Geneva Genocide Monument Closer to Being Constructed


By Fatih Gökhan Diler

GENEVA, Switzerland (Agos) — A Swiss court on March 22 dismissed the last objections concerning an Armenian Genocide monument that is planned to be built there. This ruling can be appealed until April 19. Approved by Geneva City Council in 2008, the project has changed location two times and been postponed due to the pressure from the  Turkish Foreign Ministry and Turkish organizations in Switzerland.

The final location was determined as Trembley Park in Geneva. The court dismissed the objection of the locals on the ground that they reside in a place far away from the park.

Legal representative of the objecting party Yves Nidegger is a deputy from the Democratic Union of the Center. He also worked as the legal adviser to the Federation of Turkish Associations of Western Switzerland and represented Federation of Turkish Associations of Western Switzerland in Perinçek v. Switzerland case in the European Court of Human Rights.

The art project, titled “Streetlights of Memory,” will honor the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide, had gotten the necessary permissions from the city council in 2008. Since then, the project has been causing tension between Turkey and Switzerland.

There are two main issues concerning the monument that disturbed Turkey. First of all, it is designed to commemorate the victims of the Armenian Genocide, though it is not a “genocide monument” per se. The second concern is about the location, which is very close to the United Nations center in Geneva. This symbolic location disturbed Turkey. In this regard, the pressure from Turkey has gradually increased. Speaking to Agos back in 2014, Stefan Kristensen, coordinator of the project said, “At first, led by Celal Bayar, the eponymous grandson of the infamous Celal Bayar, Turkish organisations in Switzerland began to apply pressure against the project.” Then, Turkey started to use its political and economic leverages in its negotiations with Switzerland. As a result, Didier Burkhalter, Foreign Minister and President of the Swiss Confederation, sent a letter to the Geneva Canton recommending that the authority “refuses to grant a building permit”. Though the letter was a “recommendation”, a new location for the monument was sought. The final location was determined as the northern part of Trembley Park in Saint-Antoine.

Designed by Parisian Armenian artist Melik Ohanian, “Streetlights of Memory” consists of nine streetlights in a single place. The audience starts to read from the below. Some streetlights have more than one posts.