Behind the Police Lines: The Attacks Against Armenians in Samatya

Special for the Armenian Weekly.

Historian Taner Akçam recently told me, “Living in Turkey as an Armenian is an art–the art of survival.” He was right.

Protest against anti-Armenian crimes in Samatya, Istanbul: "We stand together with Armenians, we won't give way to racism." (Photo shared on Facebook by Halkların Demokratik Kongresi [HDK])

Protest against anti-Armenian crimes in Samatya, Istanbul: ‘We stand together with Armenians, we won’t give way to racism.’ (Photo shared on Facebook by Halkların Demokratik Kongresi [HDK])

And within a couple of days, I was in Samatya trying to understand what’s happening there.

Samatya is one of the oldest districts in Istanbul. After the establishment of the Turkish Republic they renamed it Kocamustafa Paşa. But many people still use the old name.

Since November 2012, we have been reading reports of attacks against  elderly Armenians in the neighborhood. In December, Marissa Kuchuk was killed during one of these attacks. Several followed.

Even the Armenian community doesn’t know the exact number of the attacks, because Armenians are frightened to even say that they were attacked. If there is no considerable harm, they don’t want to talk about it. This silence confuses the public and allows the police and others to argue that the attacks are not hate crimes.

Now let’s dig deeper, reminding ourselves that as of Jan. 31, the police haven’t yet made a single arrest.

The Armenian NGO Nor Zartonk has been following these attacks. Its representative, Sayat Tekir, told me on our TV show (IMC-GAMURC) that they had predicted a rise in hate crimes against Armenians in their report dated November 2012.

Around the same time, Göksel Gülbey, the president of ASIMDER (The Association for fighting against Armenian Claims), was sharing the names and addresses of Armenian schools in Istanbul on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, without providing additional commentary. He was essentially making these schools targets of attacks.

Soon thereafter, a Turkish teacher at the Aramyan Unciyan Armenian School was murdered in his house not far from the school. Yet no one investigated the president of ASIMDER. He soon claimed that he was being threatened by Armenians and asked for protection from the government.

Now let’s return to the attacks in Samatya.

The Aksaray Police Department, which has jurisdiction over Samatya, told Human Rights Association-Istanbul branch representatives on Jan. 23 that the attacks weren’t hate crimes. The police also pointed to the increased police presence in the neighborhood.

Commenting on the most recent attack, which took place on Jan. 23, the police argued that it took place when the policemen in the area were on a lunch break. Let’s assume this statement is true; doesn’t it mean that the assailants knew about the police department’s shifts, and that these attacks were certainly well organized?

In turn, Istanbul’s mayor announced during a Jan. 25 press conference that the city would broaden the investigation to include two other attacks that occurred in the Sisli and Fatih neighborhoods. But, “fortunately,” those two attacks were against two Turkish old women. Essentially, the mayor had figured out a way to argue that the attacks were not racially motivated.

So why are the police and the mayor insisting that these attacks are random and are not hate crimes against Armenians?

Because if the attacks are organized and are targeting Armenians, it means that nationalism continues to be on the rise in this country. It means that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has failed to address this problem.

It also means that while the AKP was busy with the “deep state” organization Ergenekon, it didn’t give enough importance to the KAFES operation, which was a part of Ergenekon, and targeted Turkey’s Armenians specifically.

The names of many who worked for the Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper Agos were on KAFES’s murder list. The group also sent threatening letters to Armenian schools in Istanbul.

It would have been much more effective if the mayor had made a statement in support of the Armenian community. This simple gesture would have calmed the community in Samatya a bit.

Armenians in Istanbul want to believe that these attacks were not targeting them specifically. But they also remember what happened in 1915, 1942, and 1955…

And it seems that such attacks or threats are going to continue until 2015, the centennial of the genocide. The upcoming elections won’t help either, because it’s possible that the government will look the other way to win nationalist votes.

26 Comments on Behind the Police Lines: The Attacks Against Armenians in Samatya

  1. The problems for Armenians inhabiting Anatolia are a by-product of a protracted
    phase of Islamic expansion felt throughout the World. Of course this expansion
    is too soon, as they are not strong enough to ”take” the World yet and their
    aggressive moves may cause a severe counter-reaction which could even spell the beginning of the end for this contaminated ideology.
    Armenians in Turkey can expect it to get worse, and for longer periods, and
    unless they are REALLY prepared to fight, then flight would be the better option.

  2. How Turks are acting today is a direct result of the fact that they STILL have not taken responsibility for their crimes against the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. It doesn’t take anything more than common sense to understand that much.

  3. Where was the reaction when ASALA/JCAG killed Turkish people for no reason in the 1970s? What about how ASALA/JCAG tried to plot to blow up a dance troupe performing at Disneyland? Enough with the hypocrisy.

    • Rifat:

      where was the reaction when Turks murdered 2 million defenseless Armenian civilians (1895-1923), including old men, old women, children, and babies – both born and unborn. Enough of the hypocrisy.

      And before you get all puffed up with fake righteousness, remember this undeniable, indisputable historical fact: your nomadic foreign ancestors, Seljuk Turks, invaded the lands of sedentary indigenous Armenians, and started the cycle of bloodshed and massacres. Invaded by travelling 3,000 kilometers away form their homelands in East and Central Asia. Got that ?
      Write on a blackboard a hundred times, or until you do get it: “My savage, nomadic, Seljuk Turk ancestors invaded the lands of sedentary, indigenous Armenians and started the cycle of violence and bloodshed”, “My savage, nomadic, Seljuk Turk ancestors….”.

      Your Turkic ancestors drew first blood: all subsequent bloodshed and killings is Turks’ fault. Armenians did not invade Uyguristan. Turks invaded the Armenian Highlands.

    • First of all, the past is the past. There is going to be a Turkey and there is going to be an Armenia. No need to harp about resurrecting Tigran The Great’s empire. Also, I do not even care about creating a Turan empire either or an Ottoman Empire. Infact, I hate the current government of Turkey more then a great majority of Greeks, Armenians, Kurds and Assyrians. So learn how to live with your neighbor and accept the fact that there will be a Turkey and a Armenia.

    • Rifat, how about we address the very real and very recent attacks and threats against the Armenian community in Istanbul? A community which, as far as I am aware, did not support ASALA/JCAG. Turks are always coming up with excuses and equivocations, which is why their problem with the PKK has only gotten (and will continue to get) worse. They are *always* blaming outside forces (Russia, Iran, even allies like the United States and NATO and their favorite — the “Ermeni diasporasi”) instead of confronting the issues that lead to these problems (since they require some introspection and self-criticism).

    • The Armenian Genocide will never be the past for Armenians: get that one permanently memorized also, Rifat.

      And learn about history and world affairs before preaching to Armenians about living together. Turkey and Azerbaijan have been trying to suffocate RoA and NKR since their Independence. The last thing Denialist fascist Turks want is to live with Armenians. Both Azerbaijan and Turkish officials claim Armenia is on Turkish land.

      And whether you hate this or that is irrelevant: both Azerbaijan and Turkey – the States – are an existential threat to Armenians of South Caucasus: that is what’s is relevant for us Armenians.

    • {“First of all, the past is the past. “}

      Isn’t it interesting that Denialist Turks keep preaching Armenians about forgetting the past, but don’t practice it themselves.
      Here is an article and discussion about Turkish Armenian senior citizens being savagely beaten and one slashed to death in 2012/2013, and a denialist Turk brings up ASALA from 40 years ago. Guess for some Turks 40 years ago is present. How convenient.

    • Avery, I am going to say that I disagree with the people who say that Armenia is Turkish land. Armenia is Armenia and Turkey is Turkey period. Infact, I don’t even care about building a pan-Turanic empire either as well. I am practical and live in the real world. Infact, I have been even criticised of my stances by people who have nationalist views concerning Turkey-related issues. By the way, I condemn these incidents.

    • Rifat,
      Armenians will never just forget the Armenian Genocide and move on. It’s not going to happen.. The Armenians are the original inhabitants and owners of those lands. Many Armenians with deeds to property taken will not forget..Collectively Armenians want justice..Turks don’t rightfully own those lands unless you consider forced eviction for EVERY Armenian without any possession or face murder, which is what most Armenians were subject too, as justification for possession..Beside Turks are not that special that murder and theft needs to be forgotten or ignored so they can enjoy the fruits of their crime.

      This is not going to go away..EVER…

  4. In a related thread earlier in these pages I mentioned that with the approaching of the Genocide centennial it can be expected that the Armenian commuinity in Turkey would come under more attacks, as the honourable author of this article also points out. I also suggested that precautionary measures should be taken by the community, both collectively and individually. Considering the vulnerable state of the Armenians in Turkey, those measures should be well-thought, well-ballanced and well-organised. They cannot and should not fight the government. On collective level, the community leaders should use every available legal means and channel, governmental or non-governmental, to draw attention to their situation and to bring pressure to the authorities for their indifference and inaction. On individual level, elderly and vulnerable members of the community should not be left alone or unprotected. Those members of the community who can do so should follow self-defence courses. This is no joke, the danger is real. But they need not be in dispair, they must be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

    • avatar Random Armenian // February 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm //

      I am afraid for the Armenian schools in Istanbul. There is a very good chance they will be attacked. I’d like to think that attacking children would be a high threshold for ultranationalists, but it’s not insurmountable.

  5. avatar gaytzag palandjian // February 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm // Reply

    Mr. Rifat,
    I understand very well your manner of reasoning.W/Ref to your last sentence above, please be informed that .-And I am answering your questions/thoughts anti chronologically…
    1.But we ¨have been trying to live with our neighbour and I and many have acxcepted the fact that there is a great Turkey next to RA(not this one but from 1918´s on,remember we have been there First Armenian Republic that Mustafa Kemal´s was the frist nation /country to recognize it..) We also have tried very hard to live in peace with you in Istanbulla!!!! until…..
    2.This youngman called Hrant Dink-in light of -proceedings in Diaspora(now this is very long to narrate short the Ermeni thought of as a CORPSE suddenly began to breathe…rising from the ashes like a Phoenix and that breath was a bit contaminating since the offspring of those ´´remnants¨¨ OF THE ERMENIS….wishes to know what happened to their grandparents homes, churches, monasteries, -(allow me just one example here now) the SANASARIAN INSTITUTE OF LEARNING ¨¨medresseh for you a beatiful bldg. I have picture of it ion book by prof.Richard G. hovahniisian , entitled KARIN-Erzeroum…9 then a hiundreds of such like learning establishments now G O N E with the wind…….
    3.If you are not familiar with recent one hundred yrs history of your people and ours, then, just this bit(I have´got all day to try to teach you history,easier buy books read ,google it etc., then follow carefully…after your Young Turks meditated Gen ocide or mass killings, Evictions…YOUR OWN MILITARY TRIBUNALS judge and condemn the Triumverate Enver,jemal Talaat, to BE EXECUTED!!!.however, Very toikish style they slip threw fingers of the then Glov.t8actually same piece of S. but disguized as very good judges and Gov.t and escape to Europe elsewere.Of cours e the Ermeni have memory and can remember like Kourgen yanikian ,Tehlirian etc., that accounts MUST BE SETTLED otherwise it is like giving their assent to be murdered (as these in Istanbulla now).
    Why does nto your President Gul(never mind Mr. Erdogan who is not well disposed towards these Ermenis) come FWD and invite our pres. Mr. Serge Sargsyan to another floot ball match to istanbulla, or Iskishehira, or Diarbakira8close ,can just drive in car to participate )and then tell him Serge inm the ear.
    ¨¨Yoiu knmow what we wish to understand you a bit better and for this as of tomorrow AS A STARTER(this I wrote in the Armenian Reporter some 25 yrs ago) Mount Aghri dagh Yourt ARARAT will be in all of our maps as within Republic of Armenia plus those small areas around ANI ,so your Brofessors will go dig more into the ground to find some gold(no, actually go try to rescue them from being tlotally becoming flat and gone with the winds blowing…
    This much for now Mr. Rifat. Tell that to your peers mentors in Ankara,where our young brilliant editor of this weekly delivered a heart rendering disocurse(speach)- Please convey this piece to your friends as well in you area.
    Khuda Hafiz Effendi…
    The nephew of a man WHO MARCHED TO DEATH IN THE MESOPPOTAMIAN DESERTS, accompanying nhis father(my Granpa)…..

  6. For those of us who live to see 2015, we will either see the same old, same old from Turkey, or we will see a miraculous transformation into something new. While I’d prefer the later, I suspect we will experience the former and will see very little substantive change from the Turkish government as regards the genocide. It is sometimes said that blood can never be washed off of one’s hands, and sadly, that’s the underlying problem with Turkey. Way too much blood is still lingering in virtually every crack and crevice of the country. How can a nation, built on the blood of its original inhabitants, ever escape such a legacy? Well…for a start, maybe Turks could stop treating Armenians as subjects and start treating them as equals. Maybe Turks could ask Armenians how they would like to be included in any commemoration about 1915? Instead of a series of events that distances both parties, how about planning events that allow Turkey to apologize to Armenians without recrimination? The upcoming anniversary year provides a massive opportunity for Turkey…a once in a century opening to a potential new chapter. But of course, that choice is Turkey’s. They can choose to lead in an adult manner, or they can choose to maintain the century old facade propped up by lies and myths, like a petulant child who is way too old for such behavior. Only time will tell us if Turkey has really grown up or not.

    • Please, take a look at some of the posts here tell me honestly who needs to grow up and move to this century. Really.

      By the way, Turks and Anzacs are way too busy with 2015 preparations of 100th anniversary of Gallipoli. It is also the anniversary of the massive Armenian revolt at Van, though I doubt it would get the same attention.

      I agree, I wish there were a way to also remember victims of Tehcir in a meaningful way together with Armenia. Clearly not in the cards, and you can not just blame the Turks for it.

  7. Another informative reporting on the attacks on Armenians in Istanbul and those behind it you can find in

    by Human Rights Lawyer Erdal Doğan. He writes among others:
    “They are using the very limited Armenian minority as prey. They are
    using them to discredit the government. On the other hand in this
    period leading up to the 100th anniversary of 1915, they are trying to
    grab their properties. The mayor of Fatih (Samatya is located in that
    district) is known for his racist ideology about the Armenian

  8. avatar Miss Seda Vartanian // February 3, 2013 at 10:22 am // Reply

    nkari megin nayek. Kine vor banneren a bernel vzin khach ooni, ooremn mardn ir koghkin tserkern broontsk a arel.
    who are these demontraters? What is going on?

  9. Isn’t it funny how Turks go after old ladies, single women vacationing, schools and if it should be a male, like Dink, they shoot people in the back while they are not looking. Sounds to me like Turks are cowards?

  10. Rifat, I am an Azeri. And like you, I too think all this Pan-Turkism Turanim is nonsense. It is worse than non-sense … in fact a ploy for the Turkish businessment to sell their cheap Ulker chocolate in Caucasus and Central Asia. And thanks to the Turkish effort to normalize relations with Armenia, now almost all Azeris know this, whereas in the past they had illusions about Turkish “brotherhood.” Now, we know it is all about business (we bought your continued blockadge of Armenia with reduced oil/gas prices).

    What is more, I actually feel certain resentment to Turks like you. You want to “forget the past” about Armenian Genocide, and feel some kind of superiority over “the denialists.” The thing is, you cannot just forget the past without consequences. Are you prepared to offer reparations, territory for Armenian ancestral lands, etc? If not, then don’t fool yourself. You might be a nice guy, but you are still a denialist. Don’t try to earn points on the cheap.

  11. If anyone is here, I would like to ask them what they think about this comment I got off the ANCA FB page:
    “Lily Movsisyan This map doesn’t have the full borders. I want to see all Armenian lands. And Anatolia doesn’t belong to Turks! I want to see Cilicia, lesser armenia, greater armenia all together. Our ancient maps show our borders from th Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Sea!”

    Another comment I saw on a YT Clip:

    “Strange NewWorld 3 weeks ago
    Turkey is more than fake but lets not hate the today turks today and lets try and open our hearts and do waht Jesus krist would do and forgive them all andn their present coutry for their ancestors crimes of their past and hatred today. it[s also to some part illegal and not internationally recognized as atrue state due to illegal territories lost by Armenia and Greece not sure about assyrira, the est est especially. just try and forgive and let go cuz in the end all of gods children are 1 …”

    See, this is another proof that Armenians are incapable of wanting to normalize relations with Turkey. They just don’t want Turkey to exist. I am not talking about All Armenians, i am reffering to territorial demanding extremeist fanatical Dashnaks.

    • We are all Armenians and we are all dashnaks and we all wants our lands back! Our stolen Western Armenian land, given to your worthless grandpas from Bolshevik Lenin, as a gift to shut your mouth, in order to screw Muslim population of USSR on behalf of Armenians!!

    • Ok I have a question: Do you want to normalize relations with your neighbors? Or, do you want to keep on having territorial claims (which is a plot to erase your 2, or even 3 neighbors off the map)? Which one is it.

    • Tell me which neighbor of Turkey is in peace with your New Ottoman’s AKP today??

      Israel, Armenia, Greece, Iraq, Syria!! NONE of them. (Georgia is changing)!

      Armenia asked Turkey normal diplomatic relation without precondition long time ago!!

      Turkey milking Axerbaijan on behalf of Armenia. Deep state Turkey satisfying fake “Turkish nationals” to stay as Turks with the help of Allah’s code 301 !!

      If Armenia survived in the last 20 years as a nation, it is best to stay that way, until Turkey fall apart, just like Ottomans!!

    • Rifat, you are wrong. Armenians do not have a plot to wipe yours or any nation off the earth. Justice is what we want. Does that seem unreasonable? Why shouldn’t we want land and monetary reparations? Why shouldn’t Turkey pay for having built their nation on the stolen property and culture of the massacred Christians of Asia Minor? Why shouldn’t Armenians of Karabakh have the right to independence and self-determination?

      From my viewpoint, it is the Turkish nation that is unwilling to live and let live.

    • Why go to other sites and FB, when you can find all the racist and hateful commentary right here? Not as if most here are shy about what they want to see happen to Turks and Turkey. In fact, is this not the exact sentiment and mentality Ottomans had to deal with, a whole century ago?!

  12. Rifat:

    Citing examples of what individuals have posted on Facebook or YouTube to prove your point is a nonstarter. Anybody can post anything on those sites. There are hundreds of videos purporting to prove that the Jewish Holocaust is a ‘hoax’, for example. And there is no end to videos and maps showing one continuous ‘Turkic Turanistan’ from the Bosphorus to the borders of China: no Armenia anywhere. And would you like me to start pasting what is being said about Armenia and Armenians by individuals on mainstream Turkish publications such as TodaysZaman and Hurriyet ?

    {“See, this is another proof that Armenians are incapable of wanting to normalize relations with Turkey.”}
    Some individual Armenians posting hyperbole: THAT is your proof ? Are you serious ?

    Here is actual proof from your neck of the woods, denialist Turkish guest Rifat:
    “All Armenians are bastards”
    “Today Taksim, Tomorrow Yerevan”
    “We will bury you on Mt. Agri (sic)”

    Placards displayed by tens of thousands of Turks during an Officially sanctioned Anti Armenian demonstration at Taksim square (2012), attended by the Interior Minister of Turkey (….who also made an Anti Armenian speech).
    Got that ? Officially Sanctioned: means approved and endorsed by the Turkish State, not some individuals.

    And I have proof that you, Rifat, are a liar: you lied when you claimed that Boyajian had written something she absolutely had not on the pages of AW (January 25, 2013). That to me is proof that you, a denialist Turk, is incapable of wanting normal relations with Armenians. You are so full of Anti-Armenian hate and bias that you falsely accuse one of our Armenian compatriots, who is arguably one of the most fair-minded, tolerant, and accommodating Armenian poster towards all our Turkish visitors @AW – of being Anti Turkish.

    And you are so full of Anti Armenian hate and bias that you find moral equivalence between the assassinations of Turkish diplomats, 40 years ago, and the savage beatings and the murder of defenseless Turkish Armenian senior citizens, private individuals – today.
    That to me is proof that you, a denialist Turk, is incapable of wanting normal relations with Armenians

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