Christian Cemetery Desecrated in Istanbul

Country: Turkey

Date of incident: September 22, 2009

Large-scale vandalism of a Christian cemetery recalls decades of suffering by Orthodox Christians in Turkey.

Unknown vandal(s) broke 90 tombstones that bore the sign of the cross and the name of the deceased in an Istanbul cemetery. The incident occurred in the historic cemetery of Valukli near the ancient Valukli Monastery, which five non-resident nuns care for. Christian cemeteries are one of the few reminders of the small Christian presence in Turkey, and thus have been subject to attacks on a number of occasions. Istanbul’s Christian cemeteries have been desecrated on a number of occasions in the past 20 years. These latest attacks brought back memories of the events of September 1955 when churches, cemeteries, and properties owned by Istanbul’s Greek Orthodox community were desecrated and destroyed in a pogrom. The American Hellenic Institute in response to the attack said, “In light of the recent 54th anniversary of Turkey’s destruction of the 110,000 Greek Orthodox Christian community of Istanbul, this latest incident is reminiscent of the tragic pogrom that took place back in September of 1955. More than half a century later, Turkey still fails to pay respect to the sacred memory of these victims and continues to suppress religious freedom and basic human rights of the Greek Orthodox Christian minority.”