By Raffi Bedrosyan
Turkey has announced that the annual commemoration of the Gallipoli Dardanelles battles of World War One, which were traditionally held on March 18, will now be held on April 24 this year. President Erdogan has invited over 120 world leaders, including President Sargsyan of Armenia, to attend the Gallipoli ceremonies. The reason for the date change is apparent to all Armenians.
There is a term in Turkish, Sark kurnazligi, meaning Oriental slyness. The term is used to define someone who resorts to cunning to deceive someone, but both the deceiver and the deceived person know that there is trickery involved, and more cynically, the deceiver does not care if the deceived person is aware of the deceit.
Already a few state leaders have announced that they will attend, including “Turkey’s little brother” Azerbaijan, some African and Muslim states, and notably, the Queen and Prince Charles.
It is worthwhile to remind to these people, and all the English-speaking world, another Turkish scheme involving trickery of dates which happened eight years ago.
The Holy Cross Church and monastery complex on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van in Eastern Turkey was in ruins since 1915, and in fact, was being willfully destroyed by the Turkish Army in the 1950s. Only interference by famous Kurdish author Yashar Kemal (whose hidden Armenian roots were revealed recently) had prevented the complete destruction of the last remaining church and the Turkish government had decided in the 2000’s to restore the church as a museum. The restoration was completed in early 2007 and the government announced the date of the opening of the museum to be April 24, 2007. The Istanbul Armenian Patriarch of the time, Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan forcefully protested that by choosing this date the government was attempting to create political gains using the Armenians’ pain, and that he would refuse to attend the opening ceremony if this insensitive decision was not revised. The government appeared to appease the patriarch, but continuing to employ tactics of Oriental slyness, announced that the date would now be April 11, 2007. The government was fully aware that April 11 was also equally significant and unacceptable to the Armenians, as this is the same date as April 24 in the old calendar in effect at 1915. In fact, in 1919, the famous Armenian journalist and himself a survivor of the 1915 massacres, Teotig had compiled a list and biographies of 761 Armenian intellectuals arrested and subsequently murdered, in a booklet called Houshartsan (Memorial) to April 11. The first April 24 commemoration had taken place in 1919, with the opening of a memorial sculpture called “April 11 Houshartsan,” in the Istanbul Armenian Cemetery in Taksim, since then expropriated and converted in the 1930s to become the famous Taksim Square, the scene of recent protests against the government. All these facts, known to both the Armenians in Turkey and the Turkish government, were revealed in an editorial in the Agos newspaper questioning the wisdom of using these dated for the Akhtamar opening, using the headline: ‘Are you sure? Is this your final answer?’. The headline was copied after the often-repeated question heard on the then popular TV quiz show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?’”
The date of that Agos editorial? January 19, 2007… the day Hrant Dink was shot in front of the Agos newspaper offices.
The Akhtamar Museum was opened on March 29, 2007. Patriarch Mutafyan reluctantly attended, and shortly thereafter, he became incapacitated with a still unexplained debilitating mental disease and he still lives in a vegetative state. In the meantime, eight years after Hrant Dink’s murder, the real perpetrators and conspirators of the murder are still not caught nor tried.
Therefore, it is now appropriate to again ask the Turkish government who sent the Gallipoli invitations for April 24, 2015, and any state leaders who choose to ignore the real significance of this date: “Are you sure? Is this your final answer?”
(Raffi Bedrosyan is a civil engineer and concert pianist, living in Toronto, Canada. He has donated concert and CD proceedings to infrastructure projects in Armenia and Karabagh, in which he has also participated as an engineer. He helped organize the reconstruction of the Surp Giragos Diyarbakir/Dikranagerd Church and the first Armenian reclaim of church properties in Anatolia after 1915. He gave the first piano concert in the Surp Giragos Church since 1915.)
By Raffi Bedrosyan