ANI–During the 1980s and 1990s, when the whole site of Ani was under the full control of the Turkish Army, very little damage was done to the remains as a result of the activities of treasure hunters. This was in marked contrast to most other archaeological sites in Turkey.
In 2004, as a result of a decision made by the Turkish Ministry of Defense, the responsibility for the day-to-day control of the Ani archaeological site was passed from the Turkish Army to the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The immediate effect of this was that it was now possible to travel to Ani without a permit, photography within the site was permitted, and only a token number of soldiers was designated to patrol the site.
Part of the conditions set by the Turkish army before allowing this hand-over was that civilian guards had to be appointed to supervise the site and replace the duties previously performed by the soldiers. These guards are not actually employees of the Ministry of Culture because the task of guarding Ani was subcontracted to a Kars-based business.
All the guards are inhabitants of Ocakli village, located just outside Ani’s walls. At night they use their position of authority to roam the ruins at will, digging anywhere they think may contain treasure. The following photographs document some of the damage they have done. All of this destruction took place between August 2006 and August 2007.