Diyarbakir Conference Tackles Genocide

From l to r: Aghjayan, Merguerian, Aksin Somel, Kerem Soylu, and Kevorkian. (Photo by Khatchig Mouradian)

From The Armenian Weekly

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey—The city that only a few weeks ago hosted several thousand Armenians during the opening of the Surp Giragos Church is squarely confronting its past again this weekend.

From Nov. 11-13, Diyarbakir hosted a groundbreaking workshop on the social and economic history of the city and its surrounding areas from 1838 to 1938, tackling head-on the fate of the region’s vibrant Christian minorities.

The workshop, organized by the Hrant Dink Foundation and the city’s metropolitan municipality, opened on Nov. 11 with a powerful speech by Mayor Osman Baydemir. Diyarbakir, he said, was the third most economically vibrant city in the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, but was relegated to the 66th position in the decades that followed because of the destruction of its Armenian and Assyrian population.

Baydemir said he saw the conference as yet another attempt by the city to truthfully confront its history. He then went beyond and said the municipality is currently engaged in an effort to return properties confiscated from minorities to their rightful owners, or provide equivalent land elsewhere if the particular land is currently owned by a third party.

Baydemir underscored the municipality’s efforts to reclaim some of the city’s past multi-cultural vibrancy, and noted how calls to prayer from mosques and the sound of church-bells are mixing once again in Diyarbakir today.

The effort to renovate houses of worship also constitutes an effort to renovate the conscience of people and confront the past, he said.

“This city,” he went on, “belongs to Armenians and Assyrians as much as it belongs to Kurds.”

Ankara University professor Baskin Oran delivered the keynote speech, titled “The State, the Muslims, and the Non-Muslims, 1839-1938.” The opening session also featured comments by Rakel Dink, Ali Bayramoglu, Cengiz Aktar, and others.

Speakers at the workshop included genocide scholars and Ottoman historians from Europe, North America, and Turkey. David Gaunt, Raymond Kevorkian, Vahe Tashjian, Hans Lukas Kieser, Barbara Merguerian, George Aghjayan, Seda Altug, Janet Klein, Jelle Verheij, and Ayhan Aktar were among the participants.

Live-feed blocked in Turkey
The conference was broadcast live on the Web site of the Hrant Dink Foundation. Yet, live-feeds from the foundation’s website were blocked in Turkey—a reminder of how far behind the Turkish state is compared to Diyarbakir and the hundreds gathered there for the conference.

The video of the conference will be made available online.

Khatchig Mouradian is the editor of the Armenian Weekly


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  1. bigmoustache said:

    we should be forming close alliances with the kurds. we should help them with independence because that might set off a chain reaction in turkey. its the only way we can live on our lands again.
    im very grateful that the kurds are confronting their history

  2. Somebody said:

    Wakey wakey, kurds massacred thousands and thousands of armenian civilians during 1915 deportation. They thought they will be settled down in the southeast, therefore all armenian families were massacred. Never trust a bitchy kurd.

  3. christo said:

    I am fed up with all these liberal democrats who have taken over Armenian organizations and attempting to brainwash Armenians regarding any issue that deals with Armenians and turks. How come there are no stories regarding the hate that is spewed from turks on a daily basis.
    Who cares about these conferences, it seems that by our activism in the past 125 years, we have forced the turks to change, we have done more harm to ourselves, but on the other hand the turks have transformed (on the surface) in the eye of the world. Enough of this turkish propaganda that is published in these Armenian news media.

  4. anna said:

    Last two comments are so wrong and sad. I wish these people can grow a little bit and clean their hate from their mind and soul.It is very hard to live all these negative emotions and feelings. Just a little advice.

  5. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    I love the Kurds and the Turks and in fact every other Muslim that has gone through the transformation towards a more humanistic attitude towards the Christian populations that they used to inhabit amongst them whom they used to massacre relentlessly. I think the Turks have gone thru such a transformation and I think the Kurds even more so. Bless them all. Time to live in one open bordered country and time for those fellow Muslims to continue confronting their regrettable past.