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Hamparian: Garo Paylan—A Man of Courage and Conviction

Below is Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian’s introduction of Garo Paylan at a standing-room-only town hall hosted by the “Satenig” chapter of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) at the Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church in Bethesda, Md., on Sept. 30.

Paylan during his address to Parliament on April 21, during which he called for an investigation into the killing of Armenian members of the Turkish Parliament during the Armenian Genocide (Photo: Garo Paylan Facebook page)

Paylan is a founding member of Peoples’ Democratic Party of Turkey (HDP) and is a deputy representing the 3rd district in Istanbul. Paylan is also a member of Turkey’s Armenian community and has long been an activist on human rights, Kurdish and Armenian issues.

Previous to joining the parliament, Mr. Paylan served in the central committee of HDP and also served on the management of Armenian schools in Istanbul. He has long promoted bilingual education and minority rights in Turkey and has been actively engaged in raising awareness on discrimination towards minorities; the rights of the Armenian community in Turkey; Turkish-Armenian reconciliation; and especially on Hrant Dink murder case.

Paylan is from a family originally from Malatya and is one of the three Armenian deputies in the Turkish parliament.

The following is Hamparian’s introduction.

***

I will, today, introduce Garo Paylan with just one word. And that word is courage. In Armenia: kajutiune.

I would also like to share with you some thoughts on the broader meaning of his historic visit to our communities and our Congress, the State Department, American think tanks, international journalists leading academics, and representatives of our civil society.

In the wake of 1915, Armenians—those within Turkey, those in Armenia, and those of us around the rest of world—traveled different paths.

Brothers and sisters, scattered across the earth, in many ways we spent a century apart.

– Living in different environments, we saw different worlds.

– Confronted by different challenges, we adopted different approaches.

And, as a result, we sometimes, even today, see ourselves and our world, our community and our cause, in different ways. That’s natural. Normal. Even healthy.

While keeping our core Armenian identity and ideals, we adapted to our circumstances.

Each, in our own way, we grew and evolved and reinvented ourselves—both as Armenians and as citizens of the states in which we live.

– Not simply to preserve, but to progress.

– Not only to survive, but to thrive.

We are today—with Garo Paylan’s visit—witnessing, in many meaningful ways, the end of one of these long separations.

The closing of a gap. A global Armenian embrace of the Armenians of Istanbul and across the territory of present-day Turkey.

This is part of the post-genocide, post-independence internationalization of the global Armenian nation.

We saw this integration process at work in the years after 1988, with the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh/NKR) movement, and 1991, the milestone of Armenian independence, in terms of homeland-diaspora communication, consensus, and cooperation.

Today is a time for renewed bridge-building.

Among Armenians, but not simply among ourselves, but between Armenians and our new allies.

– A time for open discussion and robust debate,

– A time to celebrate diversity, but – at a deeper level – to speak of our shared purpose and solidarity,

– A time for the hard work of forging consensus, and turning that consensus into concrete cooperation.

Here in this hall at Soorp Khatch Church, and in cities and towns around the world, we begin this long journey together.

For, in all our diversity, our cause is one cause.

And more than that, our cause is part of a greater cause: The cause or human rights, democracy, freedom and justice for all, within the land—upon the sacred soil—of our forefathers.

– For Armenians,

– For Assyrians and Greeks, Alevis and Alewites, Jews and Persians, Arabs and all others,

– For Kurds and Yezidis – and we are so happy to be joined by so many friends here today,

– For the HDP and for all those seeking peace and progressive change,

– And, ultimately, for all the citizens of Turkey.

In closing let me share with you that, following our meeting yesterday with Garo at the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), we posted a message inspired by his example, which I would like to read to you now before inviting Garo to speak:

“A truly democratic, pluralist, and inclusive Turkey will have the courage and confidence required to honestly reckon and reconcile with its past, to render justice for the Armenian Genocide, and, ultimately, to realize the rights of all its citizens.”

It is in this spirit, and in the hopes of harvesting, one day soon, the fruits of our fraternal labors, that I invite you all to stand and warmly welcome Garo Paylan—a man of courage and conviction—to offer his remarks tonight.

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