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`Crypto- Armenians´ seen as threat in Turkey

Cyprus Press and Information Office


Dec 30, 2005

‘Crypto- Armenians’ seen as threat in Turkey

Istanbul MILLI GAZETE newspaper (28.12.05) publishes the following
report under the title: “The Crypto-Armenians among us”:

The descendants of the “Crypto-Armenians” who hid their identities
and appeared to be Muslims in order to escape from the forced
migration applied during the deportations imposed in 1915 are now
returning to their true identities.

It has been stated that Armenians who changed their religion to be
ostensible Muslims in order to escape from the forced migration due
to the deportation imposed by the Ottoman State in 1915, or else who
were given to various families for adoption, succeeded in hiding
their existence under this “secret identity” for many years. It is
being claimed that there are currently 30 to 40 thousand
“Crypto-Armenians” living in Turkey as Turks or Kurds.

According to Professor Salim Cohce, who is known for his researches
regarding the Armenians, the Crypto-Armenians appear to be Muslims
but still maintain their Gregorian traditions. Cohce, stating that
some studies have been carried out on these people in recent periods,
points out that, in the near future, they are going to be used in
order to realize the dreams of the Armenians.

Cohce says that they identified over 3,500 Crypto-Armenians in
fieldwork conducted in Malatya.

Speaking with Aksiyon magazine, Cohce states that yet another
interesting determination had been made in Tunceli. He stresses that
the population records of two thousand people were taken to Aydin
although they themselves did not emigrate, and that two years later,
these records were modified to read “Muslim” rather than “Christian”
in the religion category, and they were then taken back to Tunceli.
Cohce states that the number of converts to Islam following the
deportation was about 100 thousand.

There are 40 thousand hidden Armenians

According to a study entitled “Armenians in Turkey Today” [provided
in English] written in 2002 by Dr Tessa Hofmann, who serves as an
“expert witness” in the hearings of Turks of Armenian origin who
apply for political asylum in Germany, there are “40 thousand hidden
Armenians” in Turkey. But it is being seen clearly, in the numbers of
people changing their religions, that, apart from certain exceptions,
the Armenians who ostensibly converted to Islam in the past are now
engaged in returning to their actual identities. While 2,630 people
in Turkey changed their religions during the years 1916-2004, 2,172
of these consisted of those returning to their previous religions.
Over 60 percent of those returning to their original religion, or
1,340 people, consisted of Armenians. Those changing their religions
were largely registered in various provinces such as Istanbul,
Diyarbakir, Adiyaman, Batman, Sivas, Tokat,Tunceli, Malatya, Elazig,
Kayseri, Mersin, and Mardin.

Professor Salim Cohce explains that activities involving hidden and
converted Armenians in Malatya increased after 1995, and that in
2003, some 120 persons of Armenian origin with Muslim names submitted
a petition for the re-opening of the church at Cavusoglu.

Cohce stresses that covert efforts are being made, via citizens of
Armenian origin, to regain deed records and former properties. Cohce
also claims that, during investigations conducted in Malatya, they
identified “converts” [Turkish muhtedi] who had assumed the position
of MHP [Nationalist Action Party] Provincial Chairman.

Could be used in “Urban Terrorism”

Cohce, indicating that there are also, among the converts, those who
truly became Muslims and live accordingly, says that “The ‘Crypto-‘
or ‘secret’ Armenians are those who only appear to be Muslim in
identity. Since they have not to date been seen as a threat, they
have not been monitored by the state. Also, they have manipulated
their population records. For this reason, it is very difficult to
determine their actual numbers.”

Stressing his belief that the Crypto-Armenians are going to
constitute a danger, Cohce points as examples to the efforts made by
Armenian groups regarding them, particularly in recent years. Cohce
claims that “Efforts are being made to remind them of their
identities. Financial assistance is being provided. I think that,
just like the emergence of the PKK after ASALA [Armenian Secret Army
for the Liberation of Armenia], these people will be used for “urban
terrorism” within Turkey in the post-PKK period. Such a formation
could be brought about by 2010. Likewise, I believe that, by
reminding them consciously of their Armenian identity, these people
are in the future going to come before Turkey with demands for land
and compensation.”

Maintain close contact with PKK

Cohce, drawing attention to the close contact between the
Crypto-Armenians and the PKK, says the following: “A meeting was held
in 1980 at the Gulbenkian Foundation, which financed ASALA. It was
decided to use the PKK as a “pawn” organization in order for Turkey’s
authority in the region to be weakened, and for its population to be
reduced. The PKK’s initial ability to form an effective lobby in
Europe and the United States, and to get support, came about with the
help of these circles. And the existence of individuals of Armenian
origin within the PKK, and even the killing of a number of them,
corroborates this. Likewise, the existence of ‘Turks’ among the
founders and current leaders of the PKK is thought-provoking.”

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