BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
An Ankara-based group calling itself the Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) is planning a ceremony on April 24, during which the names of 10 Armenians, among them Siamanto, Daniel Varoujan, Krikor Zohrab and Rouben Zartaryan, will be added into the list of slain journalists in Turkey.
In reporting this news, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, identifies these pillars of Armenian literature as “journalists of Armenian origin who were killed in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.”
The truth of the matter is that the aforementioned individuals, whose writings defined a generation and became, perhaps, first-person accounts of the Sultan Hamid Massacres in the tale end of the 19th century, were rounded up by the Ottoman Turkish government, and on April 24, 1915 were massacred as the beginning sparks of the Armenian Genocide.
To bundle these first victims of the Genocide, along with other journalists who were killed as part of Turkey’s intolerant attitude toward journalists is an affront to their legacy. They were not killed for being “journalists,” but rather were part of the first wave of murders of intellectuals, writers and leaders, which was part of the systematic plan to eliminate the Armenians’ leaders in order to gain easy access to the rest of the Armenian population and carry out Genocide.
ÇGD’s leader, Ahemet Abakay, claimed that the inclusion of the names was long overdue and explaining to Hurriyet that the omission was inadvertent, since they did not possess the necessary information.
“I wish we had the information before and had taken this radical step before. We, the Turkish people, unfortunately do not know anything but what the official history has told us. The truth was hidden from us,” Abakay told Hurriyet.
Whether Abakay and his group are part of a newly-formed movement in Turkey that believes the recognition of the Genocide is important, or whether this is a ploy to whitewash the Genocide, the fact remains that the aforementioned individuals cannot be compared to other Turkish journalists—among them Hrant Dink—since they were, for all intents and purposes, the first victims of the Armenian Genocide.
Classifying them in any other category is an insult to their memory and the perpetuation of the Turkish government’s efforts to deny the Genocide and take responsibility for the actions of the Ottoman Empire.
The Armenian community in Turkey has a responsibility to address this injustice and not allow a group to destroy the legacy of such pioneers as Siamanto, Varoujan and others.