The historic Surp Sarkis Armenian Church in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır, which is on the verge of destruction, is being raided by treasure hunters, Mezopotamya news agency reported on Sept. 26.
Some 70 percent of the church, believed to be built in the 16th century, has been already demolished over the years. Heavy rains on Dec. 6, 2019 and afterwards the 6.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the eastern province of Elazığ caused certain sections of the church to collapse.
As the government failed to take the necessary precautions since, treasure hunters are now targeting the church and stealing its stones.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Garo Paylan said that the government’s policy toward the church is a “purposeful neglect” for the memory of the Armenians in the city to be wiped away.
He said that the Surp Sarkis Church is one of the symbols of the cultural heritage of the Armenians in the city and the government is turning a blind eye to its destruction. “Surp Sarkis Church is unfortunately left to destruction, and one more important record with regards to the Armenians’ existence here is being destroyed,” he was quoted as saying by Mezopotamya news agency.
Paylan said that the church belongs to Diyarbakır Armenian Church Foundation, but since the foundation does not have the financial means to restore the structure, the government needs to step in and provide the funding assistance for the restoration project.
Paylan said that the HDP has taken certain initiatives to get financial assistance from abroad for the church’s restoration, but the Turkish government prevented these donations from reaching Turkey.
Calling on the Culture Ministry to take measures for the protection of the church, Paylan said: “They [treasure hunters] have taken the cultural properties here and put them in trucks with scoops. Unfortunately, a policy of destruction is ongoing with regards to the remaining cultural assets.”