Today is April 24th, symbolic starting date of the Armenian Genocide. Today we once more came together to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide, to express our shame as the grandchildren of the perpetrators, and to say “Stop Denial!” It is our responsibility to remind that the Assyrians had also been subjected to genocide in the same period, and the Greeks of Asia Minor and Pontus from 1914 to 1923, first by the Ottoman state, then by the Kemalist movement.
Today we are also commemorating another murder perpetrated in this country where the denial of genocide is still prevailing. Private Sevag Şahin Balıkçı had been shot to death by a fellow private during his compulsory military service, at the age of 24, six years ago, on 24 April 2011, on the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. Today, we will be upon his grave at Şişli Armenian Cemetery, with his grieved family.
This year we will make a point on “banalization,” the most enduring ground for the denial of genocide, one of the most inhuman consequences of it.
The reign of darkness banalizes even the most horrible evil. Criminal acts and situations are normalized in this darkness. People get used to injustices that they normally should revolt, start taking them as granted, as part of their daily lives.
And the fact that the name of Talaat was given to hundreds of schools, streets, roads all around Turkey, and that his grave is located in Abide-i Hürriyet, in other words the Monument of Freedom, in İstanbul is a hair-raising example to that banalization.
Us, the grandchildren of not the victims but perpetrators of the genocide, are living peacefully side by side with this hair-raising reality. We say “hair-raising,” because Talaat is the coldblooded planner of the genocide with a mathematical precision, its executioner, supervisor, and the meticulous chronicler of its results.
Today Talaat and Enver rest in mausoleums in Istanbul. They keep being honoured by being given a place in Abide-i Hürriyet, in other words the Monument of Freedom.
We said again and again: Denying the genocide is not only saying “we didn’t do it.” It’s much much worse. It is inflicting the genocide to the grandchildren of its victims every day, again and again with countless tiny little details of daily life. It is declaring murderers as heroes. It is honouring the genocide perpetrators, first and foremost Talaat. Naming public spaces after his name, giving him a place in a monument of freedom means saying to the grandchildren of genocide victims, “Murderers of your grandfathers, grandmothers are our heroes; they did it well, god bless them; if necessary, we would do it again.”
We, as the Committee Against Racism and Discrimination of the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association, reject and denounce the honouring and consecration of Talaat with a mausoleum in the Monument of Freedom.
We reject to live in a city decorated with the name of Talaat, the coldblooded architect of the genocide, to continue living our lives in this way as if nothing happened, as if everything is going well; we refuse to be part of such normalization and banalization of denialism.
Today we are raising this extreme, yet most banalized example of denialism. We are opening to public debate this honouring of the murderers which means a challenge to all Armenians across the world and in Turkey, an insult to the memory of the victims. We are inviting everybody to say NO to the denial of genocide, NO to naming streets and schools after the name of Talaat, and NO to having mausoleum in the Monument of Freedom.
This land is a genocide zone. Turkey is the country of genocide denial. Genocide and denialist mentality still continues to prevail today in Turkey.
Like every 24 April, we repeat:
RECOGNIZE THE GENOCIDE, BEG FORGIVENESS, COMPENSATE!
STOP GENOCIDAL AND DENIALIST POLICIES!
HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION, ISTANBUL BRANCH
COMMITTEE AGAINST RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION
The Human Rights Association (HRA) is a non-governmental and independent voluntary organization. Founded by 98 human rights activists in the year 1986, the Association today has 28 branches, 4 representation offices, and 10,938 members. The oldest and largest human rights association in Turkey, the HRA’s “sole and explicit objective is to work for human rights and freedoms.”