Project2015 participants wore red badges throughout the week-long events devoted to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide centennial in Istanbul, Turkey. Project2015 brought together prominent scholars, activists, writers and historians from all over the world. The board of the project is comprised of Armenian as well as Turkish nationals. Armenians and Turks, young and old, all set together in silence in the memory of the victims of 1915 massacre. Many of the speakers noted the historical importance of this event - 100 years later, this was the first significant effort of opening a new platform for discussion inside Turkey. People watched from the rooftops of surrounding cafes and restaurants, as the police blockade broke open and thousands of Armenians, Greeks and Kurds joined the activists, holding up posters of Komitas, Sevag Baligci, Hrant Dink and others. About 300 participants lit candles and held portraits of Armenian intellectuals deported in 1915. Armenian music played throughout the protest. An Armenian girl ties a ribbon onto the Wishing Tree in front of the French Embassy in Istanbul. An Armenian student from Bulgaria writes a note on a ribbon for the Wishing Tree ceremony. Fatma Muge Gocek, professor of sociology at University of Michigan, in a bus with Project2015 participants, heading towards the main commemoration events near Taksim square. Gocek encouraged the participants to hold a peaceful protest, and not fall for possible provocations at Taksim square. Garo Sarajian, Project2015 participant, at the Haydarpasa railway station. "Being here, I am sad and happy, simultaneously," Sarajian says. His great great grandfather, Ter Hoosig Catchouny, was one of the 250 Armenian intellectuals sent to death from Haydarpasa on April 24, 1915. The poster reads "We are Here" in Western Armenian. Young participants of the peaceful protest organized by Turkish and Armenian activists at Haydarpasa station on April 24. The activists bear posters demanding recognition of the Armenian genocide at the Haydarpasa railway station. 100 years ago, on April 24, 250 Armenian intellectuals were incarcerated in this very station, before being sent to death. Each red flower was devoted to one of the first 250 deportees of 1915. The participants carried red flowers to lay on the grounds of Haydarpasa. Armenian and Turkish activists boarded the ferry for their visit of the historic Haydarpasa railway station, which used to be the Ottoman police headquarter. Nancy Kricorian, a New York based novelist and activist, carries a photograph of her grandmother's family. Her grandmother was among the 8,000 Armenian orphans in a camp at Ras al-Ain after the 1915 massacres. Participants of commemoration events bear posters of 1915 prominent deportees, as well as pictures of Sevag Baligci and Hrant Dink. To begin the commemoration events on April 24, Armenian and Turkish activists gathered in front of the former house of Komitas, an Armenian musician and priest. After lunch, the Acting Patriarch invited everyone to join in a prayer. "Five years ago you couldn't talk about the genocide here in Turkey. Today, we all gather to commemorate in the middle of Istanbul. So much development has taken place. We shouldn’t concentrate only on the negative," said the Armenian Acting Patriarch of Istanbul during lunch with Project2015 participants. The church official of Holy Mother of God Patriarchal Church talks about the history and the development of Armenian churches in Turkey. The visited the Patriarchate, located in Kumkapi neighborhood, on April 23rd. An Armenian family lights candles at Holy Trinity church in Istanbul, Turkey a day before the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Project2015 participants enter the Holy Trinity Armenian church during their tour of Armenian sites in Istanbul, Turkey. Zakarya Mildanoglu, an Armenian architect from Turkey, led a tour of Armenian cultural and architectural sites of Istanbul. Despite the heavy rain, Project2015 participants visited Holy Trinity Armenian church, Tokatlian cafe, and a site of St. James Armenian cemetery. "A hundred years ago tonight, the Armenian intellectuals of Istanbul slept peacefully in their beds for the last time.." The opening words of 'In Memoriam: 24 of April,' a concert organized by Kalan Music and Anadolu Kultur in memory of the Armenian intellectuals sent to their deaths in 1915. The concert was the first event in the agenda of the Project2015.
BY DIANA ASATRYAN
Special to Asbarez
This year, the commemoration events for the centennial of the Armenian genocide were as massive as ever, taking place in many corners of the world. A group of Armenian scholars, academics and activists decided to commemorate April 24th in Istanbul – where the massive killings began, and where they are still being denied. Project 2015, a U.S.-based nonprofit, worked closely with various Turkish human rights organizations to design a specific commemoration program in Istanbul to encourage an open discourse on the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government.
Project 2015 – with board members such as Serj Tankian from SOAD, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division and Fatma Müge Göcek, a faculty member at the University of Michigan – also funded over 20 Armenian students from U.S., Turkey, Germany and Armenia, who have presented project proposals on the Armenian Genocide.
The organizers emphasize the importance of holding commemoration events in Istanbul, since “a major gathering in Istanbul commemorating the centennial of the Armenian Genocide and bringing Armenians from around the world together with citizens of Turkey in Istanbul will be an important symbolic gesture,” project’s official website states.