Gunaysu: Kurdish MP challenges Turkish Parliament on Armenian Genocide

“During the last period of the Ottoman Empire, in 1915-16, the Union and Progress Party systematically pursued a policy of extermination of the Christians who had been the native peoples of the country for centuries.”

Selahattin Demirtas
Selahattin Demirtas

These were the words articulated at the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) by Selahattin Demirtas, the deputy chairman of the parliamentary group of Democratic Society Party (DTP)—the voice of Kurds in the Turkish Parliament. Demirtas had taken the floor at the parliamentary session on Oct. 21 to speak about the protocols signed between Armenia and Turkey.

“No national security considerations can be an excuse for the annihilation of a population by means of forced displacement and massacres,” he said. “Governments, in an effort to clear themselves of the guilt, resorted to denial and to distortion of historical facts to conceal the truth. They rewrote the history. In school books, Armenians are portrayed as hostile figures, exaggerating the incidents of violence by Armenian activists and never telling the truth about the massacred Armenians.”

The meeting minutes, available on the website of the TGNA, reveals the interruptions by other deputies, member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the opposition party Republican People’s Party (CHP), and an independent deputy, who called out loud: “What are you talking about? Say what you want to say openly!” or “Shame on you!” or “Don’t slander” or “What about the Turkish diplomats assassinated?”

“The word ‘Armenian’ has been used as an insult in this country,” continued Demirtas. “Even the president of the Republic of Turkey was accused of having secret Armenian ancestors, as if this was a sin. They did this to humiliate him. And what a shame that the president himself answered this ‘accusation’ in such a way as to confirm the humiliating connotation of the word, by trying to prove that this was not true.”

Demirtas suggested the formation of a history committee, consisting of independent historians from both sides, that would aim at revealing historic truths. “Without doing this, no real policy of peace can be pursued in foreign or domestic policy and no real resolution can be reached by ignoring the tragedy, by acting as if the loss of lives was a result of unwanted adverse circumstances. I know that what I say upsets those who remain loyal to the status quo. However for us to avoid recognizing historical truths just for the sake of the status quo would mean betraying our conscience and taking a politically unethical stance. So Turkey should lead the way to uncover the historical facts instead of continuing to carry the burden of a tragedy caused by the Committee of Union and Progress. In order for truly friendly relations between the two countries, it should be acknowledged that this is the only way for mutual trust.”

This was a first for the Turkish Parliament. There may be parts in Demirtas’ speech where one would disagree. But for me, these points of disagreement are less important than the declaration— in the Turkish Grand National Assembly—of the systematic extermination of Armenians in 1915. And it was a Kurdish MP who made this happen. The Kurds, some of whom actively took part in the Armenian Genocide, were also the first in Turkey to talk and write about the genocide of the Armenians and Assyrians.

Demirtas’s words weren’t in the headlines the next day as one would expect; those days were unusually exciting, as a group of PKK guerillas had just crossed the border and given themselves up to Turkish security forces as a gesture to support the government’s peace initiative. TV channels and newspapers were full of scenes of rejoicing and celebrations by thousands of Kurds, old and young, women and men, all welcoming the peace group. The guerillas waved their hands to the crowds, who were joyously demonstrating for peace. A few days passed with puzzlement on the part of the Turkish public and the opinion makers. However, the puzzlement did not last long. A wave of anger surged with columnists condemning such “scenes of outright defiance,” “celebrations of PKK’s victory,” or “shameless display of support to PKK.” Then came the demonstrations of the “mothers of martyrs” and others condemning the PKK. The panel discussions on TV featured even democrat and liberal figures criticizing the DTP for rallying Kurds to celebrate the PKK guerillas’ return and provoking Turkish nationalism.

Just when Demirtas was giving his speech about the Armenia-Turkey protocols, I was called by Agos newspaper to comment on the coming of the PKK group as a peace delegation. I sent them a message saying, in short, that I did not trust Turkey. I explained that given the age-old authoritarian nationalistic policies pursued by governments, instigating hostility and hatred in the minds of people, no real peace policy would be possible. The majority of the Turkish people themselves would not let this dream come true. Although this was what I thought, I still had the hope that this time I might be wrong, that some good things could happen in this country. The pictures in the newspapers, the images on  TV of old men and women welcoming the PKK members at the Habur border gate—dancing, waving hands, laughing, and cheerin—were so impressive that one could not help but hope.

But Turkey did not put me down and once more not my dreams but my fears came true. The government suspended the peace program and said that the coming of PKK members from European countries was cancelled due to the Kurds’ provocative welcoming demonstrations. Shortly after this news, Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the PKK , announced that they too had suspended the process.

Now all advocates of peace are waiting for a new sign indicating the resumption of the peace process. Turkey’s lack of any tradition of reconciliation and it’s deeply rooted authoritarian habits of resorting to violence instead of understanding did its job again.

A Kurdish intellectual’s comprehensive work about the genocide

Speaking about the Kurdish intellectuals and activists who first talked and wrote about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, I have to mention the book of Recep Marasli, who was one of the victims of the horrible tortures at Diyarbakir Prison in the 1980’s and who served 15 years in various prisons.
In the preface to his book Ermeni Ulusal Demokratik Hareketive 1915 Soykirimi (The Armenian National Democratic Movement and 1915 Genocide) (Peri Publishing House, 2008, Istanbul), Marasli writes how he first wrote about the Armenian Genocide in 1982, when he was in the Alemdag Prison. It was the first and worst years of the military rule. At the same time, it was a time when Turkish diplomats were assassinated one by one by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia, and anti-Armenian sentiments were at their peak in Turkey, provoked by the insulting headlines in Turkish newspapers. In the Diyarbakir Prison, those inmates suspected of being of Armenian origin were subjected to special violence, and there were incidents of forced circumcision. During these days, Recep Marasli with a number of his fellow prisoners secretly prepared and circulated a pamphlet about the Armenian Genocide in the Alemdag Prison. This pamphlet would later serve as the outline of his present book. He thinks it may well be the first structured writing about the Armenian Genocide in Kurdish circles in modern Turkish history. Some of the Kurdish inmates found it irrelevant to the circumstances of the day (as the central issue for them was the Kurdish Question); some even thought that Marasli was of Armenian origin. This pamphlet was a turning point in Marasli’s efforts on the topic. Marasli and his comrades circulated the leaflets in prison every April 24th to commemorate the genocide, and Marasli started to read everything he could find about the genocide. Afterwards, he integrated the contents of the first pamphlet in his defense statement, which was submitted during his trial in Diyarbakir Military Court for his membership in the Kurdish political organization Rizgari. He developed this piece of writing later on during his imprisonment, served in the prisons of Eskisehir and Aydin, and finally produced this comprehensive 544-page book about the Armenian Genocide, its historical background, its mechanism, and its aftermath—the
Turkification policies in the republican period up to the present day. At the end of the book, there is a very interesting list of the old and new names of Kurdish, Armenian ,and Assyrian settlements which I think is a precious resource in this respect.

To go back to our starting point, Selahattin Demirtas’ address in the TGNA was something one can never expect from a Turkish member of parliament, at least under present conditions. I think much has to be done to explore the factors that bring the grandchildren of the peoples of the old Armenia and Kurdistan closer to each other now. Such exploration and efforts to build on the  findings would help a lot in paving the way for a more democratic Turkey that would bring justice to all.


  1. Thank you for writing about this.  It seems that this important event was missed by all other Armenian news sources.  Kurdish rights in Turkey and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey are integral parts of the democratization process that Turkey has started.

  2. Thank you Guyansu for your courageous reporting.
    This story, about Selahattin Demirtas’ comments in the Turkish parliament, should have been considered a “gift” for the Armenian propaganda efforts.  It can still be used as such.  We need to do a better job to have this type of rare political story make the headlines in all major newspapers, particularly non-Armenian.  This absolutely courageous announcement by Demirtas deserves a tenfold effort by the Armenians to report about it and let all politicians, especially those who advocate democracy, be aware of it.  There is a lot of opportunity in improving our communications and propaganda work.  We are letting a constant slogan of “occupied territories in Azerbaijan” occupy the headlines constantly so that they finally reach their purpose of misleading and brainwashing the international forum.  We cannot let Turkey succeed in its age old technique of lying, cheating and misleading.  We need to constantly announce that there is no democracy in Turkey and human rights, especially of press and expression, are gravely violated.  In the day and age of the Internet, we cannot fail in letting the truth ring louder and stifle the misleading ways of the Turkish government.  Where are the headlines that read… “Eastern Turkish lands were Armenian lands”, “Karabagh is historically Armenian, given to Azerbaijan by Stalin”… We can and should do better.

  3. Have Armenians ever thought about the possibility of working and cooperating with Kurds as both ethnic groups share the same cause against Turkey? The great Kurdish leader General Mulla Mustafa Al-Barzani who had lead the Kurdish resistance against Iraqi consecutive governments since his return from exile in Artsakh (Karabakh) 1946-1959, had said to an Armenian friend in Baghdad in 1959, and in Armenian :”There will be no Armenia without Kurdistan and no Kurdistan without Armenia.” What did he mean…?

  4. Katia,

    I agree with you 100%.  It is baffling to me that news such as this did not make the headlines all around the world.. However, all we hear is how Armenia is not willing to give the lands back to Azeris and how Turkey is doing everything to make the relations better between Armenia and them ect..

    It frustrates me when I know that US is covering news that truly is against Armenians but yet never covers news that is pro Armenians. 

    Stories such as this if not among the Non-Armenians, but Armenians should be circulated over and over.. Not only this will allow us to circulate among our Non-Armenian friends and collegues but it will prove that Armenians do have knowledge what is going on in Turkey and with its members who is willing to stand up against them…

    At least this goes to show that there may be some in Turkey that will not stand for lies and denial..

    Good job

  5. If nothing else above reporting by Gyunasu is  it? difficult name,is enlightening and very informative ,plus ADMIN  also -looks  like-adds its part to it.I like the last  part  of it that Armenians should at lest  now begin to make contact and communicate with the Kurdish Diaspora.Comes to mind Dr Henry Astarjian who contributes here.He ,I believe  I am right, used to do that individually, since many a year ago,when I also vaguely remember that he told me at  one encounter at St Vartan church in N,J, that he had gone to Belgium and made contcgt with some kurdish group-people.
    This should be done-please let go of Armenian -we are doing it first—-for he has already done that,but  on an  and I repeat individual basis-no good! it should be through a group that represents our people the Armenian people of Diaspora..<AGAIN we get stuck where,I ,with my humble”suggestions” come up …WE NEED TO RE-ORGANIZE THE DIASPORA TO BE A SUPER-STRUCTURE, with  a Supreme Council.No ,not only made  up of our political parties and offshoots ,but from THE PEOPLE..this can only be obtained through a crystalization method.That which is very clearly exsplained  in my web >Page  in   brief calling upon the “Professional Colleagues associations” 5  on the scene already to interconnecgt and establish 11 more  of these, that are missing  ,The Transport & Travel, the Construction field, the Agricultural the environmental and forestry, the mining and industries, The banking and finance, the Education and culture, The food and catering, The Communications IT, Press and advertising and one or two  more  such to be organized..and receive through them gtheier 3 -person delegates-each with one of the 3 merits  that a person in any profession can better advance-again please see  said site.
    otherwsie  just to PROCLAIM   …MOBILIZE  THE DIASPORA!!! is not enough, those 100,000 or so Professionals  ought tobe sysgtematically drawn upon not but trumpeting(sorry to iuse this word)rather advocating that Here we come  we are Mobilizing…   without a mechanism….haphazaardly as  is and has been so far…If we wish to be an organized Spyurk, dear  Tashnags, ramgavars et al, we-rather you must  have (GRNAG) support  of the HUGE COLLECTIVITIES  OF THE SO FAR NEGLECTED,sometimesw called  “Silent majority”  Above  PCA´s  are  not  any more  that  they are THE COMPONENTS  OF A DYNAMIC ARMENIAN DIASPORA  NOT YET TAPPED UPON!!!
    Please forgive my fast typing and errors.
    Hama Haigaganoi SIRO,
    gaytzzg  palandjian

  6. Hye, as I  have in the past expressed that the Turks of  today have been  perpetuating the Kurdish Genocide albeit Turks believe they are cleverly accomplishing this – serreptiously (?) –   by inclusive
    use of the word  ‘terrorists’ – addressing the Kurkish peoples always as  “Kurdish terrorists”….
    The Turks, not yet having finished the Genocide of the Christian Armenians into today- through these nearly 100 years – now, too, has been pursuing  Genocide against the Kurds from the 20th century into the 21st century. Together with the GWBush/Cheney administration,  labeling Kurds as the ‘Kurdish terrorists’.   Hence, ‘permitting’ Turks  to pursue Turks goals against Kurdish nation, legally.

    – Turkish Genocide goals against the Kurds –  pursued  legally! 
    – Genocide goals being flaunted before the civilized world. 
    – Genocide of the Christian Armenian nation- undebatable – being DENIED depite all Archives/more.

    So,  Turks think they, as Turks,  are so clever – they see the rest of the world as not too bright/unintelligent – since Turks of today continue to perpetrate  yet another Genocide  – yes, another – (Genocide Number TWO)  in full sight of all the civilized nations on our planet!!
    Turkey proceeds…  doing/giving the world that at  which it excels – Genocides,  Denials, Dishonesty.
    Turkish Alliances of today/ broken tomorrow.  Pursue/crush victims of  Turkish Genocides.

    For Politics have taken over – Genocides being merely a Moral issue…
    And yet, there will be one, he/she who will courageously speak – Morally – for the innocents murdered, the innocent survivors with lives are destroyed.  Even today we watch as Darfurians… victims of the vile inhumanity of man… surviving, never forgetting the horrors, loss of families, and more.
    This leader shall be heroically written in the history of the world as the one who chose to pursue and bring to the world – the end of the cycle of Genocides – wherever, whenever and BY WHOMEVER…

    Dishonesty, deceit… and GETS AWAY WITH IT.
    Politics it appears clears the way for this unmoral method of eliminating innocents – who get in the
    Turks way… Morality, is waiting to happen;  waiting for a leader to go down in history as the one who
    recognized the victims, who recognized the perpetrator, who recognized a Genocide of innocents.

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