Armenian-origin lawmaker Garo Paylan about the atmosphere in Turkey
Garo Paylan, an ethnic Armenian and one of the members of People’s Democratic Party, becoming the cause of acute questions in the political life of Turkey recently, has appeared in the core attention by the local authorities. More obvious persecution followed him after April 24 of this year. On the day to commemorate the Armenian Genocide, at the Turkish parliament, Garo Paylan condemned the murder of Armenian political figures in 1915 and stated that Turkey must reckon with its history. There was a disturbance when some time later, during the discussions on the immunity of deputies in the constitutional committee at the Turkish parliament, Garo Paylan was in the center of the brawl. “Aravot” carried out an exclusive conversation with the Armenian lawmaker of the Turkish Parliament about the events going on around him. “The Turkish society does not know its history. It does not know about the Armenian Genocide in 1915 and the Armenian lawmakers in the Parliament on those days. The crimes committed against my nation have remained unpunished until now. Without confronting the past, and in the case of impunity of perpetrators, such events will keep going. Prior to becoming a lawmaker, as an activist, I was trying to do something in the direction of Genocide recognition. After becoming a lawmaker, I have brought these materials to the Parliament, – says Mr. Paylan and notes that on that day as a PDP faction, he a question of examining the case if Armenian lawmakers arrested in 1915, – We have referred a questions of where and how they were killed and demanded to determine the location of their buried bodies. I have made a call for confrontation and improvement in my speech. 101 years later, the Armenian lawmakers are again on the agenda of the parliament and their photos found a place in the seats of the parliament. After my speech, a number of lawmakers stated that they were unaware of what I have said.”
In response to our question of whether he had thought about the risks when raising such an issue at the Turkish Parliament, Mr. Paylan replied that all the lawmakers of their party are fighters for different matters like he. He notes that Turkey is turning into a totalitarian state and their struggle is just for it. “We are going through such a difficult period in Turkey, where being an opposition is very difficult. My fellow party-members are subjected to arrest and persecution. But we as PDP members will continue to fight for non-restriction of freedoms and democratic Turkey.”
Mr. Paylan notes that the Armenians living in different parts of the world are concerned about the provocations launched against him, all of them are raising the question of his security, “We hear from different parts of the world, the Armenian community is concerned about my security. I certainly would not say that these concerns are worthless, but I do not want to get used to the idea that they want to persecute me. Certainly, I know that with a stupid courage I have no right to sadden anyone. I am trying to be careful,” – says Mr. Paylan.
He points out that the thousands of letters received after the fight in the Constitutional Committee of the Parliament proved that they are not alone. “Yes, I was a specific target in the fight that took place in the Committee. It was a planned fight. It was a hate crime. I personally have no fear. But this fascist atmosphere towards the Armenian community, as Hrant Dink would say, looks like a “dove emotions.” After the attack, both the Diaspora and a number of organizations from Armenia have sent messages of support. As well as you said that there were applications and marches, which even if do not mean anything for Turkey, they might be a factor of pressure. I would like to know that it is very important for me,” says Mr. Paylan
We asked our interlocutor what the Turkish community of Turkey thinks about the Armenian issue in general, whether the majority of them perceive the policy led in his country and whether they are ready to confront the mistakes of their predecessors and whether they are now tolerant towards the ethnic minorities in his country. “Actually, there are many people who are trying to raise the issues of minorities; now I am the one who raises these issues in the parliament. The denial exists in the majority of the public. We are talking about the denial tradition of 101 years, and it is not easy to pass through and break it. There were developments in confrontation for few years, but along with the narrowing of the political environment and growing nationalism, the issue of the Armenian Genocide returned to the issues that contain a risk, – says Mr. Paylan and continues, – Especially in the past, the community living today in the places dwelled mostly by Armenians, those who know the history of their family realize the reality of the genocide, however, a suitable environment must be prepared for them to be expressed in a loud voice.” Mr. Paylan notes that “intolerance towards national minorities” is possible only when we remain silent, “When claims for confronting the past or regarding the existing problems pop up, intolerance becomes impossible, especially nowadays,” – he says.
P.S. – The trial of the lawsuit filed last year by Garo Paylan in Turkey is over. Paylan claimed the court to exercise responsibility over the leader of Kars youth wing of “Gray Wolves” Turkish extremist forces for intimidating Armenians. “The court sentenced Tolga Adıgüzel, the leader of Kars youth wing called Ülkü Ocakları, to 7 months and 15 days in prison for the expression “Now, what? Should we go out for hunting for Armenians in the streets of Kars?” and a fine of TL 11240 (about USD 3800). The reason for the aforementioned threat by Adıgüzel was jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan’s concert organized on the ruins of ancient Armenian capital Ani on June 21, 2015.