Armenian v Armenian: Murderous robbery attack in Istanbul casts shadow on Homeland-Diaspora ties

A robbery attack by citizens of Armenia against an Istanbul-based elderly Armenian family, as a result of which one of the spouses died, not only got wide response in Turkish media, but also caused the Istanbul Armenian community’s negative attitude towards Armenian citizens.

“Turkish media started trumpeting about this. It was enough just to look at Turks’ negative and sarcastic comments under articles covering the incident. On the other hand, the local Armenian community’ distrust towards Armenian citizens grew up,” Andranik Ispiryan, a Turkey expert, told ArmeniaNow.

On February 6, Hakob Demirjian, who lived in Harbiye Cumhuriyet Street of Istanbul’s Sisli district, where lots of Armenians live, killed in his apartment. He worked as a goldsmith for over 40 years. The criminals tied up Hakob and his wife, 79-year-old Aida Demirji, then took the valuables from the house and went away.

Police and rescuers managed to save the woman’s life, but the old man was suffocated. The group of criminals was arrested in Trabzon, 4 days after the crime. According to a preliminary version, the initiator of the robbery was an Armenian woman working at Demirjis’ home. Five of the arrested suspects are citizens of Armenia, which was approved by the Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On February 12, Garo Pailan, an Armenian MP from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish ‘People’s Democratic Party’ (ZHDK- HDP), referring to the events and activities of Armenians visiting Turkey said: “As a community, we should discuss the Armenian citizens issue.

They are involved to stealing, prostitution and drug sales here.”

Sargis Hatspanyan, an expert-analyst in regional affairs, said that the Armenian community of Istanbul was worried that the cruelty may have been perpetrated by Armenians, which has already become an undeniable fact.

“Armenians have been living in Istanbul for more than three thousand years. More than 50 percent of the city’s buildings have been constructed by local Armenian community. Armenians were the most respected, most reliable, exemplary nation there. But the picture has changed since 1991. Two types of Armenians have emerged in every Diaspora – Armenians of Diaspora and those from Armenia. The latter are considered to be corrupt, liars, thieves, etc. But it was not so until 1991. They say that the Soviet regime was to be blamed for,” said Hatspanyan.

Experts do not rule out that after this incident, the Turkish government can force the Armenian community to pass information on Armenian citizens working in their houses to the police, after which nearly 100,000 Armenians living there may be deported. They said that the incident involves a number of risks.

According to Hatspanyan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can make use of this isolated case against Armenia.

Turkey is a labor market especially for women from Armenia who are engaged in babysitting, cleaning homes, caring for the elderly.

Ispiryan said that the number of saleswomen from Armenia working in shops has increased recently, a phenomenon which one would not come across before.

“Another tendency can also be observed: as the Turkish lira has depreciated, labor migrants prefer to bring their families from Armenia to Turkey. In the past, if they earned 1,000 lire, which was equal to about $700, today the same amount of money makes up about $300,” said Ispiryan.

According to Hatspanyan, females who left for Turkey are mainly engaged in prostitution. They also get involved in different gangs, carrying out robberies, murders.

“If the Armenian community in Istanbul was an exemplary community, today due to dozens of criminals their reputation falls.

Turkish media have been divided into two parts: pro-Armenian ones show vigilance and present the incident in social context, whereas the nationalists present it as an actual display of the Armenian character,” said Hatspanyan.