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17 01 2009- Robert Fisk remembers Kharpert (Harput)
In 27 December 2008 issue of English daily "The Independent" (London), known journalist and writer Robert Fisk made the following remark in an opinion-article titled "How can anyone believe there is 'progress' in the Middle East?":
By chance, I browsed through Turkish Airlines' in-flight magazine while cruising into Istanbul earlier this month and found an article on the historical Turkish region of Harput. "Asia's natural garden", "a popular holiday resort", the article calls Harput, "where churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary rise next to tombs of the ancestors of Mehmet the Conqueror".
Odd, all those churches, isn't it? And you have to shake your head to remember that Harput was the centre of the Christian Armenian genocide, the city from which Leslie Davis, the brave American consul in Harput, sent back his devastating eyewitness dispatches of the thousands of butchered Armenian men and women whose corpses he saw with his own eyes. But I guess that all would spoil the "natural garden" effect. It's a bit like inviting tourists to the Polish town of Oswiecim - without mentioning that its German name is Auschwitz.
END OF THE REMARK. See Robert Fisk's complete article here.
We have reproduced below the full article of the Turkish Airline's in-flight magazine (Skylife), where absolutely nothing is mentioned about the thousands years presence of the Armenians (until the Genocide of 1915) in the town of modern day Harput and neighboring Elazig city.
Harput: Asia's natural garden
By Kagan Aybudak
Harput, where churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary rise next to tombs of the ancestors of Mehmed the Conqueror on the same hill, is a popular summer resort today at the summit of Eastern Anatolia's most exciting panorama.
According to legend, Mansur Baba's tomb was destroyed during the conquest of the city and the land was purchased by the Seljuk Sultan Alaaddin Keykubad. Its location forgotten in time, Mansur Baba's rediscovery is described as follows: Sahende Kadin, a woman who lived in a house adjacent to the graveyard in front of the mosque, dreamed one night of a white-bearded man with a luminous visage who reproached her in angry tones, “You keep dumping water on me; either move me, or move elsewhere yourself!” At first the woman paid no attention to the dream. But when it recurred several times she remonstrated with the old man: “I'm an old woman. How can I do all that?” When the old man replied, “Tell Beyzade,” the woman awoke in a fright. In the morning she went to Beyzade, who immediately started excavating near her house. A sarcophagus turned up, and in precisely ten days a tomb was erected on the very spot.
If you investigate a couple centuries back, you will hear the word 'Elaziz', which is derived from the name 'Mamuret-ul Aziz' (The Prosperous Lands of Aziz), which was given to the area in honor of Sultan Abdulaziz (1830-1876). 'Elaziz' of course is reminiscent of 'Elazig', the name of the city today. Knowing that place names have a tendency to change over time, I conclude that Harput is none other than the old Elazig, a center of settlement that held sway over a region stretching to Erzurum in the north as far as Aleppo in the south. Not only was Harput this city, and one of the first settlements in the region, at the same time it was a provincial capital; thanks to the dynamics of history it evolved into the cultural and commercial capital of an even wider region. It is known in any case that the capital was moved in the mid-1800's to Agavat, where Elazig stands today. In other words, Elazig's star was already beginning to rise even as Harput's was setting.
Harput today is a summer resort on a lake and a popular place not only with Elazig residents but also with nature lovers and people of religious faith who come here from all over Eastern and even Central Anatolia. Built of cut stone, Mansur Baba's tomb or 'turbe' is one only of many such octagonal structures with a conical roof that are found all over Anatolia.
The area's first settlers, the Hurrians, are mentioned in a number of different sources along with the Hittites and the Assyrians, who also ruled here. The city became one of the capitals of the Urartu's, who settled in Eastern Anatolia starting in the 9th century B.C. Its location at a vital intersection between two continents made the region a place that changed hands frequently between the Medes, the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Arabs. Most of the structures we see as we stroll through the streets today exhibit evidence of the cultural heritage left by the Turkish hegemony that was established over the area in 1071 following the Battle of Malazgirt. Conquered by the Cubuklar branch of the Oghuz tribes in 1085, Harput today is characterized by a multicultural identity forged mainly from the Anatolian Seljuk and Ottoman traditions.
The missionary school that opened in 1852 and the American College that started up not long afterwards show that Harput was a major center of culture and education in that period. Receiving its fair share of the misty-eyed western paeans that define the East, Harput is known to the Americans as 'the natural garden of Asia'.
With the monuments that you'll encounter at every step, from a castle left from the Urartu's and a Syriac Christian Church to mosques, a madrasa, a bath, old houses, gravestones and tombs with conical roofs, Harput is a city that more than deserves the epithet 'open-air museum'. As you leave Elazig Plain behind, you will see the old Harput houses at the end of the gently rising asphalt road, telling you that you are about to step into a place with roots deep in the past, and the sight of the ruins will wrench your heart. This is an old, established Anatolian town with an atmosphere steeped in history, genuinely friendly people and great plane trees, 'contemporaries of the Ottomans, my boy', as the old men languishing in their shade will tell you in their praise. You are strolling now through the streets of a town whose earliest traces date back to the Urartu's.
Rising magnificently over a rocky promontory, the remote and inaccessible Harput Castle will send a shudder down your spine. This is truly an eagle's eyrie.
With its soaring ramparts, this castle left from the famed Urartu's is continuing to undergo restoration and excavation in places today. The rocky cliff that imparts to the castle its splendor, and to Harput its strategic importance, has enabled another sort of beauty to flourish on its eastern face. A holy site already in the pre-Christian era, the ancient Syriac Church of the Virgin Mary dates to 149 B.C. This monument, which underwent three great repairs, the last in 1262, was completely restored again in 1999 and is open to visitors as well as being used as a place of worship. It has the distinction of being Harput's oldest monument after the castle.
Built shortly before the restoration of the church in 1262, the Great Mosque is named for the Artukid Sultan Fahrettin Karaaslan. An icon of the city, its leaning brick minaret is covered with decorations that exhibit traces of Anatolian Turkish Islamic architecture, while the mosque interior is built on a rectangular plan with thick stone walls and arches that support the roof. The Kursunlu or Leaded Mosque, with its courtyard shaded by a great plane tree, dates to 1730. According to legend, the tree was planted on the day the mosque construction was completed, making both of them almost three hundred years old. The ebony pulpit, a gift of Murad IV to the Great Mosque, stands today in the Leaded Mosque. Other centuries-old landmarks on your stroll around the town are the Sarahatun Mosque, Alacali Mosque, and the Aga Mosque. The smaller Ahi Musa Mescid at the city center, the Cimsit Bey Bath, converted into a restaurant today, Arap Baba, and a number of restaurants with scenic views are just a few other places of note here.
Heading due east from the hills of Arguvan, you will round the Tunceli side of the lake where you can stop along the shore and savor the view while you enjoy a meal of grilled meat washed down with tea. The Ice Cave, known as Buzluk Magarasi, will offer you its 'power ice', which is reputed to have therapeutic properties. You are gazing on the blue of the Keban Dam reservoir and its lovely coves not from the castle of a Mediterranean town but from Harput, whose age is measured in millennia. And Harput flourishes still. Like a thousand-year-old plane tree...
Source: Turkish Airlines in-flight magazine "SkyLife" - December 2008
The area around Elazig has been settled for centuries. An ancient town and citadel called Kharput (Kharpert) which means "rocky fortress" was built by the first Armenian kings about three miles from modern Elazig. However, very little written material about this city reached our day. Harput is still settled today, but due to its high elevation and lack of water, it is slowly in phase of being abandoned since decades, with most residents moving to Elazig. The two cities are in constant communication and Harput still has a few thousand inhabitants.
It is possible that Harput stands on or is near the site of Carcathio-certa in Sophene, reached by Corbulo in A.D. 65. The early Muslim geographers knew it as Hisn Ziyad, but the Armenian name, Khartabirt or Kharbirt, whence Kharput and Harput, was generally adopted in time.
William of Tyre wrote that Joscelin I, Count of Edessa (Jocelyn) of Courtenay, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem were prisoners of the Amir Balak in Kharput's castle and that they were rescued by their Armenian allies. William of Tyre calls the place Quart Piert or Pierre.
The Mart Maryam Church (Syriac Orthodox) in Harput, Turkey - the first church in Harput - was built in 179 A.D, and was attended by Christians who considered themselves as Syriacs, distinct from the Armenians of Harput.
An Armenian Catholic diocese of Kharput was created in 1850.
Harput was an important station of the American missionaries for many years. The missionaries built the Euphrates College, a theological seminary, and boys' and girls' schools. In November 1895, Ottoman backed Kurds massacred, looted and burned the Armenian villages on the plain; and in the same month Kharput was attacked and the American schools were burned down. A large number of Armenian clergy and people were massacred, and churches, monasteries and houses were looted. During the Armenian Genocide, the pupils at the Euphrates College were wiped out.
Notable Armenians hailing from Kharpert (Harput):
Nerses IV: (1098-1173), Armenian church leader, theologian and writer Tlgadintzi (Hovhannes Haroutiunian): (d. 1915) Armenian writer.
Rupen Zartarian: (d. 1915) Armenian writer, student of Tlgadintzi.
Stephen P. Mugar: Armenian-American businessman and entrepreneur.
Edmund Yaghjian: Armenian-American painter.
Vahe Haig: Armenian writer, student of Tlgadintzi. (U.S.)
Hamastegh: Armenian writer, student of Tlgadintzi. (U.S.)
Vahan Totovents: Armenian writer, student of Tlgadintzi. (Soviet Armenia)
Peniamin Noorigian: Armenian writer, student of Tlgadintzi. (U.S.)
Hrach Zartarian: Armenian writer, son of Rupen Zartarian. (France)
Hrach Yervant (Nishan Yacoubian): First chairman of Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (Ramgavar)
J. Michael Hagopian: Armenian-American documentary filmmaker
Photos and map: Kharpert (Harput) as featured in the Turkish Airlines in-flight magazine.


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