15 May 2017
From April 21 to April 24, a European delegation led by EGAM (the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement), in partnership with AGBU Europe and composed of international and local NGO’s went to Istanbul to join the commemorations of the Armenian Genocide.
On April 24, the delegation came together at Sultanahmet, the site of the former jail where the Armenian elite from Istanbul were imprisoned in 1915. The delegation then visited Şişli Armenian Cemetery to pay tribute to Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, the young Armenian trainee shot dead by a Turkish nationalist during his military service, 6 years ago, on the symbolic date of 24 April. Finally, at 19.15, the group joined the commemorations held on Tunel Square, where a crowd of about 400 people gathered to mark the 102nd anniversary of the 1915 genocide.
On this occasion, the Turkish NGO Human Rights Association HRA (IHD), strongly condemned the denial of genocide in Turkey, calling it “an insult to the memory of the victims”. It also denounced the “banalization” of horror, calling it “the most enduring ground for the denial of genocide”. HRA demanded the removal of Talaat Pasha’s mausoleum from the Monument of Freedom in Istanbul as well as the renaming of all streets, schools and public institutions bearing his name. Talaat Pasha was one of the 3 members of the ruling junta in the Ottoman Empire during World War I, and the architect of the Genocide of the Armenians.
AGBU Europe’s partnership with EGAM and with human rights associations in Turkey demonstrates that the memory of the Armenian genocide is important not just to Armenians, but also to all those who believe in democracy and human rights everywhere, especially in Turkey. Said Arega Hovsepyan, of the AGBU delegation: “Despite the grim picture of the state of democracy in Turkey’s, meeting with all those people who continue to struggle for their rights, for democracy and for freedom at all costs, I cannot give up the hope of a better and brighter future to come”.
Prior to the commemorations, the European delegation held a series of meetings with civil society as well as with Garo Paylan, member of the Parliament of Turkey, to discuss the political challenges and issues regarding minorities and genocide denial.
Since 2013, AGBU Europe has joined the international association EGAM (the European Grassroots Anti-Racist Movement) as well as Turkish groups on April 24 to commemorate the Armenian genocide in Istanbul, where it started in 1915. Commemorations began in Istanbul in 2010. In spite of the difficult situation in Turkey this year, it was nonetheless important for the European delegation to be present once again, in 2017.