ISTANBUL — An unprecedented joint delegation of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Europe and European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) comprising 20 people from 15 European countries, gathered here to commemorate the Armenian Genocide of 1915. They were invited by DurDe! (Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism), a Turkish organization that has been commemorating the Armenian Genocide for the past four years.
On April 24, symbolically at 19:15, up to 2,000 Turks, Armenians and others peacefully gathered at Taksim Square in an emotional moment of mourning, commemoration and solidarity. Earlier in the day, they also gathered outside the former Sultanahmed Prison (now a museum), where Armenian intellectuals, professionals and others arrested on April 24, 1915, were first jailed, before being taken away and murdered.
A strong police presence kept watch as a small gathering of protesters shouted nationalist slogans nearby.
These events were organized by DurDe! and IHD, a Turkish Human Rights Association. The international delegation, organized and led by EGAM and AGBU Europe, included leading European activists against racism as well as young Armenian leaders.
In the days leading up to the April 24 commemoration in Istanbul, delegation members held numerous meetings, a press conference and a conference at Sehir University to explain their views and actions, as well as to learn about developments in Turkey relating to the recognition of the Genocide and the treatment of minorities.
EGAM President Benjamin Abtan said his visit was intended primarily as an expression of support for those in Turkey who are fighting against racism. “Genocide is the worst expression of racism,” he said. “Genocide denial is a continuation of the crime of genocide.”