native to these lands leads to disastrous consequences for those who remain in the region.
In 1914, there were from 1.1 to 1.7 million Greeks in the Ottoman Empire, 500-600 thousand Assyrians and Chaldeans, and from 1.4 to 2.1 million Armenians. Half of this population was killed during the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The rest were deported or converted to Islam, becoming Turks, Kurds, or Arabs.
Today, there are 3,000 Assyrians in the entirety of Turkey and only 2,000 Greeks. There is no hint that the authorities are thinking about the “threat” of this population to the Turkish state. Nevertheless, the state continues to crush the representatives of these peoples who have survived the genocide and a century of continuous violence.
This is the opinion of one of the leading columnists of the Istanbul Armenian newspaper “Agos” Vigen Cheterian.