How was February 16 protocol issued?

Bedros Şirinoğlu, Efrim Bağ, Harun Keçecioğlu, Melkon Karaköse, Sebu Aslangil, Nurhan Çetinkaya and Toros Alcan told about February 16 protocol, which triggered the debate in Armenian society of Turkey.

Throughout the week, February 16 protocol was discussed; Armenians of Turkey have been asking how and why this protocol was issued. We tried to find an answer to these questions, talking to the people who attended the secret meeting in which this protocol was signed. We also talked to the people who were invited to the meeting, but refused to attend as matter of principle. Sebu Aslangil and Harun Keçeçi talked about the legal aspect of the process. 

“All that happened is beyond my knowledge”

Bedros Şirinoğlu – Chair of Surp Pırgiç Armeian Hospital Foundation and VADİP

All that happened after the meeting of VADİP (Cooperation and Consultation Platform for Foundations) is wrong and beyond my knowledge. I didn't know about the secret meeting. On Thursday morning, Cezo Taş, Efrim Bağ, Kevork Okçu and Vasken Barın were supposed to come to the hospital to meet me. We had the purpose of reaching an agreement. Then, I had to go to the patriarchate. I went there to see His Eminence Aram, but I saw that everybody was there. I didn't know about that meeting. I worked for peace. I went there to settle the dispute. I hadn't invited anyone. I have been impartial from the beginning. I don't care about convincing people. This is about the election and people may have different opinions. What is important is to have patriarchal candidates who can pull our society together.

I didn't know about the secret meeting in the church. We just decided to come together and issue an press statement. I had a phone call, warning that there might be a quarrel. So, I went to the church.

His Eminence Aram was acting maturely, but His Eminence Maşalyan was nervous. We wanted to have the letter to the governor's office signed. Maşalyan said that he wasn't going to sign it and he wanted a protocol. He wrote it himself.

Toros Alcan was also in the church. I thought that he should attend the meeting as well. He was invited upon my request, but he didn't attend the meeting. He is right.

"Ateşyan requested support"

Efrim Bağ

We ate together on Wednesday. I told His Eminence Aram to resign and the process would be a dead-end if he doesn't. He said, "Support me and I lead you to the election.” After that, I promised him that I will support him. I told about this to Bedros Şirinoğlu. We decided to come together with Bedros Şirinoğlu, Hayg Arslanyan, Aret Ergan, Dikran Gülmezgil and Melkon Karaköse. His Eminence promised to hold an election. Bedros Şirinoğlu planned it to be held in the patriarchate. We went to the patriarchate and His Eminence Aram was there. He wrote the letter to the governor's office. We decided to invite His Eminence Sahak. He came and said that he has conditions and insulted us. We didn't say anything for agreeing on holding an election.

We went on to the other meeting and saw that people went crazy. We were trying to settle the issue. On Friday, His Eminence Aram said that Vehapar called. Why didn't they go there before?

We did whatever we can to agree on holding an election. His Eminence Aram wasn't going to let the election, if I hadn't told him that I will support him. The election is up to him. His Eminence Aram was going to let the election, hadn't Vehapar called.

“You are cloaking the wolf in the guise of a sheep”

Harun Keçeçioğlu, who was actively working in the previous patriarchal election, wrote a statement after the recent developments. Here is Keçeçioğlu's statement:

“Esteemed Leaders of the Society,

I appreciate your material and moral services to this society. However, I react against this last decision of yours.

You are cloaking the wolf in the guise of a sheep. This is the man who avoided the will of the society and said, denying his ancestors, “I don't recognize the diaspora or Armenia. I am a citizen of Turkey. I do the necessary.”

I thought about this issue a lot. The only way was to make a call to the clerics and say, “Evacuate the patriarchate and make history or else, the history will judge you really badly.”

Bishop Maşalyan came to my help. I came across with him during a funeral ceremony, we talked and I asked why they hadn't delivered the petition. He said, “I don't fight. We are men of God.” I said, “A life without fighting is impossible. We came to this point with civilized fights.”

On Friday, I had lunch with His Eminence Maşalyan. He is very clever. I talked about all of my concerns and thoughts. He promised that he will talked to the Clerical Assembly. He said, “Maybe, we can deliver the petition to the governor's office.” I was very happy to hear that. I had to talk to a reliable cleric and we lighted the torch together. I hope we will get the result that we intended.”

“Ateşyan organized the meeting”

Melkon Karaköse – Honorary Chair of Samatya Surp Kevork Church Foundation

“His Eminence Aram organized the meeting. When I went to the meeting, Sahak Maşalyan wasn't there. I said that he should be there. They said that he wouldn't come. I called him and he came. The protocol was written by His Eminence Sahak. We were planning to inform executives of VADİP and foundation and representatives of civil society. We didn't do anything wrong. We set a date.

We came to an agreement. We agreed on holding an election. This is what we have been trying to do for 8 years. And we finally did it. Why do people react against the meeting? Don't they want an election? There was only a problem about Değabah, but it will be resolved in Armenia.”

“Ateşyan should hand the cloak over”

Sebu Aslangil – Lawyer

“The seat of general vicarship was invented with a notice. On June 29, 2010, governor's office sent a letter to the patriarchate. The Clerical Assembly accepted it and chose Aram Ateşyan. If it stopped there, we would be able to abolish it whenever we want. However, this choice was presented to the cabinet, which gave the cloak of Mutafyan to Ateşyan. Ateşyan became the vicar by the decision of the cabinet. There is a certain procedure for abolishing a decision by the cabinet. Either the cabinet itself withdraws the decision or Ateşyan resigns. The right way is the resignation of Ateşyan.

For a healthy election process, Ateşyan should resign.”

“The item concerning Hovagim Foundation is removed”

Nurhan Çetinkaya – Council Member of Bakırköy Municipality

“I was with His Eminence Sahak, when he received a phone call. He invited me to the meeting. When we arrived, a text was already issued. His Eminence Sahak read it and said, “I will write something, but it can give you only a date. Nothing will happen unless His Eminence Aram resigns.” His Eminence Sahak wrote a protocol. There was an item concerning Hovagim Foundation, but it was removed because of irrelevancy. He said, “If we write that there will be a trustee and Ateşyan will continue to be the vicar, they would return it, since it violates the ecclesiastical law.

“An unprecedented nonsense”

Toros Alcan - Representative of Minority (Community) Foundations, Council Member of the Directorate General of Foundations

In the morning, we heard that there was a meeting. When I was on my way to the meeting, I was told that there was also a meeting in the patriarchate. Then, it was told that Maşalyan was also in the meeting in the patriarchate. They invited me once again, but I told that I had nothing to do there. We started our meeting. Almost all executives were in our meeting. We decided to release a declaration.

Meanwhile, Hermon Balyan said that a protocol was issued in the meeting in the patriarchate. Executives started to react. I also feel very disturbed.

The ones who attended the meeting in the patriarchate came and said that they solved the problem. They told us this, while executives, people and elected officials were waiting. This was an unprecedented nonsense.

The protocol doesn't conform to any rule. We said that they are disrespecting the people. It is not ethical to approve a protocol without any discussion. In the end, the protocol became obsolete.

The course of action should have been decided after everyone's opinion was asked. People started to think that they are hiding something. This should be eliminated at once. Another meeting should be held.

If we had a meeting with the participation of all executives, we would have a message for Etchmiadzin. We could have said, “This is the decision of the elected executives.” Waiting for the meeting in Etchmiadzin is amounts to annulment of VADİP.

If the decision comes from there, what is the point of having elected people here? We might as well walk out. Who needs the executives? There is a confusion between seat of solution and seat of implementation.

The problem can only be solved with collective consultation. Both clerics and elected executives should be a part of it.