“Azg”: Is the awakening of Islamized Armenians in Turkey possible?

The Defense Council of Western Armenia organized a meeting with Aziz Arakel Dagch at the St. Mary Church in Glendale, Los Angeles. Aziz Arakel is from Sasun and a part of the family of Genocide victims.

In 2006, Arakel established the Foundation for Supporting Armenian Culture in Sasun, Batman, Mush and Van in Istanbul. The Foundation has a difficult mission to return the Armenian churches and cemeteries located in those regions under the name of the Armenian ethnic minority, and in general, Turkey’s Constitution gives Armenians, Greeks and Jews jurisdiction to take such action. If a church is built, it can also be registered under the name of an ethnic minority and the proceeds can go directly to the patriarchate.

The Foundation has estimated over 1,000 Armenian churches and cemeteries in the mentioned territories (365 in Sasun alone) that are waiting to be stamped and registered once again. Those churches were on the verge of elimination, except for the Holy Cross Church that has turned into a museum. According to Dagch, the Foundation has been appealing to courts several times since 2006, but in vain.

In the end, the Foundation appealed to the European Court with the same case, as well as the demand for 500,000 Euros to renovate the old churches, as well as establish, restore and embellish new churches, place guards and protect them after the return of lands. The Foundation doesn’t have much funding, and the Armenian community wasn’t able to support the Foundation during Arakel’s visit to Glendale. Turkey’s legislation prohibits taking money from Armenian associations because that money will be spent to buy the country’s lands back.

Most of the people living in those territories are Armenians who converted after the 1915 Genocide. Dagch says according to different calculations, there are 3-5 million Islamized Armenians in Turkey and that the Foundation’s most important mission is to awaken them. If a church is built in those territories, perhaps the Kurdified and Islamized Armenians will slowly return to their faith and will be aware of the symbol of defending their lands.

“We must continue our path. There is still a lot to do,” says Dagch.

How does the Turkish government treat the Foundation and its initiative? Dagch had trouble answering this question, saying their appeal has been sent to the European Court and such questions can impede the proceeding.

One thing is clear-the Turks argue that there have not been any Armenian priests in Sasun since 1915 and aren’t sure if the Islamized Armenians will return to the Armenian churches or the renovated ones.

Dagch claims that according to approximate calculations, 20,000 Islamized Armenians have already returned to their faith in Turkey.

Diana Danielyan

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