Sunday, 4 November 2007

Armenian Genocide memorial unveiled in Wales amid Turkish protests

A memorial to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide was unveiled in Cardiff yesterday (3 November 2007). It was the first time that such a memorial was placed in the UK. It carries an inscription in English, Welsh and Armenian, which reads, ‘In memory of the victims of the Armenian genocide’. The unveiling was carried out by the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly of Wales Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and Vahe Gabrielyan, the Armenian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Lord Elis-Thomas said: “The fact that the funds for this fine memorial have been raised entirely by the Armenians who live in Wales and that it will occupy a special place here in the Temple of Peace, reflects the vibrant Welsh interest in the history of Armenia.”

*source of pictures:

According to icWales, "more than 200 messages protesting against the monument’s erection have been sent by members of the Turkish community in Wales, elsewhere in Britain and from Turkey itself over the decision to erect the pillar of pink stone and Welsh slate." BBC reports that "over a hundred and fifty people [members of the Turkish community] protested before the unveiling." (picture below - via BBC)

In March 2000, the National Assembly of Wales formally acknowledged the Armenian Genocide . It also called on the UK Government to block Turkey’s admission to the EU until it acknowledged the crime. The only other formal acknowledgement of the Genocide in the UK came from the City Of Edinburgh Council which passed the bill on recognition of the Armenian Genocide in November 2005. Currently Armenian organisations are actively lobbying British MPs to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide on behalf of the UK. However, I do not expect any such move any time soon from the UK or England, taking into account political ties between Britain and Turkey. As their American 'brothers' would say - "It's not a right time".

A petition to the British Prime Minister to recognise the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is nearing its 16th November deadline. Soon after, all undersigned (currently 1 088 signatures, myself including) will receive a formal response from the PM office. I will post it in my blog as soon as get it.


artmika said...

Through the link posted by Onnik in Global Voices , I came across the post by James in Turkey who attended the ceremony and reported on "eviction" of Turkish journalists from the event. He put the number of protesting Turks as "fifty-or-so" (as opposed to BBC's "over a hundred and fifty").

"But things did appear ugly, particularly when a Turkish camera operator was confronted shortly before the unveiling. "Would you please not speak in Turkish?" she was asked. "This is our place at the moment, okay?" The event organisers were then alerted and a brief squabble broke out. It ended only when a police officer came to escort not just the camera operator, but all the Turkish journalists away from the memorial. They co-operated, but were not happy. One Anatolia news agency reporter said she would complain to Britain's National Union of Journalists.

It was embarrassing for all, not least Stephen Thomas, the director of the Temple of Peace. It went against all the messages of peace and sincerity that had been given just moments before. There was a definite anti-Turkish feeling in the air: one visitor pointed to my t-shirt (which read "Polskie Morze byc najlepsze", purchased in Poland) and said that it was Turkish, and that I must be a Turk.
This plain piece of Welsh stone symbolises the gulf between Turkey and Armenia. Yesterday went to show that it will not be bridged any time soon."

Any attempt of restricting media work deserves strong condemnation. I also condemn displays of hate from whatever side they come.

michael said...

I was present at the unveiling ceremony. There were 150 vociferous but peaceful protestors.

During the weeks before the unveiling, the website carried invitations to journalists to email and seek accreditation. No Turkish journalist sought accreditation. Had they done so then they would have been properly accommodated. BBC and ITV journalists had contacted the organisers in advance and were accommodated.

It is regrettable if anyone was confronted in the way described, but at that time there was some tension and a great volume of noise from the protestors who were trying to disrupt a religious service of commemoration.

Overall the event went ahead, and the demontrators were able to express their protest in a peaceful democratic way.

Perhaps those reading this might reflect that the same courtesy would not be available to Armenians protesting in Turkey.

artmika said...

Thanks, Michael, for clarifications, very useful first-hand insight, indeed. I hope in future we won't witness even slightest display of intolerance from our side, regardless of provocations. We do not need to compare ourselves with bad examples, but rather good ones. And I am glad that overall the event went peaceful and, except that regrettable incident or misunderstanding, both sides were acting in civilised way.

Btw, I did not know about website. Will keep an eye on it. It's great that our tiny Armenian community in Wales is organised and pretty successful.