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Mouradian: Despite Obstacles, Armenian Genocide Commemorations Held in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)—On April 24 in Istanbul, four events commemorating the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide were held—including three held outside, in public—all while obstacles, counter protests, and fascist rhetoric tried to disrupt the commemorations, and reminded the few hundred participants of the long way ahead.

Genocide commemoration at the Haydarpasha Station in Istanbul on April 24, 2010. (Photo by Mujgan Arpat)

A two-day conference on the genocide also began that weekend in Ankara.

The first event was organized by Kurdish mothers whose sons had “disappeared.” For the past few years, an organization has brought these mothers together and has held silent protests every Saturday. In Beyoglu at noon, in an act of solidarity with Armenians and as a powerful statement on the continuities between the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey, these mothers, joined by human rights activists and supporters, held up photographs of not only their sons but of the Armenian intellectuals who were arrested and killed on April 24, 1915 and in the weeks following it. The organizers of the gathering made statements calling Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

A small counter-demonstration by the Workers’ Party was held on a street nearby. They condemned genocide commemorations in Turkey, holding banners that read, “The Armenian Genocide is an imperialist lie.”

The second commemoration event was held at 1:30 p.m. at the Haydarpasha train station. Organized by the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, the commemoration brought together a few hundred people who held photographs of the intellectuals murdered in 1915. Lawyer and activist Eren Keskin, a leading figure in the Human Rights Association, read a statement that highlighted the importance of recognition and justice. Dozens of journalists, photographers, and TV crews were present at the commemoration, which was held amidst a heavy police presence but saw no serious incidents. Several individuals, however, started yelling at the organizers near the end of the commemoration, and the police intervened.

At 5 p.m., a genocide commemoration lecture was held at the Cezayir Center’s meeting hall in Beyoglu. The lecture, by Armenian Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian, was attended by Turkish intellectuals and activists who have been outspoken about 1915 in Turkey, along with reporters and members of the local Armenian community. (The Weekly will provide coverage of the lecture in a separate story.)

Mouradian delivers a genocide commemoration lecture in Istanbul on April 24, 2010. (Photo by Mujgan Arpat)

At 7 p.m., a candlelight vigil was held in Taksim Square in the presence of hundreds of policemen and a large crowd of reporters and onlookers. Organized by Turkish intellectuals, the vigil was the most advertised of the commemoration events that day, and attracted the largest number of participants and counter-demonstrators. The organizers read a statement about April 24, 1915, saying that this was their pain as well. Then, for almost half an hour, the participants in the vigil sat in silence while counter protestors nearby—pushed back by the police—yelled, “Death to the Armenian Diaspora.”

Contrary to what was reported in some U.S. and European papers, these commemoration events were not the first in Turkey. The Istanbul Human Rights Association has been organizing lectures, panel discussions, and musical performances in commemoration of the genocide for the past several years. What was distinct about the commemorations this year was the fact that they were held outdoors, on or near busy streets, intersections, and station, hence generating greater attention.

In Ankara, a two day-long genocide conference on the history and consequences of the Armenian Genocide took place. The conference was canceled earlier in the week due to bureaucratic, political pressure, and security concerns; however, an announcement was later made that the conference would be held as scheduled. Despite the confusion the cancellation created, most scheduled speakers and scholars, including those from overseas, attended the conference, or will do so on April 25.

A more detailed report with photographs will be posted soon.

41 Comments on Mouradian: Despite Obstacles, Armenian Genocide Commemorations Held in Turkey

  1. I found this in youtube. I think it’s related to an event described in the artilce above. But which one and what the demonstrators and the reactionists are saying, I have no clue. Could anyone help? Turkish commentators sympathetic to the Armeians that post in Armenian Weekly, could you, please? Thank you.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gefh0IGlZ9A

  2. It is noteworthy that Haydarpasha train station is where the first convoy of deported Armenians intellectuals left on 24 April 1915.

  3. This appears to be the 7 p.m. event in Taksim, which is at the centre of Istanbul.  The attendees are truly courageous;  I bow to them with deep respect and gratitude.  It gives me great hope for the future.

  4. John,
    This appears to be the 7 p.m. event in Taksim, which is at the centre of Istanbul.  The attendees are truly courageous;  I bow to them with deep respect and gratitude.  It gives me great hope for the future.

  5. You are absolutely right and that is why Haydarpasha was chosen as the location for this event.

  6. I wonder if there is something like a free discourse possible in Armenia?
    In Turkish TV (Haberturk, Teke Tek) is since weeks a prime time show where a Turkish intellectual of Armenian origin (Sevan Nisanyan) and a Turkish history Scholar (Yusuf Halacoglu) are disputing live controverse the happennings of 1915.
    Haberturk is one of the most seen news channels in Turkey. Comparable with CNN.
    I really doubt that this would be possible in Armenia or within the Armenian diaspora.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R9pUrd3b6E

  7. John,  I think Ani is right.  That is the event called a Vigil.  You can also see the counter-demonstrators in that video

  8. BTW if you listen closely, you can hear “Groonk” playing at the Vigil.  And it looks to me that the demonstrators are seriously  grieving the deaths.
    Also, I don’t speak Turkish, but I think the woman is reading the names of the provinces where Armenians were martyred, murdered, kidnapped, tortured, cleansed.
     
    I pray for these courageous people.  I wish I could meet them.

  9. John,
    For about 1.30 minutes they are talking about giving the people space. The reactionist at 2.00 is saying
    “This country won’t raise any traitors. While children of this country are giving their lives for their country, there are traitors being raised here.  This country under the influence of…”
    He is interrupted by the racist crowd. They start to shout “Here is Turkey. Either love or leave” which happens to be the statement related to Hrant Dink’s murder. Then the guy goes on “All the organization which allow this meeting, starting with the government, we are protesting.”  Crowd then goes “Either love or leave.” , “We are the soldiers of M. Kemal Ataturk”. They also start to sing the national anthem at some point.
    People who gathered to commemorate 1915 events are saying the exact text written on their website. Click the following link to read the English version of it: http://buacihepimizin.org//index.php?sayfa=2
    Then a guy makes an announcement: Friends! We will be sitting here in silence for 30 minutes.

  10. SG — Thank you so much for responding to my request. Very useful for Armenians to know what was going on out there. I admire these brave people, really, my hat goes off to each and every one of them. They give Turkey hope, they give the world hope…

  11. Thank you SG

  12. This is a big step in the right direction.  Why is there no support from the Armenians for this event?  Does it always have to be so much hate with your pain?

  13. Khatchig and others involved in this effort deserve alot of credit because above all, they are making a positive effort and working to change the status quo. It is admirable. At the same time, we should also recognize that this could never have happened under previous Turkish governments…and as a result, some praise should go to the current govt of Turkey, which appears to be moving in the direction of Mikail Gorbachev, and the opening up of Russian democracy via his policy of glasnost.  It is all for the best, for everyone involved…Turks, Armenians, Kurds and other minorities.  It shows a more mature, confident attitude towards itself…something that has been lacking in Turkey for a very long time.

  14. Bravo to all the attendees and to the courageous Khatchig Mouradian.

  15. This is a big step in the right direction.  Why is there no support from the Armenians for this event?  Does it always have to be so much hate with your pain?
     
    There’s plenty of support voiced in the comments already.  The problem is the usual nonsense about all Armenians  from the likes of you.

  16. Yes, such events are important and commendable, noone denies it. But Armenians know the Turks from both historical and behavioral perspectives and most of us wouldn’t get so overexcited bearing in mind an incentive for the current Turkish government to allow such events. As the Turks smell that the waves of international recognitions continue they may as well demonstrate to the world, by means of allowing such events, that Turks can work out problems with the Armenians bilaterally. Thus, no international intervention and further recognitions are needed. This may be an alternative way of thinking, and not necessarily perestroika a la Gorbachev. Wasn’t the current Turkish government in power when Hrant Dink was assassinated and behind-the-scene perpetrators never punished? Wasn’t the current Turkish government in power when it cynically announced that they could deport Armenians residing in Turkey? Is it not the current Turkish government that vehemently denies that genocide of the Armenians ever happened? Is it not the same Turkish government that hindered the protocol process by introducing preconditions and linking the Turkish-Armenian rapprochement with unilateral concessions on Nagorno-Karabakh? Is it not the same Turkish government that retains the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code? Is it not the same Turkish government that provides no guarantees for the safe return of its most prominent intellectuals, including the Nobel Prize laureates?
     
    Armenians! No matter what, with or without changes in the Turkish society, whether they are sincere or insincere, positive or negative, admirable or unworthy, our efforts at international recognition of the Armenian Genocide MUST NOT cease. We know the Turks, their sneakiness, flattery, and ability to avoid bearing responsibility for crimes. Make no mistake in handling these new developments at this historical juncture. ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me…’

  17.  To Onder,

    You ask “Does it always have to be so much hate with your pain?”.  I would like to point you to the many hateful comments being spewed by the counter demonstrators in the video. Comments like “love it or leave it” are clear indication of  democracy not being generally accepted.  We  (non Muslims) have heard it for the last 85  years in Turkey. Now it is used against fellow Turks. What a shame…
     
    As I indicated in my earlier comment, I have nothing  but respect and admiration to the people  who did partake in the April 24 commemoration ceremony.  It is a BIG step. However, let us remember that it took 1,000 policemen to protect 200 people, under the most difficult situations. I read that the police had to form a wall around the group so they wouldn’t be harmed. There was a lot of hatred at Taksim that day, and none of it emanating from Armenians. It it hard to determine who feels more hatred, just as it is hard to determine who suffered more in which genocide. There can be no reconcilitation without acceptance and then repentance (and some argue restitution). Then and only then will our wounds start to heal.

  18. AMEN Narek.. AMEN..

    I am with you 110%… No matter how much they dangle the orange carrot in front of us, we should not grab it.. They are very intelligent and know the tactics to get around the problem all together.. They will never cease.. which is WHY WE CAN”T and SHOULD NOT cease either.. NEVER AGAIN….

    Janine, as always love your comments

    Karekin, as always you are not going to win

    SG, as always I admire you and I respect you.. Thank you

    Onder, I dont’ even know where you came from and what you represent.. need time to get to know you a bit….

    God Bless…

    Gayane

  19. Ani,
     
    I’m with you. I watched the video 3-4 times paying a particular attention at the eye expressions of those ultranationalists chanting the xenophobic slogan ‘love it or leave it.’ Considering that eyes are the window to the soul, I couldn’t help but wonder: had that reactionaist guy and his supporters been given a chance, would they stop from murdering that handful of brave people just as their forefathers did to Armenians? And, friends, looking at their beastly faces, I’d venture into saying they would. I should add immediately that by no means do I rule out a possibility that others would not. But it seems to me that expressing compassion is indicative of one’s individual characteristics, whereas brutality maybe existent and unconstrained in the Turkish society. I understand I can’t judge impartially by watching videos, such as this one or the one on Dink’s murder where the police posed smiling with the murderer for a photo opportunity, but I’m afraid little evolution had taken place in previously nomadic and then repressive imperialist nation after the great falsificator Mustafa Kemal handed a ‘new republic,’ cleansed of all native inhabitants and civilizations, to the new generations.
     
    My suspicion worsened after picketing in front of a Turkish consulate on the 24th. There was a group of Turkish youngsters grinning as monkeys, mockingly laughing at our banners: enlarged photocopies of U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s telegrams on race extermination of the Armenians and New York Times’ 1915 articles on whole scale massacres in Armenian-populated vilayets of the Ottoman Empire. Male youngsters, who were standing side by side with their female supporters, many of whom were wearing Muslim headscarves, were holding banners that read: ‘Armenian girls love Turkish boys’ and ‘Turkish boys love Kim Kardashian.’ Obviously, with a sexist content. Some Armenian children ages 8 to 13 or so, who were shouting ‘Turkey admit your guilt!’, complained to their parents after the event that Turks were making obscene signs to them. And I thought to myself: I can understand their government methodically brainwashed them for decades, but those jerks holding sexist banners and making indecent signs to the minors couldn’t possibly be victims of excesses of the government propaganda but, rather, excesses of societal behavior and evolutional immaturity.
     
    The events in Istanbul and Ankara, although heavily guarded and probably in line with the government efforts to hamper international recognitions, were a big step forward, but I’ll never succumb into believing that the Turkish society on the whole has become mature enough to recognize their crimes by themselves. Only when pressurized by our efforts, by the efforts of foreign governments and organizations will their State be able to accept the truth and repent.

  20. The truth will win, eventually because, just like an essential element of the universe, it cannot be destroyed.

  21. Excellent John.. Thank you for your comment.. After reading the part about the group of Turks doing unbelieable just disgusted me.. such disgrace…. it simply disguts me..

    Karekin did you read that?? Please tell me that your Turkey is ready to move forward … Turkey AS A WHOLE…not as individuals….

    The only time the truth will win is when people start thinking and speaking the truth… but as I can see it.. you are not in sync with what truth is…you may have the right ideology about what truth should be but you have no idea how to obtain it or what it stands for… i don’t know I may be off… I am just another Armenian woman .. An Armenian girl who loves Turkish boys.. (according to those low lives who stood in front of the Turkish Embassy on April 24th as John described).. Such disgrace..  making fun of all those souls who perished by rape and torture and murder… I spit on them for tainting and making a mockery of our Armenian women who were stripped from their identify, self, and  THEIR OWN LIVES just so that Turks can enjoy seeing them raped, murdered, stolen or bought.. …..go ahead and tell us again Karekin how we should be nice and polite and patient with such acts….???. Unbelievable….

    Ani jan.. thank you for pointing that out yet again because for some unknown reason, people like Onder and likes dismiss it… how convenient right???

    Gayane

  22. ‘Armenian girls love Turkish boys’ and ‘Turkish boys love Kim Kardashian.’
     
    Clearly, the history of kidnapping Armenian women and forcibly converting them is excused if all of these women are only trashy sluts anyway.  So goes the mythology that excuses brutality.  Just like we “deserved” the genocide as a whole people.  Unfortunately the protesters encountered the ugly racist stereotype, which must be alive and well somewhere.

  23. What I learned from my mother and grandmother was that angry, hateful people never win…and I believe that holds whether that person is Armenian, Turkish or anything else.  You probably know the truism that you can attract more flies w/ honey than with vinegar.  It works for humans as well.  Do you really think Khatchig would or could do what he’s doing if all he spewed was anger and hate?   Yes, you can be hurt and angry all you want, but if you want to see the current situation change and improve  – you must change your tactics.  No adult wants to deal with a screaming, hysterical child…no matter what they are crying about…and more screaming at the child never works, as you probably know.  So, a more mature approach as exhibited by Khatchig on his trip to Turkey is something everyone can aspire to, because it’s the only way forward. 

  24. if you want to see the current situation change and improve….you must change your tactics
     
    Are we going to be punished if we don’t?  I have no idea what tactics you’re talking about.  Presumably the tactics of having marches and carrying signs and other universally accepted forms of public activism.  Well, those got us where we are.  I think they should be kept up, especially the activism in Congress.  I listened to a Congressman tell us so this weekend (non-Armenian, btw).  And righteous anger is highly appropriate under the current circumstances.

  25. OK, Karekin, we heard you, go along the path that you consider ‘the only’ way forward. Other people may rightfully consider other ways as ‘the only’ ways: legal, political, academic, financial, advocacy, revolutionary, evolutionary, etc. However, if you really think that angry people never win than you should have controlled your own anger when you dared to make anti-religious and anti-national comments. Sounds fair?

  26. Karekin, Turks were mildly, MIDLY speaking ‘angry,’ when they essentially won back in 1984-96 and 1915-1921 by mass exterminating Armenians and wiping out Western Armenian civilization. You cannot apply your grandmother’s saying to all life situations. Besides, it is not anger but indignation of a people who were subject to genocide and whose wounds are still bleeding because of Turkish denial to repent. What is so unnatural in our behavior?

  27. John, Janine, Gayane: You’re welcome.
    Karekin: I sometimes agree with you and sometimes find your comments a bit exaggerated, like this one. You somehow managed to find the handful of people of Istanbul.  I’m happy that you have open minded people around to discuss such sensitive subjects with.
    Other than that, you’re right. Not that I’m claiming that 1915 shall not be recognized internationally-mostly for I believe those countries feel the guilt too because they simply watched  but gave no reaction as it happened- but  at this point, after all the propaganda, pressuring Turkey will not make people suddenly see everything as it is. It makes them hold on to the lies tighter. Although, I’m not 100% sure, I think this aggressive attitude has something to do with seeing Ottoman Empire’s fall as a fail and European countries seeing Turkey not good enough to be a part of EU as a shame for some portion of Europe used to be a part of the empire. As for the nationalists and Kemalists- who are, sadly, acting more racist than ever lately- are behaving this way because that’s the only way they can belong to a  category. Because some are certain that they are Armenian, Jew, Greek,  Kurd and etc. whoever is left out can define himself as a Turk. Point out the differences more and you’ll find yourself a term to finally define you.
    These discussions, commemorations and other things might seem no big deal to you but in truth they are giant steps for Turkey. In time we came from “no, it’s a huge lie” to “it is a great tragedy indeed but we can’t name what happened as genocide”. I do share Markar Esayan’s thoughts on his article and suggest suggest it to be read if anyone here is interested and knows Turkish: http://taraf.com.tr/makale/11082.htm

  28. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?  Sometimes I feel that Armenians make alot of noise amongst themselves and for that reason, hope to see the situation change. And, change in what way?  Do you secretly hope that Turkey will collapse, a la Yugoslavia, and tiny little Armenia, barely able to stay alive now, can somehow assume control over 15, 20 or 30 million people in eastern Anatolia?  I’d like to know what your idea of ‘justice’ might be, because other than a deep apology, I’m not sure anything else will ever be forthcoming from Turkey. While I understand the standard bargaining technique being used (ask a ridiculously high price, and hope to get at least half), I also think we Armenians need to be realistic in terms of expectations, demands and results. Fantasy is not appropriate, especially not outside of the Armenian ‘bubble’.

  29. SG-  you are an absolute delight and a shining star among darkness…

    because of you, i have hope.. because of you, I see more people coming out and joining all of us in this fight…because of you, some people who absolutely refuse to believe or see a different side of this horrible page in history may start questioning their knowledge a bit more..and to show that what they THINK is right is no where close to how IT IS…thank you for standing on the side of the truth…

    Gayane

  30. Do you hear that Khatchig?  Karekin thinks the topics of your conference are just fantasy.  Wow, and then the rest of us are told we don’t recognize progress in the conference.  Talk about projection !

  31. I guess if one wants to hear a sound when a tree falls in a forest, one must be there and hear it. Armenians make a lot of noise not amongst themselves, but throughout the world. The last thing that dies in a human soul is hope. It also lifts the spirits.
     
    Empires unimaginably collapse. Nation-states disintegrate. Unrecognized states receive de jure recognition.
     
    Jews, as a tiny little nation, demanded and been offered apology and up until now receive reparations.
     
    Tiny little Kosovo, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia fought for their independence and gained it.
     
    Tiny little Nagorno-Karabakh undoubtedly will.
     
    It’s a matter of what you’re made of inside. If you’re made of self-deprecation, you’ll achieve nothing.

  32. avatar Reza Hiwa // May 1, 2010 at 1:20 pm // Reply

    There’s no way to protect justice if we ignore the genocides of the past. To assure they don’t repeat, to heel the wounds of History and to denounce the hate ideologies which keep producing the victims today, we have to face the past and establish the truth. Armenian Genocide has to be recognised by the whole world and … the Turkish society.

  33. avatar shantagizoum // May 1, 2010 at 2:36 pm // Reply

    NO DOUBT MOST  HAVE A THING TO SAY AND I RESPECT EVERYBODY´S VIEWPOINTS.
    1.NAREK  IS THE CAUTIOUS PERSON HERE AND HAS STUDIED  THE PAST RELATIONS-COMES TO MIND THE 1908 ..WHEN  OUR POLITICAL PARTIES TRIED TO COUNTER-UNDERSTAND…SO TO SPEKA WITH THEIR “young turks” COUNTERPARTS ,RATHER AS THEY ADVOCATED,THE LATTER  I.E. AS COMRADES IN ARMS.FAILED.THEN GAYANE AND KAREKIN AND JOHN ALSO COM MENT CORRECTLY,WELL ALL OTHERS ALSO HAVE A LITTLE SOMETHING UP THEIR SLEEVES.2.MY PERSONAL POIUNT  OF VIEW  IS PRESENT GOV. OF TURKEY WILL NOT FOLLOW THE PATH OF EX-SOVIET UNION AND ITS GLASTNOST OR PERSTROIKA..THEY WILL RATHER STICK TO THEIR 600 YEARS AND MORE  OTTOMAN SYSTEM OF BY AND BY GIVING ROPE TO THE ARMENIANS AND  KURDS..
    IN THIS RESPECT ONE ABOVE,SORRY CAN´T REMEMBER NAME THAT HOW ARMENIANS ARE PROPOSING TO GOVERN THE 20-30 MILLION PEOPL IN WESTERN ARMENIA..HE ERRS-THOSE  PEOPL ARE  MOSTLY…. K  U  R  D  S AND TO BE JUST  WE MUST ACCEPT  THAT SEVRES TREAY GAVE THEM THE RIGHT TO AN AUTONOMOUS KURDISTAN,SIGNED BY W.WILSON TOO.THENCE ALL WE SHOULD OPT FOR NOW IS WHAT KH.MOORADIAN-KUDOS TO HIM- AND OTHERS LIKE HIM AS FOILLOWERS  OF H.DINK ARE ACHIEVING,HOPEFULLY THE MADDENED  KEMALISTS AND SUCH WILL NOT HARM THEM.WE SHOULD-I CONTINUE- KH MOORADIAN AND CONFERENCE ATTENDEES IN ANKARA ASK FOR ….RESTITUTION—–BLOOD  MONEY  FIRST  OF ALL THROUGHA WELL PREPARED CLAIM BY OUR INT´L ATTORNEYS AT THE HAGUE…MUCH MORE FEASIBLE..WHEN KURDISH ISSUE RIPENDS UP THEN AHVING COME TO TERMS WITH THEM OUTSIDE TURKEY THINK ABOUT THE PROPERTY-REAL- ANBD RICHES CONFIUSCATED ETC.,
    PLEASE UNDERSTAND  THAT WE ARE DEALING WITH A -SO FAR- FACIST GOVERNMENT…IF THEY ARE CHANING , I IMAGINE IT IS PARTIUALLY ALSO DUE TO PRESSURES BROUGHT UPON THE,M -AS WE SSAW  IN ZURICH BY THE TRIO SUPER POWERS…SO BEAR  A BIT MORE…
    HAMA HAIGAGANI SIRO,
    .GP      

  34. avatar shantagizoum // May 1, 2010 at 2:38 pm // Reply

    I JUST  DID

  35. Ahmet, don’t call us ‘friends.’ You can’t consider anyone a friend when you knowingly insult his or her religious beliefs and feelings. I suppose you’re the one who insulted Holy Trinity in the past, are you? Stop this typically Turkish duplicity, please…

  36. Ahmet, thank you so very much for sharing that with us.  I will share it with my friends.
     
    I pray for the safety of all of you.  Elsewhere I posted the short story of one of my great-grandfathers.  He was a local leader of a party that wanted a better Turkey for everyone, with a bill of rights for all minorities.  He was tortured to death.  I hope for the safety of those like him today.

  37. Paul, above was my first post. There must be another Ahmet (very common Turkish name) here so apologies for the confusion. If I post again it will be Ahmet Eroğlu, my full name.
    I support recognition of the Armenian genocide but I do not want Armenians to revenge or any more violence but Turkey to learn the truth so we can all move on and somehow reconcile. Turkey must accept and I think they eventually will.

  38. Paul jan… Ayo.. Ahmet said many things that pissed alot of us..

    Now, Ahmet Eroglu, as he stated in his last post may or may not be the same one.. However, because I respect and believe human beings to be true and honest (most of the time), I say Ahmet E. could be the friend and not the foe here..

    Ahmet .. please post your comments under Ahmet E. so that we don’t confuse you with the OTHER Ahmet…

    Thank you for the article… I will also share it with my people…

    Gayane

  39. Again, I agree with Gayane :-)
     
    Using “Ahmet E”. is a good idea.  I believe that this article was posted for a good point by Ahmet E.  The old Ahmet I don’t think would have wanted us to read anything confirming genocide!

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