DIYARBAKIR (A.W.)—Speaking at a reception held on the occasion of the closing of the dome of the Sourp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir, the mayor of the greater Diyarbakir municipality, Osman Baydemir told the Armenians gathered there: “This city is yours as much as it is mine. You have as much a claim to this city as I do.”
The ongoing renovation of the church, in the heavily Kurdish populated area, is being performed by the Armenian Patriarchate and the municipality of Diyarbakir.
The reception on October 23 was attended by Archbishop Aram Atesyan of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, local leaders, and members of the Istanbul Armenian community.
Unlike the Holy Cross Church in Van, which the Turkish government turned into a museum and did not transfer to the Armenian Patriarchate, the Sourp Giragos Church is being renovated jointly by the patriarchate and the Diyarbakir municipality and will be run by the patriarchate.
The reconstruction of the church, an architectural marvel and the largest church in the entire Middle East, is expected to cost more than $2.5 million and be completed by next year.
The Turkish press has thus far failed to provide appropriate (if any) coverage of the reception, although it was quick to glorify every step of the renovation and “museum-ization” of the Sourp Khatch Church in Van. Reports about the reception are available, however, on Kurdish news sites.
One commentator told the Armenian Weekly that the relative silence of the Turkish press is “because the language used in this entire exchange between Atesyan and Baydemir [during the reception] runs counter to the dominant discourse” in Turkey regarding the Armenians.