Rep. Watson Alerts Colleagues to Turkey’s Token Efforts to Use Akhtamar Renovation to Mislead Congress

WASHINGTON–Congresswoman Diane Watson, a leading member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Friday warned her colleagues not to be misled by the Turkish government’s token efforts to use the renovation of a single Armenian Church to obscure its longstanding policy of destroying Armenian cultural heritage and denying the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America. "We thank Congresswoman Watson for her work in alerting her colleagues to the true motivations behind this token – and all too transparent – effort by the Turkish government to draw attention away from its anti-Armenian policies," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "It is clearly not an act of tolerance for Turkish leaders to turn an ancient and sacred church, with profound religious meaning for Armenia’s worldwide, into a secular museum, upon which a cross is forbidden and within which prayer is prohibited." In a Dear Colleague letter circulated today, the day of the official opening of the newly renovated Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island, in Lake Van, as a museum, she noted that, "the Turkish government is holding an event to tout the rehabilitation of an Armenian Church. Unfortunately, this event obscures the reality that hundreds of Christian Armenian Churches in Turkey, some dating as far back as the 4th century, have been neglected and even egregiously abused." She urged her colleagues to visit a website documenting this destruction: Congresswoman Watson explained that, "Armenia, which was the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion in 301 A.D., has a remarkably rich history of ancient churches and Christian artifacts. Sadly, the Turkish government – which still, against all evidence, denies the Armenian Genocide – continues to actively pursue the eradication of Armenian ancient monumen’s. It is a desperate and malicious campaign, which began in 1915, to erase the Armenian people’s physical and cultural existence in their historic homeland." The Los Angeles legislator closed her letter by pointing out that, "only under great international pressure has the Turkish government begrudgingly preserved this single Armenian Church, a holy site that was already widely recognized as a world treasure. This token effort stands in stark contrast to the hundreds of Armenian Churches that have been and continue to be neglected, deliberately damaged, and often entirely destroyed in Turkey and Azerbaijan."


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