Topography of Memory

The 24th of April: remembering the community of dead poets

Sevağ Şahın Balıkçı (April 1, 1986 – April 24, 2011) was a Turkish soldier of Armenian descent who was killed during military service. The incident occurred on April 24, 2011, the remembrance day of the Armenian Genocide. According to official reports from military commanders in Batman given to the Balıkçı family, Sevag was killed unintentionally while “joking around” with his friend. Sevag’s fiancée did not believe in the initial report because her conversations on the phone with Sevag suggested a different version of the events.

According to Balıkçı lawyer Cem Halavurt, an investigation conducted on May 1, 2011 into the background of the suspect Kıvanç Ağaoglu revealed that he was an ultra-nationalist through his internet social networks, which were shut down after the incident. A justice initiative was launched in Turkey devoted to the case of Sevag Balıkçı. Members of the panel include the mother of Sevag, Ani Balıkçı, Arat Dink, Rakel Dink, and others. The initiative protested the court’s decision in letting suspect Kıvanç Ağaoğlu free and proclaimed that Sevag was murdered due to a hate crime.

The Armenian Genocide was the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of its minority Armenian and Assyrian subjects in the Ottoman Empire. It took place during and after World War I and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number of people killed has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy.

The starting date of the genocide is conventionally held to be 24 April 1915, the day Ottoman authorities rounded up and arrested some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul.One of them was the 31 years old Poet Daniel Varoujan. An eyewitness has narrated the torture and martyrdom of Varoujan, Roupen Seva (another Armenian writer,doctor), and three others. After being arrested and jailed, they were taken to the woods, striped and tied to some trees. Their painers started cutting them slowly with their knives. Their screams could be heard from a long distance where this eyewitness was hiding.

The German Empire was the ally of the Ottoman Empire. German Officers, soldiers and members of the Red Cross were present in Istanbul and Anatolia. Armin T. Wegener was a medical Officer in East Anatolia and witnessed, reported and photoğraphed the Genocide, but he was an exception. The German Empire didn’t want to loose the Ottoman Ally and closed both eyes. Some Prussian Antisemists even fostered the rising hate against the Armenian minority. Adolf Freiherr Marschall von Bieberstein, from 1897 until 1902 ambassador in Istanbul, called the Armenians the “Parasites and Jews of Anatolia”.

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