Unprecedented Conference

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Unprecedented Conference to Harmonize Efforts to Achieve Peace and Justice  for the Peoples of Asia Minor

An estimated 170 speakers, delegates and guests, including nine Members of Parliament from four countries, an advisor to the President of Lebanon, representatives of Aramaic, Armenian, Assyrian, Hamshin, Kurd, Pontic Greek, Syriac, Yezidi, and Zaza parties, associations and NGOs gathered for a three-day (June 17-19) forum to form an organization which will push for democracy, justice, the rule of law, respect for human rights and cultural heritage in Turkey—the homeland of the above groups.
 
The unprecedented event, which was sponsored by the Paris-based National Congress of Western Armenians (NCWA) and took place at the Tekeyan Cultural Centre in downtown Beirut, was the brainchild of two conferences (in Berlin and Paris) earlier this year and known as the 19 January Initiative Coordination Commission.
 
In his opening statement, Souren G. Seraydarian, chairman of the NCWA, said: “Turkish nationalist, Kemalist or Islamist—have continued to pursue a plan of completing a demographic operation of transforming Asia Minor to the heartland of the Turkish nation without any consideration for the multi-ethnic, multicultural roots and faith of the rest of the population.
Mr. Seraydarian went on toe say: “In this mission, they [Turkey] used us to create an atmosphere of hatred against each other, divided us through  misinformation and manipulation. As a result, we, peoples of Asia Minor, we lived apart in our common homeland, sometimes in conflict among ourselves.”
 
The NCWA stressed that attendants had not come together “not against Turkish nation nor against anybody or anything  but keeping aside divergencies to defend our legitimate rights for justice, democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights, and cultural heritage”
 
Mr. Seraydarian added: “Now it is high time to concentrate on what is common to all of us who suffered from crimes against humanity and genocide.” He concluded his address by underlining that the nascent organizations approach must be pragmatic, away from emotions, politically realistic, and move step by step to achieve progress and find common denominators.  “This does not preclude that each group of people deal separately on issues they do not consider to be common to all.
 
Habib Afram, advisor to President Michel Aoun of Lebanon, welcomed the delegates and said diversity, pluralism, respect for human rights and the equally of nations, races, religions and genders is a given. He said that Lebanon is the ideal place to hold such a dialogue.
 
Other speakers included internationally-known human rights activist and historian Tessa Hofmann; Ali Bayramoglu, an early supporter of the Hrant Dink Foundation; and Recep Marasli of the 19th January Initiative Coordination Commission.
 
Others who address the gathering included MPs Shirak Torosyan and Arsen Mikhayelov of Armenia, MPs David Chinchinzade and Ruslan Pogossyan of Georgia, MP Georgios Lazarides of Greece, MP Chant Chinchinian and Ghassan Mukhayber of Lebanon, MPs Yerwant Amenian and Ali Halo of Iraqi Kurdistan.
 
Alex Koshkerian of the Social Democrat Hunchakian Party, Dyar Qamishlo, representing the North Syria Self Rule, Ibrahim Mrad, president of the Syriac Union Party, Hana Ehad Osman of “Newroz” Cultural and Social Assocaition, and
Sinan Ciftyurek of the Kurdish Freedom and Socialism Party.
 
Others in attendance were former MPs from Greece (Gavril Avramidis), Arakadz Akhoyan of Armenia, and Ufuk Uras of Turkey.
 
On the third day of the forum working groups defined the common losses and legitimate rights of the ethnic and religious groups whose ancestors had been driven out of Asia Minor by Turkey. They also established common mid- and –long-term objectives of the new organization.
 
On the second day of the forum attendees visited His Holiness Aram A Catholicoss of the Holy See of Cilicia. His Holiness spoke about the globalized world, which has brought people together and increased the challenge to accept and respect one another.  Addressing the tragedy inflicted on the former inhabitants of Asia Minor by the government of Turkey, he said there can be no reconciliation without recognizing the crimes against humanity and genocide committed  and  apologizing for those crimes.

 

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