BY MIRA YARDEMIAN
BEURUT—Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) on January 26 visited Haigazian University, where he had the chance to publicly address the university and wider community.
Paylan had been invited to Beirut by the “Nor Serount” Cultural Association for the “premiere” in Lebanon of the documentary “RED” (Refusal in Turkish) by the Turkish film producer and director Kadir Akin.
After a campus tour with the University President, Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, and a meeting with the representatives of the Lebanese-Armenian written press held in the University’s boardroom, Paylan proceeded to the hall of the First Armenian Evangelical Church (adjacent to the university), where hundreds of people were fervently waiting for him to deliver his lecture on “The Current Situation in Turkey and the Armenian Community”.
In his word of greetings, Director of the Armenian Diaspora Research Center at Haigazian University, Dr. Antranig Dakessian noted that among the very minor number of Armenians who are professionally involved in politics “Garo Paylan is an outstanding personality. His statements and acts have already introduced him to the world community at least ever since he was elected an member of parliament from the HDP from the Istanbul constituency to the Turkish parliament in 2015.”
In his address, Paylan dwelled on the current political conditions in Turkey and expressed his serious concern on the violations of human and minority rights, as well as freedom of expression, and the suppression of democratic rights giving the example of the 5000 political activists still detained in the Turkish prisons.
Paylan briefed on the past Turkish-Armenian relations from the times of Sultan Abdul Hamid, the Committee of Union and Progress up to the Armenian Genocide and analyzed that the geopolitics of the Ottoman Empire was a basic reason why the European powers of the time rivalled in having the Empire on their side at the expense of the minority and human rights in the country.
Paylan said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is making excellent use of this opportunity and expressed concern that Turkish democracy, minorities, freedoms, justice, human rights are seriously menaced by the policies adopted by President Erdogan. Paylan concluded his speech with an interactive and informative question and answer session.
President Haidostian concluded the evening by stating that “Paylan symbolizes more than the weight of the past hundred years of history, geography, martyrdom, survival and justice,” and that “he has become the voice of the conscience and many Armenians find in him the voice of their silenced cause.” Rev. Haidostian noted that Paylan had been an educator and that his current ‘classroom’ is far from being a usual one, while his textbook goes much deeper than textbooks.