April 24, 2012, marks the 97th anniversary of the massacre and deportation of around 1.5 million Armenians living in the then Ottoman Empire. Widely considered by many historians as well as the parliaments of several countries to be an act of genocide, the issue remains an emotive one.
Yet, while recent attempts to officially normalize relations and resolve historical grievances between Armenia and Turkey have faltered, the situation has been changing slowly in other areas, and not least in terms of civil society activity.
Indeed, in recent years there has been more open discussion and debate in Turkish society, as well as in its media, about the events of 1915 than ever before. While Turkey still denies the charge of genocide, that change is nonetheless unprecedented as one Turkish tweep commented.
@Ziya_Meral: How much #Turkey has changed in 10 years.. Newspapers are full of articles clearly naming 1915 a genocide, people marching to commemorate..
Naturally, most activity, online and off, came from ethnic Armenians in Armenia and its large Diaspora, much of which came into being because of the deportations, but while the memorial in Istanbul was small, it was at least poignant. It was also live-tweeted in Turkish and English.
@oemoral: @cigdemmater & @hale_akay reporting live from Armenian Genocide commemoration meeting in #Istanbul.
@cigdemmater: 1915 genocide is a crime against humanity #ArmenianGenocide http://pic.twitter.com/E58KFq9O
@hale_akay: We gathered in front of the building Armenians were kept before they were forced to leave Istanbul #ArmenianGenocide http://pic.twitter.com/zFwxKWac
@cigdemmater: Today's museum of Turkish and Islamic art use to be the central prison during the #ArmenianGenocide
A statement from the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) was also addressed to the heads of the two Armenian Churches in Armenia and Lebanon. British-Armenian Genocide Historian Ara Sarafian also spoke at the commemoration.
@cigdemmater: IHD aciklamasindan sonra tarihci Ara Sarafian,Ermenice bir konusma yapiyor:soykirimin 97.yilini anmak icin bir aradayiz http://pic.twitter.com/ZkEmATyJ
A larger memorial occurred later in the day in Istanbul's Taksim Square although there were reports of a counter demonstration by Turkish nationalists. Otherwise, the event was silent and peaceful.
Meanwhile, some Facebook and Twitter users also shared a video recorded especially to mark the anniversary, as Unzipped and others noted.
An Armenian folk song (‘At the Break of Dawn’, compiled by Arusyak Sahakian), arranged by Ayşe Tütüncü, well known pianist/musician from Turkey […], and performed by 42 Turkish musicians. In memoriam April 24.
@GizemYarbil: An Armenian folk song, Aravodun Temin: At the Break of Dawn, In memoriam #April24 http://vimeo.com/40639618
Bir anonim Ermeni gelin türküsünü (Aravodun Temin: Sabaha Karşı, derleyen: Arusyak Sahakyan) Ayşe Tütüncü düzenledi, 42 müzisyen biraraya gelip çaldı. 24 Nisan kurbanları anısına…
Touched by the gesture, one Armenian left a comment:
Nora Armani: As the granddaughter of a survivor from Kaiseri, Anatolia, I am touched beyond words. All I can say is: çok teşekkür ederim, arkadaşlarim. Our culture and art will re-unite us. I am a firm believer in that. Thank you once again…
Thanks to Ertugrul Yilmaz (@Ert_Ylmz) for translation from Turkish into English and Ümit Kıvanç for enabling Vimeo embed permissions for the video.