72 Armenians try to hold on in Yozgat

They were in Iraq and run away from ISIS. Their fate brought them to Yozgat. They live in hard conditions. UN couldn’t schedule any appointment for immigration application before 2022. They don’t know how they can live in these conditions for 7 years. The only thing they want is to meet with their relatives. Vartan Estukyan listened to the stories of the new Armenians of Yozgat.

After Syrian Civil War erupted, majority of Syrians had to leave their country and migrate to other countries, especially to Turkey. In the last 4 years, almost 2 million Syrians started to live in Turkey. Some Armenians from Syria, who were affected by the ISIS attacks, took shelter in Turkey. Last week, 4 members of Tekeyan family drowned during their trip to Greece by a dinghy. 19-years-old Arina is the only living member of the family. However, ISIS attacks threaten not only Christians in Syria, but also all Christians in the Middle East. This threat is so serious that 72 Armenians live in Yozgat now. All of them live in rented houses under tough conditions. They have to hide their crucifix necklaces, when they go out. They haven’t chosen to live in Yozgat on purpose; it was incidental. Yozgat was one of the places where Armenians suffered most in 1915. Returning to Yozgat in such conditions after 100 years is an inexpressible historical cycle. On December 16, CHP Istanbul MP Selina Doğan and 3 religious officials from the Patriarchate visited the Armenians in Yozgat. We were also there. We listened to the stories of the Armenians who run away from ISIS and came to Yozgat. 

No job for ChristiansŞant Garabedyan, 23 

I have been in Yozgat for 2 months. We live under the same roof with my wife’s family; 8 people in the same house. My family is in Baghdad, they cannot afford to come here. 2 months ago, I came here to marry. Living like this is really hard. Nobody hires me, because I am a Christian. My wife is Chaldean and doesn’t wear her crucifix necklace because of fear.

“He spat when he saw my crucifix necklace”Alis Şalcıyan

We have been here for a year. Back in Baghdad, we felt frightened, when ISIS came to Iraq. I have two children; a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. My mother, siblings, aunt and uncle in LA and we want to go there. We made an immigration application to UN, but they scheduled an appointment for 2022, though they scheduled appointments for the next year to other people. We have to wait here for 7 years. One day, I was walking around and I wasn’t aware that I was wearing a crucifix necklace. Someone on the street saw my necklace and spat looking into my eyes. After that, I took it off to keep it at home. I feel hopeful about the New Year; we will hit the road in 2016 and leave here.

No job in winterNıver Kurken Sarkisyan

We came to Yozgat on March 16, 2015. I live with my brother. My family is in Iraq and I have another brother who has been living in Canada for 5 years. We want to go there to meet him. There is no job here in winter, but we are looking for a job anyway.

We saw 14 physicians  Linda Markaryan, 38

We have been here for 5 months. My daughter has a problem; because of an incident, she was shocked and became mute. We saw 14 physicians here and each of them said that she is fine. My husband’s sister is in England and his brother is in Germany. He has another brother in the US, but they are not in touch with him. We want to go to England. They scheduled an appointment for 2022. What are we going to do here until 2022?

“ISIS militants threatened us”Mokhlis Bahman Yousif Namo

I had a big workshop in Barthla; it is a region in Iraq which is densely populated by Christians. One day, ISIS militants raided my shop and threatened us. Some of my family members are in the US. When I told them about this situation, they said that I have to leave Iraq and they can support me financially. So, I took my wife and children and came to Yozgat, leaving my shop and two houses in Iraq.

“We pay 300 liras for medication” Sona Avedis

We have been in Yozgat for 1 year and 3 months. My husband’s left side is paralyzed and he cannot move. Since it is very cold here, his feet are in a bad condition; the blood flow to his feet is poor. The physician said that his leg must be amputated. They performed a venesection and his condition is better now. We went to hospital two times and they prescribed a lot of medication. We cannot even use the boiler because the gas is expensive, but for 8 months, we have been paying 300 liras for medication per month. We have a small heater and we try to get heated by it. My daughter lives in the US, we want to go there. This is our only wish.

“We will kill your family”Lusin Sarkisyan

We have been here for 1 year and 7 months. They scheduled an appointment for immigration application for 2018. I don’t know what we are going to until then. I have three daughters in the US. We want to go there too. I am here with my husband and son. My son worked with Americans for 9 months, after he had completed his studies. One day, ISIS militants threatened my son saying that they would kill his family if he continues to work with Americans. We couldn’t have stayed any longer and run away.

English lessons to 12 children Lena Nalbandyan

I have been here with my husband and 2 children for 1 year and 1 month. My brother lives in Australia and we want to go there. They scheduled an appointment for immigration application for 2022. 7 months… What are we supposed to do here for 7 years? For now, I am teaching English to Chaldean children here. I have 12 students.

Tagging as “house of Christians”Ğazar Setrakyan

The night that ISIS came to Iraq, we left Baghdad. First, we went to a city where majority is Christian. After staying there for 2 weeks, we headed to Yozgat. We have an acquaintance here who told us to come to Yozgat. On the way here, we realized that my mother has a medical problem. We saw a physician and he told that her problem is caused by fear. For now, we can pay for her medication, but I don’t know how long we will be able to do it. When ISIS militants came to Baghdad, they wrote “house of Christians” on our door. It was impossible to stay there. We left our home and three shops there and run away.

Selina Doğan: “It reminded me what happened 100 years ago”

CHP Istanbul MP Selina Doğan spoke to Agos after our meeting with the Armenians in Yozgat. Here are her assessments: “CHP formed a committee in order to discuss the problems of the refugees. We came together with NGOs which work on this issue. They explained the situation of non-Muslim refugees in Turkey. We will prepare a report as a committee and I wanted to add information about the Armenians in Yozgat to that report. We have been in contact with the Patriarchate; they told us about the Armenians in Yozgat and we visited them. They cannot find jobs, go to school and socialize; these are the common problems of the refugees. However, in addition to those problems, they are also subjected to discrimination, because they are Christian. Because of that, they tell people that they are Iraqi. As far as we understood, the major problem is the appointments scheduled by UN; since the number of the refugees is increased, they cannot schedule appointments for near future. We observed that there is no contact between the Armenian refugees and the Patriarchate. In some regions, Christian refugees can perform their religious rituals, but especially in Central Anatolia, Christians experience some problems about that. We will assess all those problems in our report. This visit is important. We found out that a little girl suffers from speech impediment because of a fearful experience she went through. This incident reminded what happened 100 years ago on these very lands.”