ISTANBUL (Agos) — The curfews and consequent clashes turned Sur province of Diyarbakir into a desolate place. In addition to the troubles and sufferings of locals of Sur, historical buildings have also been damaged. Armenian Catholic Church is one of the most severely damaged buildings.

After the clashes ended, planned reconstruction works in the province started to be discussed. With the urgent expropriation decision made by the Turkish government, ministry of environment and urban planning began to work on reconstruction of Sur. Minister Özhaseki stated that the reconstruction works will be carried out in accordance with plans for protection.

According to information obtained by Agos, Armenian Catholic Church is severely damaged. The residential part of the church complex should be reconstructed. The church property belongs to General Directorate of Foundations. The restoration work, which will be carried out by the Directorate, is planned to be completed in 2018.

For supervising the restoration, an advisory committee consisting of the scholars from Dicle University is being formed, and the tender process for restoration work has ended. Restored in 2013, the church had been used as a weaving workshop. However, after this restoration, the church might be used as a place of worship again.

Diyarbakır Meryem Ana KilisesiDiyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Cultural Heritage and Tourism Department Director Nevin Soyukaya stated that the original structural texture of Sur has been damaged.

Curfew started on September 6 and officially ended on March 10; Soyukaya pointed out the destruction that has been going on since then: “Since March 10, the blockade continues and the registered and unregistered buildings within the protected area have been destroyed with heavy equipment without due diligence, new roads are being built that violate the Construction Plan for Protection, existent streets are broadened and the original structural texture of Sur has been damaged.”

Stating that Sur is the buffer zone of World Heritage Site and the Directorate of Spatial Management of Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens must be included in any work within the region, Soyukaya said that they are not included in the current process. She also stated that, according to their estimations, 1277 structures have been destroyed.

The first curfew in Sur was declared on September 6, 2015. Lifted for few hours once in a while, scope of the curfew was expanded on December 11, including 15 neighborhoods of the province. On August 27, 2016, the curfew was lifted in 6 neighborhoods. However, the human rights organizations working in the region state that there is a virtual curfew and police forces don’t allow people to enter the neighborhoods, where the curfew has been lifted.

Human Rights Foundation Diyarbakir Branch Chair Raci Bilici spoke to Agos: “They said that the curfew is lifted in some neighborhoods, but they don’t let us in. The region has been veiled. Officially, the neighborhoods are open, but we cannot determine which parts are really open in practice. We feel uneasy, since the daily life is unusual. Operations caused severe damage.”

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