Turkey again bans event to commemorate Armenian ‘genocide’ victims during WWI

The İstanbul Governor’s Office has again banned a commemoration ceremony scheduled for today in memory of the Armenians who were killed during a mass deportation in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, in a decision condemned as “an anti-democratic move” by the organizers, Turkish Minute reported.

The April 24 Commemoration Platform was planning to hold the event on Wednesday in front of the Süreyya Opera House, designed by Armenian architect Kegham Kavafyan, in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district

Held for 10 years, the vigil was prohibited during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2021 and hasn’t been allowed since.

The platform condemned the governor’s office’s decision, claiming it was made without any justification and describing it as “anti-democratic.”

The organizers said an event that would allow Turkey to confront the mass atrocities committed by the Ottoman authorities against the Armenian minority during World War I would be “one of the most critical junctures of democratization” in the country.

They added that the ban on the event reflects the Turkish authorities’ insistence on the country’s failure to democratize.

İHD says in press statement WWI killings of Armenians was ‘genocide’

The Human Rights Association (İHD) Anti-Racism and Discrimination Commission released a press statement titled “Recognize, Apologize, Compensate” at its headquarters in Taksim on Wednesday to commemorate the victims of the mass killings of the Armenians during WWI, describing the tragedy as a “genocide.”

Photo: Bianet

“We’re naming it. Yes, it’s a great disaster. But its name is genocide. [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan became the first leader to express sorrow [about it], but then he reverted to state’s factory settings [which denies the commission of a genocide],” Eren Keskin, a prominent Kurdish lawyer, human rights activist and member of the commission, said.

In 2014, Erdoğan, who was the prime minister at the time, offered condolences for the first time for the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule during WWI. Although his message fell short of describing the tragedy as “genocide,” he said the events of 1915 had “inhumane consequences” and expressed hope that those who died were at peace.

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 WWI.

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.

Gülistan Yarkın, another member of the İHD commission, said what was targeted at the time was not only the lives of the Armenians but also that their properties, personal belongings, money, memories and history were taken away from them.

“Even more importantly, the Republic of Turkey has achieved, institutionalized and widely spread the most successful and long-lasting genocide denial in the world. Denial has been so successful that today Armenians are not only compelled to recount the genocide in their homeland but also forced to prove their existence for thousands of years,” she added.

Yarkın also complained that the Turkish judicial authorities took legal action against those who seek to discuss the “genocide,” highlighting that several investigations and trials have been initiated since 2018 regarding statements made about it.

DEM Party urges reckoning with ‘genocidal mentality’

Meanwhile, the Mezopotamya news agency reported that representatives from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) made a public statement in Şişli on Tuesday regarding the issue.

DEM Party MP Kezban Konukçu said they are well aware they can’t build peace and brotherhood in the country without confronting “this system of domination and exploitation.”

“We must confront this history. We must reckon with this genocidal mentality,” she added.

Erdoğan commemorates Armenian victims in message

President Erdoğan also sent a message to Sahak Maşalyan, the patriarch of Armenian Orthodox Christians in Turkey, saying he respectfully commemorates the Armenians who lost their lives under the adverse conditions brought about by World War I, extending his condolences to their descendants.

The president said his government would not allow the marginalization or exclusion of even a single Armenian citizen while emphasizing the importance of addressing historical events guided by reason, conscience and science, without succumbing to radical rhetoric or hate speech.

Up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed when Ottoman authorities rounded them up en masse and either massacred them or sent them on death marches into the desert, deprived of food and water.

Turkey says around 300,000-500,000 Armenians died, and just as many ethnic Turks, in civil strife after Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire rose up and sided with invading Russian forces.

Russia, the United States and several European countries recognize the killings as genocide.

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