Istanbul’s new Armenian school to be inaugurated on September 28

Mesut Ozdemir has one month left to achieve his life-long dream: to open a new school for the Armenian community in Istanbul, reports.

“I am very delighted to see the school is almost done. Moving to a new building after 171 years makes us all happy,” Ozdemir, who is chairman of the Surp Asdvadzadzin Church Foundation, tells Anadolu Agency.

Construction on the project began three years ago. From the outside, it is not much different from other schools. Yet it is still unique: it is the first school that Istanbul’s Armenian community is building in Republican Turkey within a legal framework.

The community opened schools in previous decades but these were dependent upon special permission granted by prime ministers.

There are 22 minority schools In Istanbul; five of them are Greek, one is Jewish, and the remaining 16 are Armenian.

What made this latest project possible was a 2008 legal reform brought forward by the government and pushed through parliament.

The changes allowed minorities to acquire and renovate properties. The Turkish government also began returning previously confiscated properties to minority communities.

Such changes were welcomed and supported at the local level. Bakirkoy Municipality exempted the Armenian school from certain fees to smooth construction. “Members of the local council unanimously voted for the exemption,” Ozdemir recalls.

Despite such help from the municipality, Ozdemir says that financing was challenging for the community. The foundation depended on several fund-raising efforts to finish the job.

To relieve some of the financial burden, the government added minority schools to a list of institutions eligible for state aid.

In Turkey, the state partially aids students with financial difficulties so that they can enroll in private institutions. Minority schools are not categorized as ‘private’ institutions, but the government included them in the list, Ozdemir says.

“We thank everyone who helped us to have this joyous moment: Ministers, mayors and the Armenian community…” Ozdemir says, adding that first day of the school year, September 28, will be its official inauguration day.

Over 3,000 students currently attend Istanbul’s 16 Armenian schools. The Bakirkoy neighborhood on Istanbul’s European side housed one small school which was constructed 170 years ago by an Ottoman official, Hovhannes Dadyan.

Across the decades, the Armenians of Bakirkoy depended on that one school but, as their numbers increased, capacity became a problem. Now the school has to accommodate 400 children — more than enough for the old building.

The new school has now more space to accommodate even more than 400. Ozdemir says the school now is able to offer a kindergarten service to the Armenian community; that will increase number of students to 500.

“We now have a bigger sports and conference hall,” Ozdemir says, adding that parents and students toured the construction site to see what the school would be like and were excited for the upcoming education term.

New schools, bigger halls and new services not only pleased Armenian students and parents but also broadened the community’s expectation for the new generation. “We expect more qualified people from this environment,” Ozdemir says.

Russian soldier accused of killing family in Armena handed a 10-year sentence

A Russian soldier suspected of killing an entire family in Armenia has been convicted of desertion as a precursor to his murder trial, AP reports.

Valery Permyakov, who served with a Russian military base in Gyumri, is suspected of shooting six family members dead and stabbing a 6-month-old baby to death in the Armenian city in January. He was captured quickly after the killings and pleaded guilty to the charges.

A Russian military court in Gyumri on Wednesday handed him a 10-year prison sentence on charges of desertion and illegal weapons possession. Armenian investigators are pursuing a separate murder probe, and a date for that trial hasn’t been set yet.

New 120 sq. meter mosaic containing Bible verses found in southern Turkey

A new 120 square meter Byzantine mosaic dating back to the 5-6th century C.E. containing a Bible verse in Greek as well as depictions of various animals living together in peace was discovered at an archeological dig in Turkey’s southern province of Adana, reports.

The mosaic depicts 16 wild and domesticated animals – including a wolf, sheep, leopard, goat, bull, lion, bear and snake – peacefully living together, sleeping side by side, sharing food and grazing.

The depiction of traditionally antagonistic animals co-existing peacefully is accompanied by a Bible verse written in Greek, Isaiah 65:25 – “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.”

The 15 meter by 8 meter mosaic was recently discovered at an archeological dig on private property being conducted by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s Cultural Assets Directorate and the Adana Museums Directorate in the Karlık neighborhood of Adana’s Sarıçam district.

The mosaic has been moved for further study to the laboratory department at the 10,000 square meter museum complex being established at Adana’s historic National Textile Factory. Following restoration, the mosaic will be transferred for display to the new museum.


Chinese Official: Turkey hiring Uyghur citizens to fight among ISIS ranks in Syria

A high-ranking Chinese official disclosed that Turkey is luring the Uyghur residents of his country’s Xinjiang province into war of insurgency in Syria, reports.

“The Turkish diplomats in Southeast Asia have given Turkish ID cards to Uyghur citizens of Xinjiang province and then they have sent them to Turkey to prepare for war against the Syrian government alongside ISIS,” the Arabic-language Iraq al-Qanoon news website quoted Tong Bichan, head of the Criminal Department of China’s Public Security Ministry as telling reporters on Monday.

Uyghur Muslims are a Chinese minority group who speak Turkish language.

Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admitted that Ankara has directly supported terrorists in Syria.

“If it were not due to the support of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the militants in Syria, they could not have achieved anything,” Erdogan said, Turkish-language daily Hurriyat reported.

He noted that Ankara, Riyadh and Doha have supplied military and logistical backup for the terrorists.

Erdogan’s remarks came as his Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu denied any cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia in supporting the foreign-backed terrorists.

In late June, the London-based al-Hayat newspaper reported that 12,000 Turkish forces are ready for military intervention in Syria under the pretext of creating a buffer zone to protect the Turkish borders against the threat of the terrorist groups.

Turkey’s Human Rights Association takes Armenian orphanage to Europe’s agenda

The Human Rights Association (İHD) in Turkey has brought the case of a partly demolished Armenian orphanage in Istanbul to the agenda of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Demolition of the Kamp Armen orphanage started in May but was subsequently halted, when the owner of the land said he would donate it to the Armenian community in Istanbul.

Speaking at a press conference on June 29, a member of the İHD’s central executive board, lawyer Eren Keskin, along with other members of the association, said they had sent separate letters to Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and European Parliament rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri to draw attention to the Kamp Armen issue.

“In the letter, we said it was a heavy human rights violation that Kamp Armen’s certificate of ownership had not been returned to the Armenian community and that Turkey was not fulfilling the European Union criteria it had vowed to reach,” said Keskin.

Efforts to demolish the orphanage – where thousands of Armenian orphans, including slain journalist Hrant Dink, had grown up – began on May 6, drawing widespread attention once news broke on social media. Later in the day, the demolition was stopped when groups including activists and leading figures from the Armenian community rushed to the area to protest the destruction.

The protesters, who had held a vigil for 19 days, vowed on May 27 that they would continue camping in the area until the license for the buildings is given to the foundation.

Keskin claimed that Turkey was breaching the European Convention on Human Rights, which as an international agreement holds higher validity than national laws. He added that Turkey was also violating the Treaty of Lausanne, in which the rights of Turkey’s minorities were outlined.

Pastor Krikor Ağabaloğlu of the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church said they planned to rebuild the demolished structures as soon as they receive the license.

“The orphanage cannot be used at the moment. But we plan to demolish it and rebuilt it in the same way. [When it reopens] it will not host only Armenian children, its doors will be open to children from all nations,” Ağabaloğlu told daily Hürriyet on May 27.

Fatih Ulusoy, the owner of the camp’s land, was reported as promising on May 24 to donate Kamp Armen to the Gedikpaşa Armenian Protestant Church and School.

Former Turkish President Demirel dies aged 91

Former Turkish President Süleyman Demirel, who was twice toppled by the military during seven stints at the head of government, died early on June 17. He was 91, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

Demirel, who served as prime minister seven times through the 1960s to the 1990s and was president from 1993 to 2000, died at the Güven Hospital in Ankara where he had been undergoing treatment for a respiratory tract infection, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

World Council of Churches adopts statement on Armenian Genocide

During the centenary year of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire, the executive committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is meeting in this country on 8-13 June 2015, hosted by the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, to honour the martyrs and victims of the genocide. We visit the genocide memorial to remember them and to pray in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. And we celebrate the life of the Armenian nation and the witness of the Armenian church.

The executive committee recalls the Minute on the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide adopted by the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013 in Busan. This important action by the 10th Assembly followed many other occasions on which the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) had called for recognition of the Armenian genocide by the United Nations (UN) and by member states, dating back to the 1979 session of the UN Human Rights Commission. The WCC has played a key role over many years in accompanying the Armenian church in speaking out and working for recognition of the genocide, and for appropriate responses to the genocide’s continuing impacts on the Armenian people.

A minute adopted at the 6th Assembly of the WCC held in 1983 in Vancouver acknowledged that “The silence of the world community and deliberate efforts to deny even historical facts have been consistent sources of anguish and growing despair to the Armenian people, the Armenian churches and many others.” While some continue their efforts to deny or minimize these historical events, the executive committee is greatly encouraged by His Holiness Pope Francis’ public recognition on 12 April 2015 of the mass killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians as genocide. We stress that there is a duty on the international community to remember the victims of genocide, in order to heal these historical wounds and to guard against similar atrocities in the future.

The WCC, with its many member churches, has participated in several events marking the centenary, including the official commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and canonization of the martyrs in Yerevan, Armenia, on 21-25 April. The WCC and its member churches will continue to participate in the ongoing centennial commemorations this year by the Armenian diaspora, including with the Armenian Church Holy See of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, on 18-19 July. The Executive Committee thanks the many member churches and ecumenical partners around the world that have observed or will observe this ongoing centenary in their own contexts, and that have spoken in recognition of the genocide and in commemoration of its victims. Through these commemorations, we acknowledge that these tragic events occurred, and that they must be named by their right name.


The Armenian genocide was accompanied in the same historical and political context by genocidal acts against other – mostly Christian – communities of Aramean, Chaldean, Syrian, Assyrian and Greek descent, which have blighted history at the beginning of the 20th century.

Denial, impunity and the failure to remember such events encourage their repetition. Those who deny or attack the life and dignity of a sister or brother undermine and destroy the humanity of both the victim and themselves. These centennial commemorations should mark the passing of the time when governments remain reluctant to name what occurred one hundred years ago as genocide. We urge all governments to abandon this reluctance.

In this centenary year, we call the international community, the WCC’s member churches and all people of faith and good will to remembrance, and to re-commit to the prevention of genocide and all crimes against humanity.

Azeri side does not lead the OSCE mission to its front-lines

On May 22, in accordance with the arrangement reached with the authorities of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, the OSCE Mission conducted a planned monitoring of the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan in the Hadrut direction near Horadiz settlement.

From the positions of the NKR Defense Army, the monitoring was conducted by Field Assistants of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Yevgeny Sharov (Ukraine) and Khristo Khristov (Bulgaria).

From the opposite side of the Line of Contact, the monitoring was conducted by staff member of the Office Peter Svedberg (Sweden) and Personal Assistant to the Personal Representative of the CiO Simon Tiller (Great Britain).

The monitoring passed in accordance with the agreed schedule. No violation of the cease-fire regime was registered. However, the Azeri side did not lead the OSCE mission to its front-lines.

From the Karabakh side, the monitoring mission was accompanied by representatives of the NKR Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense.