This year, besides in Istanbul, Armenian Genocide observances were held, also in Ankara, Izmir, Malatya, Adana, Diyarbakir, Bodrum, and Dersim. In Dersim, the event took place at Tunceli’s Republic Square. A black ribbon was hanging from an office window. Inan Yilmaz, an attorney, stated that April 24 is the anniversary of the Armenian genocide and that is why they hung black ribbons from their windows.
For the first time, the Armenian Genocide was marked in Diyarbakir organized by the Diyarbakir Bar Association (DBA) and the Diyarbakir Municipality, giving to the event a more official status since it was organized by the municipality. Diyarbakir is located on the banks of the Tigris River and has a population of close to one million. The panel discussion participants included historian Ara Sarafian of London, England, and Tahir Elci, the head of the DBA.
A history making event for the first time, indeed.
Many daring, authoritative, renowned Turkish writers and intellectuals are slowly coming out and not only talking or writing about the Armenian genocide, but admitting the Ottoman government’s guilt, in writing on on television, in Turkey or in Europe or the United States, something a few years ago, no one would have dared to say in public. They are on the same page with Armenians, history, and justice.
Similarly, more and more people are talking about “hidden” or “concealed” Armenians, who were forced to adopt Islam and Turkish authors and historians writing about them. One of the most important and salient events was His Eminence Archbishop Aram Ateshyan’s interview on Turkish Bugun Television a few weeks ago. Being the highest office holder of the Armenian Church in Turkey, Abp. Ateshyan’s comments become more important particularly when he talked about his own family, when he said: “My family as well lives in Diyarbakir as Muslims. The sons of my elder sister also live in Diyarbakir – they accepted Islam under pressure in 1950. My son-in-law was told if he did not accept Islam, he would be killed”. The host of the program, Ekram Tufan, was well aware of the Armenian as well other minorities” issues. Tufan even asked the archbishop about the 2170 Armenian churches operating during the Ottoman period and the number of churches operating today, stating that after 1915, many of them were taken from the Armenians and turned into mosques and some of them were plundered and now in ruins.
All this was aired on Turkish television and people listened, and started wondering as to why they never studied these facts in schools or why did these events took place.
According to many reports, 90% of the population of Tunceli are Armenians, and many of them conceal their crosses and reveal their roots after retiring from their jobs.
A few years ago, when I was in Istanbul, Turkey, I went to a coffee shop with a local Armenian friend. A we were talking in a low voice in Armenian, the waiter approached us and said: “I can’t hear you well. What language are you speaking?” I replied, “Arabic.” He them approached me in a low voice and said: “I think you are speaking Armenian. I know a few words in Armenian like ‘Parev’. My mother is Armenian but my father is a Kurd.” In another coffee shop, when were talking in Armenian, the waiter approached me and asked the language we were speaking. My friend said “Armenian”. The waiter looked at us, and in surprising tone said “What’s that?”.
Similar incidents take place here and there.
(to be continued)