This week, we commemorate the 107th anniversary of the Twenty Hunchakian “Gallows.” The year 1915 stands out in the centuries-old history of the Armenian nation, on the pages of which our most tragic episodes were recorded, bringing Armenians to the brink of destruction and annihilation.
Predicting the Armenian Genocide, the Social Democratic Hunchakian Party was the only force that sounded the alarm about the Young Turks government’s intentions to carry out the Armenian Genocide. The 7th Congress of the SDHP, held in 1913 in the Romanian city of Constantsa, widely discussed the threat posed to Western Armenians, and decided to assassinate the leaders of the Young Turk government, believing that it was the only way to prevent the Genocidal plans of the authorities.
A special group was formed to implement the plan, led by Meghri-born Mateos Sargsyan, known in our history as Paramaz. The members of the group returned to Istanbul and began their preparations, but not long after, Paramaz and his comrades became victims of betrayal by an Armenian informant. They were arrested, tried, and sentenced to death by a Turkish military court. Twenty Hunchakian leaders were hanged on June 15, 1915, in Istanbul’s Sultan Bayazit Square. The Armenians of Istanbul, who were not fully aware of the arrests of Armenian intellectuals a few weeks earlier, on April 24, nor did they know about the massacres taking place in the provinces, on that day felt the seriousness of the moment for the first time.
As we commemorate the 107th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Twenty Hunchakian heroes we acknowledge that through their lives, deeds, and deaths, they embodied the will of the Armenian people to live and persevere.
The fate of the Western Armenians would have been different if they had succeeded in carrying out their plans.
“You hang the twenty of us, but twenty thousand more will continue our work. Tomorrow on the eastern horizon, we will welcome the rebirth of Armenia,” they bravely stated as their last words on the gallows. They not only foretold the threat to the Armenians, but also prophesied the rebirth of the Armenian nation. Three short years after the Genocide, the fragments of Armenians waged a life-and-death war during the Battle of Sardarabad, defeated the advancing Turkish army, and founded the First Republic of Armenia.
The Twenty are immortalized in the history of the SD Hunchakian Party and the Armenian people. During the past decades, the memory of the Twenty was preserved with monuments in Armenia and the Diaspora, books, poems, national songs, and public celebrations. In 2013, for the first time, the anniversary of their martyrdom was commemorated in Istanbul itself. At the initiative of a group of Turkish progressive intellectuals, a special event was held on the same square where they were hanged and the Hunchakian flag was waved. Since then, numerous books have been published in Turkey dedicated to the Twenty and their leader, Paramaz. The screening of the documentary film about Paramaz, produced by Turkish intellectual Kadir Akin, continues to be screened in European cities and in Turkey.
The values espoused by the Twenty are universal and relevant today. They fought not only for the rights of the Armenians, but also for the freedoms of all the indegenous people living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire. One hundred and seven years later, Turkey, after a brief “democratic spring,” has returned to a dictatorship and continues to trample not only the rights of minorities, but also the freedoms of Turkish society as a whole. We hope that Turks will someday be able to return to democracy and relieve themselves of the heavy burden of history by first recognizing the fact of the Armenian Genocide.
Today, the Republic of Armenia is the realization of the vision and dreams of the Twenty. The establishment of democratic order in Armenia is also the result of the SDHP’s struggle in Armenia and the Diaspora against the rotten oligarchic system. The stance of the Party, giving birth to the Twenty, could not have been different.
Today, once again we honor and pay respect to the immortal memory of the Twenty Hunchakian Gallows and all the martyrs of the Armenian nation.