Turkish lawmaker threatens Armenian counterpart over genocide remarks
Independent opposition deputy Ümit Özdağ on Monday targeted Garo Paylan, an Armenian deputy from the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), over Paylan’s comments supporting the recognition of the Armenian genocide.
“Talat Pasha didn’t exile patriotic Armenians but those who were backstabbers like you,” Özdağ tweeted in response to Paylan. “You will also go through a Talat Pasha experience when it is time, and you should.”
On April 24, observed as Armenian Genocide Memorial Day in Armenia and the diaspora, Paylan had tweeted:
“We walk on streets named after Talat Pasha, the architect of the Genocide, 106 years later. We send our children to schools named after Talat Pasha. We live in a Turkey that Germany would have been like, if there were Hitler Avenues and schools named after Hitler there today.”
Talat Pasha was an Ottoman politician and one of the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), known for having ordered the exile of Ottoman Armenians in 1915, which resulted in mass deaths of Armenians and other Christian minorities in Anatolia. Armenians say around 1.5 million people were killed or died under exile conditions, in a planned operation that constitutes genocide.
Turkey acknowledges that deaths occurred, but rejects any systemic or organised effort, and the use of the term “genocide”.
Paylan had submitted a draft proposal for the Turkish Parliament to recognise the events as genocide, and to remove references to Ottoman officers involved in them from public amenities including roads and buildings. Paylan also proposed Turkish citizenship rights for the descendants of exiled non-Muslims, including Anatolian Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Syriacs, Chaldeans and Yazidis, according to Armenian weekly Agos.
The April 24 memorials are held to “recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring”, U.S. President Joe Biden said in his Saturday message where he became the first U.S. president to use the disputed term since 1981.
“The remnant of a mentality that annihilated my people says they would do it again,” Paylan said responding to Özdağ on Tuesday. In his response, Paylan called Özdağ a fascist and said:
“You strike us, didn’t we die? We did. But those left behind never abandoned the fight for justice. And they wouldn’t after me either. The conscientious majority in this country has never let fascists like you take over, and they won’t this time around.”
Paylan’s party, the HDP, is the only party in parliament to recognise the genocide and include genocide recognition in its party programme.
“Turkey hasn’t confronted the Armenian Genocide for 106 years. The crime that wasn’t confronted was repeated instead, and the crime that wasn’t confronted was carried over to the present day,” HDP said in a statement released on the memorial day.
“It is unacceptable for this historic, societal and humanitarian matter to be brought up as a result of political relations between foreign states and Turkey or political circumstances,” the statement continued. “The Armenian Genocide happened on these lands, and justice for it needs to be ensured on these lands.”
Top officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) accused HDP of terrorism and serving foreign interests over the statement.
“Supporters of terrorism with blood on their hands have piggy-backed on baseless Armenian claims and once again targeted Turkey and our nation,” Vice President Fuat Oktay said in a tweet.
“Whenever enemies of Turkey make statements against Turkey, unfortunately, we see the HDP act together with them,” Parliamentary Speaker Mustafa Şentop told reporters following a visit to the graves of Turkish diplomats killed by armed Armenian groups.
“Instead of skewing historic facts, face up to the shameful terrorism of PKK and Asala that have your backs,” Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said in a tweet.
“All allegations of genocide regarding the events of 1915 are separated from historical facts and blown away from a legal basis,” İsmail Tatlıoğlu, parliamentary group deputy chairman for the centre-right Good Party (İYİP), told reporters on Monday.
In March, Özdağ resigned from the İYİP, which had been established by politicians leaving the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), where Özdağ had been deputy chairman before he joined the breakaway party.
One of the reasons for his resignation was that the İYİP had been too tolerant of the HDP when the two parties participated in efforts to write a new constitution for Turkey last year.
“The bloody network under the guise of a political party must urgently be shut down,” MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli said on Tuesday in a speech at parliament. “Gates of Yerevan are open for those who call our nation genocidal.”