An investigation has been launched against three suspects for the desecration of an Armenian church in Istanbul.
A video circulated online this week depicting three individuals, two of whom are dancing, on top of the gate of Surp Takavor Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Kadiköy district. A large crowd was seen dancing and cheering outside the church.
The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul said the incident took place late at night on July 10. The nightwatch on duty alerted the police after the three individuals refused to descend from the gate. By the time the police arrived at the church, the party had dispersed.
According to the Daily Sabah, the three suspects are part of a group protesting against a ban placed on music after midnight as part of a series of restrictions imposed during the pandemic. The Istanbul Governorship announced that a judicial and administrative investigation has been initiated regarding the issue, condemning “this ugly behavior towards a place of worship.” The three suspects were released after 48 hours in detention, with two placed on probation.
In Parliament, Garo Paylan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the incident, demanding that the Turkish Ministry of the Interior immediately open an investigation into the police officers on duty at the church. “They are trying to attribute the attack on our church to alcohol alone. However, the person who recently ripped off the cross of another church and threw it on the ground had never drunk in his life,” he tweeted. “The reason for the attacks is the mentality that marginalizes Christians and turns them into targets.”
Several Turkish politicians condemned the incident. Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu tweeted that he has called the Chairman of the Board of the Church Foundation, Arman Bükücüyan, to express his regrets, terming the act “disrespectful.” Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun asserted that freedom of religion and conscience are “essential” and temples “sacred and inviolable.” “Those who commit this disrespect will be held accountable before the law,” he tweeted. “Our nation will not favor such provocations today as it did yesterday.” Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) denounced the “attack on humanity and sacred values,” insisting that “in our civilization insulting and mocking behavior in religious places is never tolerated.”
The 19th-century church was the target of a previous attack in 2018 when its walls were painted with anti-Armenian graffiti. Two other Armenian churches in Istanbul were desecrated in May of 2020, when a man was arrested for attempting to set fire to Surp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church, and another for removing the cross from Surp Krikor Lusavorich Church of Galata.