More than 40 years ago, Kirkor Çapan, an ethnic Armenian, and his father set up what today is one of the last Christian funeral homes still operating in Istanbul. But the funeral parlor is not a religious island unto itself. With so few Christians left in Turkey, the stonemasons and carpenters working with Çapan are Muslim Turks.
“There are no more non-Muslim master craftsmen in my profession,” commented stonemason Senol Ekinci, one of Çapan’s craftsmen, who has been carving Christian and Jewish tombstones for 35 years.
Standing in the Greek-Orthodox cemetery in the Istanbul neighborhood of Sisli, where he is responsible for the graves’ maintenance and renovation, Ekinci explained what drew him to work on non-Muslim tombstones. “These graves here are a bit more elaborate; they require more work and craftsmanship. Turkish tombstones do not necessitate as much effort,” Ekinci said. He is particularly proud of making the tombstone for the grave of Lefter Küçükandonyadis, a Turkish football legend of Greek descent who died this year.
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Constanze Letsch is a freelance writer based in Istanbul.