Three people were detained on Monday after footage of them desecrating an old Armenian church in Istanbul late Sunday night appeared on social media. The footage shows two men dancing to a stone cross at the top of the large courtyard gate of the Armenian church of Surp Takavor in the Kadıköy district. The Istanbul district administration said on Monday that the two men and a third suspect who had accompanied them had been identified. All three have been detained and are under house arrest while the investigation continues.
The suspects were part of a group that allegedly protested against the midnight music ban, which is among the restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic imposed across the country. Additional footage from the street where the church is located shows dozens of people dancing in the street at 00.55 at night, accompanied by loud music.
Social media users expressed anger over the “desecration” of the church, while officials condemned the insult. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu described the act as “disrespectful”. Soylu tweeted that he had contacted Arman Bükükyuyan, director of the foundation that runs the church, and expressed his sadness at the incident.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also condemned the incident, according to party deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmus. “Our civilization never tolerates insulting or mocking actions in places of worship,” Kurtulmus said, adding that he strongly condemned the provocative and horrific act, as he said he had full faith in the Turkish legal system to do what was necessary.
Presidential Communications Director Faretin Altun also condemned the incident, saying freedom of religion and conscience were crucial and places of worship were considered sacred. “Those who committed this disrespectful act will be held accountable before the law. “Our nation will not allow such provocations as never before,” Altun said.
Photo: Surp Takavor Church in Kadıköy district, Istanbul (Euronews)