Diyarbakir’s Surp Giragos Armenian Church Expropriated by Turkish Authorities


DiyarbekiruCHurchISTANBUL (Agos, Armepress) — While clashes and curfews continue in Diyarbakir, the Turkish cabinet took an urgent decision to expropriate Surp Giragos Church, the largest Armenian church in Middle East.

Left to its own fate for years, the church was finally restored and opened to worship in 2011. With the same decision, Assyrian, Chaldean and Protestant churches have also been expropriated.

According to the cabinet decision published in Official Journal on March 25, an “urgent expropriation” decision is taken concerning 6.300 plots of land in the Sur. With this decision, many places in Abdaldede, Alipasa, Cemal Yilmaz, Camikebir, Cevatpasa, Dabanoglu, Hasirli, Inönü, Iskenderpasa, Lalebey, Malikahmet, Özdemir, Süleymangazi, Savas, Semhane and Ziyagökalp neighborhoods and two neighborhoods in Yenisehir province are expropriated.

Aside from Surp Giragos, Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church and the Protestant Church are have also been expropriated.

Speaking to Agos, Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural Heritage Director Nevin Soylukaya stated that all churches and properties belonging to the foundations have been seized. Soylukaya also said that some properties belonging to the municipality are also expropriated and they will initiate legal action. She urged the owners of the expropriated properties to take legal action.

Walls of Diyarbakir and Hevsel Gardens were added to UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. And Sur province is considered as a buffer zone for Walls of Diyarbakir.

Sur is the only center that have places of worship for non-Muslims. Surp Giragos Church, Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, Armenian Catholic Church, Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church and Protestant Church are in Sur and currently closed to worship. There is no other church in Diyarbakir.

Chaldean Church belongs to Mor Petyun Chaldean Catholic Church Foundation and Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church belongs to Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church Foundation. Apart from them, in Diyarbakir, there are 6 churches that is owned by various state institutions.

Surg Giragos Armenian Church was left to its own fate, after its congregants left. With legal changes in foundation administration, people from Diyarbakir living in Istanbul formed a new administrative body and initiated restoration work. With the help of funding campaigns started in the US and other countries, the church was restored. About 2 million liras was spent for restoration. And it was awarded with various prestigious restoration awards.

Member of Parliament Garo Paylan, who is a member of the Kurdish People’s Democratic Party Garo Paylan said that he presented an inquiry to Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu regarding the expropriation of a number of areas and structures in Diyarbakir, Sur.

Paylan published the nine-point inquiry form on his Facebook page. The Prime Minister was specifically asked about the reason of “immediate expropriation” of the total 6,300 properties, what legislations are to be made under the act, and how the rights of the citizens living in Sur will be protected. In addition, the inquiry requests to clarify whether the expropriation decision affects the Christian, the Assyrian and Chaldean churches.

The MPs also asked whether the decision to expropriate the property of churches of minorities does not contradict the legislation and the Treaty of Lausanne.