Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

‘I Apologize’ Website Silenced; Will the International Community Speak Up?

December 20th, 2008 by

Cynics would have argued that it was only a matter of time until the Turkish Government or hackers (or Turkish Government supported hackers) would take down a website where over 13,000 Turkish scholars, journalists and citizens issued an apology for the “great catastrophe” committed against the Armenian people from 1915-1923.

And they were right.

On Thursday, www.ozerdiliyoruz.com — initiated by three scholars — Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar — and journalist, Ali Bayramoglu, went off-line, first to return with the listing of signatories removed and then – not to return at all.

Sadly, given Turkey’s history of repression of free speech (just look at any of the annual reports issued by the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, etc. to read about the sad state of affairs) this was not a surprise.

Even before the “I Apologize” petition was placed online, reports of the effort sent some members of Turkey’s Parliament into a rampage. Today’s Zaman reported that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy for Erzurum Zeki Ertugay accused the signatories of being in “a state of hysteria,” while Behiç Çelik, a MHP deputy from Mersin, stated, “It is impossible to refer to these people as intellectuals. The so-called intellectuals trying to apologize to Armenians do not know the past. They don’t know history.”

Once the petition went online to allow Turkish citizenry of good conscience to sign, higher officials in Turkey went public slamming the effort – including Turkey’s PM Recep Tayip Erdogan and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

Alone in defending the free speech right of the petitioners was Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul – who considered the petition a public relations coup – to show the world that Turkey’s freedom of speech record has improved. Gul was immediately chastised for not denouncing the effort, with opponents accusing his mother of being of Armenian heritage and the Gul family threatening to sue the accusers of slander!

And what of the courageous folks who started the petition in the first place? And the 13,000 who added their names to the website? Who is going to stand up for them?

Now, to be clear, the petition was not perfect. The authors stopped short of properly characterizing the centrally planned and systematically executed campaign of deportations, starvation and murder of 1.5 million Armenians as ‘genocide.’ Nor did they give the full scope of the campaign, which ranged from 1915-1923.

But these intellectuals spoke out in an atmosphere where a website gets hacked and a journalist is shot dead in broad daylight for speaking about the Armenian Genocide.

This is where the United States and the international community need to be vocal – to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide and give Turkey’s civil society some breathing room to help their country confront their genocidal past.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, December 20th, 2008 at 5:36 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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