Turkey’s only Armenian village risks losing status

A recent draft law on restructuring municipality borders will affect the special status of Turkey’s only Armenian-populated village. Located in the southern province of Hatay, Vakıflı, which consists of 135 residents, will lose its “special” status with the new law.

Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News, Vakıflı community head Cem Çapar said the survival of the village was very important both for them and Turkey’s image. “We hope our rights will be preserved in accordance with the law,” Çapar said.

“The new law proposes villages in the new metropolitan municipalities be turned into districts. This means Vakıflı will lose its village status, so we will no longer be the only Armenian village of Turkey. We conveyed this subject to Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz, with Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin also present,” Çapar said.

Following a transitional political period that formally existed from 1938 to 1939, Hatay was annexed to Turkey in a 1939 referendum.

“Hatay joined Turkey in 1939. During that time, a law preventing foreigners from entering Vakıflı came into force. We would be very pleased if Vakıflı was protected with a similar law today. Otherwise, the village will not survive very long. It would disappear just like many Armenian villages and neighborhoods that faded away in Anatolia. It would also affect us economically as our gardens and vineyards will be taken away,” Çapar said.

The Hatay Governor’s speaker, Raif Harputoğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News there were no restrictions on non-Armenian people who want to reside in the village. “No restriction is made in regard to  residence, anyone could settle there as they wish. But so far such an initiative has not been made. Vakıflı is an important village, since it is a village of tolerance, despite all the crises between Turkey and Armenia.”

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