The Hrant Dink Foundation and Diyarbakir’s metropolitan municipality organized a workshop from November 11-13. The workshop focused on the social and economic history of the city and its surrounding areas from 1838 to 1938, tackling head-on the fate of the region’s vibrant Christian minorities. Opening remarks were made by Mayor Osman Baydemir who reminded the participants about Diyarbakir’s vibrant past during the Ottoman Empire era and how it decayed in the decades that followed because of the destruction of its Armenian and Assyrian population. He also informed the audience that the municipality is currently engaged in an effort to return properties confiscated from minorities to their rightful owners, or provide equivalent land elsewhere if the particular land is currently owned by a third party. Moreover, he added that renovating houses of worship also constitutes an effort to renovate the conscience of people and confront the past. “This city,” he went on, “belongs to Armenians and Assyrians as much as it belongs to Kurds.
”The keynote speech titled “The State, the Muslims, and the Non-Muslims, 1839-1938” was delivered by Ankara University professor Baskin Oran. The opening session also featured comments by Rakel Dink, Ali Bayramoglu, Cengiz Aktar, and others.Speakers at the workshop included genocide scholars and Ottoman historians from Europe, North America, and Turkey. David Gaunt, Raymond Kevorkian, Vahe Tashjian, Hans Lukas Kieser, Barbara Merguerian, George Aghjayan, Seda Altug, Janet Klein, Jelle Verheij, and Ayhan Aktar were among the participants. The conference was broadcast live on the website of the Hrant Dink Foundation, at www.hrantdink.org but in an yet another effort to suppress freedom of speech live-feeds from the foundation’s website were blocked in Turkey. The video of the conference will be made available online at www.hrantdink.org. Details, to follow.