Turkish police have prevented opposition lawmaker Garo Paylan along with representatives from the Ankara branch of the Turkish Chamber of Architects from examining the site where an Armenian cemetery was destroyed during construction as part of a gentrification project in the capital, the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Tuesday.
Police officers surrounded the site in Ankara’s Ulus district, which is designated as an Armenian cemetery in historical sources, preventing Paylan –- a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) -– and representatives from the chamber from examining it.
Making a public statement about the issue, chamber president Tezcan Karakuş Candan said it was cruel to pour concrete on a graveyard in order to build stores there. “This is unlawful. We will take this issue to court,” Candan added.
“Armenians who lived here buried their dead here with prayers and placed headstones. They [government officials] initially demolished those stones and are now pouring concrete on the site. What kind of conscience accepts this? Christians don’t accept this cruelty. Will the conscience of Muslims, who make up the majority of this society, accept it?” Paylan asked.
He went on to say that they knew the shopkeepers in the area would oppose the project, which is reportedly still ongoing.
Following the public statement, the group was only able to look at the site from the window of a room in a nearby hotel, due to the police barricade, Artı Gerçek said in the report.
Concerns about the preservation of Armenian cultural and religious sites in Turkey have recently been growing. The Turkish-Armenian bilingual Agos weekly reported in late January that an Armenian church dating to 1603 in the western province of Kütahya that was on the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism’s preservation list was demolished after it was acquired by a private party.