‘We Are Here’: Sayat Tekir Tours Eastern Region, Addresses Community

(ARMENIAN WEEKLY) DETROIT, Mich.—Turkey-based human rights activist Sayat Tekir visited the United States recently to accept this year’s Armenian National Committee of America Eastern Region (ANCA-ER) Activism Award on behalf of the Nor Zartonk Movement at the 9th Annual ANCA Eastern Region Banquet in Detroit.

Sayat Tekir is one of the founders and current spokesperson of “Nor Zartonk,” a human rights group based in Turkey that contributes to the social and cultural development of society and plays an active role in achieving peace and welfare. The return of Camp Armen to its rightful owners, the Gedikpasha Armenian Protestant Church Foundation, on Oct. 27, 2015, is the most recent example of social resistance by “Nor Zartonk”; it lasted 175 days.

As part of his U.S. tour, Tekir stopped in several Armenian-American communities and gave talks on the origins and current activities of “Nor Zartonk” movement, the recent parliamentary elections in Turkey, and the situation of minorities living in Turkey. His itinerary included Los Angeles; Belmont, Mass.; New York; and Dearborn, Mich.

His public address in Manhattan was co-organized by the Armenian National Committee of New York (ANC of NY), St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, and the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA). The event took place on Nov. 10 in the premises of the cathedral, where more than 70 community members were in attendance.

In Massachusetts, Tekir gave his remarks at the First Armenian Church, which was co-hosted by the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts (ANC of EM), ANC of Merrimack Valley, ANC of Central Massachusetts, AYF Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter, Bostonbul, Friends of Hrant Dink, AMAA, and the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research.

In his remarks to the audience, Sayat Tekir stated, “Justice and the change of reality will never come from above. We should start from grassroots and work hard to achieve them. Yes, genocide happened in 1915. We, however, do not want to continue the discourse of they killed, broke, and annihilated us. Yes they massacred us in a very brilliant operation, but they did not annihilate. They will not be able to. Today we stand against the murderers, look into their eyes and repeat: We are here! We will always be here. We are not finished.”

“International pressure is important but never enough for transforming Turkey into a democratic country that will be able to face the dark and bloody chapters of its history and affirm the international crime that was perpetrated against the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek people,” said ANCA Eastern Region Board member Tsoleen Sarian. “The international pressure should be paralleled with domestic activism through organizations like Nor Zartonk in order to bring about societal change as well as truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide.”

Tekir’s tour concluded in Michigan, where on the morning of Nov. 14, he spoke at the ANCA-ER daylong Advocacy Workshop. He spoke about the group’s activities in the country, focusing especially on Camp Armen and how through activism and perseverance they succeeded in returning the title of the building back to the Istanbul-Armenian community.

There is still time to make a donation to the ANCA Eastern Region 9th Annual Banquet and to support the organization’s mission and current projects. For more information, visit www.ancaef.org/banquet.

The ANCA Eastern Region Endowment Fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational organization that supports the ANCA Eastern Region in outreach to Armenian-American communities.

Photo: The New York event took place on Nov. 10 in the premises of the cathedral, where more than 70 community members were in attendance.