Armenians hail Paphos street name change

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The Armenian and Pontian Greek communities of Cyprus hailed Paphos municipality’s decision to rename Talaat Pasha Street near the municipal market to Justice Street by removing the name of the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide.

The street is in the former Turkish Cypriot neighbourhood of Moutallos, on the intersection of Petrakis Miltiadous and Afroditis streets, a stone’s throw away from the old municipal market.

Talaat was the Interior Minister during the final days of the Ottoman Empire who planned and oversaw the execution of the massacres that culminated with the killing and death marches of 1.5 mln Armenians starting from April 24, 1915.

“Those who planned and executed genocides have no place in street names,” said an announcement by the municipality, shared on social media by Mayor Phedon Phedonos and Armenian Representative Vartkes Mahdessian.

The decision brought an outpouring of support on the mayor’s Facebook page, with many praising him for his courage and boldness.

The renaming was described “symbolic with meaning”, while others said it was “an example that needed to be imitated by other municipalities,” such as with Ankara street and Istanbul street in Limassol, especially after all Greek street names have been defaced in the Turkish occupied north.

Justifying the name change, the municipality said it took the decision after a request from the Armenian community of Paphos and the town’s Pontian Greeks.

It said the move reaffirmed the respect towards street and place names in the town as a product of co-existence with the Turkish Cypriot community.

And said that it could not ignore the matter “especially in the light of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by tens of nations around the world and by the international academic community, as well as the discussion underway about the genocide of the Greeks of Pontus.

“Talaat Pasha’s leading role in the planning and execution of these genocides is documented through the study of historical facts.”

Paphos municipal council unanimously decided to delete Talaat’s name from a street name and by a majority decided to rename it ‘Justice Street’.

“The struggle we are waging for justice in Cyprus is an element that must unite Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots alike.

“It is noteworthy that there are many Turkish and Turkish Cypriot intellectuals who also describe and record Talaat Pasha as a hideous politician and a ruthless man.”

The Armenian National Committee of Cyprus welcomed the street name change, especially as the Cyprus parliament passed the Genocide Denial bill in 2015.

Talaat was assassinated by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin in 1921 as part of Operation Nemesis, a campaign of retribution killing Ottoman and Turkish leaders involved in the Genocide as well as Azeri murders of Armenians in 1918.