The Armenian community has voiced its increasing concern over a spate of recent in attacks in the Samatya neighborhood of Istanbul’s Fatih district.
The Human Rights Association (İHD) released a report, quoting anonymous views from the members of the Armenian community, on Jan. 25, three days after an elderly Armenian woman was attacked in the neighborhood in the latest of several similar incidents.
“We do not want to leave our elderly people alone. We are very worried and scared,” a view read. “The population of Armenians in Istanbul is less than one-thousandth [of the entire city], but the ratio of Armenians suffering attacks are high.”
Sultan Aykar, 84, was attacked by a man on the evening of Jan. 22 on a busy street in Samatya, and had to undergo surgery after her eye was severely damaged by a blow to her chin.
On Dec. 28, 2012, Marissa Küçük, another elderly Armenian woman, was stabbed seven times before having her throat slit at her home in Samatya. Two separate attacks were carried out in November against two elderly Armenian women in Samatya and Bakırköy as well. One of the women, 87-year-old Turfanda Aşık, lost an eye, while the other woman was robbed and severely injured.
On Jan. 25, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu issued a parliamentary question, calling for a deeper investigation into the attacks.
“The fact that there were no suspects detained in these four incidents is increasing Armenian citizens’ fears and worries,” Tanrıkulu said, adding that the attacks could be related to the 100th anniversary of the events of 1915.
The police and the Istanbul Governor’s Office were not available for immediate comment Jan. 25. However, police have apparently sped up investigations.
Natali Cebeci, the granddaughter of Aşık, told the Daily News on Jan. 25 that police visited their house earlier this week.
Commenting on the ongoing attacks, she said she thought they were race-motivated.
“The first attack was on my grandmother. It was by then too early to call it race-motivated or not. But looking at the developments, repeated attacks on Armenians cannot be a coincidence,” she said. “As Armenians, we already hide fears in our subconscious. I think we have learned to live with fear.”
The silence of officials on the issue is increasing concerns among Armenians, according to Rober Koptaş, the editor-in-chief of weekly Agos.
“We do not know what is happening, or whether these are hate crimes or not,” daily Evrensel quoted him as saying last week. “But since we have no clear announcement from the officials, we are afraid despite the fact that we don’t know [what has happened].”
Speaking on behalf of the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey, Acting Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan told the Daily News on Jan. 10 that regarding the attacks as hate crimes directly targeting the Armenian community could be wrong.
However, İHD members believe that the attacks are motivated by race.
“As an official institution, patriarchs can be prudent but our research points to hate crimes,” Ayşe Günaysu, a member of the İHD, told the Daily News.
“If there is an organization behind those attacks, light should be shed on that immediately and punished,” Tanrıkulu said.
Although there are no apparent investigations to probe whether the attacks are organized or not, an İHD member lawyer said there were signs indicating organization.
“The investigation is filed confidential, which means that there is an organized crime,” lawyer Eren Keskin told the Daily News. “The police will try to buy some time with the confidentiality decision and will try to prove that the [attacks] are not organized.”
Samatya has a high Armenian population. However, the community’s numbers have dwindled over the past years, and there is only a smaller community remaining that mostly consists of Armenians that have migrated from Anatolia. There is a church and an Armenian school in Samatya.
The İHD and Nor Zartonk (New Awakening), a civilian Armenian youth activist group, have said they will stage a protest on Jan. 27 in Samatya.