(Armenpress) – The Vicar General of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, gave an interview to the Turkish Bugun TV channel, where he discussed the existence of hidden Armenians living in Turkey.Ateshian explained that these individuals were forced to conceal their nationality and convert to Islam during World War I because of persecution in Ottoman Turkey.
Ateshian said, "There are about 100,000 people in the present generation in Turkey whose parents are Armenians and they are Muslims. They speak Armenian and wear a cross secretly… They do not want to attend church, as it will reveal their identity. The liturgy held in the Saint Kirakos Church in Diyarbakir was attended by more than 400 people, half of which had Armenian roots. My family as well lives in Diyarbakir as Muslims. The sons of my elder sister also live in Diyarbakir. They accepted Islam under pressure in 1950."
"I was born in 1954. When I was 4 or 5, my sister became a Muslim. Their children became Muslims as well. My sister wore her cross secretly and spoke Armenian. I lost them, as they did not attend our church and I could not christen them. Many of the concealed Armenians talked about their being Armenians only before the death," he continued.
Ateshian also shared other first-hand experiences, saying, "A 30-year-old man came to me and asked [me] to christen him. I told him to prove his being Armenian and he could not. Then his father called me and asked to accept his son. He said that he worked in the municipality and when he retires, he will return to his roots. According to his son, 90 percent of the population of Tunceli are Armenians and now he is a member of our church."