Sunday, April 13, 2014

Armenians Seek Justice Once Again

Boston, Mass.—The Armenian nation is far too familiar with the struggle of maintaining our identity and the challenge to persevere through the many inhumane cards life has dealt us.  Due to the safe haven Armenians found in the Syrian community following the events of the Armenian Genocide, the small northwestern town of Kessab was once densely populated by Armenians.  However, we have yet again been confronted with defending our homes as the population was forced to evacuate.  Forced to flee to nearby Latakia and Bassit, over 700 Christian families of Kessab have been displaced.
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)
On Friday, April 4th the Armenian community of the Greater Boston area gathered at the entrance of the Tip O’Neill Federal Building in downtown
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)
Boston to bring awareness to the current events taking place in Kessab and to condemn Turkey’s role in the destruction.  Organized by the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter and the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts, over 100 human rights activists gathered to protest the State Department’s failure to condemn the perpetrators of the invasion and occupation. The Massachusetts offices of the Department of State are located in the O’Neill building, making it the ideal spot to stress the hypocrisy evidenced by the Department’s silence regarding the role of its NATO-ally Turkey. According to eyewitness accounts, the Al-Qaeda affiliated extremists openly passed through a Turkish military base to cross the Syrian border and attack the town and villages of Kessab.
The group marched holding signs stating the facts and chanted various slogans, “Obama, Open up your eyes!
Don’t support terror!  Turkey run, Turkey hide, Turkey’s on Al Qaeda’s side.  State Department, can’t you see, Al Qaeda’s ally is Turkey,” as officials and passers-by read through pamphlets, asked questions, and made phone calls spreading the word. The Armenian Youth Federation of the Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter and the Armenian National Committee of Eastern Massachusetts seek justice once again and stand in solidarity with our fellow diasporans who have recently been forced out of their homes in Kessab.
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)
A scene from the protest in Boston (photo by Ken Martin)

Sassounian: Why Turks Were Capable of Exterminating Armenians, but not Jews


Endless comparisons are made between the Armenian Genocide and the Jewish Holocaust. However, there is yet another comparison that is rarely made: the Turkish ability to carry out the Armenian Genocide and inability to eliminate the Jewish settlers from Palestine during the same period. Such a comparison has not been made because hardly anyone has studied the Turkish deportation plans of Jews during World War I in relationship to the Armenian Genocide.
My preliminary analysis is based on information gleamed from Prof. Yair Auron’s book, Zionism and the Armenian Genocide: The Banality of Indifference, Vartkes Yeghiayan’s Pro Armenia, and other archival materials. I would like to detail the circumstances of deportations of the Jews and how they were mostly spared, while Armenians were not! More importantly, what steps did the Jewish Diaspora and settlers in Palestine take to avoid suffering Armenians’ tragic fate?
Armenians and Jews, as minorities in the Ottoman Empire, were convenient scapegoats for the whims of ruthless Turkish leaders. Interestingly, the Young Turks used the same arguments for deporting both Armenians and Jews. The Turks had accused Armenians for cooperating with the advancing Russian Army, while similarly blaming Jews for cooperating with British forces invading Ottoman Palestine. Furthermore, Jews were accused of planning to establish their own homeland in Palestine, just as Armenians were allegedly establishing theirs in Eastern Turkey. In yet another parallel, Jamal Pasha, one of the members of the Young Turk triumvirate, had cynically commented that he was “expelling the Jews for their own good,” just as Armenians were forcefully removed “away from the war zone” for their own safety!
In 1914, when Turkey entered World War I on the German side and against the Allied Powers (England, Russia, and France), Palestine became a theater of war. Turkish authorities imposed a war tax on the population, which fell more heavily on the Jewish settlers. Their properties and other possessions were confiscated by the Turkish military. Some Jewish settlers were used as slave labor to build roads and railways. Alex Aaronsohn, a Jewish settler in Zichron Yaacov, wrote in his diary: “an order had recently come from the Turkish authorities, bidding them surrender whatever firearms or weapons they had in their possession. A sinister command, this: we knew that similar measures had been taken before the terrible Armenian massacres, and we felt that some such fate might be in preparation for our people,” as quoted in Yeghiayan’s Pro Armenia.
In Fall 1914, the Turkish regime issued an expulsion order for all “enemy nationals,” including 50,000 Russian Jews who had escaped from Czarist persecutions and settled in Palestine. After repeated intercessions by German Ambassador Hans Wangenheim and American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, these “enemy nationals” were allowed to stay in Palestine, if they agreed to acquire Ottoman citizenship.
Nevertheless, on December 17, 1914, Jamal Pasha’s subordinate, Bahaeddin, governor of Jaffa, implemented the expulsion order, deporting 500 Jews who were grabbed from the streets and dragged to police headquarters, and from there forced to board ships docked in the harbor. Homes of Jewish settlers were searched for weapons. Hebrew-language signs were removed from shops and the Jewish school of Jaffa was closed down. Zionist organizations were dissolved, and on January 25, 1915, the Turkish authorities issued a declaration against “the dangerous element known as Zionism, which is struggling to create a Jewish government in the Palestinian area of the Ottoman Kingdom….”
In response to protests from Amb. Morgenthau and the German government, Constantinople reversed the deportation order and Bahaeddin was removed from his post. According to Prof. Auron, the condition of the Jewish settlers could have been much worse had it not been for “the influence of world Jewry on Turkish policy…. The American, German, and Austrian Jewish communities succeeded in restraining some of its harsher aspects. Decrees were softened; overly zealous Turkish commanders were replaced and periods of calm followed the times of distress.”
Back in 1913, Pres. Wilson had instructed Amb. Morgenthau upon his appointment: “’Remember that anything you can do to improve the lot of your co-religionists is an act that will reflect credit upon America, and you may count on the full power of the Administration to back you up.’ Morgenthau followed this advice faithfully,” according to Isaiah Friedman’s book, Germany, Turkey and Zionism: 1897-1918. After arranging for the delivery of much needed funds from American Jews to Jaffa, Morgenthau wrote to Arthur Ruppen, director of the Palestine Development Association: “I have been the chosen weapon to take up the defense of my co-religionists….”
In Spring 1917, the Turkish authorities issued a second order to deport 5,000 Jews from Tel Aviv. Aaron Aaronsohn, leader of the Nili group – a small Jewish underground organization in Palestine working for British intelligence – immediately disseminated the news of the deportation to the international media. Aaronsohn secretly met with British diplomat Mark Sykes in Egypt and through him sent an urgent message to London on April 28, 1917: “Tel Aviv has been sacked. 10,000 Jews in Palestine are now without home or food. Whole of Yishuv [Jewish settlements in Palestine] is threatened with destruction. Jamal [Pasha] has publicly stated Armenian policy will now be applied to Jews.”
Upon receiving Aaronsohn’s reports from Palestine, Chaim Weizmann, a key pro-British Zionist in London, transmitted the following message to Zionist leaders in various European capitals: “Jamal Pasha openly declared that the joy of Jews at the approach of British troops would be short lived as he would then share the fate of the Armenians…. Jamal Pasha is too cunning to order cold-blooded massacres. His method is to drive the population to starvation and death by thirst, epidemics, etc….”
American Jews were outraged hearing of the deportations in Palestine. News reports were issued throughout Western countries on “Turkish intentions to exterminate the Jews in Palestine,” according to Prof. Auron. Moreover, influential Jewish businessmen in Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire demanded that their governments pressure Turkish leaders to abandon their plans to deport Jews. Jamal Pasha was finally forced to rescind the expulsion order and provided food and medical assistance to Jewish refugees in Tel Aviv.

Schiff Delivers Open Letter to Turkish People on House Floor on Genocide

Schiff Delivers Open Letter to Turkish People on House Floor on Genocide


WASHINGTON—Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the lead sponsor of the Armenian Genocide resolution, went to the House of Representatives floor on Wednesday to deliver an open letter to the Turkish people on the Armenian Genocide.
The full text of the speech is below:
An Open Letter to the Turkish People:
Today, I write to you on a topic of great importance to both of our nations. It is on a subject that many of you, especially the younger generation, may know little about because it concerns a chapter of world history that your government has expended enormous efforts to conceal.
Turkey has been at the center of human civilization from Neolithic times to the present, and your arts, culture and science have enriched the world.
But interwoven with all of Turkey’s remarkable achievements is a dark chapter that too many of today’s Turks know little or nothing about.
Were you aware that your grandparents and great-grandparents had many Armenian neighbors and friends – that twenty percent of the population of today’s Istanbul was Armenian? Did you know that the Armenians were well integrated into Turkish society as celebrated intellects, artists, craftsmen and community leaders? Have you ever wondered, what happened to the Armenians? Have you ever asked your parents and grandparents how such a large, industrious and prosperous people largely vanished from your midst? Do you know why your government goes to such lengths to conceal this part of your history?
Let me tell you a part of their story. The rest you must find out for yourselves.
Ninety-nine years ago this month, in the dying years of the Ottoman Empire, the Young Turk government launched a campaign of deportation, expropriation, starvation and murder against the empire’s Armenian citizens. Much of the Armenian population was forcibly removed to Syria, where many succumbed during brutal forced marches through the desert heat. Hundreds of thousands were massacred by Ottoman gendarmes, soldiers and even ordinary citizens.
By the time the slaughter ended in 1923, one and a half million Armenians had been killed in what is now universally acknowledged as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century. The survivors scattered throughout the Middle East and the wider world with some making their way to the United States, and to Los Angeles.
It is their grandchildren and great grandchildren whom I represent as a Member of the United States Congress. Theirs is a vibrant community, many tens of thousands strong, with schools, churches and businesses providing a daily link to their ancestral homeland. And it is on their behalf that I urge you to begin anew a national conversation in Turkey about the events of 1915-23.
As a young man or woman in Turkey, you might ask: What has this to do with me? Am I to blame for a crime committed long before I was born. And I would say this: Yours is the moral responsibility to acknowledge the truth and seek a reconciliation with the Armenian people that your parents and their parents could or would not. It is an obligation you have inherited and one from which you must not shrink. For though we cannot choose our own history, we decide what to do about it — and you will be the ones to shape Turkey’s future.
At the end of World War II, Germany was a shattered nation – defeated in battle and exposed as history’s greatest war criminal. But, in the decades since the end of the war, Germany engaged in a prolonged effort to reconcile with the Jewish people, who were nearly exterminated by the Nazis during the Holocaust. The German government has prosecuted war criminals, returned expropriated property, allied itself with Israel, and made countless apologies to the victims and to the world. Most important, Germany has worked to expunge the cancer of dehumanizing bigotry and hatred that gave rise to the Holocaust.
This path, of reflection, reconciliation and repentance must be Turkey’s path as well. It will not be easy, the questions will be painful, the answers difficult, sometimes unknowable. One question stands out:
How could a nation that peaceably ruled over a diverse, multicultural empire for centuries have turned on one of its peoples with such ruthlessness that an entirely new word had to be invented to describe what took place? Genocide.
As in Judaism and Christianity, the concept of repentance or tawba is central to Islam. Next year will mark a century since the beginning of the genocide and Armenians around the world will mourn their dead, contemplate the enormity of their loss, and ask, why? Answer them, please, with words of repentance.
Sincerely,
Adam Schiff
Member of Congress

Boston Billboards Call for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

By Rosario Teixeira
BOSTON, Mass—During the month of April, the 2014 Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards will be displayed at the corner of Arsenal and School Streets in Watertown; on Cambridge Street, at the Lechmere Station in Cambridge; and on Route 1 South, 1/4 mile from the Gillette Stadium, in Foxboro.
Sponsored by Peace of Art, Inc., the 2014 Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards honor the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Sponsored by Peace of Art, Inc., the 2014 Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards honor the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Sponsored by Peace of Art, Inc., the 2014 Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards honor the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide. In this year’s message, “Recognize the Crime of the Century, the Armenian Genocide,” the word “genocide” has imbedded the number 100, and handcuffs.  The number 100 refers to the approaching 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The handcuffs refer to a century of victimization and denial by the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide and their supporters.  The Armenian Genocide was the crime of the century because it was the first genocide of the 20th century.  Had the genocide been condemned by the world community, it would have been a step toward ensuring that such crimes that attempt to eliminate unwanted groups defined by race, religion, and ethnicity, do not take place in the future.
Millions of people around the world have been killed, falling victim to genocidal campaigns, political calculations, and ethnic cleansing.  As the Armenian people struggle for recognition of the crime of the century, the world remains blind to crimes against humanity perpetrated around the globe.   The world community must recognize the Armenian genocide and condemn other such crimes.
A billboard in Watertown, Mass., reminds passersby of the Armenian Genocide.
A billboard in Watertown, Mass., reminds passersby of the Armenian Genocide.
In 1996, Peace of Art, Inc. founder and president, Daniel Varoujan Hejinian, began to display the annual Armenian Genocide commemorative billboards, bringing awareness about the Armenian Genocide to the community at large.  Since 2003, through the annual commemorative billboards, Peace of Art, Inc. has been calling for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and it has urged the President of the United States, and the United Nations to recognize the Armenian Genocide.  It is also time to urge Turkey to confront its history, and to make amends.
“To deny the Armenian Genocide is to further victimize those who perished and their descendants, it is an act of blaming the victims.  After a century of denial, it is time to place the ‘handcuffs’ on the criminals. For those who think that after the last survivor dies there will be no more witnesses, and with the passing of time the Armenian genocide will be forgotten, know that all Armenians are survivors of the genocide, and as long as the Armenian genocide remains unrecognized by Turkey, millions of Armenians around the world will demand recognition and justice,” said Hejinian.
Peace of Art, Inc., is a non-profit educational organization registered with the Massachusetts Secretary of State, and tax exempt under section 501(C)(3).  For more information visit www.PeaceofArt.org

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Adopts Armenian Genocide Resolution

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Adopts Armenian Genocide Resolution


Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez speaks at Wednesday's Genocide commemoration on Capitol Hill
Chairman Menendez spearheads successful campaign for truth over strong opposition from White House; Turkish Government
WASHINGTON—For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a U.S. Senate committee on Thursday adopted an Armenian Genocide Resolution, calling upon the Senate to commemorate this crime and encouraging the President to ensure that America’s foreign policy reflects and reinforces the lessons, documented in the U.S. record, of this still-unpunished genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“Today’s vote affirms America’s commitment to truth, deals a serious setback to Turkey’s campaign of genocide denial, and sends a clear message to President Obama that he must end his Administration’s complicity in Ankara’s cover-up of this crime,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “We thank Chairman Menendez for his powerful leadership and express our thanks to each of the Senators who cast their votes for this human rights measure.”
With a vote of 12 to 5, the Committee voted to condemn and commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Those who joined Senator Menendez in supporting the measure were Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), John McCain (R-AZ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Udall (D-NM). Those opposing the measure were Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jim Risch (R-ID). Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) did not vote.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) spearheaded the effort to have this influential foreign policy panel take a strong stand regarding the Ottoman Turkish Government’s centrally planned and systematically carried out campaign of genocide from 1915-1923, which resulted in the deaths of over 1.5 million men, women and children, and the exile of a nation from its historic homeland.
Senator Menendez announced the vote at the Armenian Genocide Observance on Capitol Hill yesterday evening, where he told his colleagues and attendees, “To me, to all men and women of good will, I would think there is a simple statement – genocide is genocide, and you cannot call it anything else but that and you need to have a recognition of that. Next year when we mark a century – a hundred years ago that the Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turkey, it seems to me that with most of the survivors gone – but with a few left – it is incredibly important for us to lead globally at this time.”
During Committee discussion of the measure, Chairman Menendez told his committee colleagues, “I think the Armenian Genocide is a horrifying factual reality that can never be denied. I just don’t think you can pick and choose your genocides. Genocide is genocide.” Commenting on U.S. complicity in Turkey’s genocide denial, Chairman Menendez explained, “I am chagrined when I hear that some country will act in a certain way and therefore we here in the United States Senate, the Congress of the United States, that we should refrain from acting simply because someone will be upset.”
Though Ranking Republican Corker voted against the measure, arguing that “I don’t think it’s a good time to bring this type of resolution up,” he did affirm that, “I agree with scholars that a genocide took place. It’s a terrible tragedy.”
Chairman Menendez was joined by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in introducing S.Res.410, the underlying Armenian Genocide legislation which was amended and adopted today. Joining Chairman Menendez and Senator Kirk as cosponsors of S.Res.410 are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Assistant Majority Leader Durbin, Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Senators Ed Markey, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
State Department Stops Short of Public Attack Against Armenian Genocide Resolution
Earlier in the day, journalists questioned State Department Press Spokesperson Jen Psaki regarding the Obama Administration’s position on the Senate Armenian Genocide Resolution and pending Committee consideration. Psaki explained, “Well, our position has long been that we acknowledge – clearly acknowledge as historical fact and mourn the loss of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. These horrific events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent, as they do for all of us who share basic universal values. Beyond that, I don’t have any other comment for you.” Despite repeated queries, Psaki stopped short of the State Department’s traditional practice of openly arguing against the adoption of Armenian Genocide legislation.
According to news reports, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry the night before the Committee vote in opposition to the measure. Senators and Representatives Welcome Committee Passage of Armenian Genocide Resolution
Following the successful passage of the resolution, Senator Markey, who chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, explained, “It is long overdue for the United States to join the many other nations who have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide. That is why today’s passage by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee of the genocide resolution in advance of the ninety-ninth anniversary is so historic. I was proud to vote for this important resolution today in Committee, and I will keep fighting to ensure its passage by the full Senate. I will continue to work with the Armenian-American community to build a prosperous and bright future for the Armenian people.”
Following the vote, House Armenian Genocide Resolution lead co-author, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted that, “Today’s vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to send the Armenian Genocide Resolution to the full Senate is a welcome milestone on the long journey towards official U.S. recognition of the first genocide of the 20th Century. It’s my hope that the full Senate will soon take up this resolution, and that my colleagues in the House will be inspired by their example. Next year will mark a century since the beginning of the killings and death marches that claimed 1.5 million Armenians and the centennial must not be allowed to pass without recognition by both Congress and the Administration.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) concurred, stating, “Today’s vote by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is an important chapter in the effort for official recognition by the U.S. government of the Armenian Genocide. The leadership of Senator Menendez is evident in the strong support the resolution received and I commended him for his dedication to the pursuit of official recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It is now time for the House to act on H. Res. 227, calling on the President to acknowledge the facts and ongoing consequences of the Armenian Genocide.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Four Shades of Turkey, and the Armenians

The Four Shades of Turkey, and the Armenians

Like a cell dividing itself into two, then each new cell further dividing into two, Turkey keeps being divided. Although divisions always existed, they remained mostly suppressed, until now. In this article, I will outline the old and new divisions in Turkey, and the Turks’ perception of us Armenians.
Beginning in 1923 with the founding of the republic, Turkey was governed by a secular, Kemalist and nationalist ideology, with the single-minded objective of creating and maintaining a monolithic, single-nation state. Regardless of which party was in power, leftist or rightist, the “deep state”—dominated by the armed forces, big business, big state bureaucracy, media, and academia—directed all the affairs behind the scenes. The “deep state” leaders and their backers emerged as the elite of the society, aptly named the nationalist White Turks; they inherited and developed a state built on the economic foundations of plundered and confiscated Armenian and Greek wealth. The masses in Anatolia were mainly utilized as free bodies for the military elite, or as cheap labor for the industrial elite, and remembered only at election time. White Turks looked down to pious Sunni Muslim majority and labeled them takunyali, or clog wearers. The disappearance of the Armenians and Greeks from these lands was fiercely denied. The existence of other ethnic people in Turkey, such as the Kurds, was also continuously denied. Turkey is only for Turks, was their motto. As the Armenians and Greeks were already wiped out, the other ethnic groups were told that they were now Turks, or else.
The supremacy of the White Turks ended in 2003 with the election of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his moderately Islamic party. Despite attempts by the “deep state” to topple him, Erdogan outmaneuvered the White Turks, thanks to the religious Sunni Muslims of Anatolia and the recent arrival of underprivileged masses from Anatolia to the big cities. The provincial and religious Turks quickly secured and strengthened their grip on power. The influential fundamentalist religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who had been forced to leave Turkey during the previous regimes, cooperated with Erdogan and his followers quickly filled the cadres of bureaucracy, including key posts in the police, security, judiciary, and academic fields. Hundreds of “deep state” leaders and elite White Turks in the military, media, and academia were arrested and jailed on charges of an attempted coup d’├ętat against the government. Many White Turks began to leave the country. Although less intolerant toward minorities than the White Turks, the attitude of the new leaders toward minorities and the Kurds did not change much.
The alliance between Erdogan and Gulen ended in late 2013, when Erdogan felt secure enough to discard Gulen, and shut down the numerous supplementary educational facilities he controlled. Many parents in Turkey depended on these facilities for the child’s advancement, as the state education system is not sufficient to secure admission to the state universities. These facilities were used as a powerbase by Gulen; they were a major source of income and facilitated recruitment of new followers. Soon after Erdogan announced his intention to close these facilities, state prosecutors and police controlled by Gulen revealed they had uncovered a major corruption scandal involving four of Erdogan’s ministers and hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes. The scandal was replete with juicy details of money-counting machines and millions stashed in shoeboxes in the ministers’ homes. Erdogan counter-attacked by swiftly removing, replacing, and firing thousands of state prosecutors, judges, and police officers deemed to be followers of the Gulen movement. In the last few weeks, at least 10 taped telephone conversations involving Erdogan himself have been leaked. In them, Erdogan directs his son to dispose of hundreds of millions of cash in euros and dollars from their homes; orders several businessmen to pay $100 million each toward buying a media empire that he wants controlled; demands another media owner to fire several journalists; and decides how much certain contractors must pay in return for large contracts.
In the Western world, even a hint of attempted bribery or corruption is sufficient in bringing down governments. But in Turkey, Erdogan carries on, dismissing the evidence as plots hatched by his one-time ally (and now mortal enemy) Gulen, as well as other virtual enemies, such as “parallel states” within Turkey, and, predictably, external enemies such as Israel, the U.S., the European Union, and the “interest lobby,” all jealous of Turkey’s fast growth. Erdogan’s latest move is to try to win back the nationalists who were charged and jailed for attempting to topple his own government; as a result, most of the jailed “deep state” leaders have been released, including the former army chief of staff and other commanders; one of the masterminds of the Hrant Dink assassination; the racist lawyer who hounded Hrant Dink for “insulting Turkishness”; the politician who was charged for stating “The Armenian Genocide is a lie” in Switzerland, and with whom the European Court of Human Rights recently sided in the name of freedom of speech; an organized crime leader who arranged several contract killings of anti-nationalists and Kurds; the murderers of a German and two Turkish Protestant missionaries in Malatya; and several other ultra nationalist/racist intellectuals and journalists.
While these divisions have emerged among the Turks of Turkey, the Kurds of Turkey have made major advances toward greater autonomy, language rights, and self-determination—a struggle that began in the 1980’s as a guerilla movement and, more recently in the 2000s, has become a political movement. The imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan imposed his will on Erdogan, who conceded to peace talks in exchange for a ceasefire.
Even though the four major divisions within Turkey—the “deep state,” the Erdogan people, the Gulen people, and the Kurds—keep fighting and plotting against one another, they come together and close ranks when it comes to the Armenian issue, past and present. The Turks themselves categorize Armenians into three distinct groups (in a completely misguided manner): the Good, the Bad, and the Poor. The small Armenian community in Turkey is the Good, as it is easily controllable and no longer a threat, possessing neighborly memories of shared dolma or topik. They’re Good, that is, as long as they don’t ask much about the past or present, like Hrant Dink dared to. The Armenian Diaspora is the Bad, with its evil presence in every country poisoning locals against Turks and Turkey, and spreading lies about the “alleged” genocide of 1915. Finally, the Armenians who recently left Armenia to come to Turkey to find bread are the Poor. The Kurds, on the other hand, have more empathy toward the Armenians; however, it is mainly because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Although Ocalan came close to acknowledging the genocide, he has empathy only for the Good Armenians in Turkey and continues to define the diaspora as part of the external lobby threat against both Turks and Kurds. While the Kurds (barring a few exceptions) acknowledge the sufferings of the Armenians in 1915, they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the active role they played in the genocide, nor open the subject of returning the vast properties seized from the Armenians.
Those Armenians who believe in meaningful dialogue with the peoples of Turkey now face the additional challenge of choosing one or more of these groups at the risk of alienating the others. The prospect of any productive result, however, becomes dimmer by the day. Nevertheless, dialogue does continue, with the involvement of civil society organizations and intellectuals, and more significantly through the emerging force of Islamized Armenians of Turkey. Dialogue must and will continue until all four groups start to see that all Armenians, whether in Turkey, the diaspora, or Armenia—and whether good, bad, or poor—were all equally impacted by the genocide and equally demand acknowledgment and restitution.

Turkish academia and the Armenian genocide

Turkish academia and the Armenian genocide

Thousands of master’s theses and Ph.D. dissertations in the social sciences are written each year in Turkey. The Higher Education Board (YOK) keeps an electronic database of their topics and titles. A search in the database of dissertations on the Armenian genocide returns a striking result: Only four theses have been written on the issue and, as their titles immediately suggest, they all reflect Turkey’s official position on the massacres.
SummaryPrint Turkish newspapers have exposed attempts by official institutions to control academic research on the Armenian genocide.
Author Orhan Kemal Cengiz Posted December 22, 2013
Translator(s)Sibel Utku Bila
The four titles are as follows: “Armenian genocide claims in view of international law,” “The importance of pressure groups, lobby activities within the context of the so-called Armenian genocide,” “Turkish-Armenian relations in history and the impact of Armenian genocide claims on Turkey’s European Union membership process” and “Armenian genocide claims in international law.”
That is all Turkish universities have been able to produce in terms of theses on the topic of the Armenian genocide. How is this possible? Are there no academics willing to write dissertations contesting Turkey’s official history line and argue, for instance, that the 1915 events were a genocide? Or is there a state mechanism in place that doesn’t leave it up to chance?
A Dec. 12 report in the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos reveals that academics working on dissertations about the Armenian genocide are under the close scrutiny of the Turkish Historical Society (TTK). According to Agos, the TTK has asked YOK for the details of academics studying the Armenian issue and the YOK chairman, in turn, has asked universities to provide that information. A document Agos published indicates that the YOK chairman had asked universities to supply “the names of master’s and doctoral students working on the Armenian problem, the titles of their researches and contact information, in view of making them available to the Turkish Historical Society in the work it conducts.”
As I mentioned in my previous article for Al-Monitor, various government institutions in Turkey are busy making counter preparations for 2015, the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. The TTK is one of them. The society is likely to have requested the said information from YOK with a view of using it in those preparations.
When Agos asked the TTK why they needed that information, a TTK official stated that scholarships might be offered to academics working in this realm. Agos then asked whether the TTK would give a scholarship to someone whose thesis qualifies the 1915 events as genocide. The official responded that, since the TTK does not officially recognize the Armenian genocide, providing a scholarship to such a study might not be possible.
Agos argues that the TTK’s real motive is to control the academia and keep records of those working on the Armenian problem.
A subsequent report in the Taraf daily backed up Agos’ argument that those studying the Armenian genocide are being secretly profiled. Two former presidents of Istanbul’s Bogazici University, interviewed by Taraf, shed light on how the censorship mechanism works in the academia.
Ustun Erguder confirmed he had received letters from YOK with requests for information. “During my term as university president, YOK would send such letters, but we would dismiss them as [those requests] had nothing to do with our understanding of academic freedom. That’s something that has been done for years. We had even received letters suggesting we made sure that theses 'supporting Turkish unity' were written. … It is out of the question for me to approve of YOK requests seeking out the names and details of those writing theses on the Armenian problem,” Erguder said.
Another former Bogazici University president, Ayse Soysal, made the following comments: “I used to receive similar letters from YOK, while I was university president. It was routine.  Two types of letters would come from YOK. One would be in the form of [suggestions] that we support studies backing the state’s official view on subject X or subject Y.”
The insight the two former presidents provide on how the system functions explains why only four dissertations have been written on the Armenian genocide and why all happen to be in line with Turkey’s official view.
In another article for Al-Monitor, I had written also about how Turkey’s non-Muslims' birth registries were marked with secret codes and how the non-Muslims could not become army officers, judges or policemen. And this latest example — the lack of even one academic thesis contesting Turkey’s official position on the Armenian problem — is another indication that certain taboo realms are besieged by unwritten but stern rules.
True, the Armenian taboo has been broken in Turkish civil society and intellectual life. Yet, it continues to exist in this or that form in the “official” realm. Thanks to the exposure of practices such as the TTK request for information about academics studying the Armenian problem, we are getting clues on how Turkey’s official theses are being produced and sustained.
No doubt, the exposed practices represent only part of the whole picture. To understand fully why, how and in what atmosphere Turkey’s official theses remain intact, the known pieces need to be brought together with the pieces that remain beyond our knowledge. Only then will we be able to know how Turkey’s official history theses are able to survive unchanged.