Anti-racism group to march in Turkey on Armenian commemoration day

An anti-racism initiative will organize a series of protests and marches in Turkey on April 24, the date when some countries commemorate the alleged Armenian genocide in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

The commemoration march organized by the “Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism!” initiative will begin in Istanbul, while simultaneous demonstrations will also be held in the cities of Ankara, Bodrum, Bursa, Diyarbakır and İzmir.

Marchers will rally behind the slogan, “This pain belongs to all of us.”

The initiative that is behind the demonstrations was jointly founded by Turkish intellectuals and civil-society representatives from Istanbul’s Armenian community immediately after the assassination of Hrant Dink, the Armenian-Turkish editor-in-chief of weekly Agos on Jan. 19, 2007.

Prominent journalist and academic Cengiz Aktar described the initiative as “a citizens’ enterprise” during an interview with the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Such commemorations are now publicly staged; that is crucially important. The people of Turkey will face the painful chapters of history one step at a time. Many new names have now been added to the participants in last year’s commemoration, and the circle is growing,” said Aktar, who is also a columnist for the paper.

Aktar was one of the leading names in the “I apologize” campaign launched in December 2008. Approximately 30,000 people, including many intellectuals and journalists, have signed the petition, which reads in part: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Armenians were subjected to in 1915.”

Armenia claims up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed in 1915 under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies this, saying that any deaths were the result of civil strife that erupted when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia

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