Armenians still pushed out of Turkey with tactics of expropriation

The spirit of mass plunder and extortion

At that moment, the police says, "You Armenians are all abroad anyway, so get up and leave, but withdraw your complaint first so that you can leave the village."

Today I will tell you the story of David Demirdjian. David of Sasoun. He and his family had to flee from Sasoun, Batman to Europe only five months ago. We met when an Armenian from Moush sent me David's bullet-riddled photos. When I called to see how I could help: "Ahparik," he said, "we are going abroad, there is no life for us here." So I had to postpone this article and our video interview concerning his safety, that of his family and that of his associates. We kept in touch for six months since then.

Now he is in a camp and the time has come. Confronted with so much violence and threats, we decided: "Let's speak out, silence gets us nowhere". This is the story of David of Sasoun and his family of becoming diaspora.

David's family is from the Batman side of the stream on the border between Batman's Sason and Diyarbakir's Kulp districts. The Kulp side is now a security zone.The exodus of his people should be the subject of a separate article, because what happened to the Armenians who remained there during the 1990s requires much more extensive research. The family arrives in Istanbul after pressure from locals, and has been working for years to build a life here.

David ultimately wishes to return to his village. Not to leave behind his Armenian relatives living in neighboring provinces, he wants to return to his old village and reclaim his rights. When he eventually did, It turns out that his 500 hectares of land are divided between neighbors and other locals. It has been plundered en masse. Although he has documentation to prove it, the tribesmen who settled the village, on the one hand, and the so-called 'village guards' families, on the other, ignore him, claiming that "Armenians have never lived here."  Undoubtedly, they tell the same lie to themselves first in an attempt to alter and conceal the past.

The Armenians of Sasoun, Moush and Van are known for their persistence. As you may know, in 1915 there was a strong resistance in these regions. David of Sasoun was also persistent and turned to the authorities. Finally, the villagers could not cope with him and handed him around eight - nine hectares of so-called 'hush' land right at the junction of two districts on the river. Who gives an inch of land to whom in these times? As you can imagine from the fact that they gave this land without asking for any payment, David's 'neighbors' actually knew that it was an Armenian village.

The extortionists never thought that David would have the courage to settle on this land. But David of Sasoun hires a contractor to build a three-story house on the bank of the stream, and the first shovel is dug.

Everything started with that first shovelful. As construction progressed over the years, villagers and village guards lodged complaint after complaint against David. "He supports the PKK!" "He feeds them!" "He leads our children into abusing alcohol and drugs!" and so on.

Over the years, his house was searched day and night, the gendarmerie conducted insane searches and every time he traveled between cities his identity card is taken from him during security checks on the bus and he is taken off the bus. In other words, they were waging psychological warfare. Sometimes villagers shout and swear in front of his house, they use words and insults and even actions that our decency here would not allow.

David is unfazed. "I meant no harm, I'm sure there are good people among them," he told me in a phone conversation. The further the construction progresses, the uglier it gets.


One day, they summon David to the police station for questioning. There is a dam to be built on a stream. The people working on this dam come to see him because his house is close by. They ask for water and he gives it to them. He also offers them tea. With pure feelings at heart, he just offers his service as it is his duty to offer any guests.

The villagers complain: "That Armenian is building this dam, he will bring harm to the village." In essence, David, or rather the 'Armenian', is the cause of every bad thing that will befall the village. They imagine David as the owner of the dam. The complaints do not stop, nor does the ordeal. "This place is not for you, go away," they say.

Meanwhile, David buys himself a horse. They leave a note on his door, a threat along the lines of "And you buy a horse now, did you think you were to stay!" Apparently, those who have uprooted David of Sasoun do not want him to take root again. A year and a half ago, a friend from the village called him: "Don't stay at home, they have agreed to come and kill you at night." "I looked out the window and there was movement on the other side of the field, where the village guards are. I knew something was going to happen, I went to a friend's house.  I found out later that they were going to kill me and say 'he got drunk and fell off the balcony'."

That evening they couldn't find David, but they burned down the house. At that point, they called David from the police station. "Do you know they burned down your house?"

He says, no. He goes to the station and files a complaint, giving the names of everyone who threatened him until that day.

The police says: ""Are you sure you want to report all these people? It's enough for one of them to walk in and light a match to burn the house down. Don't target them all."" David writes all the threats he can think of in his complaint. At that moment, the police says, "You Armenians are all abroad anyway, so get up and leave, but withdraw your complaint first so that you can leave the village." Accordingly, he withdraws his complaint with plans to renew it when he comes to Istanbul. David would hear the exact same thing from Istanbul police authorities when he later fled to Istanbul and filed a complaint against those who attacked him with a gun in front of his house in Beylikduzu. It is unlikely that two police officers would say exactly the same thing.

In fact, one is more likely to refer to the other, as if to say "we are from the same organization." When the friend he was hiding with in the village started to receive threats, he and his wife hid in the barn of another acquaintance for a few days without telling anyone. Afterwards, he secretly went to Urfa and then to Istanbul. Less than a year later, the shooting incident mentioned above took place. As he and his wife were returning to their home in Beylikduzu, he was gunned down in front of their front door. David was wounded.

He receives a medical report from the hospital but the police want him to withdraw the complaint as if to say 'these things happen' and repeats the famous sentence: "You Armenians are all abroad anyway, so get up and leave."

This is how an entire people have become diasporic, diasporized. And it continues to be the case.

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