Nine Mayors from Dersim have arrived in Armenia at the initiative of the “Modus Vivendi” center and with the support of the Armenian Ministry of Diaspora. The Mayors have visited Tsitsernakabersd to pay tribute to the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims. They have also visited the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Khor Virap, the History Museum of Armenian and Matenadaran.
The Mayos met with reporters today to share their impressions. They spoke about the serach for their identity and the problems of returning to their roots. They also presented the joint programs with Zazas and Alevis.
Head of Modus Vivendi Center Ara Papyan said the initiative aims to provide Dersim Armenians with an opportunity to get to know Armenia ahead of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Ara Papyan said they have worked with the Dersim Province for several years now. They often organize festivals featuring groups from Armenia.
Many residents of Dersim now openly accept their Armenian descent and even baptize. Others, however, continue to hide their true identity out of decades-long fear.
Considering all this, it’s hard to calculate today what percentage of Dersim residents is of Armenian descent. The number could be between 20 and 90. One thing is clear: people in Dersim have started to return to their Armenian roots.
Chairman of the Dersim Union of Armenians and Alevis Sercan Saritas attaches importance to the organization of Armenian language courses. “We want to intensify the social communication. During a festival in July we’ll host guests from Arnenia,” he said.
Representative of the Armenian Union of Dersim Miran Pirgic said “we have a pain and we should think what we can do jointly.” “Genocide is seated so deep in people that our brothers in Istanbul even find it hard to accept our Armenian descent, because the names of all our brothers in Dersim are changed, “Turkified” or “Kurdified.” However, the reality cannot be hidden any more. We have already disclosed the truth. We only need the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey and the Etchmiadzin Catholicosate to accept us,” he said.
The Mayors said a number of joint events will now be organized. Joint organizations have been set up to implement joint programs. The guests also said they have compiled the list of Armenian churches in Dersim. They intend to maintain and renovate the 162 churches. They work in cooperation with the Istanbul-based Union of Armenian Architects.
One of the Mayors said that because of the importance the Turkish authorities attach to the cooperation with the European Union, they sometimes ignore the initiatives of Dersim Armenians. But they exert greater pressure through the Istanbul Patriarchate, i.e. by creating problems with the baptism.