August 16, 2014 - 15:42 AMT
- The Bitlis town council has approved the renaming of five streets in
this historic town in south-eastern Turkey. Among the names is "William
Saroyan Street," after the great American-Armenian writer whose
ancestors came from Bitlis before 1915. Saroyan was born in Fresno but
felt strong ties to his ancestral home. He visited Bitlis in 1964 and
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of that visit, Massis Post reported.
One of the champions of renaming William Saroyan Street is Barzan
Serefhanoglu, whose grandfather, Adil Serefhanoglu, was the mayor of
Bitlis when Saroyan visited the city. Adil Serefhanoglu showed great
respect to Saroyan and paid a high price for it. After Saroyan?ИЩs
departure, he was harassed by the authorities who wanted to punish him.
William Saroyan Street will now be the main street of the Sapkor
district of the city, where the Saroyan family home was located. This
district looks over the citadel in the city below. Many of the houses in
this district still bear the dates of their construction in Armenian,
Ottoman and Western numerals.
Bitlis-Co-Mayors-with-GI-Letter-and-flowers-2The Gomidas Institute
congratulated the co-mayors of Bitlis, Nevin Dasdemir Dagkiran and
H??seyin Olan, as well as all members of Bitlis town council who approved
the name changes unanimously.
"This was a sensitive decision,"
said Ara Sarafian of the Gomidas Institute. "The people of Bitlis have
expressed their pride in one of their own Armenian sons. Such sentiments
could not have been expressed even a few years ago, when all positive
sentiments regarding Armenians and Kurds were proscribed by the Turkish
state. We have come a long way in Turkey, but there is still a long way
The other names adopted by Bitlis town council celebrate Bedi??zzaman Said-i K??rdi, Kemal Fevzi, Serefhan, and Ferhat Tepe.
The renaming of William Saroyan Street is partly the result of a
bridge-building operation the Gomidas Institute initiated in 2013 ?ИУ
before the current co-mayors and town council were even elected. The
Institute?ИЩs efforts resulted in increased contacts, a public exhibition
dedicated to the Armenians of Bitlis before 1915 ?ИУ an exhibition which
was shown in Bitlis and Fresno, California ?ИУ as well as other projects
The Gomidas Institute's work in Bitlis has been
possible with the help of the Turkish Human Rights' Association (IHD),
the Bitlis Bar Association, the Armenian Studies Program at California
State University (Fresno), as well as private individuals.source: