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.
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.
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.
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.