A 25-year-old soldier who was killed accidentally at an outpost in Kozluk, Batman province, during his military service was laid to rest on Wednesday in a rare military ceremony held at a church. Pvt. Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, who died on Sunday when, according to official reports, his friend’s rifle accidentally discharged, was laid to rest after a ceremony held at the Surp Vartanants Armenian Church in İstanbul’s Feriköy neighborhood. The official report says the two soldiers were “joking around” with their rifles during the accident. Balıkçı’s family says it believes the official statement, but Balıkçı’s fiancée, Melani Kumruyan, says she has doubts about the official version.
Balıkçı’s coffin, draped in a Turkish flag, was taken to Surp Vartanants Church on Wednesday evening in the presence of a tearful crowd. In addition to family members, relatives and friends of the slain soldier, a large number of representatives of Turkey’s Armenian community, Gendarmerie Regional Commander Gen. İbrahim Yaşar, State Minister Egemen Bağış, 3rd Army Corps Commander Gen. Hulusi Akar, Şişli Mayor Mustafa Sarıgül, Adalar Mayor Mustafa Farsakoğlu and the wife and brother of slain Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Rakel Dink and Orhan Dink, also attended the funeral.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) sent four wreaths to the church. Archbishop Tatul Anuşyan in his speech said the soldier had “risen to God on the day of resurrection.” Balıkçı died on Easter Sunday, April 24 -- the day Armenians mark as the anniversary of Armenians being killed at the hand of the Ottomans in 1915. This was initially a source of controversy, but the Balıkçı family said it had no doubts that it was an accident and referred to the date of their son’s death as an “odd coincidence.”