Malatya Municipality to rebuild Armenian shrine

Malatya Municipality to rebuild Armenian shrine

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Malatya Municipality to rebuild Armenian shrine

A chapel undergoing construction in the historic Armenian cemetery in Malatya was demolished Feb 3 by municipal teams, causing incredulity in the Armenian community. DHA Photo

The municipality in the eastern province of Malatya has agreed to rebuild a complex involving a chapel, a guard house and an annex for washing the dead inside a historical Armenian cemetery after municipal workers demolished the complex on Feb. 3.

“The average folk on the street cried when they saw that our ‘Last Prayer’ [complex] was demolished. I don’t think it to be ‘neighborhood pressure.’ There is some pressure, but it emanates from sources unknown to us,” Hosrof Köletavitoğlu, the head of the Malatya Philanthropists’ Association (HAYDER), told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Malatya Municipality had also told the Daily News on Feb. 3 that the guard house had been brought down due to complaints issued by the local populace and that the chapel had been mistakenly demolished.

“They had said the guard box wasn’t suitable here and decided to demolish [it.] Now they are taking over the construction of the entire complex by themselves,” Köletavitoğlu said on behalf of a group of Malatya Armenians residing in Istanbul who met with officials regarding the matter yesterday morning. The municipality promised to push forward with the project without making any additional changes, Köletavitoğlu said, adding they were also going to certify that promise in the governor’s office through a notary. “We are going to purse this to the end,” he said. “We had just built the complex with money we collected from Armenians of Malatya [residing] in Istanbul and the diaspora. The demolition came about just as we were finishing it.”

The project had originally been drawn up by the Patriarchate of Turkish-Armenians.

The cemetery which measures thousands of acres in size also contains the burial grounds of the family members of Hrant Dink, the chief editor of the weekly Agos, a paper published in both Armenian and Turkish, who was gunned down in front of his office in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2007.

“We were going to stage a mass by organizing a tour on June 30 to bring Armenians originating from Malatya here. It will be a little difficult to stage the mass under these circumstances,” he said.

Authorities had already nationalized the cemetery around the late 1940s, while only some two acres are still owned by the Armenian community.

“Responsibility belongs to the municipality regardless of whoever is in possession of the cemeteries’ title deeds. As such, it was under their responsibility to build the chapel, the guard house and the [annex for the ritual washing of the dead,] but they did not assume [that responsibility,]” he added.

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