Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Paylan: Let’s Correct This Historic Mistake Before It’s Too Late

Armenian Member of Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) recently wrote the following op-ed for Istanbul-based biweekly Agos newspaper. Below is the English translation.
MP Garo Paylan at the HDP Parliamentary office in Ankara (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)
Last week, I was in Berlin for attending the conference organized in memory of Hrant Dink. The day after the conference, I had a meeting with a group of deputies in the Bundestag (Parliament). When I entered Reichstag building where Bundestag is located, I heard a very nice piano melody. I asked the people who welcomed me where the melody was coming from. “From the hall of general assembly,” they answered.
I couldn’t help to peek inside the hall. They said that there was an event for commemorating the Holocaust. The hall was full. All deputies, Chancellor Merkel, and ministers were present at the hall of the General Assembly. All of the parliament warmly applauded this piano recital and speeches in memory of the Holocaust.
I must admit my envy. The German Parliament was commemorating the victims of the great crime that was committed by Nazi government. I was coming from an entirely different atmosphere; from my country, where the atrocities of yesterday haven’t been acknowledged and the atrocities of today go on with impunity… I felt sorry for my country and went to the meeting with teary eyes…
Just a week before this meeting, I was banned from Turkish Parliament because I mentioned what happened to my people at the end of Ottoman period. While I, as an Armenian deputy, wasn’t allowed to speak about 102-years-old sins, all German deputies, leftists, rightists, members of the ruling and opposing parties, were sitting side by side with great self-confidence in confronting their mistakes. And none of them were thinking that they were defaming German identity as a result.

The Constitution That Odyan Wrote
In Turkey, looking at the pages of the history is getting more and more difficult. Let me tell you how I experienced it. One week before the commemoration event in Berlin, I began to talk about the proposed constitutional amendments by saying, “We are about to make a historic mistake.” I said, “We long for a social contract, which everyone living in our common homeland can call ‘my constitution’.”
My purpose was to take the deputies back to the days when the constitution was discussed in the Ottoman period. I wanted to remind them of the mistakes that were made then. In fact, few people know that our first constitution was written in 1876 by a committee consisting of various identities. [Member of Ottoman Parliament] Krikor Odyan was the one who wrote it. The constitution was suspended by Sultan Abdulhamid and a period of autocracy started, which continued until 1908. And you know the rest… Seeking democracy, the coup by Talat and Enver, and the great disaster…
Today, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) defines the proposed amendments that had been discussed in the parliament as “the constitution of the Turkish nation.” It frightens me, because Talat and Enver had a similar mentality when they tried to implement the constitution of the Turkish nation. They regarded some people as acceptable citizens, while they ignored others. In fact, they even exterminated some of the people. During 1913-1923, great massacres, genocides, population exchanges, and pogroms took place. We lost majority of Armenian, Syriac, Greek, and Jewish people.
However, when I told about these facts in the parliament, all hell broke loose. An unprecedented punishment was imposed on me because I said “genocide.” I was banned from the discussions for three sessions. My speech was deleted from the parliamentary minutes.
Many of my friends who read about the incident on internet said, “Garo, you are right, but is this the right time to speak about the genocide? We are heading towards a dictatorial regime.” This was understandable, because media was making a fuss about the word “genocide.” My two cognates made statements to the press and said that they found my speech “irrelevant and untimely.” I wasn’t surprised. Some people just bow down in times like these. Fear and worry are understandable feelings.

“Well Then, You Name It”
My purpose was not to say “genocide” at all costs, in the midst of the uproar caused by the discussion on the amendments. In fact, I have said “genocide” and “Armenian Genocide” many times in parliament. There was no trouble before. This time again, I called what happened to my people “genocide” just like I always do.
However, something different happen: insults and crisis. I said, “Well then, you name it,” to the ones who objected me. That night, the MHP threatened the [ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP) not to support the proposed amendments if I was not punished. Thus, I was banned from the parliament with the votes of the AKP, MHP, and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). I was subjected to the lynching campaign of the nationalist front.
I didn’t intend to cause controversy; my purpose was to make people learn from the past and prevent them from making the same mistakes. I wanted to talk about how the process of writing a constitution at the end of the Ottoman period led a pluralist society to a mentality of homogeneity, about the abuses and disasters caused by one-man-regimes, and about what all of this mean to us, who are trying to write a constitution in 2017.
I know very well that what happened to my grandfather and the great disasters took place in Anatolia were caused by the mistakes that politicians like us made. A system that abolishes the parliament would recreate the dreadful atmosphere created by Talat and Enver who abolished the same parliament. The proposed constitution makes the government dependent on one person; it imposes ideology of homogeneity. This is nothing but the repetition of the disasters that took place in the past.
I am aware of it and not talking about it would make me feel like I am betraying this country, these lands, and the people that I live with.

We Can Win Together
I am worried. The parliament that took action for “writing the constitution of the Turkish nation,” imprisoned Kurdish deputies with great enthusiasm and doesn’t have enough confidence to let its members vote secretly; no good can come of this.
Think about it. The Christian and Jewish peoples, who constituted 40% in the past, are just one out of 1,000 now, because of a mentality seeking for homogeneity. We suffered gravely. However, it is not only us; everyone is missing something. Everyone is tainted because of the mistakes of a couple of men.
For me, the problem is not only about the violation of my freedom of expression in the parliament, disrespect to the elected will, or whether I cannot use that word. These are important, of course, but what really matters is this: Turkey is determined to take the path about which its own history warns, is heading at full speed towards intolerance and an authoritarian regime that lacks a mechanism of balance and control.
The ones who will be ignored by the new period will either lapse into silence or revolt, or they will simply leave the country. Just like 100 years ago, the country will be damaged and impaired. We might live in a period during which we all lose.
However, we can win together.
On these tormented lands, in which we buried Hrant Dink 10 years ago, everyone lives in the restlessness of a dove. This restlessness is not groundless. We Armenians know it too well. That is why I am addressing you, the majority.
Let’s correct this historic mistake before it’s too late.

Zoryan Institute Responds to Çavuşoğlu’s Call for ‘Joint Commission’ to Study Armenian Genocide

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
TORONTO, Canada—In response to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu calling on Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915, the Zoryan Institute has the following response: As they say, “This is déjà vu all over again.”
Calls for Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915 have become the modus operandi for the Turkish government for years. Çavuşoğlu’s recent statement merely echoes that of his predecessors, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2014 when he was the Prime Minister. Every year, a few months before April 24th, when resolutions appear before government bodies around the world, especially the US Congress, the high-ranking officials of Turkey make the same call. They claim to want to study those events to find out what really happened.
This is nothing but a public relations stratagem to make it appear that Turkey is open-minded and willing to normalize relations with Armenia.
Such calls ignore the fact that in 2003, the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (“TARC”) at the time requested The International Center for Transitional Justice to examine the events of 1915 as a case of genocide. The ICTJ issued its finding that “the Events, viewed collectively, can thus be said to include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them.” The Turkish members of the Commission rejected this finding and broke TARC apart. In 2010, the United States, Switzerland, and other countries tried to broker the signing of protocols between Turkey and Armenia, whose border between them is closed, and who do not have diplomatic relations with one another. Despite the signing with much fanfare in Switzerland, the Turkish government has refused to ratify the agreement to this day.
Renowned Turkish scholar, Prof. Taner Akçam of Clark University, published in the preface to his awardwinning book, The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, after years of studying official documents from the German, Ottoman, and other archives, the following statement: Far from conflicting with one another, the sources are in fact complementary: they tell the same story but from different points of view…. Taken in their entirety, Ottoman and Western archives jointly confirm that the ruling party CUP did deliberately implement a policy of ethnoreligious homogenization of Anatolia that aimed to destroy the Armenian population.
On June 2, 2016, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, voted to declare the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide. The resolution was introduced by Cem Özdemir, a German parliamentarian of Turkish origin. There were at least one dozen other German deputies of Turkish origin who co-signed the Resolution with all parliamentarians voting in favor except one. The Turkish president, Erdogan, quickly denounced the resolution and recalled his Ambassador from Berlin. Part of the resolution reads as follows: By order of the Young Turk regime, the planned expulsion and extermination of over a million ethnic Armenians began in the Ottoman city of Constantinople on April 24, 1915. Their fate exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsions, and yes, of genocides, which marked the 20th century in such a horrific way. We are aware of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility.
The Bundestag regrets the inglorious role of the German Empire, which, as a principal ally of the Ottoman Empire, did not try to stop these crimes against humanity, despite explicit information regarding the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians, including also from German diplomats and missionaries…. The German Empire bears partial complicity in the events. Turkey has already rejected the finding of the ICTJ, an internationally respected organization headed by the renowned Elie Wiesel. It has harassed and persecuted Prof. Taner Akçam. Now, given Germany’s acceptance and admission of its own complicity in the Armenian Genocide in collaboration with its political and military ally, the Ottoman Empire, why propose another joint commission? President Erdogan, himself, has publicly stated that he will never accept that Turkey committed genocide. Under the circumstances, it is hard to believe Çavuşoğlu’s claim that “…we will accept any revelation.”
Rather than go through the sham of a joint commission, it would be more practical and constructive for Turkey to open its border with Armenia, establish normal diplomatic relations with its neighbor, stop harassing its scholars and writers and jailing its journalists, and accept the very well established historical record, and admit its guilt in the Armenian Genocide, as its own ally, Germany, has done.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Azerbaijani War Crimes to Be Presented to European Officials

Arman Tatoyan, Armenia's Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) speaking to reporters on Jan. 18, 2017 (Photo: Photolure)
Arman Tatoyan, Armenia’s Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) speaking to reporters on Jan. 18, 2017 (Photo: Photolure)
YEREVAN (ArmRadio)—The Armenian Human Rights Defender’s (Ombudsman) office on Wednesday presented their findings on the Azerbaijani attack near the village of Chinari on December 29, 2016. Investigation was initiated when the Human Rights Defender’s Gegharkunik regional office departed to the Chinari village the day of the attack.
Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan said the attack, which left three Armenian servicemen killed, was carried out under the conditions of no threat to the Azeri side on the part of Armenian forces.
Tatoyan presenting the Human Rights Defender's Office findings on Chinari attack (Photo: Photolure)
Tatoyan presenting the Human Rights Defender’s Office findings on Chinari attack (Photo: Photolure)
The Ombudsman said there are no military units or any other military objects on the territory of the settlement, which comes to prove that the peaceful population was targeted in the attack.
He said the attacks continued in January, and added that the kindergarten and the school of Chinari were targeted on January 3.
The Ombudsman’s report also refers to the firing in the January 13 firing in the direction of the Voskepar-Baghanis highway.

Knesset Must Recognize Armenian Genocide says Israeli Speaker

Armenia's National Assembly Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Artak Zakaryan (left) meets with Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein in Jerusalem on Jan. 19, 2017 (Photo: parliament.am)
Armenia’s National Assembly Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Artak Zakaryan (left) meets with Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein in Jerusalem on Jan. 19, 2017 (Photo: parliament.am)
JERUSALEM, Israel—Israeli Parliament (Knesset) Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, received on January 19 Armenian delegation, led by Artak Zakaryan, the National Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee Chairman.
Edelstein during the meeting underlined the importance of interparliamentary relations and expressed readiness to improve cooperation in the cultural, economic, agricultural and tourism sectors, according to the press office of Armenian Parliament. Edelstein also highlighted the importance of developing ties between Armenian and Jewish communities.
Speaking about Armenian Genocide recognition in Israel, Edelstein stated the “that sooner or later, the Knesset should recognize the Armenian Genocide.”
“I am not so proud of the fact that Israel had not yet recognized the Armenian Genocide,” said Edelstein, mentioning that there has been recent progress in that direction.
Zakaryan during the meeting discussed implementation of mutually beneficial projects. He presented the situation on the region and Armenian position in respect to the settlement of existing conflicts.
Concluding the meeting, Edelstein wished the Armenian parliament success in the upcoming elections.

Dink’s Widow Says Punishing Murderers Important for Turkey’s Democracy

Rakel Dink (Photo: Berge Arabian)
Rakel Dink giving an address during Hrant Dink commemoration in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2017 (Photo: Berge Arabian)
ISTANBUL—Rakel Dink on January 19 gave an address at the 10th commemoration of the assassination of her husband Hrant Dink in Istanbul. The full text of the address can be read below.
English translation provided by Burcu Becermen for Agos newspaper.
10 years. Easier said than lived… Exactly 10 Years. Without you, it has not been easy at all. Being without you, not having my beloved one with me, and above all, being separated from him by a heinous plot has caused even more pain, sorrow and heartache.
What do I have to say to those who have been suffering for the last 20, 30, 40 years? What do I have to say to those whose children have been murdered?
In the last 10 years, I have learned by living and experiencing what it really means to feel a pang of grief, how my tears could wet my bread and how salty they are. Thanks to the divine grace, I have learned how to cope with hatred and anger. Every time I think of your absence, it burns my body like a fire. I burn and burn so much that I cannot contain the flames under my skin.
So much has happened in 10 years. Oh my darling. Malatya massacre, İskenderun, Sevag Balıkçı, Roboski, Gezi events, Suruç, Diyarbakır, Sur, Mardin, Nusaybin, Cizre, Şırnak, Tahir Elçi, Ankara, July 15th, Maçka, İzmir, Gaziantep, Ortaköy, Airport attack and the war in the Middle East. Operations, terror, and what not… The country has turned into a bloodbath. Some wanted to shower in human blood. A nightmare has swept the country. People started to fear and suffocate. People have been humiliated due to their identities; their dignity has been dishonored and despised.
It is as if mothers give birth to their children just to bury them. They encourage people to have more children, but no one thinks of protecting the right to life of those who are born. Yet murders that are committed day and night, such as murders of workers and women, do not count as political murders. No one takes the blame and responsibility.
Under the power of terror and the terror of the ones in power, it is once again the peoples who pay the price. The way you name what is happening does not change the thing that is happening to us. The terror waged by the states that declare war against terror comes to the same thing. This state becomes the US in Abu Ghraib, Russia in Aleppo, Turkey in Southeast Anatolia and Syria against opposition… One day the winds blowing from north seed death on its lands and the other day the winds blowing from south… Yet, it is always us, the peoples, who end up reaping this cursed harvest… Bodies of babies are coming ashore… Can there be anything more terrible than this?
I call out to the sky and earth… Mountains and seas… Rise and witness. Bear witness to the bloodshed on these lands. For people are silent and silenced. They are dying and being killed. We are too exhausted to mourn after them. Violence and tyranny have already gotten beyond borders. Reasons are eclipsed, and the reasonable ones have been exterminated.
Mountains and seas, skies and earth… Rise and bear witness. Bear witness to the history and the present day. To the deadly sins, to the abundance of murders, to the undoing of people. Bear witness to the plots, lies, endless arrogance and recklessness of the Evil. Bear witness to those who distort justice, and to all abominable incidents happened on these ancient lands.
“Utterly Meaningless!” says the Teacher, and continues: “I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves… I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces… I acquired fame and I became greater by far than anyone lived before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor…And this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”*
So much has happened in 10 years. They gave us a case. We went to courthouses. They laughed at us, insulted us; they told us to “Love it or Leave it.” They first claimed that “There is no organization behind the murder,” then the Supreme Court ruled that “There is an organization, but limited to a number of nationalist young people.” Then one day, all of a sudden, within the state which committed the crime, concealed and finally tried to make benefit out of it, one of the many alliances has collapsed… The organization consisting of a couple of nationalist young people has been replaced by FETÖ. At one stage, they pretended as if Ergenekon is to blame, but it just slightly touched our case. Each and every time, the state leaves its tail on the crime scene and says, “Heree is the evil.” Both right and wrong. When are we going to stop dealing with the molted skin of the snake and start to chase after the snake itself?
Once again, we ask the very same question we asked 10 years ago…
Those who made him a target, who threatened him, who said “Hrant, you are the target of our rage,” those who released statements on behalf of the General Staff; when are they going to face justice?
Crime scene footage is once again put into circulation. They say that 10 years ago, around this time, on this very spot, there were more gendarmerie officers than the civilians. We just wait to see when this years-long investigation will come to an end.
We said it before, we will say it again. This murder was committed by a well-known perpetrator. The perpetrator of this murder seems to be the state with all its ranks. Conscience of this people needs nothing else than the shameful theater that has been performed in the last 10 years to understand who is the perpetrator.
If the state is not the perpetrator, then it has the responsibility to sort through the perpetrators within itself. What is sacred is not the state, it is the human being. What is sacred is life.
For the last 10 years, the state has been sacrificing what is sacred for these lands. Just as it did 100 years ago and afterwards for the last 100 years… My sisters and brothers. A state cannot be worthy of these lands unless it regards all lives, regardless of nation, race or belief, as sacred.
It gives me great pain to be here today, to share the pain of my husband who was murdered 10 years ago and to talk about his murder case. Yet, this case is a very significant cause for the democratization of the country.
My husband used to value the conscience of people rather than that of the courts. The only thing that still gives us hope, in the midst of all that happened, is that the people has condemned this crime in their own conscience.
This case is one of the keys to Turkey’s democratization. If you are going to make use of it, it’s all yours, as long as you use it for this purpose.
This case is also the case of detained journalists and deputies who have found themselves in jail deprived of their own freedom while they were seeking for truth and struggling for peace and freedom. May God let them to reunite with their beloved ones very soon.
Today, in this dark era, those who console themselves thinking that “we are lucky that our people is in power,” please do not be mistaken assuming that the ones in power is on your side. Those whom you selected to govern this country with all good intentions have turned into Men of State, though they were children of people once. They have already forgotten their promises. Now, they are now trying to make you accomplices to their crimes. You do not deserve this. We do all deserve much better. And I do hope we will achieve what is much better.
Love means doing things for the others. When you walk in the path of love, you will have heartaches for sure. Yet, love is the strongest psychological warfare. Love responds to evil with benevolence. Without love, there is no faith.
Dress yourselves with love.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”**
Let the ones who love God also love themselves and their neighbors.
Dear friends. We are here together with you for the last 10 years. We said that we have become relatives in pain. We have shared our stories, we have listened to each other. Yet, during these 10 years, so many more stories full of pain, sorrow and tear have been written, thousands of them, tens of thousands of them…
It is not only about living together, what really matters is to live happily and equally. And to live freely and with dignity… Come, let us do away with the restlessness of doves in this country. Come, let us not sacrifice doves any longer. As my Chutag said:
Come, let us first understand each other…
Come, let us first respect each other’s pain…
Come, let us first let one another live.
* Ecclesiastes 2:4-11
** 1 Gospel of John 4:20

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Decade After Hrant Dink’s Assassination

Hrant Dink
“Today we remember the 10thanniversary of Hrant Dink’s assassination… and we pledge, to once and for all, topple the criminal government.” This daring and bold statement comes from Pakrad Estukian, the editor of the Armenian section of Agos newspaper, whose founder and editor, Hrant Dink, was gunned down in front of its offices on January 19, 2007.
Dink’s murder became that singular turning point for the Turkish-Armenian community, which, since the Genocide, had been seeking its rightful place in Turkish society and immediately grew into a powerful catalyst for the empowerment of those Armenians who stayed in Turkey after the Genocide and lived under the yoke of oppression and injustice.
Yet the injustice of the assassination also resonated beyond the Armenian community in Turkey and became a uniting force—and rallying cry–for those segments of Turkish society that yearned for democracy and respect for human rights. The fact that tens of thousands of the people spilled into the streets of Istanbul with the slogan “We are All Hrant Dink” spoke volumes of the oppression plaguing not just minorities in Turkey, but the larger Turkish society.
Dink's corpse in front of the Agos offices after his assassination
Dink’s corpse in front of the Agos offices after his assassination
In his humble and understated manner, Dink was able to challenge the Turkish government’s intolerance and became one of the first modern-day Armenian writers to use the term Armenian Genocide. His outspokenness earned him praise from around the world, but also was charged for “insulting Turkishness” and received a six-month suspended sentence.
During the past ten years, we have also witnessed the inner-workings of the quagmire that is the Turkish justice system, which has not been able find the guilty party(ies) to the murder. The reason for this farce has been the sheer fact that the judiciary in Turkey operates on the whims of the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose alliances du-jour determine the guilt or innocence of criminals.
Tens of thousands of Turks commemorate Dink by saying "We are all Hrant Dink"
Tens of thousands of Turks commemorate Dink by saying “We are all Hrant Dink”
First there was a lone gunman theory, then the crime was blamed on Ergenekon, known as Turkey’s deep state, and now that Erdogan has declared war on the Gulen movement, whose members led the security forces at the time of Dink’s assassination, the court is hearing evidence that the state’s security forces ordered the hit—a conclusion that could have been reached from the onset.
However, it can be said that Dink’s tenacity and his belief that, above all else, justice must prevail set a precedent that has guided  Armenians in Istanbul, and throughout Turkey, to advance certain national issues that were once deemed taboo within Turkish society.
The Nor Zartonk movement, which sprung up as a direct result of the Dink assassination, has been able to successfully advance issues of importance to the Armenian community in Turkey, one of the most visible of which was the return of Camp Armen to its rightful owners—the Armenian community.
Dink's funeral in the Sisli district of Istanbul
Dink’s funeral in the Sisli district of Istanbul
Emboldened by Dink and his relentless advocacy, someone like Garo Paylan has emerged as the torchbearer of a movement that not only advances Armenian Genocide recognition by Turkey, but also advocates for democratic norms, equality and human rights for all minorities. As a parliament member representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), this perch has allowed the words Armenian Genocide to be uttered from the dais of the Turkish legislature and he has loudly presented the case for basic human rights for the Kurdish population in Turkey.
Yet, as the saying goes, the more things change the more stay the same. The current climate in Turkey is extremely oppressive. Using the July coup as a cover, Erdogan and his regime have accelerated their policy of persecution of dissent and minorities, throwing thousands in jail and shutting down media outlets. Just this past weekend, Paylan was suspended for three parliamentary session for, once again, addressing the issue of Genocide during a legislative debate on constitutional reforms.
Possibly, the most significant legacy of Dink’s murder was the unifying effect it had on Armenians throughout the world, be they in Armenia, Artsakh for the Diaspora. It created a window, through which the plight of the Armenians in Turkey became as critical an aspect in our national agenda, adding an important priority and a consequential voice to the pursuit of the Armenian Cause.
It also emboldened Armenians in Turkey to reclaim their national aspirations and advance our collective cause where it counts—in Turkey, whose government still denies the Armenian Genocide and persecutes and prosecutes those who stand up for truth and justice.
Dink’s crusade and his untimely death also have allowed his successor, Pakrad Estukian, to mark the anniversary of his death calling for a collective effort to “topple” the criminal regime in Turkey.
On this day, let us pledge to advance Dink’s cause of fighting injustice and advancing human rights.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Garo Paylan Suspended from Turkish Parliament for Referring to Genocide

ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—Armenian member of Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was temporarily banned from parliamentary sessions after referring to the Armenian Genocide during deliberations on proposed changes to the country’s constitution on Jan. 13.
Paylan during his address to Parliament on April 21, 2016, during which he called for an investigation into the killing of Armenian members of the Turkish Parliament during the Armenian Genocide (Photo: Garo Paylan Facebook page)
In his speech, Paylan said four communities—Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jews—had been “lost” and “driven from these lands in large massacres (and) genocides,” according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
“We used to account for 40 percent [of the country’s population]. Now we are barely one out of a 1,000. It seems likely that something happened to us. I define this as a genocide,” Paylan said in his speech. According to some sources, the part of the speech was removed from the parliamentary minutes.
Shortly after his address, videos began circulating online, showed parliamentarians from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and other parties angrily interrupting Paylan’s speech. Below is a video of Paylan’s speech.
“Yesterday, when the constitutional changes were being discussed in parliament, I wanted them to draw lessons from the past. A monistic constitution was introduced a century ago. Diversities were ignored. We lost four nations during WWI. We lost Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and Jews. I mentioned that if we make same mistakes, we may live with same pains,” Paylan told Turkey-based news outlet Dihaber. “I know very well what happened to my people. I wanted to point out the mistakes which were made in the past,” Paylan added.
According to some sources, Paylan has been suspended from attending thee parliamentary sessions. “This hasn’t happened in the past. This is the first time in the parliament’s history,” Paylan told Dihaber about his suspension. “This was a message to us. If, after this, we do not do what they say, they will silence our voices,” he added.
The Armenian Weekly is following the story and will provide further details in the coming days.