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      Armenian church as shooting target

Armenian church as shooting target   11/11/2004


Brussels, 11/11/2004 - The correspondent of the Milliyet newspaper alerts from Van (Eastern Turkey) that the marvellous carvings of the 10th century church of Akhtamar (Lake Van, Eastern Turkey) are regularly being used as targets for shooting practice by visitors. The newspaper published also a photo where one can see the state of carvings after such visits. The correspondent reports that the church is protected by a guard in the summer time only during the working hours. During the rest of the day the visitors entertain themselves by shooting on the carvings of the Akhtamar Church, and some of them even try to find some treasure. Pr. Veli Seçkin, professor at the archaeology department of the University of Van says that there are rumours among the population that there is treasure cached in the island of Akhatamar. Even the guard of the Church was arrested while he was "hunting for treasure".

 Already in May 2004 the newspaper Zaman alerted that the famous church of the Holy Cross of the Akhtamar Island in Lake Van was almost in ruins. The church, which is visited by many foreign tourists, is badly neglected and close to ruins. The church has been neglected and harmed by treasure hunters and is at risk of collapsing. Both its foundation and ceiling have cracks and holes.

 The City of Van's Culture and Tourism Province Director, Bilal Sonmez, told Zaman that a project for the preservation of the historical identity of the church is already being prepared. Sonmez said that the issue has already been transferred to the Culture and Nature Assets Council and that the directorate is waiting for a decision.

 Unfortunately the above-mentioned project for the preservation of the historical identity of the church was never carried out and the Church is not protected by UNESCO, since each country decides which are the monuments to be protected by UNESCO.

 The Assembly of Armenians of Europe and upon its request many Armenians all around the world sent alert letters to UNESCO, but they remained without answer.

 In order to raise the awareness of the European an exhibition "Armenian Architectural Heritage in South Caucasus and Middle East", organised by the Assembly of Armenians of Europe with the co-operation of the Research on Armenian Architecture under the patronage of the MEP Jonas Sjostedt (GUE,NGL, Sweden) took place in the European Parliament, Brussels at the end of September 2004. The exhibition was composed of 4 parts – the Armenian architectural heritage in Armenia, Turkey, Turkey, Azerbaijan. The photos in Azerbaijan and Turkey show clearly the wanton and premeditated vandalism and destruction of the Armenian Architectural monuments in those countries. Indeed, such behaviour is the direct consequence of the denial of the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and which is not recognised yet by the Republic of Turkey.  We believe that such attitude from the Republic of Turkey aspiring to an EU full membership is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.

Hereby we call upon the UNESCO, European Institutions and international organisations to urge Turkey to stop destroying the Armenian Architectural monuments which are located in the territory of the actual Republic of Turkey and instead to begin a genuine programme of protection and preservation of this great cultural heritage that belongs to the whole of Europe and the world.


The 10th century church of Akhtamar...
The 10th century church of Akhtamar...

The Church of Holly Cross, the Akhtamar Church is situated in Lake Van, Eastern Turkey. The Church was built during the reign of King Gakik I of the Vaspurakan Dynasty during the years 915 - 921 B.C. This is one of the finest jewels of Armenian architecture. In its design and conception of volumes and surfaces, this sanctuary is an intellectually original variation of the cruciform and central cupola'd churches of the high Middle Ages. The church has a four leafed clover plan with a domed centre, and it is built from red coloured cut tuff stone. All the interior walls and even the cupola are covered with beautiful frescoes, the best of which is the one painted on the high altar wall representing the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, sitting on a white donkey. shooting target shooting target



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