Protesters from the Armenian community staged a rare protest outside the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul on Wednesday to protest acting patriarch Aram Ateşyan and eight years without a patriarch to lead their religious congregation.
Armenian Patriarch Mesrob II has been in a vegetative state since 2008 after being diagnosed with dementia. Aram Ateşyan was installed as acting patriarch, but dissidents within the community have opposed his election and have called for a new election.
A group of Turkish Armenians convened in front of the historic patriarchate building in Istanbul's Kumkapı district. Speaking on behalf of demonstrators, Jaklin Çelik said the patriarchate represented a post that dated to early Ottoman times, and which had remained empty for eight years. "We could not elect a new patriarch for a variety of reasons. Instead, we have until now the post of acting patriarch, a made-up title to stall the debate for a new election." She said the patriarchate has long suffered from the lack of a permanent legal status, and the Armenian community was "deceived" into accepting a fait accompli. "We have a freedom of faith and right of election and we don't want it to be taken from us with ridiculous excuses. We do not have an acting patriarch and the patriarch should be elected by people," she said, before leaving a black wreath in front of the building with a message reading, "We want to elect our patriarch."
Turkish law bans the election of a new patriarch while his predecessor remains alive. A patriarchal election is required to be held by the synod of bishops, and the synod has to apply to the Interior Ministry after approving the election. The government ruled out an election of a new patriarch, but a group of Armenians has filed a lawsuit for the removal of the regulations blocking the election. The legal process is ongoing.
Tatyos Bebek, a prominent figure from the Armenian community among the protesters, told Anadolu Agency that they had no post called "acting patriarch" and they should be able to elect a new patriarch. He said the Armenian state had promised to allow the election, but had not fulfilled this promise.
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