By Hambersom Aghbashian
Osman Baydemir (born 1971 in Diyarbakir- Turkey) is a Kurdish politician, lawyer and human rights activist, a former Mayor of the Turkish city of Diyarbeki (elected in 2004). He is a member of the Peace and democracy Party (BDP). He graduated from the Law Faculty at Dicle University in Diyarbakir. In 1995 he became the chair of the Diyarbakir branch of the independent Human Rights Association. In 2001 he became a founding member of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. At the general election in 2002, he was the candidate of the Democtratic People’s Party, but the party failed to reach the 10% election threshold.. As a human rights activist and as a politician, he has been subjected to persecution on various levels. According to a report of Amnesty International of 12 February 2004 there were 200 court cases against him for his human rights activities. The daily Radikal reported on July 11, 2006 that during the last two years a total of 129 investigations against him had been conducted. After the assassination of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in January 2007 Osman Baydemir was among several people who received death threats. In June 2015 Turkish general elections, Osman Baydemir was one of the 80 politician representing HDP who were elected to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
According to “https://uk.news.yahoo.com”, April 23, 2015, Uzay Bulut of IB Times mentioned in his article “Armenian genocide: Kurdish leaders set moral example to Turkey by facing their crimes,” that Selahattin Demirtas, the Kurdish co-chairperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said in televised comments that “without hesitation, I recognize the Armenian Genocide.” Then added “Another Kurdish leader who has spoken out about the genocide is Osman Baydemir, the former mayor of Diyarbakir, under whose leadership Surp Giragos, the biggest Armenian Church in the Middle East, was restored and opened for worship, and an Armenian private language schools was established in the province.” Speaking to an Armenian delegation in Diyarbakir in 2012, Baydemir invited Armenians to the province and said: “I am banned from going abroad but if this ban is removed one day, I would love to go to Yerevan and lay flowers on the Armenian Genocide Memorial there.” Baydemir’s dream came true in October 2014, when he visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan and placed a wreath in front of it in the memory of genocide victims. He was also awarded a gold medal by the Yerevan State University for his efforts as a human rights lawyer in raising awareness of the Armenian genocide and of protecting the Armenian cultural heritage in Diyarbakir during his tenure as mayor. (1)
According to “Public Radio of Armenia”, Nov 1, 2014, Former Mayor of the Turkish city of Diyarbekir, Osman Baydemir, fulfilled his dream by visiting Armenia, Armenian Genocide Memorial and the Museum-Institute, as well as Public Radio of Armenia. He confessed that the Museum-Institute of Armenian Genocide is the center of the human conscience. Baydemir, who was too excited, could hardly hide his emotions: “How can one kill a person, a pregnant woman or a child? It is impossible to understand how the state can turn murder into an ideology.” Baydemir mentioned that a century old history repeated today regarding the Kurds in Kobani where the ISIS militants spread death and sorrow.(2)
In his long article “A Century of Silence”, (The New Yorker, January 5, 2015), Raffi Khatchadourian wrote about his family’s survival after the Armenian Genocide and its long aftermath, and how his grandfather guided his family safely out of Diyarbakir.Then mentioned Sourp Giragos Armenian Church in Diyarbakir and how it was rehabilitated as a functioning church, and about the reconsecration ceremony. He mentioned that “Several hundred people turned up for the reconsecration, nearly all of them having flown in, mostly from Istanbul, or from abroad. Diyarbakir’s mayor, Osman Baydemir, told the Armenian visitors, “You are not our guests. We are your guests.”(3)
Under the title “Diyarbakir Mayor Places Flowers at Genocide Memorial in Providence”, The Armenian Weekly wrote in October 11, 2013, “On Oct. 10, the mayor of the Diyarbakir Sur Municipality in Turkey, Abdullah Demirbaş, placed flowers at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Providence, Rhode Island.” Also mentioned that “Demirbaş and the metropolitan mayor of Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir, have adopted a policy of reviving the multiculturalism of the city in recent years, embarking on a series of initiatives that include renovating of the Sourp Giragos Church, offering Armenian and Assyrian language courses, returning confiscated Armenian property, and opening the memorial. Diyarbakir is the only city in Turkey with a sign that greets visitors in Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian.”(4)
“Kurdish Daily” wrote in June 11, 2011, “Osman Baydemir, one of Turkey’s most popular Kurdish politicians and the mayor of Diyarbakir stated that he would not oppose a monument for so called Armenian genocide in the city, Turkish Star newspaper reported quoting Armenews.” “Kurdish Daily” also quoted Baydemir saying “First of all, everybody, every state should face with its own history. What would happen if this monument would be erected in Ankara or Diyarbakir?,”(5)