Human rights organizations in Turkey, under the umbrella group “100th Year – Stop Denialism,” issued the following statement on April 24:
Precisely 100 years ago today, the first arrests that came to symbolize the Armenian Genocide began in Istanbul. The Assyrians and Greeks too were victims of the genocide. What we speak of here is a crime of 100 years. A shame of 100 years. A denial of 100 years.
We are the grandchildren of the perpetrators of genocide. Perhaps not each and every one of us comes from the lineage of the people who directly participated in the massacres and the plunders, but we were born into their ethnic and religious identity. We belong to a social group that has unquestioningly benefitted from the order and privileges created by the perpetrators of genocide. The crime of genocide and denial was committed in the name of the religion and ethnic identity into which we were born. We carry on our shoulders its shame, its responsibility, and its moral burden.
That is the reason why we declare: A commemoration of the crime of genocide on these lands can have meaning only if it expresses the shame and the responsibility of the descendants of the perpetrators, that is, those who have had the opportunity for growth, development, and enrichment in the absence of––due to the absence of––the peoples who fell victim to genocide. While this understanding constitutes the ethical core of commemoration, our concrete demands are for recognition, apology, compensation, and restitution.
Haydarpasha, where we stand here, is the place where the detainees of April 24, 1915 were brought from the European side of Istanbul to be sent to their death. A great many of them were leaders of the Armenian community of Istanbul—poets, writers, members of parliament, scientists, doctors, representatives in the Armenian National Assembly. Starting their journey here, they stopped overnight in Eskişehir, to continue further east. One group was deported to Ayaş, another to Çankırı. Of the 70 people sent to Ayaş, 58 were killed, and of the 150 sent to Çankırı, 81 were killed.
The violence did not end there. Armenian existence in Anatolia, with all its historical, economic and social fabric, was brought to an end by way of the governing Committee for Union and Progress and its violent organization, Teşkilat-ı Mahsusa. It was not only Armenian lives, but their property, belongings, money, memories, and history that were usurped. The genocide was not only a destruction, but also a massive plunder. An entire civilization was annihilated, and erased from its homeland of thousands of years.
As the 100th Year—Stop Denialism Initiative, we here call out to the state of the Republic of Turkey: Recognize the genocide. Apologize. Compensate and restitute justice. Only then will the dead be buried as they deserve, in dignity––the dead who flowed in rivers, who were piled up in valleys, thrown down cliffs, drowned in the sea. Only then will their soul find some peace. It is not possible to bring back a world that disappeared. But the recognition of the crime and the restitution of justice will begin to relieve the righteous anger, pain, and longing of the victims’ families who continue to live under the tyranny of denial.
100th Year—Stop Denialism Initiative