Mutlu Tombekci, an analyst for the Turkey-based Vatan newspaper, severely criticized Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who, together with his supporters, performed a namaz at Ani church in protest at the liturgy in Surb Khach church on Akhtamar Island.
“Some asked why the ‘liberals’, who attended the liturgy at the Armenian church on Akhtamar Island, did not take part in the namaz in Ani church. My answer to them is:
“1. The permission for a liturgy at the Sümela Monastery in Trabzon was granted in December 2009, eight months before the 2010 liturgy.
“The permission for annual liturgies on Akhtamar Island was granted on March 25, 2010, seven months before the September 19 liturgy.
“As regards the unsanctioned namaz at Ani, I knew about it two days before. They got permission within 12 hours and performed namaz the following day. I did not understand the reason for their haste as well. Days run out? Only Bahçeli and his mob knew about the namaz just three days before?
“2. There is a great difference between the namaz at Ani and the liturgy in Surb Khach on Akhtamar Island.
“Ani Church is not a Muslim sacred place. Did Armenians hold a liturgy at a mosque that had been turned into a church? It is an Armenian church. Armenians built this church 1,000 years ago, and it served as an office of the patriarchate. They wished to hold a liturgy at a renovated church and had been waiting for it for three years. They got a permission and, as normal people, informed everybody of that. Everybody made their plans accordingly, and we went to observe the liturgy. One more thing: in what place of your country you cannot perform namaz? How many Muslims have to this day known about Ani? I tell you. None!
“3. Why was I to act like a child? Why Ani? Why in an Armenian city? Why a church turned into a mosque? Even to this day no sign in Ani contains the word ‘Armenian’, but it is another topic. But Bahçeli’s gang knew it was Armenian.
“The namaz performed by the Turkish nationalists did not look sincere at all. It followed the ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ principle. It was full of hate and smacked of revenge.
“So what you say. If you perform namaz not in Ani, but in the Voyvoda mosque, which was turned into a museum of Greek folk art in Athens. You will say: we have permission, let us go. You should know, I would be happy to come with you. We will perform namaz in the Greek capital and have kebab at an Armenian restaurant thereby giving them an answer.
“Come on, turn to the Athens Mayor for permission to perform namaz. Kebab at my expense, and do not be afraid – I will not treat you pork,” Mutlu Tömbekçi writes in her article.
The article evoked a wide response throughout Turkey. A number of journalists were highly critical of it in their articles.

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