ANKARA / YEREVAN — Armenian heritage sites in Turkey continue to be vandalized and destroyed. In January, an unknown person offered a historic Armenian Catholic Church for sale in the Turkish city of Bursa at a price of 800,000 USD. This incident has been discussed in Armenia and Turkey since mid-January. Since the then, another church in Bursa is for sale.
If Armenian churches in Turkey aren’t being sold for profit, they’re being destroyed. In Kütahya Province in western Turkey, the Armenian Church of Saint Toros was demolished.
The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the dire state of Armenian heritage sites in Turkey and called on Ankara to comply with its international obligations.
Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Tony Perkins condemned the demolition of the Armenian church in Turkey via Twitter, stating: “We condemn the demolition of the historic Armenian Church of Saint Toros in Kütahya, despite its protected status.”
“Turkey must ensure protecting the diverse religious and cultural heritage,” Perkins added.
USICRF Vice Chair @tperkins: "USCIRF condemns the demolition of the historical Surp Toros Armenian church in Kütahya, #Turkey, despite holding status as a protected site. Turkey must ensure the protection of its diverse religious and #culturalheritage." https://t.co/m6IgjMKaCv
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) January 27, 2021
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakır MP Garo Paylan took up the issue of the church’s destruction in Turkish Parliament.
In questions submitted by Paylan in Parliament to Minister of Culture and Tourism Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, asked how such an important heritage site could be demolished.
As a part of his questions, Paylan outlined the importance of the church. “Dating back to 1603, the church had an important place in the city’s memory,” said Paylan. “The church was considered to be an important site of memory as it was the church where musicologist Gomidas was baptized.”
“The church was last used as a wedding hall and a movie hall; the authorities remained indifferent to the Armenian community’s calls for its restoration or, at least, its use as a cultural center,” he added.