The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul will not join the pan-Armenian initiative of ringing the bells in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims on April 23. Expert of Turkish studies Gevorg Poghosyan says this testifies to the fact that the Armenian community and the Istanbul Patriarchate are under political pressure on the part of the Turkish authorities.
“The decade-long atmosphere of fear and denial still persists in the Armenian community,” Poghosyan told reporters today.
He reminded that the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul has always been the main body representing the Armenian community, but the recent disagreements inside the Patriarchate have split the community, as well. Part of the community mistrusts acting Patriarch Aram Ateshyan, accusing him of cooperating with the Turkish authorities.
“This division affects community organizations. Small groups openly speak about the Armenian Genocide, but this does not apply to the broader masses,” he said.
Expert of Turkish studies Ruben Melkonyan said the steps of the Patriarchate and the Armenian community are not always the result of pressure by the Turkish authorities. As for the refusal to ring the bells in 42 Armenian churches across Turkey, Melkonyan said “the Patriarchate is thus alienating itself from the general initiatives of the Armenian Church.”
“Unfortunately, the Turkish authorities reserve a certain role to the Patriarchate, and the latter fails to protect the interests of the Armenian community. Aram Ateshyan is preparing to serve a mass for the victims of the two peoples, and this fits into the simple Turkish propaganda called ‘common pain’.”
“This is another condemnable attempt to involve the Armenian Church in the Turkish policy, which is unacceptable,” Melkonyan added. He noted that the ties with the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin were stronger in Soviet times.
According to him, the Istanbul Patriarchate is responsible for the churches and Armenians on the territory of Turkey. “Therefore, staying aside from common interests is unacceptable.”
As for the assertions of Dersim Armenians that a number of events will be organized in memory of the Armenian Genocide victims, Ruben Melkonyan said “some could include certain elements of Turkish propaganda, but the initiative itself is an evidence of revival.” “These should be welcomed, but with a certain reservation in order to avoid hidden traps of the Turkish propaganda.”
According to Gevorg Petrosyan, a group of activists from the Armenian community will come together in central Istanbul to hold commemorative events on April 24. He added, however, that the events would be better organized and would involve a greater number of people, had they been organized at the level of the Patriarchate.