Armenian archbishop accuses Turkey of backing ‘third Armenian genocide’

October 20, 2020

Persecution of Armenian Christians: “This is the third genocide attempt,” says Armenian Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan. “The first was in 1915, the second in Sumgait and other cities of Azerbaijan. Now, we’re on the third one.”

The Ottoman government pursued the systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Ottoman citizens within the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, the Republic of Turkey. Over 1,000,000 Greek Orthodox Christians were also massacred in the Ottoman Empire during the period of the Greek Genocide in the early twentieth century. Hundreds of thousands of people were forcibly converted to Islam. To this day, the Turkish government refuses to acknowledge this atrocity as a genocide.

As we continue to see the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Mother Church of Constantinople suffering from religious persecution, we remember these horrifying events, note with sorrow the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere today, and pray that such inhumanity will never again be seen anywhere in the world.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here.

“Archbishop accuses Turkey of backing ‘third Armenian genocide’ in Nagorno-Karabakh,” by Inés San Martín, Crux, October 16, 2020:

According to an Armenian archbishop, Turkey is perpetrating a “third genocide” against the oldest Christian nation in the world.

He claims Turkey is using Azerbaijan to attack the Christian community in Nagorno-Karabakh, a majority-Armenian region of Azerbaijan that has been a de facto independent state since the 1990’s.

Recent fighting in the region has seen its churches targeted by Azerbaijani forces.

“It was never a religious conflict,” Armenian Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan told Spanish news agency EFE, days after shelling impacted the Holy Savior Cathedral, also known as the Ghazanchetsots Cathedral.

Martirosyan is the current Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh – as Nagorno-Karabakh calls itself – of the Armenian Apostolic Church….

According to Martirosyan, the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan was never a religious conflict, because Armenians “don’t combat against mosques. We have no problems with the peoples of other confessions, and we never have had.”

The archbishop has been in Artsakh since 1989, so has been an eyewitness to the entire conflict.

“The heart of this conflict is rooted in the defense of the most elemental rights men have. The people who lived in the [Soviet] Karabakh couldn’t exercise their most basic rights. And they spoke up. Yes, we’re Armenian, we want to know our history, we want our churches to be open,” he said.

He told the Spanish news agency that for over seventy years the Azeris who ran Karabakh – incorporated to the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan – shut down all the Armenian churches.

“This was the problem,” he said. “There’s no religious conflict between Christians and Muslims here.”

Armenians often argue that Christianity is like the color of one’s skin: It cannot be changed, hence the influence the Armenian church has in the lives of the faithful.

Speaking about the shelling of the cathedral, the archbishop said that the Azerbaijanis want to “stomp on the symbols of our faith. They are barbaric. But this is no surprise for us: They did this in the war of the 1990s, when they attacked the monasteries.”

He believes that the churches are being targeted in an attempt to “weaken the moral” of the people.

“They want to bend our resistance,” Martirosyan said. “They don’t care that there is also a mosque here.”

He’s convinced that the bombing that cause the shelling in the cathedral is the “classic behavior of terrorist who cannot stand cultural, spiritual and religious values.”

He puts the blame squarely on the Turkish government, which supports Azerbaijan militarily.

“They destroy it all,” he said. “They’re authentic vandals. A terrorist, Turkish president [Recept Tayyip] Erdogan, trains them and send them to another terrorist, President [of Azerbaijan] Ilham Aliyev, who sends them to the front line.”

The archbishop was born in Sumgait, a seaside town of the then-Azerbaijan Soviet Republic. A pogrom in late February of 1988, during the early stages of the Armenian nationalist Karabakh movement, led to the systemic elimination of the Armenian population in the town, including Martirosyan’s family. The death toll is disputed: The official Soviet toll was 32, although Armenian sources put the figure closer to 200.

“This is the third genocide attempt,” Martirosyan said. “The first was in 1915 [when the then-Ottoman Empire systematically killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians], the second in Sumgait and other cities of Azerbaijan. Now, we’re on the third one.”

The prelate is convinced Turkey is behind the current war because Erdogan has a foreign policy of “expansivity” towards a “region controlled by Russia for over 200 years.”

Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, he argues, are the only thing preventing Turkey from accomplishing its goal….