TORONTO—A group of eight Canadian-Armenians have begun a 72 hour hunger strike in downtown Toronto as of Friday, June 10 at 6 p.m., organized by the Armenian Youth Federation of Canada. In light of the upcoming general elections in Turkey, the demonstrators are protesting the ongoing human rights abuses carried out by the Government of Turkey, including: the denial of the Armenian Genocide; the stifling of freedom of speech, and press; oppression of Kurdish and Christian minorities who are treated as second class citizens and whose political parties are banned, leaders imprisoned and Patriarchate’s shut down.
One of the participants, AYF member Mark Piliguian explains that the reason the group decided to hold a hunger strike was to show the Canadian public, and the world at large, the type of suffering the Armenian people endured during the first genocide of the twentieth century. “We are here, depriving ourselves of food for seventy-two hours, to share a very small amount of the suffering of our ancestors went through. Although ninety-six years have passed, the world cannot forget the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government must acknowledge and come to terms with its history so that the crime of genocide does not repeat itself”.
The hunger strike will culminate with an official demonstration, which will be held Monday, June 13, 2011 at 2:00pm in front of the Turkish Consulate in Toronto at (Queens Quay and Lower Spadina – 10 Lower Spadina Avenue).
The demonstrators will send a strong message to the newly elected officials in Turkey that Canadians and the international community at large will not stand as silent bystanders as the Turkish government deprives its citizens of their basic human rights and denies the Armenian Genocide.
Ninety six years have passed since the Armenian Genocide, the first of genocide of the 20th century. The genocide has been recognized by countless scholars including the International Association of Genocide Scholars, and numerous countries including Canada, yet it is constantly denied by the successive governments of Turkey.
Nevertheless a movement to recognize the Armenian Genocide has started in the Turkish Republic. Led by outspoken scholars and authors such as Orhan Pamuk, Hall Berktak and Ragip Zarakolu, .This April, for the second year in a row, major cities in Turkey witnessed public events commemorating the Armenian Genocide.
Canadian-Armenians gathered in front of the Turkish Consulate will mourn the 1.5 million Armenians exterminated during the Genocide, celebrate their rebirth, and renew their commitment to stand for truth and justice. The solidarity and support of Canadians to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the events of 1915 is not only for the victims of the Armenian Genocide but to all victim nations of genocides, war crimes and human rights abuses around the world.
At the same time protestors will urge the Canadian Government to take action with regard to Turkey’s dismal human rights record, as part of Canada’s foreign policy agenda. As a model democracy, a leader in peace-building, partnership, reconciliation and fair and honest dialogue, Canada must recognize the role it can play in helping Turkey become a legitimate democracy. Our government must urge the Turkish government to cease its oppression of minorities by extending support to Christian Patriarchates and repealing Article 301 of its Penal Code.
In the words of philosopher George E. Moore, “After all, there is but one race, humanity.”
Follow the hunger strike participants on their blog.