Turks taking stock of Armenian Genocide

A church like that can help a person, says Armen. It can help them from giving up hope — and that is indeed something.

The fact that the church is even standing here — beautiful and steadfast in a place that was only recently the site of ruins — instills a sense of courage, says Armen.

And courage is something that is badly needed in these parts, especially in Diyarbakir.The city is located in southeastern Turkey, deep in the Anatolian mountain region. Diyarbakir is gray, loud and lackluster.

But it does have one special landmark — the stylishly restored St. Giragos Church, located in the Old Town, a labyrinth of crumbling homes and alleys that reverberate with children’s shouts as they kick around a soccer ball.

It’s a Christian-Armenian church, the first of its kind to be rebuilt and highly symbolic in a city like Diyarbakir.

The builders say that attempts were made to prevent the reconstruction, hinting that they may have been linked to some of the politicians involved in the project. Indeed, some felt provoked by the restoration of the church.

For others, the church is a symbol of a major political shift that has gripped Turkish society, a symbol of a willingness to confront its history.

The church also helps people to remember and reaffirm their true identity. People like Armen.

Armen Demirjan first trained to become a baker, then a truck driver, then a newspaper deliveryman and now as a parish clerk. In his early life, Armen had a different name: Abdulrahim Zarasaln.

But one day he found out that he is really Armenian and that the few members of his family who survived had been forced to convert to Islam. Armen then began a new life — one that consumed a lot of his energy. Continue reading

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