Buenos Aires Armenians Stop Installation of Ataturk Statue


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Armenian community of Buenos Aires came together at the last moment to stop the erection of a monument dedicated to Kemal Ataturk. The action led to the cancellation of the planned trip by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Argentina on May 31.

The Turkish Ambassador to Argentina, Hayri Hayret Yalav, contacted the head of the Ministry of Parks in the Province of Buenos Aires, Diego Sentili and secured permission to “renovate” a monument at an abandoned square near the Jorge Newbery Airport (owned and operated by Ernesto Eurnekian), where there was once a monument of an Arab human rights activist, in order to sidestep the process of public hearing for a new monument. In effect, the head of the statue was going to be replaced with that of Kemal Ataturk.

However, on May 23, Yalav made the mistake of “inviting” Turkish Armenians of Buenos Aires to participate to the “historical Opening of the Sculpture of Kemal Ataturk.”

That was when the Armenian community was informed of the intentions of the Turkish government in their backyard. Led by Archbishop Kissag Mouradian, Primate of the Armenian Church of Argentina, with the participation of all the local Armenian organizations, a sum of $75,000 was raised immediately and a strong advertisement was placed in four Argentinean newspapers, Clarin, La Nacion, Pagina 12 and the English-language newspaper Buenos Aires Herald, on Thursday, May 27. In part the message stated and in part referred to “The embarrassing attempt to inaugurate a bust of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who continued the extermination plan initiated on April 24, 1915, by the Ottoman Government, and the person responsible for inaugurating a policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide, currently avowed by the actual government of Turkey.”

On Friday, May 28, a delegation consisting of all active political parties, including the ADL, the ARF and the Armenian Communist party and the Primate met with Santili and explained to him why it was not possible to install a statue of a person who had murdered thousands of human beings and denied the Armenian Genocide. Santili accepted that he had made a mistake, and rescinded his previous order to “reconstruct” the monument.

An angry Erdogan, who was visiting Brazil, pressured Argentinean President Cristina Kircher to overturn the Buenos Aires Mayor’s decision, but to no avail. Erdogan visited Brazil and Chile only.

(This report was compiled through interviews with the leaders of the AGBU, ADL and Church sources in Buenos Aires.)