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 10 – Back to school
For two years now, Armenian classes have been taking place at the Cegerxwin Kültür Ve Sanat Centre in Diyarbakir. They are given by Kevork, an Armenian born in Sason who settled in Istanbul, and attract over sixty people, Armenian Muslims for the most part. “Some Kurds did try to attend a couple of sessions, but they never came after that. They said it was much too difficult,” comments the teacher in a laugh.
“Parev, inchpesses? Lave es? (Hello, how are you? Are you well?)”. It is already 6.40 pm, and the first students are gathering around Kevork, who wears a neat simple suit and silver glasses. Three times a week he teaches his class in the huge centre. Today, there are only fifteen people there. Young and older, they actively take part in the class, shooting back answers at the teacher’s questions, reading sentence in Armenian that Kevork writes on the blackboard in the Mesrop Mashtots alphabet, then switching back to Turkish to ask for more information on a particular point. Language has always been a pillar of the Armenian culture and identity, and watching these people – most of them descendants of Armenians islamized by force – reconnect with their armenianess has a very moving and symbolic significance. Isn’t it the first and most important step towards reviving the Armenian identity? How many Armenians in the Diaspora and elsewhere are sorry not to be able the speak their language and develop the motivation to take lessons and fill this void?
The next step towards this “re-Armenizing” will then be a trip to Hayastan (Armenia), as is the strong wish of Gafür Türkay, one of the staff running the Diyarbakir Armenian Foundation. “I’ve been wanting for a year to take the students of the Armenian class to Armenia. It is very important that they should be able to go there and discover that country,” he explains. “Unfortunately, we are too low on funds to undertake such a trip,” he adds – a hint to understanding and generous souls out there!
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.