Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into a bar association in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır over a statement it released on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.
The statement, titled “We share the great pain of the Medz Yeghern,” said hundreds of thousands of Armenians were massacred or left to die during mass deportations over a century ago by the İttihat Terakki Cemiyeti (Committee for Union and Progress, or the Young Turks), which seized power in a coup d’état in January 1913 and ruled the Ottoman Empire until the end of World War I.
The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’ Office is investigating the bar on charges of insulting “the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic or the organs and institutions of the state” in accordance with Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, Turkish media reported.
On April 24 President Joe Biden became the first US leader to use the term genocide in an annual message on the anniversary of the 1915-1916 massacres.
“We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring,” President Biden said in a statement.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Monday he was “highly saddened” by Biden’s move, adding that Turkey would have to take necessary steps.
He emphasized that historians should be studying the events and that the term “genocide” is too sensitive to be left to presidents or parliaments. He said the designation came into effect after 1948 and must be based on evidence and court decisions.
The Armenians — supported by historians and scholars — say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed by the İttihat Terakki government of the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Turkey accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers as Ottoman forces fought czarist Russia. But Ankara vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide.