On Feb. 20, the Human Rights Association of Turkey issued a statement in response to a planned anti-Armenian demonstration on Feb. 22 in Istanbul, operating under the banner, “Demonstrations Condemning the Khojali Genocide and Armenian Terror.” The Human Rights Association petitioned the Istanbul Governorate ahead of the protest, which has already prompted a rise in anti-Armenian sentiments, with graffiti stating, “You Are All Armenian, All Bastards,” spray-painted on church walls in Istanbul.
The full text of the statement is printed below.
Khojali: Pretext to Incite Ethnic Hate Against Armenians in Turkey
On Feb. 19, 2015, the Human Rights Association presented the Governorate of Istanbul with a petition warning the officials that the “Demonstrations Condemning the Khojali Genocide and Armenian Terror,” to be held in Kadıköy, Istanbul, on Feb. 22, have incited ethnic hatred from the moment they were pre-announced.
The demonstrations are being organized by the Association of Reformist Youth in Azerbaijan, with support from the Turkish Hearths Youth branches and the Turanist Movement Platform.
As our petition to the Governorate reports, militants from the Turanist Movement Platform photograph and publish their public displays including graffiti, banners, and posters in central locations in Istanbul. In the declaration that they distribute in shops and that we enclose with this petition, they incite violence by labeling activists against racism as “terrorists.” Persons who somehow perpetually remain “unidentified” write the racist graffiti, such as “You’re Either Turkish or Bastards” or “You Are All Armenian, All Bastards,” on church walls in Kadıköy, in addition to hanging flags depicting the ultra-nationalist symbol (mythical wolf).
Khojali is but a pretext for the real purpose of inciting ethnic hate and hostility against the Armenians of Turkey, as globally observed in the course of the Khojali demonstrations on Taksim Square on Feb. 26, 2012. Right before the eyes of the Minister of the Interior, on the same square where he was making a speech, the demonstrators displayed banners that read, “You Are All Armenians, You are All Bastards,” while shouting hate-filled slogans against Armenians.
The corrupt and shady collaboration between Azerbaijan and Turkey thus comes to fruition: The organizers are able to brandish their schemes for Feb. 22 because they have no doubt that the officials of the Republic of Turkey will lavish them with endless tolerance.
In the petition we presented on record, we reminded the Governorate that the racism displayed both at the identically themed demonstrations of 2012 and at the preannouncement phase of the Feb. 22 demonstrations for “Condemning Armenian Terror” constitutes a crime per Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code on “public humiliation or incitement to hatred and enmity.” We also emphasized that the incitement to racist violence violates Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination.
We have requested that the Office of the Governor take preventative measures against slogans, writings, banners, and threats inciting ethnic hate or enmity; that, in cases where they occur, all legal proceedings mechanisms be activated immediately after the demonstrations, and that the state fulfill all of its responsibilities with utmost efficacy.
We now publicly reiterate our warning: You, officials who refrain from criminalizing racist slogans on church walls, who officially or unofficially permit protests and demonstrations preannounced by such slogans, if you do not enforce the law, you will become partners in the crime that is being publicly preannounced.
We address the prime minister: You have just paid your tributes to Hrant Dink, calling him “a venerable Anatolian public intellectual.” Have you forgotten that banners saying “Damned Be Hrant Dink” were displayed right in front of his newspaper headquarters? Do you not remember that on Feb. 23, 2014, a group, including a number of Azerbaijanis, calling itself “The Soldiers of Alpaslan Türkeş,” materialized in front of the Agos newspaper at whose doorstep Dink had been murdered? Their banners read, “Long Live Ogün Samasts, Damned Be Hrant Dinks—We Salute Azerbaijan and Continue the Fight.” We had filed a criminal complaint then as well. Your prosecutors did not lift a finger.
The so-called NGOs of the state of Azerbaijan, where oppositional journalists are left to rot in prison and honest public intellectuals are abandoned to lifelong threats of lynching, we ask you: What are you doing in Turkey? What business brings you to Istanbul? No one believes that you mourn for those killed in Khojali; it is not in their memory that you fight. You come to Turkey to support anti-Armenians and menace the Armenians of Turkey, who have no connection to Khojali.
A word to hatemongers in Turkey, who join forces with Azerbaijani anti-Armenians: Save us your lies. It is not Khojali that concerns you. It never was Khojali that concerned you. Your true intent is to intimidate the Armenians of Turkey—and all non-Turkish, non-Muslim peoples—and exacerbate their insecure existence.
The very existence of human rights defenders is warranted by the cause of resisting and fighting against atrocities and persecution in Turkey and in the world. However, it falls yet again on human rights defenders to fight against those who exploit atrocities and victims’ pain for their own purposes of carrying racist violence across borders.
We, human rights defenders, invite all to unite as one body against racism, racist violence, discrimination, and hate, in order to show that you are alone in your schemes, to isolate you in society, and to expose you before public conscience.
We remind the officials, once again, that they will be held accountable for the public display of ethnic hate, the bloodiest instances of which are only too fresh in our memory.
Human Rights Association, Istanbul Branch
Committee Against Racism and Discrimination