The recent murder of an Armenian woman in Istanbul’s Samatya neighborhood has evoked memories of previous offenses committed against Armenians and other minorities in Turkey, creating concern among the community amid a debate over whether the killing constituted a hate crime.
On Dec. 28, 2012, Marissa Küçük was stabbed seven times before having her throat slit at her home in Samatya. The assailant or assailants also carved a cross on her chest using a sharp object, according to some reports. After the murder, those responsible fled the scene with some of her jewelry.
Two separate attacks were carried out in the past month against two elderly Armenian women in the Samatya and Bakırköy districts as well. One of the women, 87-year-old Turfanda Aşık, lost an eye, while the other woman was robbed and severely injured.
In 2002, two elderly women, Hermine Açıkgöz, 80, and Araksi Alyanak, 80, were murdered in Istanbul’s Bakırköy district. On Oct. 5, 2011, an Armenian woman was called an infidel and attacked in a cab by the driver in Istanbul’s Zincirlikuyu neighborhood. An investigation was launched into the case.
In another case, an Armenian named Elizabeth Maria Bıçakçı, who was living in the Aegean town of Marmaris, filed a criminal complaint to a prosecutor when she was subjected to racist assaults. She finally left Turkey with her family due to safety concerns.
Arsen Arşık, an academic at Boğaziçi University, said Küçük’s family was currently suffering from a major trauma, while adding that all the attacks should be carefully investigated before determining the motivations behind them.
“Past experiences make one think that all the attacks that target minorities are hate crimes. However, in this region [Bakırköy], where I have been living since 2006, there have been many similar attacks against other elderly women so far. So, [the perpetrator] might also be some pervert, and a careful examination is required before making clear judgments,” Arşık said.
“People are making up urban legends about the murder. Some even blamed the murdered woman’s son,” Arşık said, stressing the importance of composure.
Patriarchate calls for calm
Likewise, Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate emphasized the necessity of staying calm in the face of such incidents. Acting Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan said they were currently negotiating with the Police Department on the matter, adding that regarding the attack as a hate crime directly targeting the Armenian community could be wrong.
“As you know, an Armenian killed his landlord a few months ago in Istanbul. The crimes committed by some irresponsible people cannot be attributed to a whole community, and there is not sufficient data to prove it,” Ateşyan said. The patriarchate is expected to issue an announcement on the subject in the upcoming days.
Zakarya Mildanoğlu, a Turkish-Armenian researcher and columnist for weekly Agos, also said it was too early to label the murder a hate crime as there was still insufficient evidence. “For now, it is very hard to interpret [the murder]. It might even be a robbery case,” Mildanoğlu said, adding that fear and anxiety prevailed in the Armenian community due to the bitter experiences minorities had suffered through in the past.
“There is no need to write various scenarios. We should wait and see the result,” Mildanoğlu said.