Many more Armenians used to live in Turkey, for centuries. Before 1915, according to varying estimates, there were 1.3-2 million. Today this minority — one of Turkey’s largest — numbers between 40,000 and 70,000 people. Then, targeted taxes and obstacles to advancement in public sector jobs led Armenians to become increasingly discreet as a community.
Only recently have things begun to evolve in distinct ways for Armenians living in Istanbul. Ownership reforms by the governing AK party let them recover more than 300 confiscated religious properties, and more recently, Armenians such as Markar Esayan have become AK candidates for parliament.
The columnist for a pro-government newspaper said: “I don’t think I got on the candidate list because I’m Armenian, although it is an important part of my identity. I’m happy to be Armenian. I think my candidacy is an important proof of Turkey’s democratic development. An Armenian becoming a ruling party candidate means he will be part of the executive.”
The opposition centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) also has an Armenian candidate. Selina Özuzun Doğan heads the list, a lawyer-turned-politician determined to enter parliament.
Özuzun Doğan said: “I want to deal with all kinds of discrimination, fight hate crimes, defend basic human rights, freedom of expression. Off course, Armenians’ visibility will increase. We will have a say on issues. Armenian self confidence will increase. We will no longer be ignored.”
Armenian Garo Paylan is second on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) list. The HDP proposes opening up the Turkish-Armenian border.
Paylan has called for an egalitarian constitution and a system based on that social contract, so that the state serves everyone equally, whether an Armenian, a Kurd or a Turk, saying there must be a normalisation process, as the system has long ignored some identities in Turkey.
Today, of the four big parties, only the Nationalist Movement does not have any Armenian candidates.
In the 92 years of modern Turkey’s existence only five Armenians have taken a seat in parliament, the last one in 1964.
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