By Hambersom Aghbashian
Roni Margulies (born May 5, 1955 in Istanbul, Turkey) is a Turkish poet, author, translator and political activist resident in London. Margulies was born in Istanbul to a Jewish family. His maternal grandparents were Sephardic Jews from Izmir and his paternal grandparents were Ashkenazi Jews from Poland. Margulies attended the English- medium Robert College and moved to London in 1972 to study Economics. He has lived in London ever since, although he has spent an increasing amount of time in Istanbul in recent years. Margulies started writing poetry in 1991 and won the prestigious Yunus Nadi Poetry Award in 2002 with his book of poems, Saat Fark (Time Difference). He has published selected translations of the poetry of Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, and Yehuda Amichai in Turkish. Margulies is a member of the Revolutionary Socialist Workers’ Party (DSIP) and translated Tony Cliff’s State Capitalism in Russia into Turkish.
In April 2015, Roni Margulies wrote an article “Century of Genocide” in “Socialist Review” where he expressed his opinion about the Armenian Genocide, and recalled the genocide and its gradual unveiling. The following is the abstracts: The Turkish president’s attempts to detract attention from the centennial of the massacre of around 1.5 million Armenian looks set to fail. The Turkish victory at Gallipoli is celebrated every year on its anniversary, 18 March. This year Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that it would take place on 24 April, hoping to distract attention from another centenary. April 24, 1915 is considered to be the beginning of the Armenian genocide. It ended with up to 1.5 million people dead, and an ancient culture utterly destroyed in its homeland. Every Turkish government since the empire gave way to the republic in 1923 has denied the genocide. These days, the complete denial looks stupid, the official line tends to be to admit that many Armenians died, but to question the numbers and claim that people died on both sides .The taboo on even referring to the genocide is now broken. There has been a struggle within Turkey for some years to get official recognition of and an apology for the Armenian genocide. Erdogan’s attempt to distract attention from all this by bringing Gallipoli to the fore is unlikely to have much success, at home or abroad. (1)
Europeans, Armenians and Turks joined together to commemorate the Armenian Genocide centennial , 1915-2015, in Turkey, under a campaign called “Remember 24 April 1915”, which was released on April 6, 2015, and called on the intellectuals to sign the international call which states “On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, your support is crucial concerning the international call for the commemorations of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey from the 20- 25th of April. The European Grassroots Antiracist Movement – EGAM is leading a delegation in Istanbul, along with our Armenian European partner AGBU, and our Turkish partner Durde! and its activists who courageously organize these commemorations for 5 years now. Following these events, the delegation will go to Yerevan to commemorate, again together.” Among the long list of signees were, President of EGAM, President & Director of AGBU-Europe, Spokesperson of Durde!, President of IHD, Charles Aznavour, Bernard Kouchner, Ozutrk Turkdogan, Bernard Henri Lévy, Ara Toranian, Fethiye Çetin, Cengiz Aktar, Ahmet Insel, Aydın Engin, Ümit Kivanç, Ferhat Kentel, Yves Ternon, Ahmed Moawia,Taner Akçam, Dogan Akhanli, Yildiz Onen, Roni Margulies, Zeynep Tanbay, Ayse Demirbilek, Garo Kaprielyan, Ufuk Uras, and the list goes on. (2)
According to Today’s Zaman daily, October 10, 2014, the DurDe (Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism!) organized The “World War I and the Armenian Genocide” panel discussiona which was held on Thursday, October 9, 2014, evening at the Cezayir Restaurant in the Taksim district of Istanbul. Historian and journalist Professor Ayhan Aktar from Bilgi University; activist, writer and member of the Armenian community in Turkey Tatyos Bebek and journalist and author Roni Margulies were the guest speakers. Journalist and writer Roni Margulies said that “the state has a history of committing organized massacres that is very well known and accepted. People talk about it within their circles and hear about it from their elders.” Margulies argued that “a state apology is important, as it can change peoples’ minds when official acknowledgement is made. If the state accepts a wrongdoing officially, peoples’ approach to the issue changes, too. That may not bring the lost lives of history back, but may create a much better future,” Margulies added. (3)
On November 6, 2012, the temporary exhibition titled “Armenian Genocide and Scandinavian Response” was opened in the Humanitarian Research Library which is a part of the Copenhagen Royal Library. The exhibition got wide response among the Danish society, but it aroused stormy rage of Turkish side, especially the Turkish Embassy in Denmark. The Turkish government demanded the Royal Library of Denmark to open “an alternative” exhibition about “So-Called Armenian Genocide” and the Royal Library of Denmark has agreed “to balance” the Armenian Genocide exhibition. A group of Turkish citizens–including academics, writers, former members of parliament, and mayors–have signed an open letter to the Royal Library telling them that “By giving the Turkish government to present an “alternative exhibition,” you support their policy of suppression and intimidation. The support that you are extending to a regime that has made opposition to confronting history and denial of the truth a fundamental principle is equivalent to supporting a regime of apartheid. We want to remind you that your support constitutes an obstacle to democratization efforts in Turkey today. Roni Margulies was one of the intellectuals who signed the petition. (4)
According to armenpress.am, December 12, 2012, “After his visit to Diyarbakir, historical Tikranakert, columnist of Turkish ‘Taraf’ newspaper, Roni Margulies, wrote in his Twitter profile that the Turkish authorities will be compelled to answer for the Armenian Genocide, forced deportation, pain and sufferings. he added, 30,000 people used to live in Diyarbakir in 1980, 10,000 of the were Armenians, another 10,000 were Muslims and the rest other Christians and Jews. Now after 100 years everyone is Muslim . We shall force the Turkish authorities to give an account for the Genocide, deportation, pain and sufferings. I don’t say the state will give an account, but we shall compel the state to give an account for that. (5)
The “I Apologize Campaign” is an initiative that was launched in December 2008 in Turkey by numerous journalists, politicians, and professors that calls for an apology for what they considered as the “Great Catastrophe that Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915”, through a form of a signature campaign. That which is an expression used to avoid using “Armenian Genocide” and the consequences of using it. The stated “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologize to them.” The campaign was signed by 30,000 signatories by January 2009. The campaign, which some interpreted as in direct reference to the Armenian Genocide, created widespread outrage in Turkish society. Roni Margulies was one of the notable signatories. (6)