LOS ANGELES–The United Human Rights Council (UHRC) on Friday, January 15, will pay tribute to the activists of Turkey who have been targeted, harassed and even murdered for their efforts to advance Kurdish human rights, Armenian Genocide recognition, and freedom of speech and equality. The event, titled “The Opposite of Silence”, will feature a blend of art, music, video and speeches. It will begin at 8:00pm at The Glendale Armenian Youth Center, located at 211 West Chestnut St. Glendale CA 91204 (Behind St. Mary’s church).
The program’s keynote speaker, Kani Xulam of the American Kurdish Information Network, will discuss the ongoing plight of Turkey’s 30 million Kurds and their decade’s long struggle for liberation against Turkish oppression. The evening will also feature musical performances from Raffi and the Palm of Granite, slam poetry by Armen Soudjian and others. Socially conscious art by Ani Ishkhanian, Cynthia Kossayan, and Gayaneh Novshadian will also be on display.
“Xulam’s appearance will be all the more relevant considering the current conditions of Kurds in Turkey. We see the same oppressive practices of rounding up political leaders, violently crushing demonstrations and choking free speech that have marred recent Turkish history. Oppressed minorities such as Kurds and Armenians must work in concert to show Turkey’s true nature as a brutal occupier and violator of human rights,” said UHRC Director Sanan Shirinian.
The event will coincide with the third anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink. Charged, on more than one occasion, with the crime of insulting “Turkishness” under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, Hrant Dink was a champion of truth in a country plagued by denial and repression. He used his pen to speak out against the denial of the Armenian genocide. A firm believer in free speech, Dink was shot to death at the doorstep of his office in Istanbul on January 19, 2007.
This year the program will be spotlighting the injustices of the Turkish government and how Article 301, despite Dink’s murder, continues to promote an atmosphere of intolerance and prejudice, denying the citizens of Turkey their fundamental rights to free speech and truth.
Enacted in 2005, Article 301 of the Turkish penal code has made it illegal for any citizen or resident of Turkey to give credence to the Armenian genocide. Numerous journalists and scholars have been prosecuted for “denigrating Turkishness” under that statute, beginning with Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who was charged for stating, “A million Armenia’s were killed in these lands.” Dink, himself, was prosecuted three times for criticizing the Turkish government’s longstanding policy of denying the Armenian genocide.
“Hrant Dink, Eren Keskin, Ayse Gunaysu, Akin Birdal and Leyla Zana are just a few of the many brave individuals in Turkey who have been targeted by the state and ultranationalist groups for their dedicated work in advancing freedom of speech and respect for human rights in urkey,” said Shirinian. “There’s a growing wave of dissent against injustice inside Turkey as more and more people begin to question and counter the official facts dictated to them about the Armenians and Kurds and it’s our responsibility to stand in solidarity with this budding free speech movement.”
The United Human Rights Council is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation. By means of action on a grassroots level, it works toward correcting and exposing the human rights violations of governments that distort, deny, and delude history to disguise past and present genocides, massacres, and human rights violations. For more information about the Opposite of Silence or on the activities and mission of the UHRC, contact [email protected]