Easter Celebrated at Sourp Giragos in Diyarbakir (Photos)

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—Dozens of Armenians and their Muslim neighbors gathered at the recently renovated Sourp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir to celebrate Easter on March 31.

Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)


Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)

As it proved difficult for the Istanbul Patriarchate to send a member of the clergy to Diyarbakir on Easter Sunday, Kevork Fikri, an intellectual who offers Armenian language courses in the city, was asked to help with the celebrations.

Gafur Ohannes Türkay, a member of the Sourp Giragos Church Foundation board of directors, said, “We requested a clergyman from the Istanbul Patriarchate. Priests were unavailable on Easter day [as they were holding Easter ceremonies in their respective parishes], so we were going to have to celebrate Easter a week later.”

“The community, however, wanted to celebrate on Easter Sunday, which is why we approached Kevork bey, who is not a clergyman but knows Armenian liturgy well,” he noted.

Author Şehmuz Diken was among those taking part in the Easter celebrations. “As a child, I use to come to this church with my family on religious holidays,” he said. “We celebrated with the Armenians, and they celebrated with us.”

“Most of our Armenian neighbors are not among us now,” said Diken.

He added, “In the 60s, on Easter Sunday, my father used to wake us up early and say, ‘Bedo [Armenian singer Bedri Ayseli] has prepared eggs and choreg for us!’”

Many Islamized Armenians were among the participants in the Easter celebrations at Sourp Giragos, the largest Armenian church in the Middle East.

This report was filed by The Armenian Weekly’s Diyarbakir correspondent Gulisor Akkum. For more photos and coverage, visit our Facebook page.




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. I have for a very long time wondered if any of the Armenians now living in Diyarbakir are descendants of Genocide survivors from other villages. This is where many of the caravans ended. Any men in the caravans from villages surrounding Palu or Havav, Oghnout, Toklan, Karduloum etc were all murdered by the time the caravan reached Palu. Only women and children remained – and they were all in desperate condition. Those that were still alive by the time the caravan reached Diyarbakir were murdered on the bridge, their bodies thrown into the river. I have often wondered if any somehow managed to escape and survive. My own family was in a caravan that ended in Diyarbakir. Perhaps there were babies born and left there. Since the priest from Istanbul could not come for Easter services, perhaps he can come in April for prayers on the bridge in memory of all those who were murdered in the many caravans that ended there.

    Regarding the comment: “In the 60s, on Easter Sunday, my father used to wake us up early and say, ‘Bedo [Armenian singer Bedri Ayseli] has prepared eggs and choreg for us!’”

    I doubt that Bedo prepared the multi colored eggs shown in the photo. Here is how he probably prepared them and why.
    Save red onion skins – lots of them, or go to the grocer and ask for the loose ones he is throwing out. Rinse them. Place them in a large pot. Add a splash of white vinegar. Put brown brown free- range eggs (white if not available, or combination of both white and brown eggs) in a single layer on top of the onion skins. Bring water to boil and then cook for for 5 mins. Leave in pot for an additional 10 mins. or until desired color of deep red. Another batch can be boiled in the same water.

    The deep red represents the blood Christ shed for us. That’s why we color them in this way. The yolk inside the egg represents new life.

    I know that children today like the many colored eggs. Take your onion skin dyed eggs and wrap them individually in different colors of tissue paper. When the children unwrap them, they will understand how precious this symbol is, that the shed blood is a gift to us.

    There is another plus to eggs dyed in this way. Egg shells are porous. Whatever coloring you put on them, it can seep through to the eggs. Sometimes, you will actually see the white marbled with the color you have used on the egg. Better that red onion skin color penetrates than commercial food color.

  2. Thank you Gulisor Akkum for this beautiful report and Armenian Weekly for publising it. As it appears this church is going to play an important role in the resurgence of Armenian presence in Diyarbakir.

  3. Very nice article and photos. Thanks, Armenian Weekly. However; I find it very hard to believe that the “Istanbul Patriarchate” didn’t have a single member of the clergy to send to Diyarbakir to help this Armenian community celebrate Easter. Not a single priest, bishop, or even a retired clergy were available? Wow! Hard to belive. . .And disappointing.

  4. Shame on you Istanbul Patriarchate!

    You could not manage to send a priest to Surp Giragos? The most important holiday in the Armenian Church calendar (Easter) and one of the largest church in the Middle East! Took so many years to rebuild, silenced for decades by the Turks and now Istanbul Patriarchate cannot manage to send a priest to Surp Giragos? How the heck you can get away with such a failure?

    Lost Armenians are trying to learn Armenian in the church they financed part of the rebuilding efforts and now NO priest! How about a deacon? A bishop? I am sure there were replicate priests standing aimlessly in churches in Istanbul that could be sent… This is exactly what Judas did to Jesus! Selling out the valuable parishioners in Diyarbakir…

    Thank you Gulisor Akkun for reporting from Diyarbekir, thank you Kevork Fikri, Gafur Ohannes Türkay and most of all thank you to the whole community who courageously celebrated Easter Sunday without a priest showing their real faith in their church and religion in a much faithful way than the Istanbul patriarchate…

    Missak Keleshian

  5. Thank you Gulisor for reporting a beautiful story. A story of love and of a people’s determination to, against all odds, create peace and harmony, in an incredibly humble way and in one of the most unexpected regions of the world.

    I am appalled by the Patriarchate’s response. It is unconscionable for such an important Armenian institution, within Turkey, to ignore and belittle such a historic, courageous call! It is also unbelievable that, to date, we do not have a permanent position for a priest in a church built of human blood and sweat?

    We need to stop relying on other ethnic groups and neighbors to accomplish a mission that we so proudly inherited from our ancestors and swore to do right by them.

    It is time for our clergy to “plug in” and become the change that we need to “rise” from the ashes and take our dignity back as Armenians.

  6. So the Istanbul Patriarchate couldn’t be bothered to send even a single priest to officiate in their newest church on the most important day in the Christian calendar. Surely this must silence those extremists out there who insist every inactive, derelict, or ruinous Armenian church in Turkey be returned to the Istanbul Patriarchate and who will not contemplate any other options for their preservation.

  7. There really needs to be a parish priest at Sourp Giragos Church. Why don’t we Diaspora Armenains pay into a dedicated fund if necessary to keep a parish priest at this Church year around?

  8. RObert is correct. I am not religious but if St Girgaos needs a priest, he oculd come from anywhere: Yerevan, Beirut or the rest of the diaspora.

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