ISTANBUL — Armenians and non-Armenians in Istanbul commemorated the 100th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party’s 20 Martyrs who were executed on the early morning of June 15, 1915 in Beyazit Square during the Armenian Genocide. The commemoration, organized by the Nor Zartonk initiative was held at the Edirnekapi Armenian Martyr’s Cemetery on June 15, 2015.

The history of the 20 Armenian martyrs is distinctly connected with the fate of the Armenian people in 1915. With the restoration of Ottoman constitution in 1908, The Hunchakian Party became one of the main representatives of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire. The Hunchakian Party came to understand the Young Turk policies and ideology that adopted a form of Turkish nationalism which was xenophobic and exclusionary in its thinking. These policies threatened to undo the tattered fabric of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, once again harming the Armenian populace. The Young Turks seized complete power in a coup d’etat in January 1913. On September 7th of that same year, the 7th General Convention of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party adjourned with an aim to thwart this new dictatorship by any means necessary, and restore democracy.

The Young Turk dictatorship learned of this aim through the betrayal of a fellow Armenian. Unfortunately, one may argue the betrayal did not only result in the arrest of hundreds of Hunchakian leaders and intellectuals and the execution of these twenty courageous men, but also facilitated the weakening of the leadership of the Armenians at the cusp of the Armenian Genocide.

“The state has not changed at all since those days. Paramaz and his friends suffered the same fate as Hrant Dink did, and the process of rewarding the murderers of Armenians goes on,” a Nor Zartonk Sayat Tekir representative said, adding that attacks on the Armenian cultural heritage continue nowadays.

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