Capitol Hill Silent Protest Part of National “Stain of Denial” Campus Campaign Raising Awareness about the Armenian Genocide and Legacy of Intolerance
WASHINGTON—Armenian Student Association (ASA) members from the across the U.S. have teamed up with the Washington, DC Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Ani chapter and local youth in organizing a silent protest on Capitol Hill this week to urge Congress to condemn a series of vicious hate crimes perpetrated against elderly Armenian women in Istanbul, Turkey and to call on U.S. leaders to end Turkey’s gag rule on proper U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
The protest will be held in front of the Senate Dirksen Office Building, on Constitution Ave., from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 31, coinciding with the nationwide “Stain of Denial” campus protests organized by the All-ASA and supported by the AYF and ARF Shant Student organizations.
“The growing number of hate crimes against Armenians, and particularly women, in Turkey is extremely disturbing. In only the past two months more than four Armenians were attacked and killed in Istanbul, once again bringing to light the strain of deeply rooted hatred and intolerance in Turkish society that is encouraged by the government and its continued policy of genocide denial,” explained Knarik Gasparyan, Public Relations Director of the UCLA Armenian Students Association, in Washington DC for a semester-long internship.
Gasparyan is referring to four widely publicized attacks against elderly Armenian women, one fatal, which have taken place over the past two months, in the historically Armenian-inhabited neighborhood of Samatya, in central Istanbul. On Dec. 28, an 85-year-old Armenian woman was repeatedly stabbed and killed in her home, with assailants carving a cross on her chest. Other attacks include the Nov. 2012 beating of an 87-year-old Armenian woman, and a failed attempt to abduct an elderly Armenian woman on Jan. 6. According to Turkish news outlet, Bianet, the latest incident took place on Jan. 22, when 83-year-old Sultan Aykar was attacked and repeatedly kicked until neighbors heard her screams and rushed to assist her. Aykar lost sight in one eye because of the brutal beating.
The beatings sparked a sharp response from Amnesty International earlier this week, which called on “Turkish authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the series of attacks on elderly Armenian women in Istanbul.” The January 28th statement stressed that “Hate crimes constitute a serious form of discrimination… It is regrettable that Turkish legislation does not foresee any legislative and policy measures ensuring that hate motives are systematically and thoroughly investigated and duly taken into account in the prosecution and sentencing.”
Questions regarding a government cover-up of the attacks abound, as Turkish authorities attempt to downplay the crimes. “The incident was inspired by robbery, there were no racial motives. Be sure we will find the perpetrators. Good night,” tweeted Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu to his 100,000 followers. This and similar statements prompted Amnesty International to express “concern at public statements made by the authorities discounting the possibility of a racist motivation to the attacks.” Meanwhile, the Turkish Human Rights Association stated categorically that “the attacks were carried out with racist motives,” according to a January 28th Economist article, “Turkey’s Armenians: The Ghosts of 1915,” referencing the legacy of the Armenian Genocide and its denial.
“The recent brutal murders and attacks on elderly Armenian women in Istanbul once again showed the level of xenophobia and intolerance within the Turkish society,” explained Bloomfield College student Armen Sahakyan. “The events also serve as a sober reminder for us that the Armenian Genocide issue is not yet resolved and we should work ever harder to stand up to Turkey’s denial of that crime and secure the return of what rightfully belongs to the Armenian nation.”