Armenian schools open doors to a different Audience

Some students were registered as Muslim on their identity cards,' says Private Pangaltı Armenian High School Principal Barsamyan. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL


ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

Armenian schools in Turkey are set to begin admitting students according to a new policy in light of the increasing number of children born to couples of mixed Turkish-Armenian and non-Armenian descent.

A number of children born to intercultural couples are already attending a variety of the 18 Armenian schools in Istanbul.

Previously, for a child to be allowed to register at an Armenian school both parents had to be members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, however the Education Ministry recently issued a notice stating that only one of the parents had to be a church member.

Principal Karekin Barsamyan of the Private Pangaltı (Mıhitaryan) Armenian High School told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review recently that a number of the school’s students were registered as Muslim on their identity cards, while some were registered as Syriac and others were registered as having Turkish-Greek parents. “Regardless of what their identity cards say, these kids are receiving an Armenian-Christian education and they will decide upon their identities themselves in the future,” Barsamyan said.

Mıhitaryan High School has been the “coordinating school” of all Armenian Minority Schools since the first years of the Turkish Republic, according to an official notice issued at the time.

Parents are content

While intercultural parents who send their kids to Armenian schools in Istanbul were mostly reluctant to speak on the record about the issue, Hacer – unwilling to reveal her surname – told the Daily News that she had a very happy marriage with two kids, aged 12 and 6, who both attended Armenian schools. “I am learning Armenian together with them,” she said.

Aylin, also unwilling to reveal her surname, said her heritage was in the eastern province of Muş, adding that her parents chose to convert to Islam in 1915. Her family members were all very devout Muslims, she said. “My family is extremely conservative, but they did not say anything against me marrying an Armenian man,” she said. However, her 9-year-old son is having trouble with his identity.

“He is asking me how I became a Christian and married his father, while my parents were Muslim,” Aylin said. “I wear a headscarf and go to a mosque when required, but I also attend mass at church. This is very confusing for him. I am trying to explain the situation to him as best I can.”

Answering a question about why she decided to send her son to an Armenian school, she said: “I could not learn about my language and my culture. I want him to at least have a notion about it.”

Elif Baharol, who told the Daily News she was about to divorce her husband for economic reasons, said her child would continue to receive an Armenian-Christian education “as it is supposed to be.”

The new Education Ministry regulation opens the way for children of the Armenian immigrants who have come to Turkey since 1988 to also be educated at these schools.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, Armenians who have already obtained work and/or residence permits can have their children registered in these schools, according to Barsamyan.

Mıhitaryan High School officially applied to the Education Ministry to be allowed to admit children born to intercultural couples in the past because of the great number of Armenian kids being deprived of their right to an education, Barsamyan said, adding that the request was granted without fuss. “Most probably, we will be admitting these kids next year,” he said.

Barsamyan believes the new situation might help the currently strained relations between Turkey and Armenia. “I am keeping an eye on how well the kids from intercultural marriages and Armenian parents relate to each other,” he said.

“It is really promising. This will absolutely contribute greatly to establishing sound relations between the nations in the future.”