MEMO: COMMEMORATING THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IN TURKEY: BITLIS, MUTKI, AND DIYARBAKIR, 18-24 APRIL 2015
MEMO – 30 April 2015
Gomidas Institute Commemorative events in Bitlis, Mutki and Diyarbakir, 19-24 April 2015.
Public Meeting (19 April 2015): "What Hapened to Bitlis Armenians, 1915-2015”.
Organisers: The Turkish Human Rights Association (Bitlis branch), Bitlis Bar Association and the Gomidas Institute (London).
Speakers: Enis Gül (Head of Bitlis Bar Association), Barzan Serefhanoglu (Journalist), Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute) and Ismail Besikci (Socilogist and veteran human rights’ activist).
Audience: Around 120 people, including local co-mayors Hüseyin Olan & Nevin Daşdemir Dağkıran, local officials, members of the public and outside guests.
Other: The meeting started with the exhibition of Özcan Erboy’s private collection of vintage photographs of Bitlis. The venue for both the exhibition and meeting was at Eski Tutun Fabrikasi (Main Hall) which is built on the location former Armenian boys' and girls' schools.
Appraisal: This was the first public commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in Bitlis. The event was part of the Gomidas Institute’s "bridge-building project” for Bitlis.
Public Meeting (20 April 2015): Visit to Mutki.
Organisers: Mutki Mayor's Office and Gomidas Institute (London).
Speakers: Main address by Mutki Mayor Özcan Birlik.
Audience: Around 60 people, as well as journalists.
Other: The mayor’s address reflected on the Armenian Genocide and its legacy in Mutki. Later, Birlik took his visitors around the town of Mutki. The procession was joined by many locals, some of whom were of Armenian ancestry. Birlik expressed his hopes that such contacts would develop and Armenians would be able to return and re-engage with the region. Following this meeting, most of the visitors went to visit Aghperig monastery in the province.
Appraisal: This was the first public meeting of its kind in Mutki. The occasion was the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Gomidas Institute is now discussing further projects in this region.
Public Meeting (22 April 2015): Visit to Du Deng ("Dudan”) cavern near Chnkouosh.
Organisers: Diyarbakir Bar Association, Turkish Human Rights Association (Diyarbakir) and Gomidas Institute (London.)
Speakers: Raci Bilici (Head, IHD Diyarbakir) and Nursel Aydoğan (HDP Member of Turkish Parliament).
Audience: Around 250 people including members of the press.
Other: The venue was at the actual site where around 10,000 Armenians were thrown into the Du Deng (also known as Dudang) cavern in 1915.
Appraisal: The meeting was well organised and covered by the Turkish and foreign press.
Group Visits (23 April 2015): To a major massacre site as well as the grave of a saviour.
Organiser: Gomidas Institute (London).
Guide and commentator: Ara Sarafian.
Audience: Around 60 people composed of Gomidas Institute's guests in Turkey and abroad.
Other: The massacre site we visited was at Kadinko, where over 630 Armenians from Diyarbakir were massacred on the orders of the governor of Diyarbakir, Dr. Reshid. Later we visited the grave of a saviour, Mihemede Miste, in the village of Bolinde, in Beshiri. Here we were greeted by dozens of his descendants who welcomed and thanked us for coming.
Appraisal: These two locations marked two extremes in the Armenian Genocide narrative – from the systematic massacre of Armenians to Kurdish resistance to such massacres.
Public Meeting (24 April 2015): The Armenian Genocide – Public Commemoration in Diyarbakir.
Organisers: Diyarbakir Bar Association, Turkish Human Rights Association (Diyarbakir) and Gomidas Institute (London).
Speakers: Tahir Elçi (Head, Diyarbakir Bar Association), Raci Bilici (Head, IHD
Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute), Gültan Kışanak (Greater Diyarbakir City Co-Mayor),
Selahattin Demirtaş (Member of Turkish Parliament and Co-Chair of HDP), Selma Irmak (Co-Chair, DTK).
Audience: Around 800 people including Ahmet Tan (Member of Turkish Parliament), the co-mayors of Sur Municipality (Diyarbakir), as well as members of the press.
Appraisal: The venue was next to the symbolic ruins of Surp Sarkis. The meeting was powerful in terms of its content and symbolism. The event attracted good press attention.
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