I’m on the road at the moment, but I haven’t been able to outrun the bad news. I first heard claims that the Armenian Genocide Memorial Church had been destroyed through the Antiquities Coalition (@CombatLooting); then, while I was querying the unevidenced report and debunking community activists’ fabricated evidence, JP (@AgenerationXer) sent me the evidence that corroborated the claims.
Armenian Genocide Memorial Church
The Armenian Genocide Memorial Church complex in Deir ez-Zor – which encompassed the church (which is also known as Saint Martyrs Church), a genocide memorial and a genocide museum – was built between 1989 and 1990 and consecrated in 1991. Initially, ‘news agencies in the Middle East reported’ the destruction and community media then state structures repeated the reports.
Since there have been many false local reports, there was hope that it was a rumour or a piece of propaganda. There was also hope that it was a recycling of an old report. On the 1st of July, Alexandra Avakian had stated that (sometime during the civil war) the ‘Memorial Church in Der Zor [had] been blasted and nearly destroyed‘. I still don’t know whether it was damaged before it was destroyed.
Christian community propaganda
Surprisingly, Christians in Pakistan were perhaps the first to present photographic evidence. However, as I have explained, it was a photo of the Church of Prince Tadros in Minya, Egypt, which was destroyed on the 14th of August 2013.
JP (@AgenerationXer) sent me a filtered image by Serge (@Zinvor). Obviously, it very closely resembles the church; but the original evidence didn’t show up as a similar image in search results; and, still now, it only has two unreliable hits.
Re-searching for news, I found reports that had been updated with the original photograph, and its features correspond very closely with records of the church before its destruction.
So far, there is only the one image, and it provides a restricted view, but according to Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, the bombing ‘led also to the destruction of an adjacent museum and complex’. Since the church was the resting place of the remains of some of the victims of the genocide, this act of genocide has also almost certainly destroyed some of the material evidence of the Ottoman Armenian Genocide.
The “after” photo was taken at a different angle and distance from the “before” photo, but the structure and design are identical: they are octagonal (outlined in yellow); the insides of the corners of their frames are carved out (highlighted in green); they have arches carved out over their lower windows (highlighted in purple); they have the same window lead (highlighted in blue); and they have the same semicircles over their doors (highlighted in red).
Like the Islamic State’s demolition of other religious places, this was a carefully planned operation. It is difficult to ignore what Catholicos Aram I noted: it was ‘committed in the run-up to the Armenian Genocide centennial and on the 23rd anniversary of Armenia’s independence‘ (and reported the same day).
Islamic State militants in general are not especially concerned with Armenians or Armenian state independence. The timing does suggest that the Islamist militants who were responsible were Turkish Islamists [within the Islamic State], but I don’t have time to go into detail yet. I can only caution that, if they were “Turkish” by original ethnic/state identity, it does not mean that they were agents of Turkish para-state structures. I’ll try to explain in a follow-up post as soon as possible.
[Clarification added on the 30th of September 2014.]
1: Deir ez-Zor is also written Deir el-Zor, Deir Ezzor and Der Zor.
2: The Islamic State is also called the Caliphate, Da’ash, Da’esh, Da’ish, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).