ISTANBUL—Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and an outspoken advocate for Armenian rights on Wednesday rejected the authority of Archbishop Aram Ateshian who was forcibly reinstated as the Patriarchate’s Vicar General by the Turkish authorities.
Calling Ateshian an “enforcer” of the Turkish government, Paylan declared that “we want to elect our Patriarch.”
A decision by the Istanbul Governor, which was later rubber-stamped by Turkey’s Interior Ministry effectively halted the Armenian community’s effort to elect a Patriarch to replace Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan who, since 2008, has been incapacitated due to dementia. In March, the Patriarchate’s Religious Council elected Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian as the Locum Tenens, which meant Ateshian, who had been placed there by the Turkish authorities, would have to resign. However, he resisted and continued to create obstacles to the election of a Patriarch through due process.
Earlier this month, by a decision of the Istanbul Governor the entire election process was scrapped and Ateshian was reinstated as Vicar General, forcing the Religious Council to accept the governor’s decision and Bekdjian to leave Turkey.
“It has been about ten years now that the Armenian community of Istanbul has been barred from any chance of electing its own patriarch,” Paylan told tert.am
“Unfortunately, it was the Turkish authorities’ decision several years ago to install Aram Ateshyan as Vicar General. At the time we said we wanted to elect our patriarch,” he told Tert.am, explaining that many community members attempted to avert a state-appointed leader to the Patriarchate to no avail.
“By seizing power from the government, you become a kind of hostage. All we need now is to derive power from the Armenian community. And the Patriarch too, must be elected by the Armenian community and derive power from it,” added Paylan.
He characterized Ateshian as a puppet in the hands of not only the Turkish government but also defense, security and law enforcement forces.
“They will use him to realize their wishes,” said Paylan.
He described the impact of this decision to the Armenian community as adverse, saying that community lives in constant fear, and is often in the dark about the situation at the Patriarchate.
“The Armenian community needs empowerment from the Patriarchate. We need to be better organized, as this situation may potentially split the community apart,” warned Paylan.