VAN–The Istanbul-based Marmara Armenian newspaper reports that sculptures on the Akhtamar Church–located on Akhtamar Island–in Western Armenia–are being used as targets for shooting practice by visitors. A photo accompanying the article in the Turkish Newspaper Milliyet reveals the pierced images. Reporting from Van–writer Cukran Bakan says that a guard is posted at the historical site only during visiting hours–and only during the summer season.
Though visitors routinely arrive to the island to practice their shooting–visitors have also begun to dig underneath the church for hidden treasure. A professor of Ancient Studies at Van’s Yuzuncu Yil University says that people have the notion that there are treasures buried in Van. A guard at the Akhtamar Church was even caught and arrested for digging for treasure.
Marmara also lamen’s a reference in the first paragraph of the Milliyet article that refers to the Akhtamar Church as a 1,000 year-old sacred site for Christians and Jews. "There is nothing left for us to say," writes the Armenian paper.