The Turkish Ministry of Culture cancels a concert by Ara Malikian

The violinist Ara Malikian.ÓSCAR GONZÁLEZ (getty images)

The Spanish-Armenian musician Ara Malikian will not perform on June 11 in Turkey, as planned. The violinist confirms in a telephone conversation with EL PAÍS that the concert that he had to offer in Ankara has been suspended by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. He had other shows booked in Turkey (one in Istanbul on June 8) over the summer and those are still going. “I receive constant death threats on social media. And not only addressed to me, but also to my wife and my son, ”he points out. It all comes from a Twitter message.

Malikian (Beirut, Lebanon, 46 years old) participated as a guest on the program TV Four Planet Calleja from last April. There, to a question from the presenter about the genocide of the Armenians, the musician pointed out that he was provoked by “a psychopath, Atatürk.” He was referring to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938), founder of the Republic of Turkey and first president. “Being an Armenian, whenever they ask me I talk about the genocide, because it was like that and because it affected my family. And there has never been any censorship. But a tweet with that extract from the program went viral and it seems that it reached the Turkish authorities. From here I want to say that I was wrong accusing Atatürk, because those responsible for the genocide were the Ottomans”, Malikian points out.

Although the Turkish Ministry of Culture has not made public the reasoning behind the suspension of Malikian’s concert in Ankara, the Turkish digital media outlet OdaTV cites Ministry sources that, indeed, attribute the cancellation to the violinist’s statements about Atatürk. In reality, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic did not participate in the Armenian genocide, since at the time it occurred he was a simple officer in the Ottoman Army and had terrible relations with those who devised it, especially with the Minister of War, Enver Pasha. Moreover, in a conversation in September 2008, the then director of the Armenian Genocide Museum in Yerevan (Armenia), Hayk Demoyan, assured that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk saved a caravan of Armenians sent into exile in the deserts of Syria from deportation. , who otherwise would have perished like hundreds of thousands of other Ottoman Armenians.

At the end of the First World War (1914-1918) and the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), Mustafa Kemal came to power and did nothing to save the main leaders accused of carrying out the genocide, who died in the process. exile at the hands of Armenian gunmen (Operation Nemesis). Instead, the new Turkish regime did protect and give important positions to the low and mid-level Ottoman officials who held important responsibilities during the deportation and annihilation of the Ottoman Armenians. Since then, the Turkish state has denied that the massacres of 1915-1918 constituted genocide (a legal term coined by the jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1944 precisely taking into account the massacres of Ottoman Armenians) and classifies them in the crimes carried out by both parties during the world war.

A decade ago, the Turkish government adopted a more sympathetic position towards the suffering of the Armenians and the Turkish president himself, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, went so far as to apologize for it (although without mentioning the term genocide), although in recent years he has hardened his position and criticized all countries that adopt legislation that punishes the denial of genocide. In Turkey there is a law, 5816 of 1951, which punishes with between one and five years in prison for attacking the figure and memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

According to the violinist, some Turks felt offended by his comment and their social networks began to fill with insults and death threats. “The message was retweeted by a far-right Turkish politician and that’s when all the fuss started. I am very sorry for what has happened. I hope all this calms down and I can perform in Turkey as soon as possible because I have nothing against the Turks”, insists the musician.

Malakian, who has Spanish nationality and lives in Spain, may be the violinist who attracts the most audience at his concerts. In Spain he has gathered in his concerts audiences of 10,000 people. His latest work is titled now (2021) and is presenting it in 2022 all over the world. In the coming weeks it will act in Zaragoza, Valencia, Toledo, Granada or the Balearic Islands.

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The Turkish Ministry of Culture cancels a concert by Ara Malikian