Speech Delivered By He. Ambassador Tuncay Babali On The Occasion Of The Commemoration Ceremony For Colonel Atilla Altikat And Fallen Diplomats, August 27, 2014

Ottava Büyükelçiliği 29.08.2014

Esteemed Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr. Costello,

Esteemed Assistant Deputy Minister, Mr. Venner,

Fellow Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Representatives of the Turkish Canadian community,

We gathered here once again to commemorate Colonel Atilla Altıkat, Military Attaché of the Turkish Embassy 32 years after he was assassinated at this junction in an act of terror as well as all fallen Turkish and taking this opportunity all foreign diplomats around the world. I would like to thank all of you for joining us in solidarity to respect their memory and to condemn terrorism in all its forms.

We, diplomats, whose primary objective is to build peace and solve issues without resorting to violence, have been targets of terrorists and ill-intentioned groups many times over and over again.

Terrorism continues to pose a real and serious threat to our representatives abroad, as well as our countries. Recently, our Consul General and staff including some family members, a total of 49 persons, in Mosul, Iraq are kept in the hands of ISIL terrorists for 76 days after the raid on the premises of our Consulate General.

We wish a fast and safe return of our colleagues and their family members to their loved ones. Many other attacks against diplomats from various countries all around the world showed us time and again, it is a plague which cannot be associated with any religion, race or nationality.

Colonel Altıkat was one of the 42 Turkish diplomats whose lives were taken by the cowardly hand of terrorism in a series of planned attacks between 1973 and 1986. This is the ultimate sacrifice that a public servant can do for his/her beloved nation and country and any recognition effort for this sacrifice will not be enough to their memories.

August 27,1982, this date is not only significant for Turkish Canadians and Turkish Embassy but also for the broader Canadian society which saw the first and only deadly international terrorist attack on its soil thirty two years ago. I hope it remains to be the last as well.

Honourable Minister Baird last week mentioned to me that he is still being effected by the shock of this assassination and in 1985 Embassy attack as he recalls from his formative years.

Although the culprits of Colonel Altıkat’s assassination are still at large for more than 30 years, we still hope that Canada is able to bring them to justice.

Dear guests,

I would like to underline the fact that the monument that we are gathered around today is named “the Fallen Diplomats Memorial” and dedicated to all diplomats and public servants who lost their lives when serving their countries abroad, not only Turkish and Canadian but all.

The monument was inaugurated in 2012 by H.E. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Honorable Foreign Minister Baird. With this occasion, we just open the plaque which describes the monument. I urge everyone to read it. I want to express my sincere thanks to the NCC, Council of Turkish Canadians (CTC) and our fellow countrymen Özerdinç brothers for their valuable contribution to erect this plaque. Without their help this could not be possible.

Dear guests,

Colonel Altıkat’s wife Ayla Altıkat accompanied by her two children said at the inauguration ceremony in 2012 that she doesn’t feel any animosity towards any nation or any person. I have seen the unwavering pain and equal dignity in Mrs. Altıkat’s eyes and face when I talked to her during Ambassadorial Conference in 2013 where she was guest of honour. I spoke this morning again with Ms. Altıkat. It is very difficult to express my feelings. It was really hard to speak for both of us. She said that there is pain and great emptiness in her life that will never fade away. However, what would be more sad and hard to bear she said is Colonel Altıkat and his memory to be forgotten. She is very much glad and honoured as these commemorations are honouring her late husband’s memory. She truly believes his soul is pleased that this monument stands for peace and reconciliation not for hate.

She also said we shouldn’t think that she is not laughing anymore or enjoying the life because it is going on and should go on happily for everyone. She explained her appreciation and sent her special thanks and regards to all attendees here today.

With this bitter reality and lasting mutual pains, the only way to build a common future is sharing pains and paying tribute, with compassion and respect, to all lost lives in the history regardless of ethnic or religious origins.

In this regard, the statement by Prime Minister and new President-elect H.E. Erdogan on this year’s April 24th is an unprecedented and courageous step taken towards making a breakthrough to restore mutual understanding and confidence. The right time has come to invest in this relationship and reconciliation.

As emphasized in our Prime Minister’s statement that in today’s world, deriving enmity from history and creating new antagonisms are neither acceptable nor useful for building a common future. The spirit of the age necessitates dialogue despite differences, understanding by heeding others, evaluating means for compromise, denouncing hatred, and praising respect empathy and tolerance.

We wish that this monument as also the wish of Ms. Altikat will be standing for hope, peace and friendship and one day we will commemorate this day together with the wider Armenian community. We would ‎better cherish the memories of the dead if we could bury hatred and mourn together for all of our pains and sorrow.

At this point, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our Armenian friends among us who are Canadian citizens of Turkish-Armenian origin. Their courageous decision and stand to join us today is a clear message for future to overcome taboos and vicious discussions and to restore historical friendship between our nations. And to say openly what is and what was wrong without sacrificing from their principled positions.

I remember the instruction of my Minister of Foreign Affairs, new Prime Minister-designate H.E. Davutoğlu a few years ago at the annual Ambassador's Conference. He called for a change to Turkey's "concept of diaspora" and all of the diasporas having roots in Anatolia - including the Armenian diaspora – should be treated as our very own diaspora with open arms. Though many of us still mourned our friends and colleagues taken by ASALA terrorists, we welcomed this instruction with passion. As mentioned terrorism has no nation or religion. No one can blame for these despicable crimes any nation totally.

I would like to say proudly that since the ancient times we have never been a nation who passes pains to future generations and lives with hate and hostility in our minds and hearts. We have never inherited grief and hatred from our ancestors who suffered all kinds of migration, exile, famine and killings as a result of long lasting wars at the end of the 19th and turn of the 20th century.

To this end, I personally tried to build bridges and trust with members of diaspora and extended my hand with this understanding. I am happy to say that my hand has not remained unrequited.

Now, please allow me to add a few words in Turkish to our fellow Turkish Canadians.

Sevgili yurttaşlarım,

32 yıl önce bu kavşakta haince bir terör saldırısında hayatını kaybeden Şehit Albayımızın aziz hatırasını anmak ve yaşatmak için bugün bir kez daha toplandık.

Terörün her türlüsünü lanetlerken, bunun arkasında yatan nefret ve düşmanlığı sona erdirmek amacıyla acı geçmişi birliktelik ve kardeşliğimize temel haline getirmeliyiz.

Acıların karşılaştırılması, adeta yarıştırılması sadece kin ve nefreti arttıracaktır. Oysaki ortak acıların paylaşılması ancak acıları dindirebilir.

Tarihin derinliklerinden bu yana büyük bir gurur duyarak hiçbir zaman acıları gelecek nesillere aktaran, zihinlerde ve kalplerde nefret yaşatan bir ulus olmadık. 19 yüzyılın sonu ve 20. yüzyılın başında yaşanan savaşların neticesinde göç, sürgün, açlık ve ölümlerin her türlüsünü yaşayan büyüklerimizden hiçbir zaman acı ve nefreti miras almadık.

Şehit Albay Altıkat’ın ve tüm şehitlerimizin hatıralarının da dostluk ve barışa katkı yapacak şekilde yaşatılması hepimizin görevidir. Bu onların ailelerinin de temennisidir.

Bu vesileyle, sizleri saygı ile selamlıyor, görevleri başında hayatını kaybeden tüm şehitlerimize Allah’tan rahmet diliyor, aziz hatıraları önünde bir kez daha saygıyla eğiliyorum.

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