13 October, 2009

Turkey's Ironic Peace Statue

Here is a more human interest story about the Armenia-Turkey peace process. It is about Naif Alibeyogluin, the former mayor of Kars, in Turkey, who decided to build a monument to peace, showing two stylised figures on the brink of shaking hands. Although Kars is in Turkey, local geography means that when floodlit at night the statue is visible across the Armenian border, 40 kilometres away. The statue is meant to symbolise the Armenian and Turkish peoples overcoming their troubled past and joining together in friendship.

The fact that Mr Alibeyogluin is the former mayor of Kars is significant. Many people in Turkey are unconvinced by the desirability of friendship with Armenia. Local politician Oktay Aktas of the National Action Party asserted that one of the figures has their head bowed – taking this as signifying Turkish guilt over the Armenian genocide, an event that Turkish
law says never happened. Mr Aktas sees the statue as indicating an Armenian desire to take over eastern Turkey, and has vowed to demolish it. In recent elections, Mr Alibeyogluin found himself sidelined by his own Justice and Development party, with someone else taking the mayoral title.

The future of Mr Alibeyogluin's monument to peace remains uncertain.

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