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Mehmet Eryigit
Mehmet Eryigit (right)

Mehmet Eryigit is the last farmer of Rumeli Hisari. He came to Istanbul from a village near Trabzon on the Black Sea in 1967, when he was still a little boy. His father opened a butcher's shop in Rumeli Hisari.

"My father used to say, ‘I learned to be a butcher from the Armenians'. We, for example, are kaba (artless, unsophisticated) butchers; we cut and tear the meat to pieces. The Armenians taught my father how to cut meat properly. Most of my father's clients were Armenians. […] One day they told him about the house in the Armenian cemetery and asked him if he wanted to stay there.”

Though the area above the village was in those days inhabited by wolves rather than human beings, the family moved to what was to become the upper village of Hisari (Hisar Ustu) in 1977. Back then, it was a settlement of about 15 farms. As migration from the Turkish hinterland to Istanbul increased in the 1970s, more and more Anatolian migrants arrived. Mehmet remembers the first settlements:

"The first gecekondus were set up in the bushes […]. People started settling little by little, they enclosed some land, then brought their relatives from the villages, and that's how we came to this.”

Mehmet still uses the land of the Armenian cemetery, looks after the cemetery itself (still in use) and sells honey and the milk from his seven cows. Surrounded by former gecekondus, the graveyards lie next to a vegetable garden and a meadow with trees full of peaches, cherries, mulberries, nuts and hazelnuts.

October 2008

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