Turkish police block Armenian ‘genocide’ rally in Istanbul

Armenians commemorate on April 24, the 104th anniversary of the killing of 1.5 million by Ottoman forces, as a fierce dispute still rages with Turkey over Ankara’s refusal to recognize the mass murder as genocide. (AFP)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Turkish police block Armenian ‘genocide’ rally in Istanbul

  • Troops from the Ottoman Empire — which preceded modern-day Turkey — were responsible for mass killing of Armenians
  • Turkey has always denied that the incident amounted to genocide

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Wednesday blocked protesters trying to hold a commemoration in Istanbul of the 1915 massacres and forced deportation of Armenians.
Troops from the Ottoman Empire — which preceded modern-day Turkey — were responsible for mass killing of Armenians, but Turkey has always denied that the incident amounted to genocide.
France on Wednesday holds its first “national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide” in a move that has angered Turkey’s government.
About 100 protesters, including some French and European Parliament lawmakers, attempted to hold a ceremony in Istanbul to mark the massacres, but were prevented by police, an AFP reporter said.
“It has been nine years now that these commemorations of the Armenian genocide are being held here, and it is the first time that the state prevents us,” said Benjamin Abtan, one of the activists at the Istanbul rally.
Armenians commemorate the massacres on April 24 — the day in 1915 when thousands of Armenian intellectuals suspected of harboring nationalist sentiment and being hostile to Ottoman rule were rounded up.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called French leader Emmanuel Macron a “political novice” for the French commemoration and pointed to abuses by French troops during the colonial era.
“If we look at those trying to give lessons on human rights or democracy to Turkey on the Armenian question and the fight against terrorism, we see that they all have a bloody past,” the Turkish leader said on Wednesday.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will lead the commemorations in Paris by giving a speech and laying flowers at a Monument for the Armenian Genocide erected on the north bank of the river Seine in April 2003.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”