Breaking: Surp Giragos Armenian Church among Expropriated Properties in Diyarbakir

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 Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)
The Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)

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.

The pews of the renovated Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)
The pews of the renovated Surp Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)

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.”

Images show the extent of damage to the Armenian Catholic Church
Images show the extent of damage to the Armenian Catholic Church.

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.



  1. It beggars belief that the U.S. and U.K. governments, both advocates of freedom and democracy allow themselves to become bedfellows with a sick and fascist country like turkey…

  2. Having spent three days at Surp Giragos in June 2014, I am disturbed by this report. Perhaps someone could answer, accurately, some unanswered questions from this initial news story:

    The fancy term “expropriated” means taken/confiscated. Okay, great. What does that mean? Is anyone allowed on those properties? Will something happen to those properties while in government hands?

    Legal action is underway. Great. How long will that take? Weeks, months, years? What will happen while legal action is being taken? Will the government do something with the confiscated property? What COULD they do with the property? Raze it? Re-purpose it?

    Looking forward to a more comprehensive update. Perhaps Agos should be the source of this journalism.

    • The Turkish government has not made it clear. The Armenian community in Turkey is asking the government to clarify.

      There is a history in Turkey of confiscations of minority properties. It’s a way to keep those communities in check.

  3. My wife Alice and I are very saddened by this report. Alice’s father Hovannes, at about 3 or 4 and the family were chased out of their home and Hovannes became an orphan, alone and lost his entire family. He was given the ubiquitous orphan boys’ May 28 birthday and Hovagimian as an orphan family name.
    Enough is enough with the present barbarous Turkish government and its savage and inhuman leader, Edrogan. May Allmighty God punish them!
    Please, somebody do something!

  4. So what else is new? This has been going on for 100 years. As for the rest of the world, nothing will come of it.

  5. Have not heard any criticism from US government condemning violation of religious rights and human rights by the Turkish government slaughter the Kurdish population. The US government is ubiquitously silent towards “our ally Erdogan” monsterous actions. Amazing hypocrisy!

    • As an objective observer I too find Turkey to be mired in ages old ethnic misbehavior, it seems to never stop. So hard to simply read about it- very sad. And yes, the U.S. does look the other way for purely geopolitical reasons. Hypocritical? My God yes…

  6. Expropriation is what the Turks have been doing for the last 100 years. In 1915, the “Ottomans” used WW1 as cover to take Christian properties from their rightful owners as the world was busy elsewhere. The clock moves to 2016 and as the west is cowering in front of the Turks over the refuge crisis, negotiations include freer access to European markets as a bargaining chip. Again, the Turks use the crisis as cover to further remove further evidence of our historical homelands. Perfect! Remember who the the Turks,aka “Ottomans”, are partnering with? It’s deja vu all over again. Nothing will come of it.

  7. I certainly hope the US Government stays out of this!!! I am from Flint, Michigan where the tap water runs brown. I would be extremely upset if US dollars went to a church as opposed to a real crisis on our own soil. As people have mentioned in other comments, they are not expropriating the Christian faith. The US needs to clean up its own house first. Let’s leave well enough alone and not anger the Turks…remember what happened 100 years ago? There were 2 million Armenians now there are about 70,000. Nice population growth, eh?

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