First Concrete Step, Second Rubbery Step

Garen Yegparian


With all this talk and microscopic (on an atomic scale, if not sub-atomic) progress on our Turkish front, it seems to me we ought to be thinking about, discussing, and putting forth actual steps that can be taken.

Since a lot of what has been talked up (and even acted on, though on a wholly insufficient scale) is regarding Armenian church properties being restored, I propose that negotiations be commenced to have the See of Cilicia returned to its home in Sis.

Beyond the obvious benefit of its being a concrete step of slowly recreating an institutional Armenian presence in our homeland, it would also foster more interaction with our lands. Some might journey to Sis as a pilgrimage, others on church business, and others simply to visit their ancestral hometowns, heartened by the restored Armenian presence.

The visits by Armenians would obviously benefit the local economy (and this has its problematic aspect—supporting the economy of our enemy), thus making the Armenian presence more tolerable to Turks who would benefit from it. Slow, baby steps towards restoration, such as these relationship-building ones, are perhaps the only way.

But, what of jurisdictional conflict with the Patriarchate of Istanbul? Wouldn’t turf wars ensue? While this should not be a problem since the Catholicosate of Cilicia had its zone of churches over which it had jurisdiction (and the two patriarchates, Istanbul and Jerusalem, are Ottoman impositions on our church’s structure), it could, at least for the time being, for simplicity in dealing with the return of properties, allow the patriarchate to handle issues within Turkey. The Cilician Catholicosate could then declare itself the “Diasporan See.”

Next, if the church leadership is enlightened enough, Islamized Armenians could be assisted to organize themselves as such and explicitly “come out of the closet” of crypto-Armenianhood. If the church, as a fellow religious institution, doesn’t do this, then others must and will.

Why is organizing Islamized Armenians important? Because:

— They are our compatriots
— Organization is strength
— It creates a common ground for these folks to reestablish and develop their Armenian identity (through language as a starting point, for instance)
— It has important political ramifications, not only within Turkey’s borders and its politics, but also, such a group could participate in Islamic fora. Currently, Azerbaijan goes to international Islamic gatherings and easily passes anti-Armenian resolutions and spews its hatred; imagine having a delegation of Muslim Armenians present to advocate the opposite; or better still, imagine that same delegation successfully passing a Genocide resolution at such an international gathering!

I describe this second step as rubbery because it will take a lot of work and time to get there, and how to do it is not as clear-cut as moving the offices of an institution.

But let’s get busy. Let the See of Cilicia know, through your church, or by some other communication, that you support and advocate its return home. Then get busy finding the relatives that got left behind post-Genocide, so we can start organizing them.


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  1. Robert said:

    Very good ideas here that remind me of a tour to Western Armenia I made some years ago. Our group was at a famous Vank (monastery) near Lake Van that was being taken care of by Kurds under the authority of a Muslim Imam. This all happened because an Armenian priest on a previous tour had seen the vank in terrible condition, being used as animal stables and such. The priest spoke to the Imam and asked him to keep watch over the Vank. As our group was driving away, our guide said to us all, the Vank is why it’s important for Armenians to have at least some presence in Western Armenian, that it reminds those living there now that we Armenians are still a part of the land.

    • Vahagn said:

      As a reminder, or some reminders, Muslim Turks would not object to that. Notice the Armenian parts of the city of Van are still in ruin, it has been left like that as a reminder because there is a verse in their holy book to the effect to leave the houses of the gavurs (the infidels) in ruins as an example to all those who see when they pass by.
      In the other hand, if Turkey returns the 6 provinces of western Armenia to Armenians, that region is populated by some 10 million Kurds now (who claim it as they homeland) and is expected that less than a million of Armenians will return to that expanse of wilderness. Very few Armenians living in the balmy weather of California for example will return to the brutal winter of W.Armenia and the terrible hot summer. Besides who is going to employ those returning one million Armenians; beside till now there are no plans and studies made in the case of the return by Armenians, so presently Armenians are not ready and are too much divided to accomplish something effective. The return of our land by Turks will take long negotiations and the Turks themselves will fight between them since they have to modify their constitution. So the best thing now would be is to forgive and face the Turks in a round table and see if they will allow us to resurrect the city of Sis as an Armenian religious center once again and similar small steps till the opportunity present itself for large scale Armenian settlements, I mean re-settlements. Greeks see a time when most of the Turks will be expelled back to Central Asia by them or by Russia, but as for as Armenians let us be realistic and factual. “There is season for everything and there is time for every event under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

  2. Vahagn said:

    “it will take a lot of work and time to get there” but the time can be shortened if Armenians FORGIVE the Turks of all the suffering that was afflicted on by them. In place of celebrating April 24 of each year by protests, denunciations, and asking Turkey to admit the Genocide, let each April 24 be a “A Day of Forgiveness” for Armenians all over the world.

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