Armenian Deputy Paylan tells Turkish journalist Altayli to "Transfer the deed of the monastery"

Armenian Deputy Paylan tells Turkish journalist Altayli to "Transfer the deed of the monastery"
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Like many other minority properties, the monastery was the subject of expropriation

The deed of the 1200-year-old Varakavang Monastery, which is about to be demolished, seems to be on Fatih Altayli. Garo Paylan called on Altayli to “transfer the deed”to rescue the monastery.

Turkey is dotted with historic buildings belonging to various faiths and cultures which are abused to the point of being destroyed, or they disappear due to neglect. Churches, monasteries, and historic buildings belonging to Armenians are among the most common of these old buildings at risk of destruction. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakir Deputy Garo Paylan, who is in Van to observe the condition of monasteries and churches that have fallen into disrepair, made a statement about various historical buildings that are disappearing due to neglect or abuse.


Paylan's first visit was to the Varakavank Monastery in the village of Yukari Bakracli which is near the center of Van and was built on a very large area. The monastery has suffered great damage due to neglect and excavations by treasure hunters. The walls of the outbuildings of the massive monastery have crumbled, and there are also collapses on the facade and roof. Stones and columns with religious and monastic symbols are scattered around. The monastery is in danger of destruction and could collapse in a few years if it is not restored.


There is also a serious obstacle in the way of the restoration of the vanishing Varakavank Monastery, about which Paylan made the following statement:

"The reason why the Varakavank monastery, one of the most important buildings in the region, is not restored is that when you apply to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for its restoration, the answer you get is that it is a private property and they cannot take any action. When you look into who it belongs to, it turns out that the title deed is held by journalist Fatih Altayli."


After stating that they have repeatedly asked the Ministry of Culture for the restoration of the Varakavank Monastery, Paylan added that the ministry has rejected this request every time on the grounds that it is private property, and added:

“Therefore, we call upon whoever has its ownership to return it to its rightful owners. We found out that it is the property of journalist Fatih Altayli. I don't understand how a journalist from Turkey can own a monastery.”


Recalling that the Varakavang monastery includes seven churches and has a 1,200-year history, Paylan called on Fatih Altayli to transfer the deed so that the monastery would not perish:

"This spiritual complex that is left to be demolished is a very important place where thousands of clergymen were trained. If Mr. Fatih Altayli transfers it to the Armenian Patriarchate or the Ministry of Culture as soon as possible, it will be restored. Otherwise, this place is left to be demolished. If the deed of this place is transferred as soon as possible, the monastery can be saved."


Commenting on the destruction of historical buildings belonging to Armenians in the region to +GercekNews, Garo Paylan recalled that a hundred years ago, one in five people living in Anatolia and two in three people living in Van were Armenians. Stating that the Armenian people have lived in these lands for thousands of years, Paylan said, "The Armenian people have created a remarkable civilization. They have thousands of cultural properties, monasteries, churches, schools and hospitals. Unfortunately, after the extermination of the Armenian people, these cultural properties were destroyed with deliberate policies. In the face of state-organized vandalism, very few traces of these millenary cultural properties remain. The few cultural properties that are standing are those with a great stone workmanship. However, these assets are also breathing their last breath. If we don't intervene to protect them in a few years, there won't be much left," he said.


Explaining that he made this trip to visit the buildings here, examine them in situ and bring this issue to the agenda, Paylan said:

"As soon as I return to Ankara, I will bring this matter to the agenda. I will discuss the issue with the government and the Ministry of Culture. I will tell them to take these measures as soon as possible. The Armenian issue is considered a difficult one. If you want to heal the wound in the heart of the Armenian people, if you want to confront the Armenian people, at least these steps can be taken. There is talk of huge reparations, this and that, but the real issue is that you can only heal the wound in the hearts where we are wounded. This is such a place. The restoration of the seven churches will help to heal the wound in the hearts of the Armenian people a little more. The Akdamar Church [refers to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Aghtamar Island in Lake Van] was restored, yes it is important, but there are thousands of Akdamars all over Turkey. There are hundreds of Akdamars in Van waiting to be saved."


Explaining the history of the Varakavank monastery to +GercekNews, art historian Fatih Guden said the monastery is known as the Seven Churches. Stating that the monastery's history dates back some 1,400 years, Guden went on to say, "The oldest historical structure we know for sure is the Surp Sopi church, of which only a part of the apse and a part of the wall have survived to our days. The church of Surp Sopi was built in 981. The Church of the Holy Virgin Mary, the central church where we are now, was built in 1021. The reason it is called the Seven Churches is that there are four churches in the area where we are now and three others are located in Varak, that is, on Mount Erek. These three buildings on Mount Erek are completely destroyed now. Only the remains of the foundation level can be seen. The structures there have partially survived," he said.