ISTANBUL, TURKEY – A panel discussion focusing on the historical significance and consequence of “The Twenty” Social Democrat Hunchak Armenian activists hung in Istanbul’s Sultan Bayazid Square on June 15, 1915, took place at Istanbul’s “Jezayir” (“Algeria”) Hall on Thursday, June 13th, 2013. The event marks the first time since 1921, that such a remembrance of the “The Twenty” was marked in Istanbul. The panel discussion was organized by various Turkish human rights organizations, and Turkish intellectuals, and is the first of two events commemorating “The Twenty,” culminating with commemorations to take place at Sultan Bayazid Square (Bayazit Meydani) on June 15, at 3 p.m.
Participants in the discussion included; world renowned Turkish human rights activist and publisher Mr. Ragıp Zarakolu, Turkish, socialist Mr. Mustafa Kahya, Mr. Masis Kurkcugil, as well as the Chairman of the S.D. Hunchak party Executive Committee of Lebanon Mr. Alexander Keushkerian. The event was attended by a variety of prominent intellectual Turks, Kurds and Armenians from Turkey, Armenia, and the Armenian Diaspora. Prior to the start of the panel discussion, a moment of silence was observed for the memory and to pay tribute to “The Twenty” Armenian activists who were hung by the Young Turk Ottoman government.
Mr. Zarakolu presented the important contribution S.D. Hunchak party members played within the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of socialist thought within it, drawing attention to the fact that the Hunchak party, with the Kum Kapu demonstration, was the first to organize such an action for social justice and equality for all within the Ottoman Empire. Zarakolu emphasized the interesting character, influence and important role of Paramaz (Matteos Sarkissian), the principal leader of “The Twenty,” not only to the socialist movements within the Ottoman Empire, but also within the Armenian community.
Mr. Kurkcugil posed the domestic policies pursued by the Ottoman Empire in its last decades, the negative standpoint towards political parties, specifically those left of center, and the implementation of the Armenian Genocide.
Mr. Kahya criticized not only the policies of the Ottoman Empire, but also the Republic of Turkey and its continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. He called on Turkey to face its history, recognize the Armenian Genocide, and apologize to the generations of descendants of the Genocide victims, offer them Turkish citizenship, restoring their rights and compensating for and or returning their property, stating his wish to see a peaceful and prosperous “Armenio-Turkish Federative State.” Kahya noted that Armenians and the Armenian political parties have been the pioneers of Socialist thought within the region and Paramaz and his fellow Hunchak Party members have been at the forefront influencing political ideology and domestic policy not only within the Ottoman Empire but that of Republican Turkey.
Mr. Keushkerian delivered the S.D. Hunchak Party’s Central Committees communiqué, noting the importance of not only “The Twenty,” but the commemoration of their martyrdom organized by progressives within Turkish society. Turkish intellectuals and human rights activist should continue to examin, in a fair manner, Turkish history, and not be afraid to pronounce the truth by its correct description, as has been case in the last five years towards the reality of the Armenian Genocide, even under the threat of persecution.
Mr. Keushkerian stated, it is the hope of the SDHP, that the commemoration of “The Twenty” in Istanbul would establish a new found friendship which will result in triumph for the interests of justice and liberty.
The event organizers distribute a bilingual booklet highlighting the biographies of “The Twenty” in Turkish and Armenian.