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Turish state blocks Armenian genocide commemoration in Istanbul

OPPOSITION MP Garo Paylan warned of a “climate of darkness” in Turkey as police in Istanbul today blocked a commemoration to the 1.5 million massacred in the 1915 Armenian genocide.

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarian accused the Turkish state of denying the genocide while “causing other genocides today” and vowed never to give up the struggle for justice despite the ban.

Eren Keskin, co-chairwoman of the Istanbul Human Rights Association Istanbul branch, which was a co-organiser of the ceremony, condemned the actions of the authorities as they were prevented from holding the event in the Sultanahmet district.

The former Ozgur Gundem newspaper editor explained the annual commemoration had never been blocked until last year, when organisers were refused permission to make a statement using the term genocide, which is banned under Article 301 of Turkey’s Penal Code.

Speaking at the group’s Beyoglu headquarters, she said: “The severe human rights violations committed and processed in this country are the cursed legacy of the genocide on which the republic was built.”

At least 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children were slaughtered after Ottoman leader Talaat Pasha gave the order that led to the rounding up of community leaders on April 24 1915.

At least 238 Armenian intellectuals were marched to a jail in Sultanahmet Square, the site of which is now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.

Turkey denies the genocide took place, calling those killed the victims of a war within a war. The state has erased it from history books, persecuting and even prosecuting those who mention the term genocide.

Mr Paylan, who was expelled from the Turkish Parliament in 2017 after using the term genocide in a debate, said the ban was “a result of the democratic climate, the darkness in Turkey.”

He added: “Every crime which is not confronted repeats itself and, unfortunately, this crime is also repeating itself today.

“The great brutality subjected to the Armenian people 104 years ago is being imposed on Kurdish people today.”

President of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement Benjamin Abtan, who was part of an international delegation to Turkey for the commemoration, said the Turkish state had even banned candles.

“I am embarrassed that the state did this when we came together for the purpose of dignity, honour and commemoration,” he said.

“What kind of state can fear this? What kind of leader can fear the candles?”

Those gathered demanded recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Turkish state.

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