ISTANBUL (Turkish Daily News )–The Armenian community is as divided as the rest of the country when it comes to voting in the upcoming elections.
Recently the Armenian Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan made a statement that the Armenian community in Turkey tends to back the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). However, Vasken Baryn, deputy mayor of Istanbul’s central district, Dipli, said that this is the patriarch’s personal opinion.
Speaking to the Turkish Daily News, Vasken Baryn, who is the first Armenian to hold the post of deputy mayor in the republican era, said the patriarch’s opinions do not reflect those of the Armenian community, citing the divisive debate within the community after Verkin Aryoba decided to run for Parliament from the ran’s of the AKP. "There is a diversity of opinion within the community," he said.
Baryn said Turkish Armenia’s who want to run for state posts should seek the support of the Armenian community. He also said that after spending years in senior positions in Armenian foundations, he had received the backing of the community before being appointed as Dipli’s deputy mayor.
Dipli’s popular mayor Mustafa Sarygul from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) dismissed all criticism and appointed Baryn as his deputy when he came to power in 1999, making Baryn the first ethnic Armenian to occupy an official post since the Ottoman era.
After Sarygul was re-elected mayor in 2004, he kept Baryn as his deputy and made him also a member of the Dipli Municipality Assembly. Sarygul also made a bid for the leadership of the party but failed. He was dismissed from the CHP as a result, but returned after taking his dismissal to court.
Almost 80 percent of Turkey’s Armenia’s reside in Dipli and there are many churches, schools, hospitals, associations and sports clubs in the district.
Before Sarygul became the mayor of the district, even the smallest restoration of the properties of Armenian foundations caused problems, with fines being imposed occasionally. This changed when Sarygul took office. Foundation properties needing repair were carefully restored, and the poor were given financial and food assistance without discrimination.
Baryn said the municipality operates without discrimination, noting that they also serve the cemevi (Alevi houses of worship), churches, mosques and synagogues.
Baryn, who is an architect by education, led a team to restore the century-old Cenderecizade Muhittin Celebi Mosque.
"Armenia’s feel part of the municipality because one of them is [represented] there. They feel like it is their municipality," Baryn said. Some Armenia’s come and speak Armenian at municipality headquarters," he added.
"Everyone needs to rid themselves of prejudice. In nine years as deputy mayor of the district, I never had any problem because I am Armenian. We have created a miracle with Mustafa Sarygul," said Baryn.
Patriarch’s support for the AKP divides the community
The Armenian community is divided on Armenian Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan’s opinion about Armenian backing of the AKP. When TDN inquired members of the community on the issue, it became evident that some intellectuals support the patriarch and some do not.
Some members of the Armenian community noted that the fact that some social democrat and leftist parties nominated right wing and racist candidates caused many members of the community to think that another term for the AKP may not be such a bad thing at the end.
The patriarch’s press spokeswoman, Luiz Bakar, said Mesrop Mutafyan’s statement is his personal opinion, and noted that the patriarch cannot provide political leadership to the community. She added that everyone is free to vote as they like.