18 October 2012
Azaduht Babek, right, and Canik Capar harvest tomatoes in Vakifli, Turkey. (photo: Sean Sprague)
The history of Turkey’s Armenian population is dotted with tragedy, particularly in the period from the late 19th century through the early 20th. Of the most atrocious of those years, Sean Sprague writes:
Between 1915 and 1918, as part of their strategy during World War I, Ottoman Turkish forces displaced, incarcerated or exterminated the empire’s Armenian citizens. Churches, monasteries and schools were leveled or appropriated. In less than four years, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians perished at the hands of their own government, though Turkey disputes the events. Survivors fled the country or took refuge in Istanbul.
However, far from gone, Armenians maintain a small but important presence in the nation — especially in and around Istanbul, and the province of Hatay, in the south. Sprague describes Vakifli, the last remaining Armenian village of Hatay:
The village of Vakifli somehow managed to avoid the atrocities that afflicted most Armenian communities a hundred years ago. Yet, by the mid-20th century, the village no longer had adequate pastoral support or an Armenian school, and most families sent their children to Istanbul for their education. Few of these children ever returned, except on holidays.
Today, the bucolic village is largely a tourist destination for Armenians and Turks alike. The local community is largely prosperous, either catering directly to tourists or running lucrative organic farms that struggle to keep up with growing demands for their fresh tomatoes, apricots, plums, citrus fruits and other produce.
Read more in Rising from the Ruins, from the November 2010 issue of ONE.
Tags: Turkey Village life Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Catholic Church