Ottawa - 2017 - Commemorating Hrant Dink: Opening Remarks by Hourig Attarian
Voices In Dialogue·Wednesday, January 25, 2017
It is with a heavy heart we come here today to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the assassination of a man who struggled and dared to hope, who strove for peace, who created spaces for dialogue. Those who silenced him did not, could not imagine what his life and his story in death could stir, how the grief of his loss would bind people, how mourning could lead to resistance, how the echo of his words would reverberate today as strongly as it did then.
Those who silenced him got dizzy with the trappings of power and bloodied their hands even more, in the years since. Watching endless news reports from the lands that Hrant Dink loved so much, it seems the past and the present have collided in incessant strife, churning out human tragedy and bloodshed at every turn.
Among the letters and tributes in the pages of Agos this January 19th, there is one written by Selahattin Demirtaş from Edirne prison: “Aghparig we miss you, but we walk tall, just like you would have liked to see us.”
And there is a piercing cry of grief from Hrant’s wife, Rakel: “I call out to the sky and earth… Mountains and seas… Rise and witness. Bear witness to the bloodshed on these lands. For people are silent and silenced. They are dying and being killed. We are too exhausted to mourn after them. Violence and tyranny have already gotten beyond borders. Reasons are eclipsed, and the reasonable ones have been exterminated.” Her words sear the heart.
From the crushing of the Gezi events to the witchhunt of academics signing a peace petition, to the jails overflowing with journalists, MPs, and anyone daring to speak out, to the violence engulfing towns and cities, to the open wounds that are Diyarbakır, Sur, Mardin, Nusaybin, Cizre, Suruç and so many other nameless places, to the murder of the voice that was Tahir Elçi, this is surely the legacy of silencing and impunity of not just Hrant Dink’s murder but that of a string of past horrors stretching all the way back to the founding of the republic and to 1915.
Speaking of freedom of speech, on the count of journalists alone the stats are more than damning. In 2016 more than 10,000 journalists were laid off, 839 prosecuted, 189 of them physically assaulted, 144 jailed! And no end in sight.
Grim times, grim stories…
But “There is a crack in everything,” reminds us the great Cohen.
Ten years ago, in the bleak days after the assassination of Hrant a small group of Armenians, Turks, and Kurds in Ottawa found solace in one another’s stories. That was the beginning of Voices in Dialogue which soon became a non-profit initiative to promote open and peaceful dialogue among peoples whose roots are in Anatolia. We aim to do so by sharing and honouring personal stories, lived experiences, and transmitted memories. We deeply believe that these stories carry in them the seeds of a collective understanding and they can contribute to wider knowledge about historical events, in particular the eradication of the Armenian people and culture in Anatolia after 1915.
Remembering is sifting through the debris, remembering bridges our past to the present, remembering mourns, remembering attempts to heal, remembering renews. And “that’s how the light gets in.”
My own encounter with ViD was in early 2008, with the screening of the thoughtful documentary, “Nous avons bu la meme eau – We drank the same water” by French-Armenian filmmaker Serge Avedikian. The closing scene of the film held a tender ambiguity. Children playing among the Armenian gravestones of the village of Sölöz, the birthplace of Serge’s grandfather Avedis. Do the children know the stories of those stones and the people they belonged to? Will they want to know? Will the barriers (and bearers) of silence and amnesia be a story of the past in their lifetimes? Questions that all these years later hold a haunting urgency.
I still remember vividly the small group of Turks and Kurds who had ventured courageously into the “Armenian territory” of the screening that night, the questions they’d asked, and the apprehension it had created among some Armenian members of the audience. It was the first of many barriers our group had to cross over the years. In this time, we have learned to stand shoulder to shoulder, to discuss with sometimes difficult honesty the many crevices and fissures of a shared history, to not be afraid of facing adversity.
It is in that spirit I now believe together we can say “No Pasaran.” In the words of one revolutionary educator, Paulo Friere, “As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.” And so we continue to struggle with hope.
The inaugural Hrant Dink Memorial Lecture on Freedom of Speech and Peacebuilding today is, we hope, the first of a series. Given the increased state violence in the last 18 months in Turkey and the turmoil we’re witnessing both regionally (in the Middle East) and globally, we believe it is more than an imperative now to create alternative avenues for much-needed dialogue on issues of peacebuilding and social justice. The memorial lecture is meant to celebrate the life and commemorate the legacy of Hrant Dink in that sense.
Ottawa - 2016 - Recognition and Peace in the footsteps of Hrant Dink and Tahir Elci - Opening Remarks by Egemen Ozbek
It is with a heavy heart that we are here today. Today, we are commemorating Hrant Dink on the ninth anniversary of his assassination. It is also a sad coincidence that January 24 marks the 23rd anniversary of prominent Turkish journalist Uğur Mumcu’s assassination. Turkey has not been an easy country to live for journalists and intellectuals who have demanded truth and justice against all odds.Today, we are joining thousands of people in Turkey and elsewhere to celebrate Hrant Dink’s life, to praise his contributions to inter-ethnic peace in Turkey, and to mourn his death.
He took a great risk in Turkey in order to express his thoughts on ways of mending the social fabric in Turkey which was torn a century ago. Hrant addressed some of the fundamental power asymmetries in Turkey and while doing that he took a highly vulnerable position and adopted a minor - rather than a major and dominating - voice. He attempted to move age-old racialized prejudices, inequalities, and discrimination. He sought ways of building a Turkey that recognize the equal footing of all its constitutive communities - a Turkey where all citizens are free to express their thoughts and free to live as who they are.
Unfortunately, Hrant Dink was abandoned in his quest; abandoned in the sense that he was subjected to social death. He was alone even when he was surrounded by many of the mainstream opinion leaders. Maybe he was most alone when he was surrounded by them. In other words, he was left alone long before he was killed and his body was left lying on the pavement outside AGOS. Because he was already pushed outside of the universe of moral obligation. That is, if he was ever included in that universe at all in the first place.
Hrant Dink paid a high price; a price that very few of the public figures belonging to the dominant group had paid. We are responsible for his death in our midst. We are accountable for our inability to protect him; to protect his vulnerable position and his minor voice. We are still indebted; we have a moral duty that we have not yet fulfilled. During his funeral thousands said that they were all Armenians, but the Armenians kept being murdered. On April 24, 2011 Sevag Şahin Balıkçı was shot dead while serving in the army. He was abandoned as well, like many Armenians before him and possibly many more after. There is no other emotion than shame when one had to look his family in the eye.
Now we have the blood of another abandoned person on our hands. The blood of Tahir Elçi. Tahir Elçi was a Kurdish lawyer, human rights defender, and the chairman of the Diyarbakır Bar Association. He was murdered on November 28, 2015 in Diyarbakır while giving a press statement demanding an end to violence against Kurds. Prior to his unsolved murder, Elçi was stigmatized and scapegoated for his comments on the PKK in a similar public lynching campaign as Hrant Dink was subjected before his assassination. Elçi was involved in a number of trials confronting the state violence against the Kurds. He was also an ally in other oppressed groups’ struggles for recognition. On April 24, 2015, in the commemoration at Diyarbakır he read the Human Rights Association’s press release marking the hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Hrant Dink and Tahir Elçi were defenders of human rights and freedom of expression. They were demanding the recognition of their equal status in Turkey as Armenians and Kurds. They were demanding the recognition of the mass political violence against their communities. Hence they were challenging the existing power asymmetries and privileges in Turkey. They were working to build inter-ethnic peace, but they were abandoned, left alone. Neither Hrant Dink’s nor Tahir Elçi’s murderers were brought to justice.
The hundred year old regime of impunity, created by the state and perpetuated by wider public complicity, for those violating oppressed groups’ rights and taking their lives continues to rule over Turkey. The refusal to come into terms with the Armenian Genocide by fully taking responsibility for it, undermined the sense of right and wrong. It destroyed any possibility of justice for those whose lives were declared unworthy. The physical annihilation of an entire nation accompanied by dispossession and deliberate erasure from history made the Turkish Republic possible. We are yet to come to terms with the idea of a Republic that is founded on a cemetery of a whole nation - in fact not even a cemetery because the destruction of Armenian nation in Anatolia is not given a funeral, the public mourning is denied, the Armenian deaths are considered ungrievable.
Since 1915 deep-seated discrimination, prejudice, and racism still determine the terms and grammar of social and political relations in Turkey. As it was the case with the Armenians in the post-1908 period, the dominant nation (millet-i hakime) violently refuses to acknowledge the equality of Kurds. The rightful demands of the Kurdish people for fair political representation and equal citizenship status met with only the “cunning of recognition.”
The AKP and many other members of the dominant ethno-religious group openly opt for the sustainment of the colonial relations with oppressed groups. Kurds’ unalienable rights are given only as a grace of the natural owners of Turkey. The Kurds, just like the Armenians hundred years ago, are denied their historical agency and expected to assume a political identity that does not challenge Turkish-Muslim dominance. The AKP government’s policies tailored to protect this dominance and the public’s unwillingness to intervene to demand peace are intensifying the large scale violent repression of Kurds. The return to civil war conditions leads to severe violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Civilian population’s right to life, let alone freedom of expression, has been violated on a daily basis. The public responses to civilian deaths illustrate that not all lives matter the same in Turkey.
In such an environment, Hrant Dink and Tahir Elçi’s calls for freedom of expression as a way of promoting mutual understanding and equality between communities stand in stark contrast with the attempts of the Turkish government today to silence the calls for justice and peace by criminalizing dissent and by persecuting whole populations. Dink and Elçi were courageous enough to explore unexplored horizons and to propose a new language for coexistence of diverse communities. We hope, at this point, we are going to be as daring as them to stand for recognition and peace.
Voices in Dialogue condemns the bombing of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) election rally in Turkey
Voices in Dialogue condemns the bombing of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) election rally in Turkey
June 6, 2015
For Immediate Release
On June 5th, just two days before the general election in Turkey, there were two explosions at an election rally held by HDP (the People’s Democracy Party) in Amed/Diyarbakir, a mainly Kurdish city in Turkey. Hundreds of thousands of people had gathered for this rally and the explosion killed at least four of them and injured more than 400.
Immediately following the explosions, the police started firing teargas at people who were helping the injured or fleeing the scene, which aggravated the situation. This is not an isolated incident: over the course of the election campaign, HDP campaigners have been systematically attacked and bombed with more than 50 violent attacks. One such attack in the city of Bingöl on June 3rd resulted in the death of a driver of the HDP campaign minibus, Hamdulah Öge, and in another in Erzurum on June 4th, the campaign minibus was set ablaze, killing the driver, Aydin Taşkesen.
Our organization Voices in Dialogue is committed to creating understanding and interchange among Canadians of Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish origins. We strongly condemn these horrific attacks, and offer our condolences to the families of those who died in the most recent explosions.
We strongly urge the Canadian media, as well as human and civil rights organizations, to closely monitor the ongoing election process in support of the Turkish people’s search for law, order and democracy.
Voices in Dialogue – Ottawa, June 6, 2015
Voices in Dialogue stands with all Canadians to Commemorate the Centenary of the 1915 Armenian Genocide
April 22, 2015
Voices in Dialogue, the non-partisan organization inspired by the life and vision of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, will participate in the Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Centennial to be held at noon on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 24.
With their participation in the Armenian Genocide Centennial on Parliament Hill Voices in Dialogue members of Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish backgrounds are going to emphasize that they remember the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and they know time does not heal all wounds.
On April 24, Armenians around the world will also be joined by Turks and Kurds who will be marking the centenary of 1915 together in Yerevan, Istanbul and Diyarbakir. Voices in Dialogue believes that April 24 commemorations held around the globe, in Armenia and Turkey offer a chance to share the grief of genocide between the descendants of victims and perpetrators. Spokespersons of the dialogue group Ms. Hera Arevian and Mr. Mete Pamir point out: “The starting point of the process of healing is the acknowledgment that the pain of the Armenian victims and survivors of 1915 belongs to all of us.”
Voices in Dialogue is an Ottawa-Montreal based organization established in 2007. It promotes open and peaceful dialogue among different peoples whose roots are found in Anatolia, notably those with Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish origins. Its purpose is to create communication venues for sharing personal stories and contributing to wider knowledge about historical events, in particular the eradication of the Armenian people and culture in Anatolia after 1915, with a view to foster mutual respect and understanding.
Ottawa - 2015 - In Memoriam Hrant Dink - Opening remarks by Ersin Asliturk
Voices in Dialogue - Ottawa - January 18, 2015
We are gathered here today to mark the 8th anniversary of Hrant’s murder and remember his peaceful vision with regards to the painful consequences of 1915. I will refer to some psycho-political perspectives during my talk and I hope that 2015 will be a year we will get closer to a meaningful resolution between Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish people.
Years ago Hrant Dink was an Armenian journalist and activist living in Turkey. In his speeches and writings, he was kindly mentioning his long past, his forgotten past. One could sense in his voice that he was a loving person who was moving with a positive, constructive principle. He had experienced a number of difficulties in his life, he was raised in orphanages and he had participated in the political struggle in Turkey. An honorable life requires standing against injustice and making one’s voice heard by everyone. Hrant was quite successful in explaining the painful truth of his long past and he paid the price for speaking the truth with his life in 2007. He has become the voice and conscience of thousands of people. More than one hundred thousand participated in his funeral. His articles and videos have been shared. More than 30 thousand people signed an apology petition for 1915. Every year, his life is commemorated with events and his peaceful vision is living with us.
Hrant’s life can be seen as a life starting at 1915 and spanning a century. We know that Armenian people in Turkey, Armenia and the Diaspora cannot forget the Great Crime of the last century – what is now largely known as the Armenian Genocide in intellectual circles and among social scientists. Justice is not restored, just like the case of Hrant himself. Considering the context of 1915 and Hrant’s life, today I would like to explore this question: Why is there so much moral disengagement from Armenian question on our front, the Turkish people?
Existential perspectives in modern psychology provide one particular answer. According to some key thinkers, human beings are ultimately vulnerable against their own mortality. Awareness of this inevitability pushes people to create a collective, cultural worldview, a defense system. In short, cultures and religions are vehicles to transcend our ultimate demise and to have a sense of symbolic immortality. This is anxiety-buffering and we are particularly concerned about transmitting our culture and collective identity to the future generations and we are ready to defend them when they are threatened. Connected with these fundamental needs, we all have ideal self-images that motivate us to become who we want to be; and we have feared self-images that we want to distance ourselves from. For a long while, “Armenianness” (and partly “Kurdishness” maybe) have been the undesired, feared selves of mainstream Turkish people and probably vice versa is true in the case of Armenians. So reminding Turkish people of the Armenian heritage of their homeland may create subliminal negative feelings. Maybe this is why there is so much moral disengagement and avoidance on Turkish side; because engagement may remind one’s past misdeeds and create anxiety.
Interestingly, Hrant was a different reminder for most Turkish people. Hearing his voice wasn’t creating avoidance, maybe because he wasn’t moving with reaction or anything close to revenge-related emotions. His wife, Rakel’s speech at his funeral also reflected a loving voice and she kindly underscored the darkness that creates a murderer from a baby.
Babies are born as biological organisms then they learn who they are in a language community. Then, they learn who others are. Finally they may learn how to survive a fragile life through something absolutely valid, transcending and immortal such as nationalism and religious fundamentalism. If nationalism or religious fundamentalism is taught in schools and communities, then we create a generation with fixed worldviews, what is nowadays called radicalized youth. When the absolute validity of their worldview is challenged by an increasingly complex and cosmopolitan world, then they can go ahead and pay a visit to, for instance, Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Hrant Dink in Istanbul, Colonel Altikat in Ottawa, Musa Anter in Diyarbakir and Ugur Mumcu in Ankara.
But pure psychologism helps us only so little, and our analysis cannot only be the psychology of murderers. Rather, history of racism teaches us better about murdered intellectuals, national identity maintenance and state politics. It also teaches us about nation-state building and capital accumulation after mass killings and pogroms. For example, history of racist politics in Turkey has claimed about 40 thousand lives and it took years to recognize that Kurdish people are Kurdish; they are not mountain Turks; they may not be proud of Sabiha Gokcen; their language is not a dialect of Turkish language; Kobani is important for them; and they may have a reasonable political demand from Turkey for their natural and human rights. It takes years and thousands of lives, emptied villages and insulted people to get to this point.
Why is there so much moral disengagement from mass killings of innocent Armenians of 1915 and resisting Kurds of today? Social scientists argue that the need for moral disengagement may be closely associated with the need to protect one’s own morality and self-worth. We also know that these constructs are closely associated with our deep existential concerns. As positive self-regard or self-pride develops, anxiety declines and this is how national self-images can function as psycho-political systems.
But what if positive self-pride or national self-image is narcissistic, inflated, fragile and ultimately self-destructive? In fact national Turkish narrative is an example of this as psychoanalyst Yavuz Erten states. We learned in schools a particular form of all-celebratory history in which we have believed, for example, that Ottoman empire collapsed because of the late sultans who enjoyed themselves too much; that we were not defeated in the First World War, but we were only counted as defeated because of Germans; that one Turk is worth the world; and that Turkish people belong to a smart, intelligent, and sublime race. We were also told that Turkey was surrounded by external and internal enemies. In short, this kind of national discourse, totalitarian ego and history writing help in sustaining foundational myths and denial of one’s past misdeeds. However, it can no more help a modern country with diverse cultures in the age of global cultural communication, interaction and change.
A new national self-image is needed; a new self-regard that gives strength to the solidarity of all peoples against all forms of injustice is needed. I should like to note here that political Islam has its own assumptions and limits about who we are and supposed to be. Hence a communitarian democracy with peaceful resolutions in Turkey cannot be a result of authoritarian religious motivations. In Turkey, we are observing more and more fundamentalism, inequality, oppression and a top-down induction of religious identity. Gezi resistance was a result of this oppression.
And there is an Armenian side to this issue. Armenians are a heterogeneous group of people with different solution dreams when it comes to 1915. Similarly, our Armenian friends often times express how their views of Turks and “Turkishness” were biased before they met us. Prejudices prevent us from interacting and cooperating. These are psycho-political outcomes of various forms of racisms. We should remember that lTurkish people living today are not yesterday’s perpetrators, they are not directly responsible for 1915. They may try to keep a national self-image or narrative going, but it is a political problem. There are also a few important asymmetries in our positions, as outlined by another psychoanalyst, Murat Paker: For example, 1915 is very important for Armenians, however, it is not a primary issue for Turkish people. Also, those who are actively interested in 1915 in Turkey are democrats, intellectuals and friends of Hrant who have been struggling against nationalism. However, facing one’s own nationalism should also be important for Armenian activists. We all have a responsibility to create a relational space, to face our own prejudices, and to find ways of having non-judgemental compassionate access to each other’s unresolved grief and self-concerns.
On a self-reflective note, acknowledging Ottomans’ crime against Armenians or Turkish State’s crimes against Kurds, doesn’t take anything away from my “Turkishness”. Quite the opposite is true: Today, the honour of “Turkishness” can only be sustained through a meaningful solution of the Armenian and Kurdish questions. Otherwise, how can we genuinely address the crimes against the people of Eastern Turkistan about which we know only so little, or against Palestinians, or the native peoples of North America? Understanding our past through peoples’ narratives rather than state myths might be the first step.
Our dear friend Mete Pamir once mentioned in our dialogue group that we need to walk the walk and demand certain steps from Turkey as we have the political and moral upper hand. At this 100th year of the Great Crime against humanity, those steps include, condemning the perpetrators of 1915, taking down from the streets and squares their names, honoring people who helped Armenians, extensively changing school textbooks to include the historical truth, erecting public monuments, making April 24 a national commemoration day, making 1915 a significant part of state’s self-understanding, respecting the legal, citizenship and property rights of Armenians and their successor generations, and finally renovating and making it visible in Turkey the historical and linguistic heritage of Armenian culture.
We believe Hrant’s voice has the power to create the necessary moral engagement for the future. Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi camps, was quoting Dostoevsky who once said "There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." Hrant Dink had suffered a lot, and he had grown out of it. He was talking about the capacity to carry the burden with peace. As an Armenian and communitarian intellectual who was living in Turkey, he loved his people and moved with a positive and welcoming attitude.
Let’s not forget him.
Voices in Dialogue condemns disruption of Armenian Genocide commemoration in Ottawa
Voices in Dialogue – Ottawa, May 9, 2014
On April 24, 2014, a commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on Parliament Hill and in front of the Turkish Embassy in Ottawa was disrupted by a group of counter-protesters aimed at disturbing and silencing the event. Voices in Dialogue strongly condemns the organization of this unethical action made to coincide with this solemn occasion. We call upon Canadian politicians and law enforcement agencies, as well as on the Turkish Embassy, to ensure that this will never reoccur.
Commemorations are held on April 24 worldwide to mark the day when the Ottoman Ittihadist government arrested more than 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul, thereby starting the murder and deportation process that resulted in the destruction of the Armenian people in the Ottoman Empire. The Armenian Genocide was also marked this year in Istanbul and Diyarbakır. Though small in attendance compared to events organized elsewhere, these solemn gatherings were the largest of the April 24 commemorations that are regularly being held in Turkey for the last several years. Voices in Dialogue is encouraged that April 24 commemorations are becoming increasingly more prevalent in Turkey. We believe that these remembrances offer a chance to fulfill the difficult work of memory and reconciliation which lies ahead, to come to terms with our past, heal our traumas and set down the path toward normalization.
The focus of Voices in Dialogue is to remove barriers erected between our peoples and to ensure a commitment to upholding respect, justice and historical truth. We took notice of Turkish PM Erdogan’s statement released in nine languages on April 23, 2014 which characterizes the consequences of the relocation policy of the wartime Ottoman government as inhumane, offers condolences to the grandchildren of Armenians who were killed in 1915, and calls for respect and compassion regarding the loss of Armenian lives. Against this background, we were perplexed and dismayed by the hate and extreme disrespect exhibited by groups which counter-protested against the April 24 commemorations in front of Parliament Hill and the Turkish Embassy this year. The open and tacit support extended by the Turkish Embassy to these groups is in clear contradiction with the Turkish PM’s call for respect and compassion for Armenians killed.
Voices in Dialogue calls on the Turkish government to act on its recent words, and to stop Turkish lobbying organizations from denying and ridiculing the pain of Armenians. We call on the Canadian government and the City of Ottawa to balance the need for public order with the public interest to commemorate this crime against humanity – a historical event officially recognized as genocide by Canada since 2004. We find it regrettable that the Ottawa Police and the RCMP, however inadvertently, became instruments in propagating the misplaced notion that there are two sides to the historical truth of 1915 by allowing counter-protesters on the ground on the day of April 24 and by erecting barriers to separate people. We reiterate our position, shared by both Canada and Turkey, that April 24 commemorations are solemn occasions requiring utmost respect and compassion.
Voices in Dialogue – Ottawa, May 9, 2014
Voices in Dialogue (ViD) is a non-partisan organization inspired by the life and vision of Hrant Dink. Established in 2007, it promotes open and peaceful dialogue among different peoples whose roots are found in Anatolia, notably those with Turkish, Armenian, and Kurdish origin. Voices in Dialogue is on Facebook and can be contacted at email@example.com.
Call for dialogue and support for the vision of Turkish-Armenian Journalist Hrant Dink
Ottawa – January 1, 2009
On the occasion of a 2nd annual public event to commemorate Hrant Dink on January 17, 2009 at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, Canadians of Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish origin call for honouring Dink and supporting his vision. The keynote address of this event will be delivered by Phil Jenkins, Chair of Writers-in Prison Committee, PEN- Canada.
Hrant Dink was persecuted for several years for his political views and he was murdered in a hate crime in front of his Istanbul office on January 19, 2007. He was the founder and editor of bilingual weekly Agos which championed the closely interlinked causes of the democratization of Turkish society and the revitalization of the Turkish-Armenian community. Dink was an outspoken defender of a new understanding of Turkey — a democratic and multicultural country at peace with its history in which Armenians and all of Turkey's minorities could assert their cultural identities. He wanted a public airing of the story of 1915 and was certain that when people of Turkey were fully acquainted with it, they would draw upon their compassion to seek truth and reconciliation.
We, Canadians of Anatolian roots, are encouraged by the increasing momentum of steps taken toward dialogue between Turkey and Armenia, and among peoples who trace their cultural roots to Anatolia in Canada and elsewhere. These dialogue initiatives were jolted into action by the outpouring of emotion demonstrated by over two hundred thousand Turkish citizens at Dink’s funeral on January 23, 2007 in Istanbul. The two-year period since that massive show of support for solidarity has witnessed the energetic efforts of Turkish-Armenian dialogue groups across the globe, and a wave of popular enthusiasm that paved the way for the historic meeting between Presidents Gül and Sargsyan in September 6, 2008. Most importantly, there is now an increasing frequency of contacts between Turkish and Armenian civil society and artistic groups, such as the much celebrated concerts of Istanbul-based groups Kardeş Türküler and Sayad Nova Chorus in Yerevan last month.
While cognizant of the very real obstacles to reconciliation that lie ahead, we believe that the way forward lies in raising awareness of our shared heritage through cultural events and the creation of communication venues for Armenian, Turkish and Kurdish communities. These venues enable the sharing of personal and family stories as well as wider knowledge about historical events, in particular the attempts to eradicate the Armenian people and culture in Anatolia after 1915. In this context, we recognize the door-opening potential of civil society initiatives that have gained a new impetus by the recent launch of an apology campaign by a group of renowned Turkish intellectuals, which will run until December 2009 through which citizens of Turkey all around the world would have a chance to express their empathy with the pain of their Armenian brothers and sisters for the destruction of collective Armenian existence in Anatolia in 1915.