Many intellectuals and politicians attended a march organized on Jan. 27 in Istanbul’s Samatya district to protest recent assaults against elderly Armenian women that the city’s Armenian community are hesitant to define as hate crimes.
The march drew support from members of Istanbul’s other minority communities, including Syriacs, Kurds and religious conservatives, who joined Armenians to bring awareness to a slew of recent violent attacks levied against the Armenian community. As part of the march flowers were left in front of the home of 84-year-old Maritsa Küçük, who was murdered last month in her home.
Organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Turkey’s main Armenian organization, the march saw Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Sabahat Tuncel and Sırrı Süreyya Önder, former chair of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) Ufuk Uras and Hrant Dink’s brother Orhan Dink participate.
Speaking to the Hürriyet Daily News, Önder said they would closely follow and negotiate with the Interior Minister about the incidents on Jan. 31.
Meanwhile, Kürkçü said it should be questioned why all the victims were Armenians. “I hope the plots behind these incidents will be investigated efficiently and [the truths] could be revealed. Elderly and defenseless women are targeted; it is evident that the motivations behind them are hate and revenge,” Kürkçü said.
Fear has spread within the Armenian community due to the attacks resulting in a limited number of people attending religious ceremonies, according to leaders from Samatya’s Armenian Church, Surp Kevork. Yesayi Demir, director of Surp Kevork Church, said they were often in contact with security forces. “The investigation is ongoing, we hope the incidents were not hate crimes,” Demir said, adding that the demonstration was a positive step since it gave a message of solidarity.
“I guess the attacks were robbery attempts, I don’t think they are organized, racist crimes,” Hagop Yelegen, the brother of one of the recent victims, Sultan Aykar, said, adding that they have good relations with their Muslim neighbors. “We are not afraid. Such assaults are also aimed at Muslims.”
“Civil initiatives are manipulating the incidents even though the offenders have not been identified yet,” Arsen Arşık, an Armenian academic from Boğaziçi University who is an acquaintance of two of the victims, said. “Such comments disturb the [Armenian] community even more.” Arşık also criticized his own community. “Why do they leave our defenseless elderly people alone? We have to come up with a rational solution to it.”
On Dec. 28, 2012, Marissa Küçük was stabbed seven times before having her throat slit while in her home in Samatya. Two separate attacks were carried out in the past month against 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. Most recently, 84-year-old Sultan Akyar was attacked in Samatya, after which she underwent eye surgery.