Genocide Commemorated in Diyarbakir for First Time

This report was filed by the  Armenian Weekly’s Diyarbakir correspondent, Gulisor Akkum.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—A large crowd gathered at the Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality Theater on April 23 to commemorate the Armenian Genocide.

A scene from the commemoration
A scene from the commemoration

The event, commemorating the 98th anniversary of the destruction of the Armenian community in the city, was organized by the Diyarbakir Bar Association (DBA) and the Diyarbakir Municipality, and featured a panel discussion with historian Ara Sarafian and the head of the DBA, Tahir Elci.

In his opening remarks, Elci noted that as Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were being rounded up in Istanbul on April 24, 1915 and during the weeks that followed, a similar process unfolded in Diyarbakir.

Stressing Kurdish participation in the genocide in Diyarbakir, Elci said that confronting the reality of the genocide by Kurds today is inevitable. Moreover, he argued that Kurds should support Armenians in the struggle against the state’s ideology and denialism.

“We grew up with the stories of our grandparents about the massacres of the Armenians. Denialist discourse does not withstand legal and historic scrutiny,” he said.

Throwing flowers in the Tigris
Throwing flowers in the Tigris (Photo by Sona Tatoyan)

“Today, we commemorate the genocide in Diyarbakir for the first time. This is a very important day for us. We bow respectfully before the memory of our Armenian brothers who were murdered in 1915, and condemn the genocide,” Elci concluded.

Sarafian focused on the process of the destruction of the Armenians in Diyarbakir in 1915. He noted that he had come to Diyarbakir to conduct research on the genocide, and that locals had been very helpful.

After the meeting, members of the audience headed to the banks of the Tigris River and threw flowers in the water in memory of the Armenians killed there during the genocide.

Ara Sarafian in Diyarbakir holding a photograph from the genocide (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
Ara Sarafian in Diyarbakir holding a photograph from the genocide (Photo by Gulisor Akkum, The Armenian Weekly)
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Gulisor Akkum

Gulisor Akkum is a journalist based in Diyarbakir. She received her sociology degree in 2003 from Dicle University. She has written articles for the Armenian Weekly since 2009, and is the Weekly's correspondent in Diyarbakir since October 2012.

33 Comments

  1. I am pleased to read about the ceremony in Diyarbakir. As a non-Armenian follower of the genocide history in Turkey in 1915, I had hoped to be able to attend a service here in the United Sttes. Having been unable to find one, I appreciate the Armeniam Weekly reporting, so I can feel distantly a part of the commemoration.. Thank you!

  2. This is fantastic! Who could have imagined such a day. It gives me great hope that slowly but surely, the realization of the Armenian Genocide is making headway.

    My sincere thanks to our Kurdish friends who exhibit great dignity in recognizing the Armenian Genocide. I am proud to call them brothers and sisters.

  3. It is unheard of, couldn’t believe my eyes… after 98 years of silence… whow… speechless. With your concerted efforts… How did this happen, after 98 years of silence, suddenly this DAY came to pass…

  4. I am proud and honored as an Armenian Lebanese to see and read in Diyarbakir discussing about ARMENIANS GENOCIDE unbeleivable, good job Ara and God bless you:-) :-)

  5. I have notice changes in the Turkish press as well. I put something in the Turkish newspaper “Zaman” about how Turkey can clear its conscience by admitting to the Armenian Genocide, and they printed it. But many Turks still fight me on the subject. If they can start with a Turkish city, then it can move on to other cities, with hopefully an official announcement out of Ankara someday.

  6. Hi everybody. I am a Turkish man living in Melbourne Australia. I migrated here 9 years ago with my wife and daughter. After Turkey’s monolithic culture, Australia was like a paradise for us with its multicultural life, first time in my life I have met an Armenian here. When we visited an another Australian city, Adelaide, at the hotel we stayed, housekeeping lady asked about our nationality and when she learnt that we are Turkish she started to talk Turkish. We are exited to see another Turkish person and but her Turkish was a little bit different than ours and I asked her whereabouts in Turkey she is from. Than she sad that she is an Armenian and born in Lebanon but her family was originally from Adana. Her name was Araxi and she was around 55 then, now probably 60. Now we call her Araxi Abla and she is like a part of our family. Because we are migrants here without any parents in Australia, Araxi Abla is like a mother to our family. Because she lives alone here, we are also like her children. After Araxi Abla a lot of things changed for me. As every Turk I was brainwashed about our history. I grow up in a Meditarranean town Mersin. Most of our summer holidays, we were going to a central Anatolian town Develi near Kayseri to visit our aunt. First time I heard Armenian word in Develi. Because there were very nice stone houses around Develi and they were all Armenian houses. But we never saw Armenians until to meet Araxi. After Araxi Abla I started to search about Armenians, I read a lot and now I know why there wasn’t any Armenians around that beautiful stone houses in Develi.

    I want to talk about a little bit about Araxi. She was born in Beirout, Lebanon with 4 sisters and brothers. Her dad wanted them to talk Turkish until he died. Because of that she can speak Turkish. Her Turkish is the most beautifull one I have ever heard. Because, her family left 100 years ago, they kept the language without any change. She also speaks very well French. She became a nurse in Lebanon and migrated to Australia almost 20 years ago. She started to work as a nurse in Adelaide but after an incident at hospital she stopped working as a nurse and now she works as a housekeeper in a 5 star hotel. She never married,actually she sacrificed her life for her family. Her sisters and a brother in Lebanon are still dependent on her. Such a difficult and respected life. But at the same time a big heart, always smiling face a real Anatolian woman.

    In this historic day, I want to share my sadness with all Armenians. They not only stole your lifes 98 years ago but also ours as well. There are many Turks thinking like me. Don’t think that you are forgotten. We feel your pain and we are proud of to share same land, same culture with you.

    • Dear Sezai,

      Thank you so much for your beautiful note. It was very touching to hear about your experiences. It’s lesson for all of us to remember to treat all individuals with the same humanity and respect.

  7. A great achievement and a step closer toward humanity and justice.
    Thank you Diyarbakir Kurds.
    Thank you Ara Sarafian.

  8. It’s always talking and celebrating something.
    The Kurdish population is like always the puppet and a reason the say/mean something.

    I think over 100 years we are still going te celebrate things that stand in the history and only America can change the history of other countries.

    I have a lot of Armenian friends and we have never discussed this subject because it not relevant anymore.
    The Armenian genocide is not the only genocide.
    Father America has ruined millions of lives and no body ever concidered talking about it.
    Why ? because most of the radical Armenians don’t bother about the essence of humanity but just the political apprecience.

    I am Turkish and was born in Holland.
    My Armenian friends did also, we live in harmony and don’t think about the past, if we want to change something we have to do it in nowadays, together and forever.

  9. Thank you, Sezai, for your courage and your humanity. In people like you lay the real hope for a better future among our two nations. God bless you and your family.

  10. To Sezai,

    Thank you for sharing your good thoughts about Armenians and especially your Armenian friend Araxi Abla. Reading your words warmed my heart and in at least some measure, starts the healing process between Turks and Armenians. It’s amazing what good words can do between people.

    I want to share with you a story from my Armenian family that lived in the village of Hussenig in the province of Kharpert/Elazig. During the 1895 massacres of Sultan Abdul Hamid, a Turkish family hid my family in their country villa to protect them from the massacres. Had it not been for this Turkish family, I doubt if I would exist today.

    There are many such stories of courageous Turks that helped Armenians during the Genocide. Such Turks, and also Kurds that helped Armenians during the Genocide, are true heroes and so on this April 24 I remember them as well.

  11. Dear Sezai,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the tragic past of our people, as well as the story about Araxi abla (“qooyrik” in Armenian).

    Reading your comment which was honest and dignified is very much appreciated. Although it may be incomprehensible to some, it brought tears to my eyes to see the truth be seen and recognized by Turks even if it is one person at a time.

    Thanks again and keep on your search for the truth.

    Also many thanks to Ara Sarafian, Tahir Elci, DBA and Diyarbekir Municipality for having the courage to organize the event. Also many thanks to Gulisor Akkum and Armenian Weekly for bringing us this sorry.

  12. To be fair to the Unknown Turkish Family in Shabin-Karahissar who sheltered my mother as a child servant during 1915, and until Missionaries rounded her up soon after, I mention this.

    I also had the opportunity to mention it to Turkish author Taner Akcam during an ALMA book signing March 14, 2008. I think he was apologizing for the entire Turkish Nation when he thanked me as he signed my copy of: “A Shameful Act”..

  13. If the Muslims and Islam to blame for the Armenian Genocide, I always wondered why did they escape the Turks to go to Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt which all are predominantly Muslims. Furthermore, how come the Armenian community still living in these countries and face persecution while Armenia is down the block.

    • Islam and Muslims were not behind the massacre of the Armenians. Just as much as Nazism, had nothing to do with Christianity. It was Pan-Turkism. The Ottoman Empire lost subject peoples due to wars with Russia, insurrection and rebellion in the Balkans, and imperial wars with other Europeans. So Pan-Turkism was to link up with the Turkic speaking peoples in Central Asia. The only subject peoples the Ottoman Empire still had were the Armenians and the Arabs. Actually, with British help, i.e., T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) the Arabs rebelled during World War I. But the Armenians were in eastern Anatolia, and a barrier to the Turkic-speaking peoples of Central Asia. The Armenians linked up to the invading Russian Army at Van, and the Ottomans were fearful that they could be a fifth column in eastern Anatolia. It was more the Age of Imperialism, which is what World War I was all about.

    • Look at the map, my friend. Where do you think they were going to go from refugee camps? Spain? As for why do Armenians still live in these places–well, actually, more and more, they don’t live there, do they? Armenians in Egypt, Syria, Palestine? Mostly a memory now.

  14. We hope heartfully a day which all human beings gather around humanity principals. justice for all oppressed people of the world.Forgive but not forget…

  15. Necati is welcome to take his hatred with him to his grave. What matters is what’s waiting for him past the grave. Those who spurn peace in this life will not find any in the next. If there is a Creator to judge, He will not be fooled by human arguments and opinions. That’s because truth is objective, not subjective. As the saying goes, “you make your bed and you sleep in it”. It reminds me of a turkish saying: “Her koyun kendi bacağından asılır”.

  16. Dear Tatoul, Robert and Armen, thank you for your beautiful comments. I want to share more about my feelings and thoughts with you. After coming to Australia, I have realised that what a colourful planet our earth is. After Turkey’s one or two colours, life in Australia was like a rainbow. First time I met with Asians, Africans and many others here. I also discovered colours of my country Turkey here as well. Armenians, Greeks, Kurds, Alevi people, Turks, Arabs all from Anatolia lives here in Melbourne. I learnt to love and respect all human beings here but I can say that my happiest times when I am with Anatolian people. I respect all cultures but I believe that Anatolian culture includes something special. If we look at Araxi Abla’s life we can see this easily. I am giving examples from her life without her permission but I know that with her big heart she will forgive me. Because I know when first time she hugged me with love she was already forgiven many things. She enlightened my life and I believe she can also help everybody. When we met at the hotel I took her address and next day we visited her and we had a dinner. We talked about our lifes. Talked about Adana which is very close to my hometown Mersin. She was like a person we know each other for centuries. From the first moment we met, I felt warmest, most lovely feelings from her. From first moments, she opened her heart, she shared what she had. I think there is a special thing here. It includes unique things belongs to Araxi, also includes from Anatolian culture but I believe mainly from her Armenian culture.

    Yes, Araxi Abla freed my heart, opened my eyes. I believe what Araxi did to me, you all Armenians can do for Turkey and for our common future. After Hirant Dink’s assassination Turkey discovered his big heart as well. You are the people with big hearts and this makes your enemies to scare. I believe that Turkey’s, Anatolia’s freedom is in your hands. I want to see that free days in my life time. I want to live with Araxi in our country together. I don’t want to die as a migrant at the other side of the world. Turkish people in Turkey are not capable to do this. Don’t think that Turkey is going to be a more free country. It is secretly becoming an Islamic dictatorship. These lands are your lands more than anybody. I think it is not a dream to live together and peacefully in Anatolia. If we can help Turkish people to see the facts about Armenians, things can change quickly. I lived there 30 years and because of my job I travelled extensively in Turkey. I can say that I know Turkish people very well. Actually there are a lot common with Armenians. I can say that Turks are very emotional people. It is good and bad thing. Sometimes they can make irrational decisions easily but at the same time if they feel close to you they can do unbelievable things for you. And believe that if they really learn the Armenians, not only the land even they can give their lifes for you.

  17. Kemal
    You, the offspring of denialists, have no moral right to speak on behalf of your “Armenian friends”. If such friends ever exist let them speak for themselves. You are very clumsily using the same misinformation tactics which the governement of Turkey uses for a century to cover up its dark past.
    Necati
    To the chagrin and downfall of all psychopaths the freindship of Kurt en ermeni will grow by the day.

  18. The land knows its owner….and is peaceful with its return – this commemoration fills my heart with hope.
    -Garoon

  19. To Sezai:
    Thank you for the further sharing of your thoughts about the relationship and connection between Turks and Armenians. There’s an interesting article in Discover magazine (see http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2010/12/are-turks-acculturated-armenians/) which provides a scientific DNA basis for much of what you say. Clearly there is a very real genetic connection between Turks and Armenians and also Kurds, i.e. a shared Anatolian people/culture which I beleive suggests a way forward. By acknowledging this commonality of Anatolian ancestory within the context of historical truth, could we not then find solutions to the various political issues of the region? As the old saying goes, ‘The Truth will set you free.’

    • Dear Robert
      It is a very good saying about truth. Because of that, ruling powers never like the truths, they don’t want free societies. Facts about Armenians are the biggest lies in modern Turkish history. They don’t want people to learn their(rulers) dark side. Because they know, if people learn that they killed their genetically, geographicly, culturally brothers and sisters, results will not be good for them. To prevent this, they spend much of their energy to separate us. They created a demon Armenian profile in people’s minds. If we can brake their biggest lie, everything they created will be questioned and at the end they will collapse. Because of this they deny aggressively Armenian Genocide. Main issue is not to apologise or to pay compensation. If they accept the genocide, they will sign their death sentence.

      So, realistically we must not expect much from Turkish Government. Only we, people can make the changes. Hirant Dink was a big danger for them. He was showing us an Armenian profile opposite to their demon Armenian. But by killing him, they made a big mistake and started an irreversible process. He gave his life for our common future. We will never forget him.

      Anatolia is like a mother, and we are all her children. Unfortunately some of the children are separated but mother is there and waiting for us.

  20. To Sezai:

    Your words give me great hope in a realistic sense. I very much agree with you here that those such as Hirant Dink and also Taner Akcam point the way forward for peoples of Anatolia – the way of understanding, the way of truth!

  21. Kemal, Sezai and Necati—three different faces of Turkey. Sezai is open-hearted and empathic, Kemal defensively wants to pretend that the past is unimportant to the present and Necati chooses hatred over opening his eyes to truth.

  22. Only Armenians?
    Here I used my last name, Sahda in Assyrian – Aramaic, which is shuhada in Arabic = martyrs.
    obviously this name didn’t come from no reason, it came from Nusaybin Mardin Turkey.
    I lived in Iraq then USA all my life.
    My roots go there ….

  23. Thank you Sezai, thank you all open-minded Turkish people. It is truly hard for me to see this now happening and I got into tears while reading your story. I am a physician from Armenia, a grandchild of Anatolian ancestry. I NOW HAVE A HOPE FOR A BETTER FUTURE- and this is not only about polytical agenda, abandoned properties and many more… it is largely about opening our hearts and saying:”I APOLOGIZE” and- ”I FORGIVE”: You know- when you forgive, you also get relieved…I also want to use this word and cry my cry for all my dear people massacred in 1915, past 3 generations-to relieve the pain still with me… “I FORGIVE.. for my grandsisters and brothers, grandmas and grandpas”. And I want this for my children and your children so that they get relieved from historic pain and look the way forward.

  24. What happened was a total genocide action against the Christian citizens of the Othoman Empire before it’s collaps(Amenians,Assyrians and Greeks).
    Mr.Sarafian’s efforts to shed light to this period of time is excellent.
    Farouk Gewarges-San Diego/Califirnia

  25. This is completely unexpected. I’m hardly the person to offer forgiveness, though as I never lived through these traumatic experience. Amongst those who were massacred in Dikranaghert (aka Diyarbekir) was my great-grandfather, Jabbour Boyadji. I learnt that he was a prominent Assyrian journalist and leader. His wife, who was Armenian, managed to escape with their children or else I wouldn’t be writing this. My grandfather who was a teenager at the time of the massacre was privileged to know how to read and write. In the family they say he was a “katib”. I wish I knew more about my great-grandfather and his family. If anyone knows anything, I’ll be very thankful.

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