ASIA/TURKEY - 108 years since the Armenian Genocide. Commemorations banned in Istanbul

Monday, 24 April 2023

(Archivio AGBU)

Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) - On April 24, 1915 more than 100 Armenian intellectuals, parliamentarians, writers and journalists were taken from their homes and deported on a journey of death to the Turkish towns of Çankırı and Ayaş. In memory of that tragic event, April 24 has become the day on which Armenian communities all over the world commemorate the "Great Evil" (Medz Yeghem), an expression they use to refer to the systematic massacres of Armenians perpetrated between 1915 and 1916 on the Anatolian Peninsula. Commemorative events and gatherings are planned again this year in Armenia and in many cities around the world. In Turkey, too, the "Platform for the Commemoration of April 24" had submitted a request to the Istanbul Governorate to authorize a commemorative event in Kadıköy, at the Opera House. But the request was not granted by the local authorities.
In recent years, and until 2019, Turkish authorities had also authorized commemorative ceremonies and events hosted in central places in Istanbul including Taksim Square. For the past two years, with security measures put in place to curb the pandemic contagion from Covid-19, commemorations of Armenian victims of Medz Yeghem had been held online. Today, the request for permission is rejected in a situation where there are no longer emergency measures in place to limit gatherings to curb pandemic contagion, while Turkey is preparing for general elections with an outcome deemed uncertain by many analysts. "There is no reasonable justification for banning our commemoration this year, as was the case last year," stressed a statement released by the "Platform", in which the institutional passivity with which racist and xenophobic branded demonstrations and public speeches are tolerated, is noted with regret.
Agos, a bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper published in Istanbul, also pays tribute in an editorial to the memory of the "Hundreds of thousands of Armenians" who 108 years ago "were torn from these lands," pointing out that the removal of the memory of that genocidal tragedy continues to hold the national consciousness hostage, and the new wave of nationalism seems to erase the signs of openness and willingness to confrontation on the events of 1915 that in recent years had seemed to be coming even from influential political formations and the highest Turkish authorities. "I pay tribute to the Ottoman Armenians who lost their lives in the difficult circumstances of World War I, and offer my condolences to their descendants," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had written two years ago (see Fides, 27/4/2021) in his message addressed to Sahak II Maşalyan, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, on the occasion of April 24. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 24/4/2023)