ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)—For the second year in a row, major cities in Turkey witnessed public events commemorating the Armenian Genocide of 1915. On April 24, 2011, at 5 p.m., public sit-ins took place simultaneously in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Sakarya Square in Ankara, Human Rights Park in Diyarbekir, and the Municipality Park in Bodrum.
The events were organized by the “Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism Initiative,” (more commonly name by its Turkish name, “DurDe”), a civil society movement founded by various intellectuals and activists from Turkey, and affiliated with the newly found Democrat Socialist Workers Party (DSIP).
The organizing group issued a declaration titled, “This pain belongs to all of us,” which was posted online and published in some Turkish newspapers, like Taraf and Agos. In it, expressions like “a crime against humanity,” “the devastating act,” and “the great guilt” were used, in place of the word “genocide,” which is still a debated and taboo term among even many of those who acknowledge the guilt associated with April 24. This move, however, guarantees that a larger number of writers, journalists, intellectuals, and activists, from various walks of Turkish society, can more readily show their support and sign their names under the declaration. Still, some participants criticized the organizers for not using the term genocide. Journalist Kemal Ozmen said, “This is not our mutual pain, but it is our own shame. It is genocide, it’s a crime against humanity, and I personally apologize to all Armenians.”
Nevertheless, during the Taksim Square commemoration, the organizers weren’t shy in uttering the word genocide during their opening remarks, adding a touch of sincerity to the event and joining the chain of Armenian Genocide commemorations taking place in other parts of the world, from Dzidzernagapert to Der Zor, Marseille, and New York.
In Istanbul, more than 400 people gathered to honor the victims of the genocide with a peaceful sit-in at Taksim Square, carrying roses and listening to Armenian melodies played on the duduk, whilethe names and short biographies of Armenian intellectuals arrested on the April 24, 1915 were read out loud.
Hauntingly, however, on the other side of the same square, a counter protest was taking place by a group of so-called “leftists” called the People’s Liberation Party. They carried signs that read, “Long live our new liberation war against the second Sevres Treaty.” The group, which numbered nearly 50, stayed 30 meters away from the commemoration because of a heavy police and security presence.
Less than half an hour later, another counter protest broke out on nearby Istiklal Street by members of the ultra nationalist “Bozkurt” group, the youth wing of the Nationalist Movement Party. The protesters carried the flags of Azerbaijan in an attempt to provoke anti-Armenian sentiment. They also chanted slogans condemning the “imperialist lies about the genocide” and marched the street making threats and other hateful remarks.
Earlier the same day, at noon, the Human Rights Association of Istanbul organized another commemorative event in the Sultan Ahmet Area in front of the Turkish Islamic Arts Museum. The museum, formerly called the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, served as a prison for a long time. It is also where Armenian leaders and intellectuals were arrested on April 24, before being gathered in the Haydarpasha train station and sent to the interior of the country where most were killed.
Nearly 50 people attended the Human Rights Association event, most of them journalists, writers, publishers, and activists. A statement issued by the association—titled “1915 is genocide, genocide is a crime against humanity”—was read aloud by human rights lawyer Eren Keskin, editor in chief of the Ozgur Gundem daily newspaper that focuses on Kurdish issues, and an Armenian Weekly columnist. “This civilization was destroyed and erased from its thousands years old of motherland,” read the statement.
Original source: http://armenianweekly.com/2011/04/28/genocide-commemorations-in-turkey-on-april-24/