On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the Armenian Bar Association issued a letter regarding its serious security concerns for Armenians in Turkey amidst growing ethnic tension that has turned violent in recent weeks.
The letter was forwarded to the following foreign Embassies in Ankara and Consulates in Istanbul, Turkey: USA, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Columbia.
The Armenian Bar Association says it will raise the matter internationally at the highest levels of authority, to safeguard the interests of Armenians living in Turkey.
The letter reads as follows.
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
The Armenian Bar Association is the largest organization of judges, law academics, lawyers and other legal professionals of Armenian descent in the diaspora. We find it imperative, under the circumstances developing in Turkey, to apprise you of certain grave concerns regarding the safety and security of the Armenian community in Istanbul.
Approximately four weeks ago, on August 13, 2015, members of the Nor Zartonk Youth Movement, who were protecting the property of an Armenian children’s camp in the Tuzla district of Istanbul, were beaten by unidentified assailants. Within days, we issued a statement demanding that Turkish civil authorities ensure the complete safety of those peacefully assembled at Camp Armen and immediately conduct a thorough, public investigation into these beatings in order to bring the responsible parties to justice. We warned that anything short of a public investigation would only embolden those who harbor hatred toward, and fuel violence against, the Armenian community in Turkey. Unfortunately, we learned last week that the peaceful demonstrators at Camp Armen were attacked yet again—this time by armed men incited by intensifying Turkish nationalist rhetoric.
The incitement against the Armenian community, regrettably, is the result of targeted rhetoric emanating from the Turkish State itself, intended to manipulate entrenched historical prejudices. We have learned of reports of shouts at the funerals of recently fallen Turkish soldiers that the PKK are “all Armenians.” On September 8, 2015, a leading advisor to the President of the Turkish Republic and former President of the Constitutional Commission, Mr. Burhan Kuzu, actually tweeted that killed PKK fighters were being examined by authorities to reveal that they are not circumcised—suggesting, of course, that they are not Muslims, but Christians. This is strategically-coded language intended to resonate with the ultra-nationalist elements of Turkish society and, in fact, has incited ultra-nationalist groups to take to the streets with unfettered impunity.
On September 9, 2015, Turkish ultra-nationalist groups attacked the Armenian-populated districts in Istanbul—namely Sisli, Kurtulus and Besitktas—in palpably escalating violence against Armenians. Media accounts reported nationalistic groups chanting: “We must turn these districts into Armenian and Kurdish cemeteries.” The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople released a statement condemning the ongoing violence and urged groups not to target the Armenian community. Reports indicate little, if anything, being done by civil authorities to prevent the violence.
The Armenian Bar Association strongly urges you to join in public condemnation of the attacks and incitement against Turkey’s Armenian community. We ask also that you leverage your good offices to approach the Turkish Minister of the Interior, Mr. Selami Altinok, to advocate that state-sponsored incitement against the Armenian community of Turkey be immediately curbed and, of course, to demand that civil authorities actively protect the Armenian citizens of Turkey from Turkish ultra-nationalist violence.
That we must approach you with such a disturbing request in the year of the 100th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide—perpetrated inter alia loca on the very same streets from which calls to kill Armenians were heard just last week—is perhaps a new, ironically deplorable chapter in the story of man’s inhumanity to man. Clearly, genocide unpunished simply emboldens the impunity of the perpetrator—even a century later.
Finally, should such violence continue to escalate, we request that your Embassy offer safe haven, pursuant to the European Convention on Human Rights, to any Armenians seeking shelter from violence or persecution who are able to reach Embassy territory protected by the rule of inviolability under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Should you offer such safe haven, please contact our Association so that we may provide support to ease any burdens imposed on your Embassy in its protection of human life.
ARMENIAN BAR ASSOCIATION