ARMENIAN GENOCIDE COMMEMORATION WAS DISTURBED BY TURKISH PROTESTERS
Demonstrators march from Parliament Hill as they mark the 99th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Massacre Thursday April 24, 2014 in
Ottawa.

April 24 is a sacred day for Armenians. On that Sunday night in 1915,  250 Armenian intellectuals from Istanbul were rounded up and deported,
most were killed. Thousands of Armenian community leaders, businessmen  and intellectuals from elsewhere within the Ottoman Empire suffered  the same fate in the following few weeks, and the genocide and forced  deportation of nearly all Ottoman Armenians soon followed.

As has been done for nearly 50 years, the Armenian community  commemorated the Armenian genocide on April 24 by rallying on  Parliament Hill, and then marching, symbolic of the deportations, to  the Turkish Embassy. However, this year we were shocked that a  counter-demonstration was allowed to take place, at both locations,  with numbers substantial enough that the Ottawa police (of which there
were many) had separated and fenced off both groups. I was horrified  that deniers of the genocide were given permission to demonstrate on
the same day and at the same time, with the obvious objective of  hijacking our genocide commemoration.

The protesters on the Turkish side were fresh faced and young, and seemingly angry. I was especially disturbed when a young Armenian
musician playing a mournful tune on stage was being drowned out by the  blasting of very loud dance or metal-type music, seemingly to drown  out our sound, to shut us up. But I was also shocked that this group  was granted the right to be there in the first place. Can anyone
imagine a rally on Parliament Hill commemorating the Holocaust, the  Rwandan or Cambodian genocide, and separating the grounds in half to
accommodate apologists for the genocide perpetrators? Can anyone  imagine that on Remembrance Day, a group of protesters be given a
permit to shout down or disturb the ceremony at the Tomb of the  Unknown Soldier? I found it morally reprehensible that this group was
allowed to disturb such a painful and solemn commemoration.

Frustrated, I decided that I needed to do something. I have been part  of a wonderful Turkish, Kurdish and Armenian dialogue group since 2007  called Voices in Dialogue, and wrote them an open letter, parts of  which are reproduced here. I am convinced that any acknowledgment of  the genocide will come through Armenian-Turkish cooperation and  through gradual dissent on this and other issues related to democracy  in Turkey. In the last decade or so, the Armenian genocide has been  publicly spoken about in Turkey, often angrily but other times in the  hopes of understanding the past we all share but which Turks are only  recently coming to grips with. Acknowledgment would be a testament to  those many Armenian grandmothers that some Turkish people are  discovering they have always had, now voicing their experiences,  sometimes on their deathbeds. On this year before the symbolic  centenary of the genocide, I remain hopeful.

Aram Adjemian
Ottawa
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571 reads | 10.05.2014
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