Officials from the Malatya Municipality have demolished three buildings, including a place of worship that was under renovation, located inside an Armenian cemetery, Today’s Zaman reported.
A residence for the watchman, a room to bathe the bodies of the dead and a place of worship were pulled down when nobody in charge of the cemetery was around on Thursday, Feb 2. The municipality officials said the place of worship was being built without official permission, and argued that there was nothing illegal about the demolishment.
Citing the intolerance towards Armenians as the reason behind the municipality’s move, Turkish media outlets reported on Friday that the municipality had the facilities pulled down because of hundreds of petitions submitted by locals who opposed the construction of a place of worship for Armenians, thinking that a church was being built.
Malatya Mayor Ahmet Çakır gave verbal permission for building the place of worship on orders by Malatya Governor Ulvi Saran. The cost of the building was met by an Istanbul-based philanthropist foundation of Malatya Armenians, HAYDER. The blueprint of the place of worship was drawn up by renowned Turkish-Armenian architect Kevork Özkaragöz.
Garo Paylan, member of the board of directors of HAYDER, said in a statement that both the governor and the municipality were quite warm to the idea of renovating the demolished buildings at the cemetery four months ago.
The renovation work started in the cemetery in Malatya, where there are only about 100 Armenians left.
Mayor Çakır was quoted on the website of the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos as saying he is sorry for what happened but the demolition occurred due to miscommunication among officials and that they will compensate for it.