Van - Akhtamar Island
28 August 2005. We depart Dogubayazit and we drive towards
Van. Our return has started but we will first visit Van, the famous
island of Akdamar and the Church of the Holy Cross. We arrive in
Van after a four hour journey. We embark a small boat which takes
us to the island. The lake is literally like a sea and the water
is salty. This is the island of Akdamar that I have been hearing of
since I was a child. This island and church is yet another Myth
that has been engraved in me. As we approach the island the church
starts to be visible. A typical Armenian church. All the Armenian
churches are built with the a familiar, unique architecture.
The boat ride was about 10 min. We start our walk up towards
the church over a little path. Unbelievable to be here. My parents
and all Armenians that I know have dreamed of being here, but now
I have that luxury. The church is beautiful. It is one of the few
Christian churches around the world (possibly the only one) that
has decorations and reliefs on the outer side of its walls. According
to Christ one does not have to be rich on the outside, but it is
important that we are rich within our selves. However, this church
does not follow that trend. The walls outside are sculptured with
images of the Bible, and with images of every day Armenian life.
The church of Akdamar is currently being renovated under UNESCO's directive
to preserve sites of World Cultural Heritage.
With big disappointment I notice that the church is almost destroyed.
Looking closer at the walls of the church I notice countless bullet
holes all around. It is evident that people were using the decorations
of the walls as targets in a shooting range. We take a quick peak
inside, behind the protective barriers that have been erected due to
the construction work. The chief Architect there gets angry and
aggressive when he saw as taking photos of the inside. I manage
to take only one photo. Regrettably, the inside does not
resemble a church. It is burned, and the walls are black. There
is a sign outside the church which provides some historical information.
Upon reading the sign, I was not surprised to realise that the
information is totally misleading. Destruction of the church and
distortion of truth by the Turks. Will they never learn to speak
the truth? Will they never respect culture? Is this how they aspire to
enter my "home", the European Union?
The churche's courtyard is full of Armenian Khachkars. Isn't this
proof that the stones in the Azrep village are not "Anchor Stones"?
The ones on the island are beautiful. Most of them have engravings
with Armenian writing. The stones are preserved in good condition
compared to the ones in Azrep. Actually, one has to keep in mind
that countless Armenian churches have been destroyed all around the
historical Armenian lands. However this church is still in tact,
presumably due to the relative inaccessibility to the vandals, being
on an island.
Next stop was the Ourartou palace and the old city of Van. So who
are the Ourartous? And what happened to their civilization. Historically, Ouratians are
the ancestors of Armenians. The evolution of the Ourartian civilization
gave birth the Armenian people and their civilization. Yet there is
no mention of Armenians in any of the guide books, and signs
that I see around Van. Yet another effort to provide a different
version of history by the Turks, with a deliberate attempt to omit
any reference to its Armenian past. Van, once the glorious city of historical Armenia,
is now reduced to a poor province of Turkey with 300,000 Kurds living under the heavy supervision
of the Turkish military forces.
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