An old Armenian cemetery in the Tuşba district of Turkey’s eastern province of Van (Wan) has been destroyed, the Mesopotamia News Agency reports.
The cemetery, which survived for 106 years following the Armenian genocide in 1915, has been destroyed with heavy machinery by people claiming to be the owners of the site.
Berna Karataş, a resident and a frequent visitor to the cemetery, told of its historical significance, reacting with dismay to the destruction and desecration.
“Armenians used to live in this area. It was a beautiful place. Armenian nobles, chiefs and priests used to be buried in this cemetery,” she relates.
“I was faced with this scene when I came by here two weeks ago. It’s a heartbreaking sight.What did they want from the dead? This is a cemetery. Graveyards are sacred in all religions.”
She says that there had been gravestones unique to the Armenian culture, with carved figurative symbols and scripts:
“There were dozens of graves before, with standing gravestones and with flat gravestones. We used to come here all the time. We brought our guests, our relatives and our children, because this was a place of historical significance; a place everyone should visit. Unfortunately there is nothing left.”
She also tells how the cemetery had been regularly preyed upon by graverobbers:
“We used to see holes dug by treasure hunters. Sometimes there were more holes dug each time we came. If only we had been able to do something to prevent it then. As you see it’s now unfortunately completely desecrated and destroyed.”
The neighbourhood of Lezk, to give it its original name, was renamed Kalecik by the Turkish administration, and was a home to many Armenians until 1915, when its residents were forced out during the genocide. The church and the old school building turned to ruins over the years, but new houses were built after the earthquake in 2011.
After the 2019 local elections, the winning candidate in the area, from the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), was denied the post of district mayor due to a decree banning him from public service, and the candidate of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) was appointed mayor in their place.