Turkish Culture Minister denies that a toilet was built on Armenian graveyard in Van

Turkey's Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy claimed that the area that a toilet was built was not an Armenian graveyard in eastern Turkey, but pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Garo Paylan maintained the site was an Armenian graveyard.

Serkan Alan / DUVAR

Toilets that were thought to be built on an Armenian graveyard in the eastern province of Van are in fact bathrooms from the 20th century, and the land they’re built on is a pre-historic gravesite, Culture and Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said.

The land in question came into the public eye in 2017, when the municipality built facilities for a public beach and recovered human remains in the process, which lead to the assumption that the land was in fact an Armenian graveyard.

The discovery of human remains did not hinder construction, and a parking lot and toilets were built on the land, prompting pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Garo Paylan to present parliamentary questions to Minister Ersoy during the 2021 budget negotiations.

The minister said in his response that the area was in fact an early-iron age necropolis, as revealed by excavation in 1988 where artifacts like jewelry, accessories, and urns pointed to pre-historic times.

“The bathrooms and other construction on the mound and burial site belong to a village school that was already here in 1967 when the mound was officially registered,” Ersoy noted.

Meanwhile, any construction deemed out of accord with archaeological guidelines were removed from the site per the 2017 Culture and Tourism Ministry decree, and the remaining construction was put to use, Ersoy added. 

However, HDP Deputy Paylan refuted Minister Ersoy’s explanation of the account and said that it was impossible for human bones to have survived since prehistoric times.

“Those bones must have been at most 100 years old, I saw them with my own eyes, scattered across the field,” Paylan said. “The ministry should ask its experts whether bones could have survived as such since the early Iron Age.”

Paylan said that he felt deeply saddened for his country that toilets built on Armenian graves had been failed to be taken down for three years, and had become legitimate.