BY PATIL ASLANIAN
GLENDALE, CA –The continued struggle for freedom of speech in Turkey was the theme of the second annual Opposite of Silence event organized by the United Human Rights Council (UHRC) on January 15.
Spotlighting the work of several prominent activists who continue to fight the oppressive Turkish government was keynote speaker Kani Xulam from the American Kurdish Information Network. This tribute to Tutkey’s human rights advocates also marked the third anniversary of the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
Mr. Xulam spoke of his first-hand observations of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey. He said as a child, his parents did not speak about their past because it was unsafe. As an adult, he found out that his hometown was once inhabited by Armenians who were later killed or driven out. Unfortunately, he said, the cycle of atrocities continues today against the Kurds of Turkey.
Members of UHRC spoke about human rights activists Hrant Dink, Eren Keskin, Ayse Gunaysu, Akin Birdal, and Leyla Zana, all ending their speeches with the phrase, “I will not be silenced!”
Whether imprisoned, fined, or assassinated, the freedom of speech of each of these activists was violated by the Turkish government, yet they continue to struggle for their basic right to freedom of speech and equality.
“It is important to show solidarity with activists who are struggling to achieve a bit of humanity in their country,” said UHRC Chairperson, Sanan Shirinian. “We have to hold Turkey accountable for what they did to the Armenians in 1915, what they did to Hrant Dink in 2007, and what they continue to do to the Kurds today”
The event included the recitation of slam poetry by Armen Soudjian, a musical performances by the band Palm of Granite, and attendees watched a video revealing the brutality of the Turkish police. The video documented that Turkish modus operandi has not change since 1915.
“The video was moving, bringing attention to the fact that people in the 21st century are still being oppressed for speaking their minds,” said Nanor Melkonian, an AYF member from San Fernando Valley. “For these activists to put their lives on the line, being constantly threatened and imprisoned for the idea of equality, which we take advantage of living in the United States, is commendable and admirable.”
Those present at the event were given the chance to voice their thoughts to the Turkish government by signing the “Messages to the Turkish Government” board, which will be delivered to the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles.
Those attending also viewed artwork created by Ani Ishkhanian, Cynthia Kossayan and Gayaneh Novshadian. The posters and art were dedicated to human rights and human rights activists in Turkey.
Opposite of Silence organizer, the UHRC, is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation. Its mission to to bring change from grassroots level, and it works toward correcting and exposing 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.