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Civil-society organizations and local community leaders have gathered in Diyarbakir to remember the victims of the Armenian Genocide and to condemn the atrocities, according article in today’s Özgür Gündem.
April 24th was the date in 1915 when hundreds of prominent Armenian leaders and intellectuals were arrested in Istanbul and deported to central Anatolia. Most would not survive and the date is now widely remembered as the beginning of the genocide committed against Christian communities of Anatolia, including Armenians as well as Syriacs/Assyrians, and Pontic Greeks.
The commemoration in Diyarbakir was organized by branches of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and the Bar association. The gathering took place in front of the Memorial of Common Consciousness in the Sur Municipality in the center of Diyarbakir. Diyarbakir co-mayor Fırat Anlı, Diyarbakir MP Altan Tan, the director of the Gomidas Institute and Armenian-English historian Ara Sarafian, members of the Armenian diaspora community, President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association Tahir Elçi, co-mayor of Sur Municipality Seyid Narin, President of the Diyarbakir branch of the İHD Raci Bilici, members of the Faith Commission of the Democratic Society Congress, representatives of various other civil society organizations, and many others were also present.
Elçi, the President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, read from a prepared text, saying “on April 24th the Armenian people, one of the oldest peoples of Anatolia and Mesopotamia, began to be subjected to the one of the biggest disasters that had been witnessed until that date. Armenians call the events of 1915 the Great Disaster. We within Kurdish society remember share the great pain of the Armenian people, a brother people. Today in Diyarbakir we remember the more than one million innocent civilians who lost their lives in this genocide. During this same period another ancient people of Mesopotamia, the Syriacs, were also subjected to a similar policy, and on this occasion we also share the pain of the Syriac people together with the Armenian people. We express our wishes that the events which the Armenian people experienced will come out into the open and that there be justice for this people. Once more we share the pain of the wronged Armenian people, and we respectfully remember the victims of the genocide.”
Following Elçi the Armenian-English writer-historian and director of the Gomidas Institute in London Ara Sarafian spoke. Sarafian drew attention to how 1915 marked the beginning of a new kind of policy in Turkey, saying “following the Armenian and Assyrian genocide many different linguistic, ethnic and social groups – in particular Yezidis, Alevis and Kurds – were subjected to great oppression. In Dersim tens of thousands were killed. Following the military coup of 1981 tens of thousands were tortured because of their political views. Turkey has until today yet to apologize for these events and no legal process has developed to bring these murders to justice. Those who died in the events of 1915 were also subjected to great oppression. The official Turkish position which until today has denied Kurdish existence and Kurdish culture has also ravaged Armenian history including the truths about the Armenian genocide. The Turkish government stands by not accepting previous wrongs. We can see this situation in both the Kurdish and Armenian problems. The Prime Minister has affirmed that terrible things happened to Armenians in 1915. However he did not come out and say this himself.” Sarafian concluded by saying that the Turkey needed to confront its past and that the events of 1915 were its darkest events whose effects continue to be felt.
Following Sarafian the President of the Diyarbakir Branch of the İHD Raci Bilici read a prepared statement for April 24th. Mustafa Akengin, spokesperson for the Democratic Congress of the Peoples, also addressed the crowd.