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 5 – Like paying tribute
Every day or so, my hosts Berat and Kenan tell me of their dream of owning a certain ancient house in Old Diyarbakir and turning it into a café. “Houses like those we’re looking for are few and prices never stop rising,” explains Berat, worried that his dream might never materialize. Indeed, the beautiful houses located in the old Diyarbakir have been lately attracting greedy attention. Some hold high hopes about the peace process between the PKK and the Turkish state, anticipating the financial boon from the possible development of tourism in that magnificent region. In the last three years, renovation of buildings have multiplied, gradually changing the centre surrounded by medieval walls said to be the second largest after the Great Wall of China, as Osman Baydemir and Abduallah Demirbas like to repeat.
One afternoon, we visited two houses for sale. The aspiring entrepreneurs were not impressed by the first one – plain and poorly located. Unlike the second one, with its elegant arches, beautiful engraved motifs on the balustrade, its intriguing bas-reliefs at the top of one of the wells and its stone basin right in the middle of the courtyard which excited my curiosity. I naively asked who used to own it. The answer of the current owner in Turkish contained one word that jolted me: “Ermeni.” So the house used to belong to Armenians. That explained it… In halting English, Berat tried to translate for me the words of the Kurdish landlord: “Those Armenians and his grandparents were friends in the 1980s*. That Armenian family had to flee from Diyarbakir. People attacked them and because of the pressure of government and the population, they left,” he summed up. Unfortunately I would not know more about it, but the idea that an old Armenian house could be turned into a café perplexed me. Who would be stirred by this story once the house renovated and turned into a trap for tourists attracted by the pseudo-authenticity of the place, The next day, when I asked Kenan whether they had already decided how they would call their venue if they were granted a loan, his answer surprised me a little: “If we choose the house of the Armenians, we’ll research to find out how the family was called, who they were, what were their occupations. And our café will bear their name,” he assured me. Like a tribute…
*The guerrilla between members of the PKK and the Turkish State started in 1984.
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.