Taksim Square Belongs to Armenians


Taksim Square Belongs to Armenians

While the newspapers are replete with stories about the rioting at  Taksim Square in Istanbul, as Paul Harvey used to say”….here’s the rest of the story “
According to Lebanese daily “Aztag”, some Turkish protesters in  Taksim Square demanded the dedication, in the square, of a monument  to the memory of the victims of the Genocide of Armenians.
It is worth mentioning that the legal owner of the square and  the surrounding area is the Armenian Church of Turkey. In 1930 the  Armenian Cemetery, which was at Pangalti district attached to the  square, was destroyed by the order of the city.
The marble  tombstones and monuments were sold by the city and the land was  used to build, in addition to the Inonu Gezi Park, hotels such as  Hilton, Intercontinental, and Divan.
Also, the TRT radio and TV  building was built on the sized Armenian land.
Pangaltý district, part of the St. Hagop Armenian Cemetery, was  the largest non-Muslim cemetery in Istanbul. The cemetery was built  in 1560 after Sultan Suleiman I (the Magnificent) officially  decreed the land to the Armenians. That year, when a plague hit Istanbul, the Armenians began burying their dead outside the city, across from the St. Hagop Sanatorium which later became St. Hagop Cemetery.
In 1780 the cemetery was enlarged and in 1853 a wall was built around it.
According to some, in 1919 a monument was built there in memory of the victims of the Genocide of Armenians. In 1933, Istanbul launched a legal challenge to take the land from the Armenian Church. The Armenian Patriarch launched a counter challenged, but the court case dragged on for so long that at the end the Ministry of Interior decided to confiscate the cemetery which covered 850,000-sq. meters and hand it to the city.
Only 6,000-sq. meters were left to the patriarchate. Furthermore, the ministry demanded the patriarchate pay 3,200 liras for cover court costs.
After the confiscation, the city started to sell the land to investors.  The confiscations continued and between 1931 to ’39, St. Hagop Church, which was at Gezi Park and Taksim Square, was also  confiscated and destroyed.
The destruction of the centuries-old church was the final nail which erased the presence of Armenians in that part of the city. The illegal confiscation and demolition was in line with the Turkish government policy of ethnic cleansing which started with the genocide of 1915 against the Armenians.
The irony is that the Turkish authorities used the cemetery and church stones to build the current park and square.
The history of the Taksim Square and Gezi Park symbolize the vicious, inhuman and barbarous policies of successive Turkish governments vis-à-vis minorities. The racist policy has persisted unmitigated for the last one hundred years.

I dislike writing about foreign policy on Face book but I have to say something,  The longer the protests continue in Turkey, the more we will see coverage of Syria and hear about the need to arm the rebels or even invade.
Syria is Erdogan’s foil and he is able to divert many people’s attention from his own dictatorial ambitions by pointing at Syria and shouting “squirrel”.  if he has his way, we will lose out in Turkey as well as Syria.  We do not want to discuss the arrests (or worse) of so many people allied with the West in Turkey who have dared to speak out against Erdogan, and Erdogan knows this, so he is fueling the crisis in Syria to give the West a reason to support Erdogan on Syria.
This means the West overlooks Erdogan’s own gross abuse of power because we seem unable to focus on more than one dictator at a time.
I suspect many people are naive enough to believe that a bunch of Sunni fundamentalists (certified as OK by Erdogan) running Syria is somehow better than the situation under the Ba’athists.  And we gloss over the hideous acts of murder and torture carried out by the Erdogan-backed Syrian rebels against the very Syrian people they are supposed to be rescuing.
The casualty is the Syrian people, unfortunately, who love freedom as much as the rest of us but who realize that the rebels could easily be worse than the Ba’athists.
Did we learn nothing in Iraq?  And frankly, anyone recommended by Erdogan as a viable leader of Syria should be considered highly suspect when it comes to Western interests.  And yes, I know that I had better not travel to Turkey, even without writing this!


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