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Hrant Gadarigian

Fethiye Çetin: “These attacks have created fear and anxiety for Armenians and Christians living in Turkey”

To get a better insight into the recent attacks against elderly Armenian women in Istanbul, Hetq contacted Fethiye Çetin, a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate working in Turkey.

Çetin has served as an attorney for the family of Hrant Dink and is the author of My Grandmother, a book describing how and when she found out about her Armenian roots.

Recently, former Agos editor Aris Nalcı told Today’s Zaman that he believed these attacks were organized and called on Turkish officials to launch a comprehensive investigation. Would you agree with his assessment?

I would also agree that these actions are organized and planned. At first, the police promoted the line that they were violent robberies, however no such evidence was to be found in the homes of the victims. In addition, witnesses claim that the attackers always had an accomplice or two nearby. We have been focusing our attention on Samatya of late, but it must be said that attacks directed against Christians have been occurring all over the country as well. The latest was the exposure of an organized gang that attempted to murder a Christian priest in Kocaeli. All this attests to the fact that the events are systematic in nature and not random.

Being close to certain segments of the Istanbul Armenian community, how would you describe the emotional state within the community in light of these incidents?

These attacks have created fear and anxiety for Armenians and Christians living in Turkey. An Armenian woman living in the Samatya neighbourhood responded to a Milliyet reporter by stating, “Let us die in our beds”. These few words clearly describe the emotional state of Armenians.

If the attacks are indeed premeditated and organized - by whom and for what aim?

To date, not one of the criminals has been discovered. I believe that these incidents must be connected to the words uttered by the Minister of Internal Affairs at last year’s Khojaly Meeting. For this reason, I fear that similar incidents will only increase and worsen in the lead up to 2015.

All the victims have been elderly Armenian women who live alone. Does this factor have any particular significance?

I think they have chosen elderly women who live alone because they don’t want any eyewitnesses. Also, they want to create an even larger climate of fear in the Armenian community.

What must Turkish authorities do, which they aren’t now, to prevent the reoccurrence of such attacks in the future and to prove that they are truly concerned with the safety of Armenian citizens of Turkey?

It is vital to expose the culprits as soon as possible and the forces pulling the strings. The authorities must publicly address the community and state that those responsible will be severely punished. The authorities must keep this issue on their agenda. Through various events and pronouncements, the public at large must be made aware that mentality causing these attacks is bankrupt.

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