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 7 – Lunch in Surp Giragos
Sunday, 10 a.m.: the Surp Giregos church is bustling. Ten or so people are busy in what made do as a church when the place was still the property of the Turkish state and was used as a warehouse. Dozens of dishes brought by community members are set on a table that is lengthened as they arrive. Beuregs, salads, cheeses, tahina, biscuits and cakes are added gradually while children start a football march next to it. Before starting to eat, each one joins his hands in a prayer improvised by Armenian teacher Kevrok. Then writer Migirdiç Margosyan, passing through Diyarbakir, takes the stand: “The present day should be lived without the past being a burden. We must be proud to be Armenians, and proud to be human being. We are neither above nor below anyone. To cry over the ruins of the past is useless”, he says. “There was a habit here – collecting money for the poor. I still remember the tingling of coins. It is thanks to that solidarity that this church is here today. Solidarity is paramount,” adds the writer.
It is raining that day, but so what. To me, it is slightly unbelievable to find myself there, in the middle of Armenians, for a time of pure sharing. Surp Giregos is indeed the nervous centre of that little community which is trying to rebuild itself after years of forced sleep. And it doesn’t matter if the vast majority of people gather here grant little only importance to religion. “People gather here regularly, just to meet and be together,” says Sino, a young English-speaking man who has been working there only for a few weeks.
“Sit down and eat!” the ladies gently order me while rushing around, bringing tea and preparing plates for the late-comers and the passing strangers. “There are still many people who are scared and will never come here. They haven’t found the courage. But I decided to stand where the truth is,” explains 58 year-old Halide, from Elazig who he tells us in the hubbub that she had never been in contact with Armenians until now. The faces I see on that day seem strangely familiar to me, and even though communication is difficult, a simple smile is often enough to understand each other. So much so that when the muezzin of the opposite mosque makes his adhan, just after noon, no-one seems to pay attention. The Surp Giregos microclimate, no doubt…
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.