Special for the Armenian Weekly
Mukaddes Alataş, a Kurdish human rights activist from Diyarbakir, was recently arrested for “being a member of a terror organization.” Her crime? She posted about the Armenian Genocide on social media and engaged in women’s rights activism.
Alataş was detained in her home on May 11 after a police raid and was jailed after eight days in police custody.
“The reason for her detention is her activities regarding human rights, women’s rights, and her social media posts about the Armenian Genocide,” said Eren Keskin, a leading human rights lawyer and co-head of the Human Rights Association (IHD). “Mukaddes worked as an official at the Istanbul branch of the IHD between 1996 and 2002. Then she moved to Diyarbakir… She was helping women exposed to violence at the Kardelen Women’s Center of the Diyarbakir municipality. After a trustee was appointed by the government to the municipality, she was fired from her job,” Keskin added. “The judge told her: ‘I understand everything but what is it with those [social media] posts about the Armenian Genocide?’”
According to Keskin, there is nothing that could constitute evidence for Mukaddes’s arrest. “But they arrested her for being a member of a terror organization,” Keskin says.
Although the Armenians are an indigenous people and were once the rulers of the region, the Armenian population in Diyarbakir (Dikranagerd/Tigranakert in Armenian) has disappeared. There are only hidden and “no-longer hidden” Armenians who are subjected to much pressure and hostility.
The 2006 book entitled Armenian Tigranakert/Diarbekir and Edessa/Urfa, edited by Professor Richard G. Hovannisian, details the Armenian roots of the city. According to the book, “Tigranakert holds special significance in Armenian history. It was in the vicinity of Tigranakert that Tigran the Great built an opulent new capital city in the heart of his expansive empire in the first century B.C.”
Tigranakert and the surrounding region were, for centuries, a scene to a contest for dominance between several empires. Even under foreign rule, Armenians remained a sizable community in the city until the 1915 genocide, when Ottoman soldiers as well as local Kurds and Turks—upon the order of the Ottoman Young Turk Government—exterminated the Armenian and other Christian communities in the city through methods such as murder, rape, forced deportation, and forced conversion to Islam. The perpetrators then seized Christian properties and lands.
Unlike the relentless denial of the Turkish government, the Kurdish political movement in Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide and commemorates it.
On April 23, 2013, for example, an event was organized by the Diyarbakir Bar Association, then led by Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elçi, and the Diyarbakir Municipality, to commemorate the 98th anniversary of the destruction of the Armenian community in the city.
“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,” Elçi said in his speech.
Two years later, on Nov. 28, 2015, Elçi was murdered in broad daylight while he was holding a press conference, in which he spoke about the destruction caused by the military attacks carried out during the curfew imposed by the Turkish government in the Sur district of Diyarbakir. In his last public speech, he called for an end to violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party).
Though almost two years have passed, his murderers have still not been brought to account.
Mahsuni Karaman, Elçi’s family’s lawyer and a member of the “Tahir Elçi Murder Investigation Commission said: “Our connection with Elçi’s file has been cut. We are not given the copies; we do not know at what stage it [the file] is… But there are things we know. There is not a single suspect in the file. The gun with which Elçi was shot has not been identified because the cartridge bullet has not been found. As there is no certain evidence, no progress has been made to shed light on this murder. We have made more than 100 requests from the Diyarbakir prosecutor’s office, but we do not know what has been done about these requests. For the prosecutor does not give information either to the public or to us.”
Similarly, lawyer Neşet Girasun, a board member of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, told the Armenian Weekly: “An effective investigation that would reveal the perpetrators as well as the forces behind them has not been launched.”
Many Kurds were victims of kidnappings, torture, and murders at the hands of Turkish state forces in the 1990s. Elçi worked vigorously to shed light on what has come to be known as “murders by unknown assailants” in Turkey. Ironically, he became a victim of one himself.
In the meanwhile, Sedat Peker, a gang leader, who has been convicted of several crimes and is a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was given the “most benevolent businessman” award by the Turkish 2K Media Company on May 24.
Peker had threatened academics who signed a petition calling for peace between the Turkish government and the Kurds in early 2016. He said that he wanted to take a bath in “the blood of the academics.” Peker has not yet been brought to account for his statements openly calling for mass slaughter.
Turkey not only denies the Armenian Genocide but also violently crushes any voice that dares tell the truth about it. Meanwhile, those who incite mass murder against dissident academics and peace activists are protected, promoted, and awarded.