Edmond Y. Azadian
Since Fatih Sultan Mohammed occupied Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman rulers have been destroying and desecrating churches, castles, architectural monuments of Hittites, Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other nationalities who had been the indigenous people of Asia Minor, occupied and ruled through blood and sword.
Now, all of a sudden, the destroyers of all these cultures presume to be landlords, claiming treasures originated in Asia Minor to be returned to the present government of Turkey. Those artifacts and treasures which have been preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Louvre and Pergamon Museum have been saved from the Turks themselves, becoming part of the legacy of human civilization. Had they been left in the hands of the Turks, they would have been doomed to suffer the same fate as the 2,000 Armenian churches, monasteries and architectural monuments which were systematically destroyed and rendered into ashes. After 200,000 Armenians escaped from Van in 1915, the Turkish Army burned tens of thousands of illuminated manuscripts and Bibles on the island monastery of Leem in Lake Akhtamar.
All that barbarism was tolerated and permitted by the Western powers because of political expediency, fueling the arrogance of the Turks, in turn, to get back at the West, which had saved antiquities from Turkish-Ottoman plundering hands in the first place.
The latest example was the destruction of thousands of khachkars in Jugha, Nakhichevan, now an exclave ruled by Azerbaijan, by the Azeri Turks in broad daylight; not one finger was raised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) or other agencies or governments despite protests by Armenia’s government.
Also, in a cynical condescension towards small nations, the British Museum and other museums stubbornly keep mislabeling Kutahya tiles or the head of Diana (Anahid, “The Satala Aphrodite,”) as Seljuk art or any other label in the name of academic propriety, rather than ascribing it to the Armenian talents and skills which are the true creators of those treasures.