A special holiday ceremony in Kayseri Church

Historical ceremony in Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church revealed that there are Armenian refugees in Turkish cities other than Yozgat.

On January 12, Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church hosted Dzınunt ceremony organized for 72 Armenians who try to hold on to life in Yozgat. With a young couple's application to Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate for getting married, it was revealed that there are Armenian refugees who live in Yozgat. Then, a committee including MP Selina Doğan and Father Dırtad Uzunyan went to Yozgat for meeting with those families. After these developments which was covered by Agos, a committee is formed under the guidance of the Patriarchate and some steps are taken for helping those people. This ceremony is the result of these efforts that have been going on for a month and families got a chance to celebrate their holiday together and forgot their troubles at least for a while.  The ceremony was held in  Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church, because it is the nearest church to Yozgat and the Patriarchate sent a committee to Kayseri.

We had the chance to witness this historical day with Agos' photographer Berge Arabian.

Surprise visitors

The meeting in Kayseri revealed that there are Armenian refugees in Turkish cities other than Yozgat. Before the families from Yozgat arrived at the church, there was a family that nobody knows. Sarkis Muşluyan came to the church with his wife, two daughters and son; they were all dressed up for the ceremony. The family has been in living in Kayseri for 2 years and their story is really interesting. 5 years ago, they decided that they cannot live in Baghdad anymore and went to Syria. They couldn't have managed to live there either and came to Turkey. Muşluyan said that he knows that there are 2 families in Kırşehir and said: “My family is from Kayseri. In 1915, they were forced to go to Iraq. We came here by coincidence. My wife's family in the US and we are waiting to go there. I heard about this ceremony from Kayseri Church's Facebook page. We hadn't celebrated our holiday like this for years. We feel happy.”

There were surprise visitors among the people from Yozgat. Aram Mıgırdiçyan went to Yozgat from Amasya in order to join the group for the ceremony. Being in Turkey for over 2 years, Mıgırdiçyan said that there are 4 Armenian families in Amasya. His story is also familiar: his family is from Diyarbakir and went to Zaho on the border of Iraq, in 1915. Then, in 1974, they went to Baghdad and now, he is in Amasya. Mıgırdiçyan tried everything to go to Canada. Now, he hopes that the Patriarchate would make the process quicker.

There has been no clergy in Kayseri Church for almost 50 years and almost no ceremonies are held in the church except the ceremony of Surp Krikor Lusavoriç day, which is the opening day of the church. Father Dırtad Uzunyan said that they have been praying for peace and meeting with various state officials for helping the families in Yozgat and enabling them to go wherever they want as soon as possible. Mıgırdiç Maraşlıyan handed the aids from Istanbul to the families. He also said that there have been positive developments in their lives in the recent month: “The committee which visited us in Yozgat made us feel better. Now, there are people who concern themselves with us. My parents are in the US and I want to go there, but we can go to Canada as well. We have been in Yozgat for one and half year. Our children are old enough to go to school now. We want make good as soon as possible.” His wife, who hymned in the church, said that she feels the same: “Today, we feel like we are reborn. This is a very happy day. We haven't been in a church for one and half year. We feel more hopeful.”

Kamparosyan: “This is the 4th refugee group that I have met”

Kalfayan Foundation Chair Diana Kamparosyan, a member of the committee formed in the Patriarchate, said that she feels hopeful: “It was inevitable for me to be a part of the committee. This is the 4th refugee group that I've met. At first, in 1967, families from the region up to Varto, Bitlis and Silopi came to Istanbul. Then, in the late '70s, some people came from Zaho, Iraq. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Armenian intellectuals who had to leave the country came. Our community and institutions had always done whatever they can. Now, there are Iraqi families that we heard of about a month ago. Some of them suffer from health problems. There are children who have been deprived of their right of education for years. We can bring them to Istanbul, but it doesn't seem like the right thing to do. They all have UN refugee status and we don't want them to lose their rights. They safely live in Yozgat and we try to fulfill their needs. The best action we could take is to enable them to go wherever they want as soon as possible. I feel hopeful about this. I think that Canada will welcome most of these families soon. Some of them have relatives in the US and Australia and they want to go to those countries. We are doing whatever we can for them.”

Zadik Toker: “It was a historical day”

Kayseri Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Church Foundation Chair Zadik Toker spoke about the ceremony: “There hasn't been a holiday ceremony for almost 50 years. It was really a historical day. Our church hosted Dzınunt ceremony organized for our people in Yozgat and I feel very happy about this. I hope they will go wherever they want as soon as possible. We commemorated the souls of our ancestors with our refugee brothers and sisters. I also want to thank Bakırköy Municipality for bringing our friends from Yozgat here.

Lives frozen in Yozgat

There are 16 children among 72 Armenian refugees in Yozgat. Probably, they are the ones who will go through most difficult times in future. There are also young  people between the ages of 16 and 20. None of them can receive education. 11-year-old Maryam, who had to drop school after 1st grade, is one of them and it won't be easy to make up that 4 years she had lost. Oldest member of the group, Yerçanig Kovmoyan is struggling with some health problems due to his age. Living in Yozgat for 2 years with his family, Kovmoyan waits for the respond to the immigration application that they made to the US. Sarkis Kalustyan is the first Armenian who came to Yozgat and he has been in Turkey for 4 years with his family. Kalustyan managed to keep his family together; he calmly waits for the day when they will attain their goals. Youngs of the family are emotional though. All refugees learned Turkish; Kalustyan's daughter and son are among the ones who have the best comprehension of Turkish. His son works in a shop that sells medical materials and his daughter works in a pharmacy and she is engaged. Her fiance managed to go to the US and has been living there for 2 years with his family. He came to Yozgat a week ago for visiting his fiance. He was also present in the church for the ceremony. I asked where they want to go. All of them responded in the same way: “It doesn't matter where we go. We just want to make good as soon as possible.” When I said that Canada seems like the reasonable choice and they might be accepted in Canada soon, the young girl started to cry: “I have been praying for this from the moment we came to the church. We went to Istanbul a week ago and handed our paper to Father Dırtad. I hope you are right and they will accept us soon. This is our 4th year. Waiting is too hard. My fiance lives in the US, but going to Canada wouldn't be an obstacle to our marriage. We don't want to wait anymore.”


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Baruyr Kuyumciyan