Sişhane Square, Istanbul – “We Remember What We Lost”

On April 24, 2019, the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide was commemorated on Sişhane Square in Istanbul. The event was attended by Rakel Dink (the wife of journalist Hrant Dink who had been killed on January 19, 2007), the family of Sevak Balykchy who had been killed on April 24, 2011, during his army service, member the pro-Kurdish Democratic Party Garo Paylan, representatives of the European anti-racist movement, European parliamentarians, and many others.

Meltem Ural delivered a speech on behalf of the Memorial Platform:

“Today, we have once again come to honor the memory of those who 104 years ago underwent inhuman genocide. 104 years ago, major crime was committed. No one could predict how enormous the scale of this crime would be.

The normal course of life of our people was cut short. The Istanbul Armenians returned after work to their homes that day as usual. But the peace of many families was disturbed – the doors of apartments, one by one, began to crack open.

The genocide began with the arrest of 250 Armenians. 174 were shot without a court order. But this was only the beginning which then led to even more terrifying consequences.

In 1914, the total population of Anatolia was 14 million people, 30% of them non-Muslims. Within three years, it decreased by 3%. Today, the number of non-Muslims per 1,000 people is estimated at one and a half people. This ratio shows how severe the losses have been.

The events from April 1914 to 1915 show that this genocide was planned and systematic. We must confront what happened a century ago. We must continue to fight for the truth because the democracy of many countries forces us to turn a blind eye to the bloody events of a hundred years ago.

Our nation is being convinced that there was no genocide 104 years ago. But our struggle should continue precisely because our people were able to survive in spite of everything, despite the atrocities committed 104 years ago.

The massacre which began on April 24 dealt an irreparable blow to the cultural component of our nation. We could no longer exist side by side with Muslims. And they may strike us again if we all of a sudden declare the possibility of coexistence.

In order to become reborn, we must not forget that the process of oppression of Armenians which began in 1915 devastated our culture, became the beginning of a series of lies, numerous controversies, hypocrisy, and distortion of facts. The justification of oppression and massacres – these are the consequences of a century of tragedy and the obstacles to a full revival of culture.

Whether we realize it or not, since April 24, 1915, life in Turkey has been meaningless for us. The values of our people and the characteristics of our culture have been shaken. And all traces of the cultural heritage left by the Armenians many years ago are have been destroyed.

Thousands of historical buildings – churches and schools – were deliberately turned into ruins. The Armenians have been treated as if they had never been on this earth.

This tragedy has divided several generations of peoples living on the territory of Anatolia. This devastation affecting several generations can only be eradicated by continuing the struggle.

And we want to reiterate what we announced last year – for peaceful coexistence, and not for intensifying aggression and conflict, comfortable conditions must be created for representatives of each social group. There must be a society in which there is no place for racism and hatred.

We must confront age-old hatred. The tradition of teaching children hate must be eradicated. If it is not eradicated, then oppression and murder such as the assassination of Hrant Dink or Sevak Balykchy will exist as before.

This is our duty – a duty to our conscience, a duty to Hrant Dink and Sevak Balykchy, a duty to our brothers who are forced to live away from their native lands. This duty is to confront age-old hatred. We pledge ourselves to keep a promise and bow our heads in tribute to and memory of all who became victims of 1915.”

Such was the event “We Remember What We Lost” held on Sişhane Square. A memorial service for Hrant Dink in the Sultanahmet area near the Museum of Islamic Art was also supposed to take place, but the authorities prevented it. In addition, a memorial ceremony for Sevak Balykchy was held at the Shishli Armenian cemetery.

Original Russian material translated from Turkish by Olga Borodina.

Piraye Dersin,

Hrant Dink (left) and Sevak Balykchi (right)
Sevak Balykchy

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