Turkish authorities launch investigation into CHP lawmaker for commemorating Armenian Remembrance Day

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Monday launched an investigation into Republican People’s Party deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu for commemorating Armenian Remembrance Day, the Birgün daily reported.

Tanrıkulu shared a post on Twitter yesterday in which he acknowledged that hundreds of Armenians had been exiled or died. “107 years ago on April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenians were detained and exiled. Many died or were lost in the process,” he said.

Charges against Tanrıkulu are based on Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which criminalizes public denigration of “Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.”

The infamous Article 301 was frequently used in the 2000s to prosecute intellectuals on charges of insulting Turkishness. In the wake of widespread criticism from local and international rights groups and the European Union, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government amended the controversial article in 2008 and made permission from the Justice Ministry a prerequisite for the launch of investigations based on this article.

On April 24, 1915 the Ottoman government arrested and murdered hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in modern-day Istanbul. The killing expanded into brutal massacres of the male Armenian population across Ottoman lands and the deportation of Armenian women, children and the elderly into the Syrian desert. More than 1 million Armenians died — roughly 70 percent of the total Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey, which emerged as a secular republic from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, acknowledges that 300,000 Armenians may have died but strongly denies it was genocide.

Several opposition politicians commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day, including Ali Babacan from the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA). Babacan said in a tweet that he understood the deep pain the Armenian community felt on April 24, commemorating the Ottoman Armenians who had lost their lives on that day.

Garo Paylan, an Armenian deputy from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) submitted a bill to the Turkish Parliament to officially recognize the genocide.

This move was criticized by right-wing politicians such as Meral Akşener, who said the Turkish nation had a history to be proud of .

Ümit Özdağ, leader of the right-wing Zafer (Victory) Party, shared a picture of Talat Pasha, who as minister of the interior had to take responsibility for the deportation of the Armenians from the empire’s eastern provinces, open to Russian influence, to Syria; some historians blame him for the barbarity of the operation.

“Our nation is grateful to you,” Özdağ wrote in the caption. Known for his anti-migrant and xenophobic sentiments, Özdağ has been harshly criticized for inciting hatred among the public.

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