Living with genocide: an Armenian story

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An empty chair sits in an orange grove in Vakifli. While the Armenian deportations and massacres that occurred during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century are recognized as "genocide" today by more than a dozen countries, Turkey vigorously rejects the claim.

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    The Armenian Holy Cross Church on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van, Turkey, is possibly the most precious symbol of the Armenian‭ ‬presence in Turkey and a popular pilgrimage site for Armenians today.

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    A man works at an orchard in Vakifli, Turkey, the country’s last surviving Armenian village.

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    A framed image of Jesus Christ still hangs in the ruins of a building that was formerly an Armenian school in Vakifli.

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    The region surrounding Van was hit hard by violence during conflicts between Armenians and Ottoman Turks in the demise of the Ottoman Empire. After the deportation decrees in 1915 were issued, almost all of the Armenian communities in the southeast were wiped out.

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    A man sells fish on the road in front of the island of Akhtamar.

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    Old stones etched with crosses and Armenian script lay in the cemetery beside the Armenian Holy Cross Church on the island of Akhtamar.

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    About‭ ‬30‭ Armenian families populate Vakifli‭ and the surrounding area, ‬which is located near the Turkish border with Syria‭.

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    In 2007 the Turkish government converted ‬the Armenian Holy Cross Church on the island of Akhtamar into a museum and banned worship at the site.

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    Only recently was permission given for Christian worship to be held once a year at the Armenian Holy Cross Church on the island of Akhtamar.

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    Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, a newspaper editor and voice for Turkey’s Armenians, was fatally shot in front of the headquarters of the bilingual Armenian weekly Agos in 2007.

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    Vakifli is unique in Turkey in that it survived the 20th century’s first mass ethnic expulsion in 1915, when more than a million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Turk government purged the population.

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    Vakifli survived because its people took to the mountains and fought, maintaining their resistance until the French arrived to help. Although forced to evacuate, they came back and stayed.

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    An empty chair sits in an orange grove in Vakifli. While the Armenian deportations and massacres that occurred during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century are recognized as "genocide" today by more than a dozen countries, Turkey vigorously rejects the claim.