DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—A list of lands and buildings in Diyarbakir’s Sur district—including the Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic and the Armenian Catholic churches—have been expropriated by the Turkish government, according to reports.
The Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos reported that an “urgent expropriation” cabinet decision was taken regarding 6,300 plots of land, citing the March 25 issue of the Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey (T.C. Resmi Gazete), the country’s official journal that publishes new legislation and official announcements. The Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, the Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church, and the city’s Protestant church have also reportedly been expropriated.
Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural Heritage Director Nevin Soylukaya told Agos that some properties belonging to the municipality have also been expropriated, and that the local government will initiate legal action. She also urged owners of other expropriated properties to take legal action. Armenian Weekly contributor and member of the Surp Giragos Church reconstruction project Raffi Bedrosyan said there will be a strong effort to reclaim the lands. “All legal and political channels will be mobilized within Turkey and internationally to stop this legalized robbery,” Bedrosyan told the Weekly.
According to Agos, lands in the Abdaldede, Alipaşa, Cemal Yılmaz, Camikebir, Cevatpaşa, Dabanoğlu, Hasırlı, İnönü, İskenderpaşa, Lalebey, Malikahmet, Özdemir, Süleymangazi, Savaş, Şemhane, and Ziyagökalp neighborhoods, as well as two neighborhoods in Yenişehir province, have been expropriated through the decision.
On Feb. 14, reports emerged that the Armenian Catholic Church of Diyarbakir had suffered extensive damages during clashes between Turkish armed forces and Kurdish militants. A series of images depicting the extent of the damage to the church were posted on the “Armenian Church Surp Giragos and Surp Sarkis in Diyarbakir” Facebook page. The Armenian Catholic Church is located in the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir, which has been a target of military operations by the Turkish state.
Bedrosyan in a Jan. 7 article had written that the historic Sur district “is now mostly in ruins. Most of the buildings have been destroyed by rockets and cannon fire from army tanks. The Surp Giragos Church has escaped relatively unscathed with only broken windows and some bullet holes. But the Armenian Catholic Church had its doors broken down and some internal damage. The most important mosque in Sur, the historic Kursunlu Mosque—originally the St. Theodoros or Toros Armenian Church, converted to a mosque in the 16th century—has been completely burned down.”
Armenians from around the world flocked to Surp Giragos Church in Diyarbakir on Oct. 22, 2011, to attend both the consecration of the largest Armenian church in the Middle East and the Badarak held the following day. The church was renovated by the Surp Giragos Armenian Foundation, with the support of the local Kurdish-controlled municipality of the time.