Thursday, April 19, 2018

Turkey is the Biggest Loser in the US, British & French Missile Strikes on Syria

BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
While most commentators have focused on the reasons and consequences of the U.S., British, and French missile strikes on targets in Syria, very few realize that Turkey is the biggest loser as the result of this attack.
Two weeks ago, when President Trump announced that the United States would “very soon,” withdraw its soldiers from Northern Syria, the Turkish government was elated. Turkey’s invasion of Afrin was intended to expand the occupation to Manbij and the entire Northern Syria to dislodge Kurdish fighters from that region. The only obstacle standing in the way of the Turkish troops was the U.S. military which has over 2,000 soldiers in the Manbij area. Repeated Turkish threats to attack the American troops did not scare the U.S. Commanders who stood steadfast in their defense of the local Kurdish population.
Within two weeks, President Trump reversed his position on the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria. The latest reports from Washington and Paris state that the Pentagon and French President Emmanuel Macron “convinced” President Trump to keep the U.S. military in Syria until the Syrian crisis is resolved or other Western and Arab countries replaced the American forces. Turkey’s leaders were also disappointed that due to his dismissal former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson could not keep his promise to President Erdogan that the U.S. forces would withdraw shortly from Northern Syria.
With the American troops staying in Syria, the Turkish ability to attack Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria would be limited. Despite his crazy antics, President Erdogan is not going to target the U.S. military or as he described, “deliver the Americans an Ottoman slap!” Thus, the unsubstantiated accusations of a chemical attack by the Syrian government on civilians in Douma near Damascus was most probably orchestrated by those who wanted to prevent American forces from leaving Northern Syria, to the great chagrin of Turkey! Interestingly, in his remarks shortly before the missile strike, President Trump did not mention a single word as to what evidence he had about the responsibility of the Syrian regime for the chemical attack.
Incidentally, the missile strike on Syria generated conflicting reactions in Turkey. While President Erdogan was unhappy with the stay of the U.S. troops in Syria, he was delighted with the attacks by the United States, Great Britain and France, since Turkey wanted to undermine the Syrian regime and overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. The missile strike, however, did not have such an objective, as President Trump tweeted after the attack, “Mission Accomplished!” Everyone, except Erdogan, agrees that President Assad had the upper hand in the Syrian conflict and his overthrow would worsen the situation in Syria and the region!
The other negative consequence of the Turkish praise of the missile attack on Syria was the souring of relations between Turkey, and Russia and Iran, staunch supporters of President Assad and harsh critics of the strike. In addition, President Erdogan alienated his domestic political opposition and a large segment of the Turkish public upset by the Western powers’ attack on a fellow Muslim country.
Turkey was also unhappy that President Trump, in his remarks just before the missile strike, mentioned “Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, Qatar, and Egypt” as “our friends,” disregarding NATO ally Turkey due to its rapprochement with Russia and Iran.
Curiously, in his speech President Trump criticized Russia and Iran stating: “what kind of a nation wants to be associated with a mass murder of innocent men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.” It is unfortunate that on the eve of April 24, the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, President Trump would attack other countries for keeping company with a murderous nation, ignoring the fact that the United States is an ally of Turkey, a country that denies the murder of 1.5 million Armenians, and defends its predecessor criminal Ottoman regime that committed the Armenian Genocide. This reminds us of what Jesus said: “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
As I wrote a year ago when President Trump attacked Syria with Tomahawk missiles, he was simply hitting Syria to deviate the attention of the American public from his many infidelities, illegalities, and investigations of his covert relations with Russia.
Finally, President Trump, UK Prime Minster Theresa May, and French President Macron violated the constitutions of their respective countries, by going to war against another sovereign state without getting the consent of their legislative bodies.

Friday, April 6, 2018

D.C. Attackers Yildirim and Narin Receive One Year and One Day in Prison; ANCA Says Light Sentences Chill Free Speech in America

WASHINGTON—Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian, a witness to the May 16, 2017, Recep Tayyip Erdogan-ordered attacks on peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C., sharply criticized a Washington D.C. Superior Court ruling today which gave light sentences to two of the Turkish American attackers. They had initially been charged with hate crimes and other violations and faced up to 15 years of incarceration.
A scene from the May 16, 2017 beating (Photo: VOA Turkish service)
Eyup Yildirim and Sinan Narin received sentences of one year and one day in prison, with credit for time served; three years of supervised release; and a fine of $100 each.
“This decision should worry every American,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “Today’s light sentences—on top of the Administration dropping most charges and failing to seek any extraditions of Erdogan’s bodyguards – threatens to chill the free exercise of the First Amendment rights of Americans of Armenian or any other heritage to protest the actions of a foreign government.”
“As Americans, it’s our right to raise our voices on any issue – foreign or domestic – free from fear of violent attack, and confident that those who violate our rights will be brought to justice. Sadly, that has not been the case in response to Erdogan’s open export of his regime’s violence to the streets of Washington, DC.  This backwards “Turkey First” approach defends foreign attackers instead of protecting American freedoms,” concluded Hamparian.
Hamparian and representatives of the ANCA and the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC) were on hand at District of Columbia Superior Court when Judge Marisa Demeo announced the ruling for Yildirim and Narin, two of the 19 perpetrators indicted for the brutal beatings, which included 15 members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail, and two Canadians, who have reportedly since repatriated to Turkey. All 19 defendants were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, with a bias crime enhancement—charges of hate crimes—which carry a maximum 15 years prison sentence. The court decision overlooked hate-crimes component of the charges, which have been reduced to one charge of assault.
Judge Demeo’s decision came despite powerful community impact and victim impact statements offered by the ALC’s Kate Nahapetian and several of the targets of the attacks including Ms. Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Ezidi Relief Fund and Mr. Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer, and Abbas Azzizi.  Yildirim was videotaped kicking Yusa in the head and face multiple times while he was on the ground in a prone position resulting in a concussion, a broken tooth, two loose teeth and head laceration that required five stitches.  Usoyan was knocked unconscious by Narin and others during the attack, leading to a concussion, memory loss, and dizziness which required repeated visits to the hospital for treatment.  Usoyan, Yusa and Azzizi were allowed to make oral statements to court in addition written statements.
“The case against Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim is not just about a violent assault, which on its own should merit severe punishment, but it is a case closely associated with a coordinated assault by foreign government security forces on the bodies of our citizens and on our foundational principles of free assembly and speech,” stated ALC Executive Director Kate Nahapetian.  “The world is watching. But more importantly, the people of America are watching, the police who had to risk their lives protecting women and children from Narin and Yildirim and unhinged armed foreign security personnel are watching, the protesters who were severely bloodied, beaten and suffered lasting physical injuries and emotional trauma are watching, and Armenian Americans who will be protesting Turkey’s state-sponsored denial of the Armenian Genocide in just a few weeks on April 24, are watching to see, if they will be safe in DC.”
Yildirim and Narin were arrested on June 14, 2017 and have been in jail since.  They have been the darlings of the Erdogan Administration, with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu proudly tweeting after a September, 2017 visit, “We visit and send the love and regards of our nation to our brothers Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, who are under arrest in Washington.”  On March 22nd, they were visited by several members of the Turkish Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, including Chairman Volkan Bozkir, who tweeted photos with the smiling prisoners.
The court decision follows news, first reported by the Wall Street Journal in March, that charges against 11 of the 15 members of Erdogan’s security detail had been dropped – four on November 7, 2017, the day Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim flew to Washington for talks;  seven on February 14th, the day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travelled to Ankara for meetings with President Erdogan.  The State Department claims that the timing of the dropped charges was simply a coincidence.  Senate and House Members immediately expressed concerns, with senior Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) noted “I am deeply alarmed that the Trump Administration prefers to appease Erdogan over upholding the rights of Americans to protest peacefully without fear of violence from foreign security forces. Yet again, this Administration is trampling on the rule of law.”  House Foreign Affairs Committee member Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif), noted: “If this is as it appears, the decision sends exactly the wrong signal to Erdogan, who is aligning his authoritarian government with radical Islamists and who carries out the same sort of brutal attacks on his own citizens as he allowed, within his sight, to be committed on American soil. This outrage must not go unpunished.”  New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell has called for a Department of Justice investigation into the matter.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian was videotaping live at the scene of the May 16, 2017 attack, which took place in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence where President Erdogan was scheduled to have a closed-door meeting with think tank leaders. Hamparian’s video showed pro-Erdogan forces crossing a police line and beating peaceful protesters—elderly men and several women— who were on the ground bleeding during most of the attack.
Hamparian testified before a May 25th Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on this matter. Joining him at the hearing were Usoyan, Yusa, and Ms. Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Usoyan and Yusa were victims of the brutal assault on May 16 by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.
On June 6, 2017, with a vote of 397 to 0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously condemned Turkey in response to the attacks, taking a powerful stand against Ankara’s attempts to export its violence and intolerance to America’s shores. H.Res.354, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), has received the public backing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). On July 14, 2017, the U.S. House also unanimously adopted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Bill, championed by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman David Trott (R-Mich.), raising objections to a proposed U.S. sale of handguns for use by the very Erdogan security detail involved in the May 16th attack.  Efforts to block the gun sale continued in the U.S. Senate, with the successful Appropriations Committee adoption of an amendment by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Senate Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in September.  The Trump Administration officially withdrew its controversial proposal to allow the sale of U.S. semi-automatic handguns to Turkey shortly thereafter.
On July 19, 2017, senior members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Ted Poe (R-Tex.), Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Co-Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), and Representatives Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) condemned Turkish President Erdogan’s violent actions—both in Turkey and the U.S.—during “A Stand for Free Speech” held at the site of the May 16th attacks. The press conference and rally was organized by the ANCA, in coordination with the Sheridan Circle May 16 Initiative (including many victims of the beatings), and a host of Kurdish, Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, and Christian groups including the American Kurdish Association (AKA), In Defense of Christians, American Hellenic Council, Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights, A Demand for Action, Hellenic American Leadership Council, AHEPA, and the Armenian Youth Federation.
The May 16 protest in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence was a continuation of a demonstration held earlier in the day in front of the White House, co-hosted by the ANCA. As President Trump met with President Erdogan. human rights and religious rights groups were joined by representatives of the Kurdish, Yezidi and Armenian communities to call attention to the Erdogan regime’s escalating repression against free press, the Kurdish and other ethnic communities, as well as Turkey’s ongoing obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Book Review: Bohjalian’s ‘The Flight Attendant’—Murder, Russian Style

The Flight AttendantBy Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday, New York (March 13, 2018), 368 pp.
ISBN: 978-0385542418; Hardcover, $26.95
Bohjalian’s latest novel, released on March 13, 2018, is New York Times bestseller, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, a US Today bestseller, and a National Indiebound bestseller (Photo: The Armenian Weekly. Cover: Doubleday)
Special to the Armenian Weekly
About 20 pages into The Flight Attendant—by the time protagonist Cassie Snowden extricates herself from a hotel room that can only be described as a way incriminating crime scene—you know that you are in for another well-paced Chris Bohjalian thriller. Snowden is a flight attendant and a boozer, the daughter of an alcoholic father, whose drinking has not quite caught up with her—yet. Single, in her 40s, and still prone to incidents of black out sex, she’s one hot mess.
So what exactly do you do when you wake up in a hotel room in Dubai next to a dead man, in a land notorious for its rather harsh penal codes? The answer takes the reader on a whirlwind adventure across three continents of love, murder and mafia intrigue galore. Bohjalian possesses a knack for dialogue and his characters interact with preternatural ease: even if some of them can feel a bit caricatured at times, they are alive and enticing.
Chris Bohjalian in Yerevan (Photo: Aaron Spagnolo)
The author’s great strength lies in his ability to spin a lively tale with all sorts of plot twists and unexpected outcomes. The Flight Attendant is more measured than some of his other works. Here, his other great quality as a writer comes out: i.e. the ability to make the reader care for his protagonist. Given that Snowden is a liar and a thief prone to self-pity, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. As in previous books, Bohjalian has done his research well, and you get a strong sense of what a flight attendant’s life may be like: glamorous but harried and full of one-night stands, a treadmill that only the most level-headed or emotionally gifted survive intact.
As this fast–moving story unfolds, the reader’s mind races. Will Cassie be tried for murder? Will the real murderer track her down and execute her as well? Will she escape the murderer’s clutches only to be ensnared in some other diabolical scheme? Along the way, you also hope (perhaps against all hope) that she will learn to deal with her fear of commitment and find true love, and in the process, also kick her bottle habit. Cassie’s only allies are a sexy Roman bartender named Enrico and one crafty lawyer back home, Ani Mouradian, who uses her wits and legal prowess to help a woman whom she comes to care for deeply. Ani is a great character, and one wishes that both she and Cassie’s two-night stand Buckley had been given more character development or pages.
The Flight Attendant is the best type of book to pick up when one doesn’t want to be hit over the head by pretentious prose or over-analytic musings: smart, entertaining, and breezily written, with a protagonist that you begin to identify with in spite of yourself. All this takes place against a background of Russian intrigue and a world where one false move may well be your last.

Vatican Gardens to have statue of 2nd Doctor of the Church from the East

St. Gregory of Narek, a "central figure" of Armenia and mystic of mercy, to take a place in the Gardens.

Pope Francis will inaugurate a statue of the Armenian saint Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church, in the Vatican Gardens on April 5. Narek is considered “a central, almost heroic figure” in Armenian history, for having “shaped Eastern Christian thought,” reads a statement from the Armenian Embassy to the Holy See released on April 3.
This saint of the Armenian Apostolic Church spent much of his life at the monastery of Narek, south of Lake Van. A theologian and great mystic author, he deeply explored the themes of divine mercy, spiritual combat, and the love of the mystical life.
He died around 1005, leaving abundant written works, including a commentary on the Song of Songs and many poems, hymns, and odes. His sacred Elegies, where his mystical experience is expressed, are still today one of the main prayer books of the Armenian Church.
Gregory of Narek also wrote odes celebrating the Virgin Mary, songs, and panegyrics. He had a great devotion to Mary, which served as a starting point for him to gain a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation.
An appeal to Divine Mercy
His masterpiece nevertheless remains the Book of Lamentations, which he completed at the end of his life. A monument to the classical Armenian language, he described it as a series of “conversations with God from the depths of the heart,” addressed to all, both the powerful and the poor.
“I laid its foundations,” writes Gregory of Narek, “built it, furnished it, polished it, decorated it, concluded it, and completed it, as a beautifully homogeneous work; I gathered all my writings, me, Gregory, cloistered monk, derisory poet.” He did this, he said, in order “to soothe the evils of both the soul and the body.”
In writing this book, Gregory of Narek was convinced that a life “free of corruption” is possible, even here below. A true appeal to divine mercy, this book, says the Armenian Embassy, is a work of “very elevated poetry that has the power of a lament but is capable of eliciting divine forgiveness.”
Second Doctor of the Church from the East
Gregory of Narek was recognized as the 36th doctor of the Church by Pope Francis on April 12, 2015. He became the second doctor to come from an Eastern Church, after Ephrem the Syrian, declared in 1920 by Benedict XV. At the ceremony raising Gregory to the status of Doctor of the Church, Pope Francis referred to “the first genocide of the 20th century”: that of the Armenians a hundred years ago.
The Supreme Pontiff visited Armenia one year and three months later. On that occasion, the president of the country, Serzh Sargsyan, gave the pope a statuette of St. Gregory of Narek to thank him for his pilgrimage to the first Christian nation.
The pope was so pleased by the statue that the Armenian head of state commissioned a bronze replica two meters tall to be made by an Armenian sculptor living in France, David Erevantzi. This is the statue that will be inaugurated in the Vatican Gardens this April 5, in the presence of the president and of Patriarch Karekine II Nersissian, Catholicos of all Armenians.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Book Review: ‘The Sins of the Fathers’—The Cardinal Sin of Denial

Over 3,000 Armenian refugees sought refuge with the Protestant church in Bakhche (in Cilicia) during the Armenian Genocide (Photo: Archive of the German Assistance Association/Tessa Hofmann and Gerayer Koutcharian, Armenian Review, Spring/Summer, 1992, Vol. 45, No. 1-2/177-178, p. 82, Fig. 19)
Special to the Armenian Weekly
Denial is not only the last stage of genocide but also the first. One need merely recall that the diplomatic representatives of the Ottoman Empire in Geneva and New York were denying the annihilation of Armenians in real-time, clinging to the arguments of negation and rationalization that the first denialist pamphlets would go on to compile as early as 1916-1917.
The denialist project in the West was on a low simmer in the 1950s and 1960s, until it gained impetus in the 1970s from the struggle over the mention of the Armenian case in the report on genocide by the now-defunct U.N. Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (known as the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities before 1999). From then on, denialism has only increased in intensity while also shifting tactics. The crude falsification of evidence has yielded to semantic games, and diplomatic pressures have been matched by academic outfits creating alternative narratives and manufactured controversies invoking freedom of speech.
The Sins of the Fathers: Turkish Denialism and the Armenian Genocide, a recent book by Siobhan Nash-Marshall, chair of Christian philosophy at Manhattanville College, makes a case study of Turkish denial of the Great Crime (Medz Yeghern) as part of a trilogy on the betrayal of philosophy.
That the book is written by a philosopher should not predispose the layperson. Its approach is as instructional as it is philosophical, and the book is infused with extensive and learned historical research. The book’s starting point is familiar to many readers: a somewhat old yet ageless document of moral bankruptcy—evidence unwittingly provided by denialism itself—that disclosed the murky alliance between state sponsorship and academic servility. The reference is to a 1990 letter addressed by Nüzhet Kandemir, then Turkish Ambassador to the United States, to professor Robert Jay Lifton of City University of New York. The missive was extraordinary… and thrice revelatory: The letter itself, its actual source, and the explanation from the source each disclosed inner workings of Turkish denialism. As a result of a clerical error, the letter to Lifton had also included both the initial draft of the letter, actually crafted by historian Heath Lowry (a star of the denialist firmament in the 1980s and 1990s), as well as Lowry’s explanatory cover letter to Kandemir.[1]
Lowry, who also ghostwrote the infamous 1985 letter to the U.S. Congress signed by 69 Turkish Studies scholars and published in the New York Times and the Washington Post as an advertisement, produced a string of denialist articles and books and went to become Princeton University’s first Ottoman and Modern Turkish professor (1993-2013) in a chair funded by the Turkish government, where he resumed his field of specialization, Early Ottoman Studies.[2]
In her introduction, professor Nash-Marshall points to the split between the realm of experience and the realm of thought, as suggested by Descartes, which led to the rationalist approach of the French Encyclopedists and that of the German idealists “to remake the world in the image and likeness of their ideas”—namely, to overturn the world and reshape it without concern for the destruction of human lives and cultures (p. xii). This approach, which underlies the failure and the betrayal of modern philosophy, inspired readers of those philosophers, like the Young Turks and Hitler, to do the unthinkable: “In all seriousness, anyone who knows twentieth-century history should realize that he cannot make sense of the unimaginable amount of blood spilt throughout it and in most corners of the globe without referring to philosophers… The twentieth century was the playground of nineteenth-century philosophy” (p. 27).
After dealing with those issues in Chapter One, the author takes the bull of denial by the horns in Chapter Two, in which she deals with the inherent violence of denial as much more than just the reshaping of history. It is fair to note here that the issue of denial has been specifically analyzed by various authors (Vigen Guroian, Richard Hovannisian, Vahakn Dadrian, Marc Nichanian, Marc Mamigonian, Henri Theriault, etc.), and extensively noted by many others. Thus, either an account of past analysis or a footnote that listed the main sources on the subject would have been a welcomed addition.
Siobhan Nash-Marshall
Nash-Marshall makes an illuminating point when she observes that the Armenian case is unlike that of post-Holocaust denial in that the writings of denialists Robert Faurisson or David Irving are not a constituent part of the genocide they deny occurred (p. 48-50). That is, they do not contribute to the genocide; they merely feed off of the intra-genocidal denial that took place during the Shoah itself, when the Nazis contrived euphemisms such as “Final Solution” for their plans and “disinfecting showers” for their actions, or the way they disguised conditions in concentration camps (e.g., Theresienstadt) to deceive curious outsiders.
However, as she explains in Chapter Three, Ambassador Kandemir (and his ghostwriter Lowry) in 1990—and by extension any other denialist before and after them, whether they feed from the original denial or not (one of the “sins of the fathers”)—have an objective that is directly related to the project that the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) pursued in 1915 and subsequent years (p. 57-65).
The creation of a homeland only for the Turks, which was the primary goal of the CUP from 1908 onward, was hampered by the near nonexistence of a Turkish identity that could serve to create a Turkish nation-state or buttress the ideology of Turkish superiority and right of dominance. In Chapter Four, Nash-Marshall extensively draws on the memoirs of that champion of Turkish feminism and purported progressive Halide Edib (Adivar), who was actually a close collaborator of the Young Turks and director of the infamous factory of Turkification that was the orphanage of Antoura, in Lebanon. In her memoirs, Edib provided extensive textual information about what Turkish foundational identity was, where the Turkish homeland would be, and how the CUP would ensure the adoption of that identity by the inhabitants of the new homeland. Professor Nash-Marshall offers a penetrating and illuminating deconstruction of Halide Edib’s memoirs as a key for understanding the subjacent ideology and purposes of the Ottoman ruling elite (p. 74-100).
The author invokes in Chapter Five what she calls the Greek Principle (“the inalienable right of an autochthonous [indigenous] people to the proprietorship of the lands of their forefathers”) (p. 105) that led to Greek independence in 1822. This principle came about as the result of a paradigm shift in the sovereignty of peoples in the late 1790s and early 1800s, and it served as the guiding pattern for the effective dismantling of the Central Empires (Germany and Austria-Hungary) after World War I. It undermined imperial land claims, above all the Ottoman Turkish claims, for they had no “lands of their forefathers” to demand. The elimination of the word “Armenia” in article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin (1878) was an early response to that threat (p. 111), followed by Abdul Hamid II’s widespread prohibition of “Armenia” in print [including from Ottoman maps] and the rejection of Armenian demands for reform that echoed the 19th century’s European democratic revolutionary trends (p. 119-122). And it is not surprising that Ottoman documents in the late 19th century considered Anatolia (including Western Armenia) “the crucible of Ottoman power” (p. 123), and justified the Hamidian massacres (1896-1897) as maintaining the integrity of the state in light of Armenian “provocations.”
The cover of The Sins of the Fathers: Turkish Denialism and the Armenian Genocide (Image: The Crossroad Publishing Company)
The Young Turk coup d’état of 1908 did not stop the process of disintegration of the empire after the independence of Greece; that process had gained momentum in the fourth quarter of the 19th century, and as a result Ottoman presence in Southeastern Europe and North Africa was practically wiped out between 1911 and 1913. The disintegration process was perceived to be poised to engulf the empire’s Asiatic domains, and the menace to the “Anatolian heartland” (the current territory of Turkey) seemed more than palpable.  The CUP’s understanding of what the “Great Democratic Revolution” and the Greek Principle had in store for the fate of that core territory led it to find a preemptive “final solution” to counter those threats by creating a “Turkey for the Turks” and exerting the “sovereign right of self-defense against a revolutionary movement,” as the Ottoman government claimed in its response to the Allied statement of May 24, 1915 that referred to “crimes against humanity and civilization.”[3]
Chapter Six of The Sins of the Fathers offers a nuanced account of how the situation evolved in the postwar period, from the Armistice to the Treaty of Lausanne. It elucidates the impact of Western political incoherence on the success of the Kemalist movement to attain the goal of its forerunner, the CUP: to salvage a much larger Turkish state than the one the Treaty of Sevres had carved out from the Asiatic territory, and make it practically identical with the boundaries of the “Anatolian heartland” with the reincorporation of the Armenian territories that had been wrested by the Russian Empire after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878 (p. 161-204).
Once that territorial re-composition had been achieved, the ideological engineering begun by the Young Turks continued: Mustafa Kemal tried to “invent an identity that would not just unite the Turks, and demonstrate that they were not culturally inferior to the Europeans, but above all ensure that no autochthonous people could threaten their claims to their lands” (p. 209). That in turn required doing what in fact was carried out: destroying the rem(a)inders of material culture; renaming the geographical places that recalled non-Turkish presence in those lands; dismissing the non-Turkish groups as remnants from the forgettable dark ages of Turkey; and, as a corollary, denying what had been perpetrated.
In her Conclusion, professor Nash-Marshall states that Kandemir’s letter to Lifton was a paradigmatic example of genocidal act—as intellectual aggression against Armenian collective memory; an echo of CUP propaganda at the time of the Genocide; and “the product of an act that aimed to eliminate not just a geno’s past right to existence, but the foundations of its future existence” (p. 212). Its underlying reason was the defense of the territorial integrity of a Turkish state inextricably linked to the seizure of the indigenous people’s properties, and their very land, both of which constituted the underpinnings of modern Turkey’s socioeconomic construction—and of the Turkish state itself.
Reviewer Vartan Matiossian
However, that seizure was not simple confiscation, in that “the CUP and its successors firmly believed (and believe) that what was once called Armenia—the Eastern Provinces or six vilayets and Cilicia—is and can only be Armenia” (p. 220). The lack of links among origin, history, and geographic location made it impossible for Ottoman Turks to apply a binding agent between the prospective Turkish homeland and the peoples who would live on those lands. The solution for that lack was the destruction of the indigenous peoples, carried out through the two-fold crime: their physical annihilation, and the erasure of the remaining traces.
It is not by chance, then, that a 2007 Turkish court ruling against two Armenian journalists charged with violating provisions of the notorious Article 301, stated (as quoted by the author), “Talk about genocide…may lead in future centuries to a questioning of the sovereignty of rights of the Republic of Turkey over the lands on which it is claimed these events occurred” (p. 222, italics added). That conceptualization, the author points out, makes of the annihilation of 1915 rather than “just a historical fact…a present crime that continues to be perpetrated by every official act with which the Turkish government denies the truth” (p. 223).
Nash-Marshall returns in her final paragraph to the ideas presented at the beginning of her work: The subordination of reality to our thoughts and will turns our actions violent. In the case of the Armenian Genocide, the actions and policies of the Turks, Soviets, Central Powers, and Entente, and all the way down to the actors of today, were and are informed by the imposition of expediency and national interests over moral commitments: “All do so because they make metaphysics serve their policy instead of informing it” (p. 226).
The Sins of the Fathers makes a well-considered and informed case about many issues that seem to have been overlooked in historical analyses of the Armenian Genocide and its denial. It does so with refreshing candor and scholarly depth. Above all, it gives plenty of fodder to rethink many issues of yesterday that bear enormous weight over what is happening today.
Notes
[1] The documents were published and analyzed in Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen, and Robert Jay Lifton, “Professional Ethics and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Spring 1995, 1-22. The article was reprinted in Richard G. Hovannisian (ed.), Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide, Detroit: Wayne Street University Press, 1998, pp. 271-296.
[2]Professor Nash-Marshall argues in two lengthy footnotes at the beginning of Chapter One that Lowry reportedly walked back his denialist positions (pages 2-4). We have not seen any concrete evidence to that effect, however.
[3] Professor Nash-Marshall has given the date May 29 for the Allied statement, which is inaccurate (p. 147).

Turkish Racism at its worse

The exterior walls of the Bomonti Mkhitarian Armenian School of Istanbul were vandalized with anti-Armenian graffiti in 2016. “One night, we suddenly will be in Karabagh,” read the graffiti in Turkish. (Photo: Agos)
In case the ongoing, periodic massacres of Armenians in and/or by the Ottoman Empire and its willing and eager collaborators weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the 1905 massacres of Armenians by “Tatars” (which were reciprocated)—as Azerbaijanis were referred to back then—weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the Armenian Genocide wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the simultaneous genocide of Assyrians and Greeks wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the 1918 Baku massacres by locals and Enver Pasha’s “Army of Islam” weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the 1920 sacking of Shushi, a vibrant Armenian cultural center, and its accompanying massacres weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the 1937 massacres of Alevi Kurds, (or the Zazas, a term that no longer seems to be in use) weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the depopulation/expulsion of Armenians from Nakhichevan during the Soviet era by Azerbaijani authorities wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case discriminatory practices in Azerbaijani controlled Artsakh during the Soviet era wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the discriminatory Varlik Vergisi (a tax invented by Ankara in 1942 to impoverish and drive out Armenians, Greeks, and Jews) wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the 1955 (premeditated and “fake-news” instigated) pogroms of Greeks (with some spillover on to Armenians) in Constantinople weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the mutilation of Greeks during Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus wasn’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
In case the Feb. 1989 and later pogroms in Baku, Cantsag/Gandsak (Ganja as Turkified), Sumgait, and elsewhere weren’t enough proof of Turkish racism;
Then let’s look to this century for… More of the same!
How about Victor Bedoian’s septennial sojourn in Van as he tried to open “Hotel Vartan” and was blocked at every turn from the vali (governor) who boasted that no Armenian would start a business in Van on his watch to the Turkish Supreme court that shut down his final appeal?
How about Hrant Dink’s 2007 murder?
How about Turkey’s sealing of its border with Syria at Kobane/Kobani, blocking assistance and escape for the Kurds of that area in their life-and-death struggle against Daesh/ISIS?
How about the mutilation of civilians and beheadings by Azerbaijan’s forces during the 2016 April War??
How about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan feigning outrage at being called an Armenian(which is a really bad slur in Turkey, it turns out)?
How about the hatred spewed against Jews from all corners of Turkey’s polity?
How about the episodic appearance of hate graffiti on Armenian institutions in Turkey?
How about the ongoing desecration of Armenian cemeteries and churches in Turkey?
How about the recent video from Azerbaijan with children expressing their hatred of Armenians?
How about the comment that “Raping Kurdish women is a moral obligation. No one should abstain,” by a leader of a Turkish group in Holland?
How about the Estonian citizen who was Armenian being denied entry into Azerbaijan, just days ago, because of her ancestry, despite having travelled to Baku with a properly issued visa?
It’s not only unfortunate, but utterly tragic, that current Turkish identity (including Azerbaijan, less its persecuted minority populations: the Avars, Jews, Lesghis, Tats, Talysh) is unimaginable without this all-encompassing racism, The only glimmer of light in that darkness is the small portion of the population which constitutes civil society and its efforts to defend human rights, in the broadest sense of the term.
This reality must permeate the halls of (at least) Western governments so their foreign policy for Azerbaijan and Turkey is more rational and effective. The above can serve as talking points during any encounter with our elected representatives. Use them.
And just in case anyone you’re speaking with has doubt as to whether there exists a significant difference between Ankara’s and Baku’s ethos, ideals, and morals, here’s a joke to help convey this reality:
“What’s the difference between an Azeri and a Turk?”
“Nothing.”

Friday, March 30, 2018

Boston Community Comes Together to Raise Funds and Awareness to Combat Domestic Violence in Armenia

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—More than 120 members of the Greater Boston Armenian community came together at the Armenian American Social Club (Papken Suni Agoump) of Watertown on March 16, for a fundraiser for Yerevan’s Women’s Support Center (WSC)—one of the leading institutions working to prevent domestic violence in Armenia—and to raise awareness on the status of women in Armenia.
More than 120 members of the Greater Boston Armenian community came together at the Armenian American Social Club of Watertown on March 16, for a fundraiser for Yerevan’s Women’s Support Center and to raise awareness on the status of women in Armenia (Photo: The Armenian Weekly)
The event, which was organized and sponsored by the Friends of the WSC—a small group of WSC supporters from the Boston-area—opened with introductory remarks by Lenna Garibian.
After thanking a number of donors that made the event possible, Garibian—a brand and content strategist and associate director at C Space and an active member of the Boston-Armenian community—shared the story of her personal connection with the WSC, after visiting the center for the first time last summer. “It was a moving experience. I got to see, firsthand, what was happening at the center, and I knew then that I wanted to be involved and to support it,” she explained.
Garibian noted how the staff at the center had created an environment, which was incredibly efficient, structured, well-run, clean—but also one that was warm, loving, and inclusive. “It’s an amazing place—a safe home for women and their families, who are fleeing domestic abuse,” Garibian went on.
Introductory remarks were made by organizer Lenna Garibian (Photo: The Armenian Weekly)
She then applauded the WCS staff for their courage and bravery, for doing what they do in Armenia. “They [the WSC staff] are personally risking themselves and their well-being. They operate almost secretly and they do this very as-a-matter-of-factly—sort of ‘business as usual,’” Garibian noted. “But at the same time, given those conditions and the social and political climate in which they are working, they are incredibly optimistic. This was really inspiring to see.”
Garibian then went on to say that they work of the WSC and the countless stories of victims of domestic violence challenge the popular narrative in Armenia that domestic violence activism is destroying the fabric of Armenian families and society.
“What it means for us as a community is that we need to stand up and we have to protect those, who are most vulnerable. We also have to work to find solutions together in order to eradicate domestic violence,” Garibian said, before noting that the status of women in Armenia could be compared to the status of women in the U.S. in the 1960s and the 1970s. “As you know—as evidence by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements—women’s liberation is a work in progress, even here in the United States. It’s hard to believe that an entire gender, after three centuries could still be fighting—still be rallying—for its rights,” she explained. “But seeing the Women’s Support Center in Armenia made me optimistic for Armenia. And seeing you all here tonight makes me even more optimistic,” she concluded.
Garibian then invited longtime community leader Antranig Kasbarian to the podium. Over the past 20 years, Kasbarian has been a lecturer, activist, journalist, and researcher in the Diaspora and in Armenia and Artsakh. A former editor of the Armenian Weekly, he holds a Ph.D. in geography from Rutgers University and is currently a Trustee of the Tufenkian Foundation, pursuing a range of charitable and strategic projects in Armenia and Artsakh.
The WSC originated as a program founded by the Tufenkian Foundation together with USAID and the Armenian International Women’s Association (AIWA).
Kasbarian began by explaining that the Armenian Diaspora’s relationship and engagement with the Republic of Armenia is ever-evolving. “In the late 1980s early 90s, many of us in the Diaspora viewed Armenia as a basket case—a place that needed urgent, emergency assistance. Whether that was for Artsakh, for the earthquake victims, during operation Winter Rescue,” Kasbarian noted. According to him, in those days, the Diaspora was “hardwired” to think of Armenia as an urgent case—“something that we had to gave to…and gave to unconditionally.”
“But as time has gone on,” Kasbarian went on, “slowly, haltingly, the Diaspora has grown up.” He explained how through the years, assistance programs that are not mere handouts have begun to come to live. “More and more you see both our established organizations, as well as new independent foundations that are interested in long-term rehabilitative assistance, developmental assistance, different kinds of engagement with the homeland, that help people help themselves,” Kasbarian explained. He then added that the Diaspora should not be afraid to be proactive when dealing with Armenia and that besides just financial assistance, Diasporans can also provide insight, expertise, and professionalism to Armenia’s budding society.
Antranig Kasbarian addressing the crowd (Photo: The Armenian Weekly)
Kasbarian admitted that though Armenia has progressed in some ways, it has also regressed in several other ways. “People’s social and political reflexes have begun to change in very interesting ways,” Kasbarian noted. According to him, people’s prevailing reflex in the late 80s and early 90s was still conditioned by the Soviet-era—“People looked up to the authorities as the source of all ill or the source of all remedy.” Kasbarian noted that in the last five to 10 years, the idea of social movements that work from the bottom up have begun to take root in Armenia, especially among younger people, who are rallying around different issues, including the environment, public space, price hikes, worker’s rights, and women’s rights.
Kasbarian explained that the ways in which Diasporan charitable assistance and engagement are changing, and how the social and political climate in Armenia are changing, intersect at the WCS, which—in a very short time—has been able to take women’s rights, gender equality, and the issue of domestic violence, “from off the radar screen and into the limelight.”
“What started as really an experiment,” Kasbarian said of the WSC, “has turned into something that’s really great,” and urged those in attendance to keep supporting the important work the center does in Armenia and to get involved with other progressive movements in the homeland.
Maro Matosian, the Executive Director of the WSC then took the podium, to deliver the evening’s keynote address. She discussed in detail the status of women in Armenia and the WSC’s work to combat domestic violence in Armenia.
Matosian began her address by thanking the organizers—Garibian, Yelena Bisharyan, and Martha Mensoian—for coming together and putting on an event, which she called an initiative “by Armenian women for Armenian women.” The WSC Executive Director went on to give a brief introduction of the issue of domestic violence in general, before providing details about the issue in Armenia specifically—presenting several tragic stories of cases of domestic violence in the country, some of which have even ended in murder.
Maro Matosian, the Executive Director of the WSC took the podium to deliver the evening’s keynote address (Photo: The Armenian Weekly)
During her address, Matosian presented a short documentary about the work of the WSC, which included personal testimonies—and success stories-of domestic violence survivors.
The documentary included the testimony seen below.
Matosian then provided further details about purpose of the center, which she said is meant to be a safe environment for women where they receive support, empathy, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their struggles. “The WSC works to change the several myths and taboos regarding domestic violence and the role of women in society,” Matosian explained.
Violence against women—especially domestic violence—is an alarming public health and societal problem in Armenia, according to Matosian, who said that one in four women experience domestic abuse in the country.
Commenting on the recent law criminalizing domestic violence in Armenia, Matosian said that though it is not perfect and “never right the first time,” the passage of the law by Armenia’s National Assembly was a step in the right direction. Matosian explained that amendments were made two years after the passage of a similar law in Georgia and that the WSC and other groups in Armenia are hoping for the same thing for the Armenian law. “We need to be in line with international commitments and the conventions that have demanded domestic violence laws.”
Matosian explained that though the fact that Armenia now has a domestic violence law is largely due to European pressure, there likely would not have been a law put in place if there was not a grassroots movement—or, as she put it “activism from below”—in the country. “The pressure from above came when then European Union wanted to sign a partnership agreement with Armenia. The EU demanded that Armenia was up to par on things like gender equality.”
At the conclusion of her address, Matosian noted that societies which value women and promote real gender equality, are societies in which there is less violence and more democracy. “The improvement of women’s status in Armenia, then, helps Armenia become more democratic,” Matosian said, before taking a number of questions from members of the audience.
During the question/answer session, several interesting subjects, including the issue of and lack of attention regarding domestic violence in the Armenian Diaspora; the role of men in the gender equality movement in Armenia; and the misrepresentation of traditional Armenian values, were discussed at length.
All the proceeds from the March 16 event will go directly to the WSC and help end the cycle of domestic violence in Armenia.