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Does Turkey See Its Armenian Minority as a Security Threat?

Ethnic Armenians get dressed for an Easter ceremony in Diyarbakir in April 2015 at the Church of St. Giragos, which was renovated with funding from the Armenian Diaspora and pro-Kurdish city government. St. Giragos – the largest Armenian church in the region – was one of six seized under an expropriation law passed in the Turkish parliament in April. (Photo: Anahit Hayrapetyan)

Members of the small ethnic Armenian community in Turkey are feeling increasingly uneasy. Their wariness is an outgrowth of recent claims by senior officials in Ankara that Kurdish rebels collaborate with Turkish Armenians, as well as the government’s move to expropriate several Armenian churches.
 
The words and actions come amid heavy fighting between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels in towns and cities across southeastern Turkey. In these areas, graffiti with expletives calling ethnic Armenians traitors and accusing them of working with the rebels is commonplace.
 
“Everybody is afraid, there is fear everywhere,” said one ethnic Armenian resident of Diyarbakır, Turkey’s main Kurdish population center, a city of roughly a million inhabitants. “If the fighting gets worse, the fire will burn us, too. … We are not the direct target. But if this fire grows, it will definitely swallow us, too.”
 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan apparently sees links beyond just the PKK.
 

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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.

Does Turkey See Its Armenian Minority as a Security Threat?

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