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 11 – The white genocide goes on
Apart from Surp Giregos, there are still at least two Armenian churches standing in Diyarbakir. They are the property of the state, which turned them into teaching centres for children, devoid of Armenian identity. On the old town map given out at the Tourist office, they are only mentioned as “church”, without their original names – unlike Surop Giregos, which proudly bears the official title of “Armenian church.” “We have had Surp Giregos renovated, in contrast with the State, which has turned Armenian churches into carpet museums,” stressed Abdullah Demirbas, Mayor of Sur, when we met him.
On the plaque of the Protestant Armenian church, it is indeed written in black and white that the features of the building indicate that it is absolutely not an Armenian church (why then mention it?!) Inside, we discover that the place has been turned into a workshop where very young girls and older one weave scarves for the staggering salary of 100 liras per month (less than 50 euros.) As the resigned workers tell us, these scarves will of course be sold again for ten times their cost on the town markets or beyond. There is a name for such a situation: exploitation.
In another nearby place of worship, it is almost the same except that it is hard to hide the Armenian character of the place, which looks like a smaller Surp Giregos in spite of its very damaged choir that seems to have been battered with a huge hammer. This does not seem to disturb the children working there as “apprentices.” Engraving for boys and carpet weaving for girls, who are physically separated by a makeshift wall. Left to themselves, they talk, play and walk around the rundown church without supervision. In the ambulatory, a hidden staircase leads to a little room whose function I don’t immediately understand. Looking up, I can see the belfry, without its bell, standing a little further. A rope was probably used to ring from precisely the place where I am standing today. But unlike Surp Giregos, there is no rope or bell in sight. Maybe one day…
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.