14 Days in Diyarbakir - 14 Photos of Amed - 14 Pieces on Tigranakert.
"Repair's" special correspondant MJM, a french-armenian journalist, has recently spent two weeks in the current capital of the South Eastearn Anatolia to meet with the past, present and future of the thousands of Armenians who used to live in this city before the 1915 genocide. During his travels, MJM shares with us his many encounters with places, women and men whose story is undeniably related to the Armenians.
This photo essay was done in May 2013, some situations described in these articles have evolved since then.
Day 1 – Surp Giragos under plastic wrap
Two years after my visit to Diyarbakir, a lot of change has come to Surp Giragos (St Cyriac). I had visited that Armenian church a few months before its official opening, when the building was still under construction. Scaffolding filled up all the space and furniture had not yet arrived. Today, there are rows of brand new benches marked with the initials SG (for Surp Giragos) in the Armenian alphabet, candles have already been lit in the sandpits, and two locked boxes are waiting for donations to renovate what is said to be one of the major Armenian churches in the Middle East. Near the choir, chairs and a mighty seat are still covered with thick plastic wrap protecting them from dust. Because if all is ready to welcome worshippers, there is still something missing in Surp Giregos – or rather someone: a Priest!
The hitch is that no-one knows when he will come, although the Patriarchate of Istanbul has promised that someone will definitely come some day. With the current vocation crisis, the little community of Armenians in Diyarbakir will still have to wait before the Sunday mass is celebrated here. For the time being the church is still in standby, even though Turkish and foreign visitors do trickle in every day and a second Easter holiday was celebrated this year with choreg (braided brioche bread) and brightly coloured eggs – over 500 of them, according to Kevok, the Armenian teacher who filled in for the missing cleric and animated the ceremony.
Once the heavy church gate shut tight and the tumult of the street left behind, some sort of quiet settles in. Nature is starting to reclaim its rights, and the mulberry tree standing tall in the little courtyard offers its beneficial shade to visitors and its sweet fruit to the passing gourmet. In a corner, a photographic exhibition makes you realize the extent of the renovation work achieved and informs the visitor about turn of the 20th century Armenian Diyarbakir. On both sides of the building, water pumps have been installed and bring a very welcome coolness in this region of Anatolia. As for the cooing pigeons, they have already found refuge near the stately town tower whose heavy bell was brought especially from Russia and reminds us that Surp Giragos is alive and well. “Our town must become an example of multiculturalism. I want to hear the sound of bells again next to calls from minarets”, Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir had said in an interview two years ago. His dream has finally come true…
The 30-year-old freelancer and photographer, MJM, has worked for various newspapers and magazines. His recent work with the Yerkir NGO has permitted him to further develop his views and understanding through photos and documentaries in Armenia and Turkey. An overview of his work is available on his website www.mjm-wordsandpics.com.