Officials from the Malatya Municipality knocked down thebuildings, which included a place of worship, on 2 February. They were being restored, having previously been demolished.
It appears that local residents thought that a new church was being built, and hundreds of petitions against this were submitted to the authorities.
Officials said that the place of worship was being built without official permission, and therefore there was nothing illegal about its demolition. But both the governor and mayor of Malatya had given consent for the restoration work.
The Armenian Church in Turkey was almost completely obliterated during the Armenian genocide of 1894 to 1923, when more than 1.5m Armenian and Assyrian Christians were killed and much of the Church’s property was confiscated or destroyed. There are now only around 100 Armenians left in Malatya.
Garo Paylan from HAYDER, an Istanbul-based philanthropic foundation, which supports Malatya Armenians and was funding the work, said:
It is important for those people to bury their loved ones according to their religious practices. Since there are no churches left in Malatya, the only place that they can have a religious ceremony is in the cemetery.
He said that the destruction of the cemetery buildings could be a backlash in response to a recent vote in the French Senate making it a crime to deny that the 1915 killings of Armenians was “genocide”.
Malatya Mayor Ahmet Ҫakir, who had given verbal permission for the renovation work, apologised for the demolition. He said that it had occurred as a result of miscommunication among officials and that they would compensate for it.