By Arevik Badalyan
MUSH, Turkey – Ayret was born in Sasun but lives in Mush, Turkey. When Ayret visited Yerevan a few years ago he introduced himself as Serob. He is originally called Serob while in Turkey his official name is Ayret.
He is one of those Armenian Genocide descendants who accepted Islam. Serob is married to a Kurdish woman. He gave his children Armenian names: Tigran, Azat and Mariam. Armenians are always welcome to his house which he built by himself on the mountain surrounding Mush. He sits in the balcony and shows several pieces of the papers on which he has written all the phone numbers of his Armenian guests.
Before the 1915 Mush was a city populated with mainly Armenians. Now its main population are Kurdish people.
At the city entrance there is the Sulukh Bridge. If you are an Armenian, then people from Mush will tell you. “This is the bridge where Gevorg Chaush was killed”.
Gevorg Chaush was an Armenian fedayee (soldier) in the Ottoman Empire who fought for the rights of Armenians. This was the only thing mentioned about Armenians in Mush during my 4-day trip.
The next stop was the village Chengulay. The village is 35 km far from Mush and is located on the mountain. This underdeveloped Kurdish village is very special for every Armenian. The Saint Karapet Monastery was built here. It was founded in the 4th century by the Saint Gregory the Illuminator. Yet it was destroyed by the Turkish army after the Armenian Genocide.
There are nearly 20 houses in the village. And if you are not guided by the locals you can hardly find the ruins of the monastery. Only a small wall is preserved from the Armenian monastic complex which is completely abandoned.
All the khachkars (carved stones or cross stones) which were preserved during the distortions were being used by the
Ruins of the monastery
villagers to construct their houses. I myself happened to see five Armenian cross stones on the walls of the local homes.
The villagers are already used to that; the Armenians are coming to their place to look at the shapeless ruins. The kids walked next to me and looked surprisingly when I stopped and watched at the khachkars on their wall. This was just a stone for them yet a whole history for me.
In one of the cattle shed I found a beautiful ornament left from the monastery. People keep their horses next to it.
Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross on the Ahktamar Island is unique church which was restored by the Turkish Government. It is far from Mush for almost 200km. This church is masterpiece of Armenian architecture which became a place of pilgrimage. After the restoration Turkish government opened the church yet only as a touristic sight, a museum with an entrance fee of 3 Turkish liras.
Khachkar on the wall of the house
On my ship to the Akhtamar Island there were Kurds, Turks and even Azerbaijanis who wanted to visit the church. Armenians enter the church silently and they pray with whisper. Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the noisiest Armenian Church I have ever visited. For the tourists this is just a museum and they took dozens of pictures standing even on the altar.
I can do nothing to preserve Armenian culture in that part of the world. I can only keep the history in mind and never forget about it.
By Arevik Badalyan