Archbishop Aykazian Asks HDP Co-Leader Demirtas About Armenian Genocide

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By Danielle Saroyan

Armenian Agenda Associate Editor

‪On December 3, during the Middle
East Institute 6th Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington, ‪D.C., Armenian Diocese Archbishop
Vicken Aykazian asked Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas about whether
or not he sees Turkey acknowledging the Armenian Genocide.

“More than
one and a half million Armenians were massacred and this year is the 100th
anniversary for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Two thousand seven
hundred churches that are occupied and destroyed, only one was given back in
your birth place, Diyarbakir,” Archbishop Aykazian said. “You, as a politician,
what do you think the Turkish or when do you think the Turkish government is
going to accept the Armenian Genocide?”

During his
response, Demirtas said that there needs to
be a discussion between the two countries on this issue. There have been
measures in the past to normalize relations, such as a friendly soccer match
between Armenia and Turkey, but it is time for Turkey to overcome hostility and
confront it face to face.

Armenian Assembly of America Regional Analyst Alin Ozinian translated Demirtas’ response from Turkish to English.

“Turkey
should overcome this and courageously discuss it.

AKP
Government had handled the subject in the past. At that time, when Abdullah
Gul was the President and Erdogan was the Prime Minister, friendly mutual
[between Turkey-Armenia] steps had been taken. National [soccer] matches organized
and border opened for the counter trade. In few words, they
[Turkey-Armenia] tried to create an environment of mutual trust. But it was a
process which needed durability. There are historical events which force us to confront
the past.

We
need a confrontation which should not aim to accuse the Turkish public. This confrontation should not make new wounds. This confrontation should unite the people who
all feel this pain and suffering. This confrontation also should restore the trust
between people and ensure this [1915] will not repeat. Confrontation must be
such a thing.

What
I am trying to explain here does not make any sense in Turkey. Turkey does not
work in this direction. “Truth Commissions” can help both sides for confrontation. We [HDP] always proposed
to create similar commissions but never get a result.

It is hard to make a prediction when
Turkish society or the Turkish state officially can face this. But I know we
can’t go further while we are leaving behind
these sorrow. If we find an opportunity to recover relations, not blame the Turkish
people, discuss the issue, and make a sincere apology, that will be good job, I
assume…

About the murder of Tahir Elçi, I
express my condolences…”

Later on,
during the third panel titled “Turkey’s Western Partnerships During Troubled
Times,” Atlantic Council Vice President and Former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey
Francis Ricciardone congratulated the Middle East Institute for setting a
healthy and helpful environment where an Armenian American can ask such a
question about the Armenian Genocide and receive an honest response.

Photo
Caption: Middle East Institute Center for Turkish Studies Gonul Tol moderating
the keynote discussion with Kurdish HDP Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas.

Video
Caption 1: Armenian Diocese Archbishop Vicken Aykazian asks Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader
Selahattin Demirtas about Turkey acknowledging the Armenian Genocide during the
Middle East Institute 6th Annual Conference on Turkey in Washington, ‪D.C.

Video
Caption 2: Kurdish HDP Party Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtas responds to Armenian
Diocese Archbishop Vicken Aykazian’s question about Turkey acknowledging the
Armenian Genocide during the Middle East Institute 6th Annual Conference on
Turkey in Washington, ‪D.C. (See the full Turkish text and the English translation on the Assembly’s YouTube page).

About Armenian Assembly of America

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

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