Bell Tolls for Armenians Once Again in Diyarbakir

The bell tower of Sourp Giragos Church (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)

Armenian Weekly correspondent Gulisor Akkum reports from Diyarbakir.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—The bell tower of Sourp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir was opened today and, after decades of silence, the bell tolled once again for Armenians.

The Sourp Giragos Church bell (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)

Acting Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, who is originally from Diyarbakir/Dikranagerd, presided over the opening ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of Armenians from Turkey and abroad.

The Sourp Giragos Foundation of the Patriarchate began the renovation of the church in 2009, and the church opened for worship in October 2011. Due to a lack of funding, however, the bell tower was not rebuilt.

At the opening ceremony of the bell tower, the head of the Sourp Giragos Foundation, Ergun Ayik, said, “This church was once a beautiful, living proof of the Armenian population density in this city. Its architecture stands as testament to how advanced Armenian civilization was.”

He added, “Our ancestors bequeathed this church to us, yet for known reason, we weren’t able to claim ownership of this heritage. The renovation marked the beginning of the process of assuming this ownership.”

The director of Aras Publishing House, Mgrditch Margosyan, in turn, recounted how 12 years ago, at a symposium on the protection of Diyarbakir’s cultural and historical heritage, speakers were only discussing fortresses and mosques. “When my turn came to speak, I brought up the issue of the churches. I suppose such messages eventually rang a bell.”

Indeed, with the moral and financial support of Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, the renovation of the church was completed, and, once more, after decades of silence, the sound of the church bell was heard in Diyarbakir side by side with the calls to prayer from the city’s mosques. (For details on the renovation, click here.)

Built in 1376, Sourp Giragos is the largest Armenian church in the Middle East. During the Armenian Genocide, the bell tower was demolished under the pretext that it was higher than the minarets of the mosques in the city, and the church itself was used as storage space for confiscated Armenian property. After World War I, Sumerbank (a state-owned bank) used the church as storage space. (Click here for a detailed history of the church.)

Translated from Turkish by Khatchig Mouradian.

Gulisor Akkum

Gulisor Akkum

Gulisor Akkum is a journalist based in Diyarbakir. She received her sociology degree in 2003 from Dicle University. She has written articles for the Armenian Weekly since 2009, and is the Weekly's correspondent in Diyarbakir since October 2012.


  1. A point of information.
    I have heard that a church in Diar Bekir was used by the Ottomans during the Genocide as a prison; when packed with Armenian leaaders and others, it was sealed and burned. Is it the same church? Is what I’ve heard factual?
    Aida Kouyoumjian

  2. The bell does not and will not sound right until the crime of genocide has not been recognized by the Turkish government, till then it will remind me the lose of my grandparents families their wealth and belongings with cultural traditions of hundreds of years.

  3. Until there are worms walking on our lands we have no reason to celebrate such events…. The bells will sound much better when Anatolia is set free and back to it’s rightful owners, us, the Armenians !

    • Thanks for the pictures, but if I’m understanding it right, after reading your passage about the Armenian Genocide… “In turn Turks also suffered massacres”… I am not impressed with what you have to say. There is no justification for genocide, regardless how you describe the reaction to it.

    • No, I don’t, and I can’t, justfy it, sorry if you understand that, I only tried to contextualize the historic moment, never to justfy, regards!

  4. Once a year, as in Akhtamar’s Sourp Khatch? In the best Turkish intolerant, xenophobic, self-centered tradition?

    No church reconstruction or bell-ringing can substitute the official recognition of and reparations for the genocide.

  5. This is a quite important achivement for ermenians .

    I congratulate RVDV, Members of BDP/PKK and its supporter kurds, AKP and Erdogan on this historic event…!

  6. Sr- Jose Luis Sanchez,
    He mirado en las fotos que usted ha sometido a esta ^Pagina Web Armenia.
    Para comencar la REgion no se llamma, Anatolia-nombre inventado/aplicado por los Turcos a esta Region Armenia del Oeste.Diarbakir no es el nombre original Armenio de la Ciudad, sino que Dikranakert(quiere deicr ,o significa , Echo por Dikran) Un Rey nuestor que era llamado Rey de lo Reyes ,haver conquistado varios paises adyacentes a lo nuestro, Armenia.
    No nos pueden convencer que ¨viene la Primavera con tan solo una flor¨dicho Armenio…
    Esta gente -como siempre-es decir su diplomacia va soltando una Iglesia o Catedral Armenia cada 3 años…Antes hizieron lo mismo con Akhtamar, construido por el Rey Armenio Gagik Artzruni HACE MIL AÑOS…
    Cuando la renovaron y dejaraon abierto al publcio no habia La Cruz encima.
    Luego permitieron celebrar Misa tan solo una vez…hace ya 3/4 años..
    Y ahora desde ahce año y medio nos estan tratando de tenercontento con esta Iglesia.La REgion es mayoriamente K U R D O ….
    El Alcalde Baydemir tambien Kurdo.No se sabe como le permiten las autoridades Turcos ayudar en la renovacion de Esta casi Catedral iglesia Armenia-Desde luego muy ESTRAÑO…cuando no hay relaciones Diplomaticas entre la Republica Turca y Armenia…
    Ni si quiera se ha reconocido el Genocidio tan brutal que sus gobiernos anteriores cometieeron a nuestros antepasados…
    Favor!!!! tenga presente que esta es su manera de proceder,sin compromiso ,sin nada y suponer que los Armenios van a ser convencido que no se han sufrido Genocido Tan brutal y ahora ya estamos EN PAZ.
    Bueno es suficiente que usted lea algunos libros publicados en Español,como son ¨La Bomba¨de Jose Antonio Gurriaran, y otro Autor,para formarse una idea de que se trata este lanzamiento -digamos- de Benevolencia hacia los Armenios que aun hasta ahora ellos -su diplomacia y gobierno- considera como ciudadanos-los pocos que quedan-segundarios.Antes nos trataban como esclavos casi casi…
    Pues le dejo con esta ultima frase.El mundo debe Justicia a los Armenios.
    Gracias para su atencion.

  7. A small part of me sees this as positive, but a larger part of me does not. I seriously doubt that we as Armenians can live side-by-side with the offspring of genocide perpetrators and pretend “nothing is wrong”.

    In addition, I have absolutely no desire to hearing the bell toll of an Armenian church using the same airspace of Islamic calls for prayer. This feeling is one of the outcomes of the thankless wicked Turks who gave us genocide. In this regard, Armenia and Artsakh have a better working plan for our people in my opinion.

  8. We can’t look at this as a political issue. I was there in September and was most impressed with the Armenians from the area. They are the hidden Armenians of Dikranagard who are being baptized, taking Armenian lessons and getting married in the church. They deserve a church and we should all support them.

  9. Father was from Dicranakerts where Grandfather owned a silk factory[ Diyarbakir was the name of the calavary that slaughtered the people of Dicranakerts the city was renamed Diyarbakir[earlier] in honor of their achievement],

    Mother’s father did not suvrive, he was in Adana at the time.

    I would love to have known our family who died/ who were killed, even thoes who were never born because of their parents were murdered during the many killings, during the many years.

  10. Dear Vahan,
    Lest self or others that are here posting be misunderstood,I hereby declare, indeed it is BETTER THAN NOTHING AT ALL….
    You see, pressure is kept upon great Turkey by *we know who…what is more she-Ms. hillaryb Clinton clearly expressed herself that All Armenian churches ,schools, hospitals -that were confiscated by the ottoman/Kemalist regimes should be returned to legal owners.
    Great Turkey…you may rest assured does not do that on her own…
    someone -like above-is “suggessting” to her to do so….
    Especaillyu she*great Turkey realizes that unless she by and by give way to her obstinate stance, there is no chance AT ALL of obtaining ,membership in EU.Do you understand that.
    In addition, we wish to be on the guard, lest the mainstream Armenians take up the very insignificant -such like -i.e..,m Akhtamara, then Sourp Giragosa!!!
    I am witness to some so called K u r d s that long ago came to Madrid and cliamed an imaginary KURDISTAN in a spanish local newspaper…
    However, this imaginary kurdistan’s BOUNDARIES ENLAPPED Y E R E VA N.
    I IMEDIATELY RESPONDED*AT THE TIME ARMENIA WAS WITHIN the soviet socialist repulics…I wrote,more or less.
    “B elieve me it would be very tough to dispute Armenian territory from USSR.
    Those were made up Kurds.Turks in the skin of kurds, trying to take our pulse..when the Armenian crazed Young men were one after another sending to the other world the Turkish diplomats,as “Violent acts of correction”” But they stopped abruptly as sonn as NK issue blared up and joined the JOGADS THERE…
    These like staged shows…*picture the Cross that was being delayed to be placed on AKHTAMAR and NOT ALLOWING MASS TO BE HELD-WAS ACTUALLY ALSO AIMED AT ATTRACTING TOURISTS..
    Now this S.Giragos SAGA…
    I repeat, ALGO ES ALGO, spanish, MEASN COMETHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING…but let’s keep pressure on ..otherwise nothinbg will come out of it.We are dealing -after all,like I always really mean it with great klnow..made great by whom…..
    So cheer up we shll not oppose that more of threse churches be re opened and congregatiions gathered around them .Untill the kurdish issue really ripens up ….then we may hope something will also take place…

  11. I believe that even with all the qualifications that must be made the revival of the church in Diyarbakir is an important step forwards towards justice for Armenians.

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