BY AIDA AVETISYAN
DIYARBEKIR (ArmRadio)—Armenians still living in Turkey do so at the expense of having to hide their identity, Turkish Armenian Abdul Gafuri said in an interview with Public Radio of Armenia.
According to Gafuri, the hidden Armenians of Turkey have recently started to reveal their Christian faith. Over 25 Turkish Armenians have already sought to be baptized and changed their ID cards, he said.
There are two Armenian communities in Turkey – Christian Armenians, who number 60 to 70 thousand, and Islamized Armenians, whose number reaches about 4 to 6 million in Western Armenia and other parts of Turkey.
Abdul Gafuri lives in Diyarbekir (Dikranagerd) and says that being an Armenian there is not easy. After the Genocide, Armenians scattered all over the world like pomegranate seeds, and those who stayed in Turkey had to hide their identity.
“There have been times when we have had to present ourselves ‘more Muslim than the Muslims’ in order to survive. We Speak Armenian at home, but pretend to be Muslims outside,” he said.
The 4-5 million Armenians, who changed their religion nearly a century ago, are alienated from Armenia and the Diaspora, and feel closer to Turks and Kurds,” Abdul Gafuri says. He advises to take steps to re-establish ties.
He said there are about 150 Islamized Armenians in Diyarbekir, who have changed their religion, but still maintain their Armenian identity.
“A few years ago one could meet just 3 to 4 Armenians in Diyarbekir, who would reveal their true identity. Today their number has grown and they meet once a week at St. Giragos Church. There were 82 Armenians at the most recent dinner,” he said.
Four years ago, when Islamized Armenians started to reveal their identity and launched a campaign to raise awareness about the Armenian Genocide, Abdul Gafuri became one of the first to baptize and change his ID card to change the religion from Islam to Christianity.
Speaking to Public Radio of Armenia, Abdul Gafuri noted that Turkey is seriously preparing for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. As for the appointment of Etyen Mahcupyan as adviser to Turkish Prime Minister, Gafuri said it could possibly provide an opportunity for the Turkish Government to get to know more about the Armenian Genocide.