Sunday, February 10, 2019

Macron Declares April 24 National Day of Armenian Genocide Commemoration in France

French President Emmanuel Macron and the first lady, Brigitte, at the Dizidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex in October, 2018
French President Emmanuel Macron and the first lady, Brigitte, at the Dizidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex in October, 2018
French leader angers Turkey
PARIS—President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday said that his country would observe April 24 as “national day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.”
He made the declaration at the annual gala dinner of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organization in France (CCAF), fulfilling a campaign promise he made while running for president in 2017.
“France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face, and was among the first to denounce the killing of the Armenian people in 1915 as genocide, calling it was, and in 2001 after a long struggle recognized it as law,” Macron told the crowd gathered at the CCAF gala.
France “will in the next weeks make April 24 a national day of commemoration of the Armenian genocide,” he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the CCAF annual gala on Feb, 5 in Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at the CCAF annual gala on Feb, 5 in Paris
Macron and his wife, Brigitte, visited the Dzidzernagapert Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex in Yerevan while they were visiting Armenia during the Francophonie Summit in October.
Official Ankara was quick to express it anger at Macron’s statement, calling it “a political lie.”
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin “strongly condemned” Macron’s statement about the Armenian Genocide, reported the Anadolu news agency.
Kalin also accused Macron of “trying to rescue himself by using historical events as political fodder”.
Macron said he had informed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the decision to declare April 24th a National Day of Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide ahead of his announcement.
“We have disagreements over the fight against the Islamic State, human rights and civil liberties in Turkey and on the Genocide,” Macron was quoted as saying by Euronews.
Legendary singer Charles Aznavour's son, Nicolas, presented French President Emmanuel Macron with a duduk during the CCAF gala in Paris on Feb. 5, 2019 (Photo by Jean Eckian)
Legendary singer Charles Aznavour’s son, Nicolas, presented French President Emmanuel Macron with a duduk during the CCAF gala in Paris on Feb. 5, 2019 (Photo by Jean Eckian)
At the CCAF event, Macron paid tribute to the memory of legendary singer Charles Aznavour. In October, the French President led a state funeral for Aznavour, declaring him a national hero.
“Some heroes become French by spilling their blood. This son of Greek and Armenian immigrants, who never went to secondary school, knew instinctively that our most sacred sanctuary was the French language,” and used it like a poet, Macron said at Aznavour’s funeral ceremony. “In France, poets never die,” he added, standing before the coffin draped in the French national flag.
The French president also praised Aznavour’s “loyalty to his roots.” “Armenians of all countries, today I am thinking of you,” he said.
To honor his father’s legacy, Aznavour’s son, Nicolas, Aznavour, presented a duduk to Macron during the CCAF dinner on Tuesday.

Friday, February 1, 2019

ANCA-WR, Elected Officials Condemn Hateful Acts at Armenian Schools

The front entrance to Ferrahian School property, which includes Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church, Encino, Calif. (Image circulated on social media)
ENCINO, Calif.—Just over 12 hours after an unknown suspect allegedly hung Turkish flags at two Armenian private schools in southern California, the local Armenian community joined the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR) and the Armenian Genocide Committee to condemn the vandalism.
Inside the gymnasium of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School in Encino, California on Tuesday evening, community leaders and school officials held a press conference hosted by the Armenian Genocide Committee to update the public and concerned families on the ongoing police investigation.
Gated entrance to AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park, Calif. (Photo credit: thearmenianreport)
Ferrahian principal Sossi Shanlian informed everyone that surveillance cameras captured a masked man allegedly trespassing onto school property at around four in the morning on Tuesday. Shanlian said the suspect, dressed in black clothing with face and head covered, jumped the front gate and started hanging Turkish flags in the parochial school’s courtyard. At Ferrahian, the Turkish flags were hanging feet away from the steps leading to the Armenian church on-site. The suspect also allegedly targeted AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School in Canoga Park, which is about five miles away.
After a preliminary investigation that failed to use the term “hate crime,” local law enforcement is now taking this matter seriously and designating it as such, according to the ANCA-WR. “I’m sorry to the Armenian community,” said Los Angeles Police Department captain Ernest Eskridge. “This is a very serious crime. We are doing our best to bring this suspect to justice.” Captain Eskridge also expressed his commitment to ensure the Armenian community is at peace.
But peace is something that’s been difficult to come by for the Armenian people. As the chair of the ANCA-WR Nora Hovsepian explained, one of the targets, Ferrahian, was founded almost 60 years ago by a generation of Armenian Genocide survivors. “This is a direct affront to them and to their descendants,” said Hovsepian. To this day, the government of Turkey continues to deny the events of 1915.
Street view from White Oak Avenue of Ferrahian High School (Photo sent to Armenian Weekly)
That lack of recognition is one reason why several local elected officials felt compelled to attend and stand in solidarity with the Armenian community. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, one of several proponents of Armenian Genocide recognition in the state, equated the hate crime at these two southern California Armenian schools to that of a Nazi swastika plastered on a Jewish school building. Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield, who represents Canoga Park, recalled Holocaust Remembrance Day in his comments saying, “This kind of hate is pervasive.”
School administrators say the young school community is shocked yet strong, despite the circumstances. Shanlian said this has become a teachable moment for the students. After a short assembly Tuesday morning, Shanlian said Ferrahian students “broke out in a spontaneous expression of their unity, love and respect for the Armenian culture and heritage.” They also took down all the Turkish flags and replaced them with even more Armenian flags.
Classes on Wednesday are still in session at both schools. Security will also be heightened; parents can expect to see police near and on-campus as they continue their investigation.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Turks in Germany Who Defeated Denial

BERLIN — Since June 2, 2016, the German Bundestag (Parliament) has been counted among those political institutions worldwide that have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide. The names of the parliamentarians associated with launching the initiative and organizing the political muscle to force it through are known. But if those individuals served as midwives, they were not the ones to conceive the idea. In the beginning was a small group of Turkish citizens living in Germany who came together in an association called Soykırım Karsıtları Dernegi (SKD), the Society against Genocide. At the beginning of December, they observed their 20th anniversary in Frankfurt and they had good reason to celebrate.
The festivities took place in a community center where some members had held birthday parties or wedding receptions. There were Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Arameans, Kurds and Germans, young and old, there was music, sung in all the languages, and dancing, and a buffet with everything from mezze to baklava. Ali Ertem, the founder and chairman of the SKD, told the members and guests that he had decided to throw away his prepared remarks and to speak from the heart. To summarize the experience of his association, he began with the question of why the organization was founded. Many years ago at Bochum university he met the Armenian Mihran Dabag, then also a student, who first told him about the crimes committed by the Young Turk regime against the Armenians. Like many Turks who first learn about the genocide when they come to Germany, he decided to look into it, and his research quickly proved the case. Moved by the moral responsibility to act on this new knowledge, he set up the association with the commitment to get Turkey to recognize the genocide, and the first petitions began to circulate.
Ertem and his associates soon thereafter organized a visit to Armenia, which was to become an annual event every April 24. On his first visit, he was asked by his hosts why he set up the SKD, considering the policy of denial that reigned in Turkey. He answered with an anecdote about an old Shi’ite wise man. The man lived as a farmer with his family, at the foot of a mountain, and his sons had been urging him to move to a region with more sunlight, for the crops. The man refused, and instead he began to dig at the base of the mountain every day. In response to queries, he explained that by digging, he was preparing to move the mountain; if he did not complete the task in his lifetime, his sons would continue it, and after them, their sons. And so on, until the mountain had been relocated. “We have broken the monopoly on the genocide,” Ertem said. “The situation inside Turkey is tough, to be sure,” he said, “but we are moving mountains.”
Dogan Akhanlı was the guest speaker. The German-Turkish author has been jailed and persecuted repeatedly by Turkish authorities, most recently a year ago when he was arrested in Spain on Turkish orders and released only after an international mobilization. As a result of this harassment, his fame as an author has been enhanced and his books are selling well.
His address filled out the story of the SKD and its significance, He recalled that in a speech he was invited to deliver on April 24, 2011 at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, at the annual genocide commemoration event, he had characterized the SKD as the pioneer in the process of coming to terms with the genocide against the Armenians and Aramaeans. Akhanlı said that “denial of the genocide and expulsion of the Armenians and Aramaeans and Pontus Greeks was not only a social phenomenon inside Turkey.” Outside the country, intellectuals with a Turkish background, even those committed to working through past history, shied away from using the term genocide — until Hrant Dink’s murder in 2007. He cited the usual argument, that one couldn’t use the term genocide for events occurring prior to its having been coined as a juridical term, and reviewed the work done by Raphael Lemkin, which led to the UN Genocide Convention. Since then, he said, there is no question among researchers that this was genocide. So, it is wrong to talk about some “Armenian question.”
Ali Ertem speaking at a Seyfo (Assyrian Genocide) event
Akhanlı noted, “The response to the so-called ‘Armenian question’ of the last century was annihilation. At present there remains only the Turkish question: Turkish denial of the genocide, Turkish defamation of the diaspora, Turkish arrogance and lack of respect for the victims and their descendants.”
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It was thanks to the diaspora, he continued, that the fight for recognition continued and sustained the memory of the victims. “And yet,” he said, “when I came to Germany in the beginning of the 1990s as a refugee, I had only a vague idea of the dimensions of the Young Turks’ violence.” At the time no books on the subject were available in Turkey, and only in that decade did some works appear, those published by Belge in Istanbul, and German books like those by Taner Akçam. It was in that period that he met Ali Ertem and the other founding members of the SKD, who “were the first people in Germany, perhaps worldwide, who named by name the crime against the Armenians and openly pronounced it.” He recalled the series of meetings, exhibitions, round table discussions and readings that the SKD organized, thus bringing together for the first time the successor generations of the perpetrators and the survivors.
Yet it took a good 20 years before the Bundestag would pass its resolution. Akhanlı said it was above all “thanks to the struggle of the SKD” that the resolution passed. In November 1999 the SKD had gathered signatures from more than 10,000 Turkish citizens and sent the petition to the Turkish parliament demanding that it recognize the genocide in accordance with the 1948 UN Convention, but the petition was returned by mail, unopened. So, in April 2000, the SKD together with the Berlin-based Working Group Recognition (AGA), delivered the petition to the German Bundestag, demanding that it recognize the genocide and urge Turkey to follow suit. Of the 16,000 signatures of German residents, 10,000 were Turkish citizens, and support came from prominent individuals worldwide.
In closing, Akhanlı recalled the proposal he had launched in the Paulskirche address in 2011, that Germany expand working through its history, to include other atrocities committed during the colonial period. He had also proposed the creation of an Action Reconciliation Service for Peace (Aktions Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste-ASF) for Turkey. The ASF, founded by the Evangelical Church in 1958, has been active as a peace organization, promoting reconciliation in dealing with the legacy of Nazism, and had a major impact on Akhanlı’s own development. Although there are individuals in Turkey eager to collaborate, the difficulty, the speaker explained, lies in the fact that, without genocide recognition on the part of Turkey, there are no institutional forces ready to act. One organization that has pursued peace work, he said, is Anadolu Kültür, and it has come under assault since the failed coup attempt in 2016. Its founder Osman Kavala sits in jail.
“But nevertheless,” he concluded, “we have a core group, the SKD, which is fighting indefatigably and uncompromisingly against racism and anti-Semitism, against current and historical violence, which has made an admirable contribution to reconciliation and which is celebrating its 20th birthday today.”
On a personal note, Akhanlı said this “association of solidarity work” had had the “magical effect of saving me from the jaws of arbitrary and arrogant power and made it possible for me to be here with you and to celebrate. Heartfelt thanks!”

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Turkey Abuses Interpol To Extradite Regime Opponents

Turkey and several other repressive governments are increasingly abusing their membership in the Interpol to harass and punish their opponents. Interpol, or the International Criminal Police Organization, is composed of 194 countries and focuses on fighting transnational crimes.
Although Interpol’s charter forbids the pursuit of individuals for political, religious, military or racial reasons, several member states continue to abuse the power of the Interpol to pursue their opponents.
New York Knicks basketball player Enes Kanter (Photo: Frenchieinportland/Wikimedia Commons)
The most recent case is the Turkish government’s demand to Interpol to have Enes Kanter, an NBA basketball player of Turkish origin, arrested and extradited to Turkey by placing his name on Interpol’s Red Notice list. Kanter declined to join his team, the New York Knicks, on a trip to London for an NBA game. He said he was wrongly charged by the Erdogan government as a ‘terrorist’ and feared that he may be assassinated by Turkish agents in London.
On May 19, 2017, Abdullah Bozkurt wrote on the Turkish Minute website that Kanter “barely escaped arrest while in Jakarta, [Indonesia] where he stopped as part of a global goodwill tour. The Indonesian army and secret service raided a school where an event was planned in order to detain him at Turkey’s request, but he managed to leave Indonesia for Romania. On his return trip to the US, Kanter was detained on May 20 at Henri Coandă International Airport in Bucharest because his passport was reported to have been cancelled by the Turkish government. The NBA star was subsequently released after the US government and NBA officials intervened on his behalf. He remains a staunch critic of Erdogan for his rights violations.”
In a Washington Post op-ed column, Kanter wrote: “Anyone who speaks out against him [Erdogan] is a target. I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me.” Kanter told Newsweek that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is “the Hitler of our century.” According to ESPN, the Turkish government requested Interpol last November to have more than 80 people arrested in other countries and extradited to Turkey!
Turkish journalist Can Dündar (© Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons)
Several other Turkish dissidents have barely escaped the Turkish government’s long reach through the Interpol. Last October, Turkey requested that the Interpol arrest and extradite Can Dündar, the former editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper, and Ilhan Tanir, editor of the Ahval news website. “I have not killed anyone, run a cartel, robbed a bank or done anything else to warrant a global manhunt,” Tanir wrote. “The Turkish government is pursuing me for my activities as a journalist.”
Ragip Zarakoglu, a journalist, author, publisher, and human rights defender, was placed on Interpol’s Red Notice list to be arrested and extradited to Turkey. He is currently in Sweden, safe from Erdogan’s clutches.
Another Turkish journalist was less fortunate. Hamza Yalçin, who had escaped to Sweden, was arrested at Turkey’s request to Interpol in 2017 during his visit to Spain. He was released after two months following pressure from the governments of Sweden and Germany.
“We welcome the Spanish government’s decision, which shows respect for international law,” Reporters Without Borders stated. “Hamza Yalçin’s release sends the Turkish government a clear message that Interpol should not be used for the political purpose of pursuing journalists who have fled abroad.”
Shortly after the failed coup in July 2016, Turkey made more than 60,000 Red Notice requests to Interpol. Red Notices are only for people accused of serious crimes, and Interpol’s constitution calls on countries not to use the system for political ends and to act within the spirit of international human rights standards. Turkey, China, Russia and the UAE are in blatant violation of these regulations, stated the Foreign Policy magazine.
In an April 2017 resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called on Interpol “to continue improving its Red Notice procedure in order to prevent and redress abuses even more effectively.” Johann Bihr, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, stated that “dozens of Turkish journalists have had to flee abroad since the coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016. But like other exile journalists all over the world, they are now threatened by political manipulation of Interpol. The reforms begun by Interpol must now be completed as a matter of urgency so that it is better able to guard against abusive requests from Turkey and other repressive states.”

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A tribute to slain journalist HRANT DINK 1.5 MILLION +1 ..A song for this hero of Armenians

A tribute to slain journalist HRANT DINK 1.5 MILLION +1 ..A song for this hero of Armenians


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Turkey Ranked Among Top 10 Countries With Probability of Committing Genocide

According to the Early Warning Project of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Turkey is ranked 8th among countries with the highest risk of committing mass killings. Azerbaijan is wrongly ranked much lower at 87th and Armenia is correctly ranked even lower at 102nd. Turkey is assessed as having 11.2% or 1 in 9 chance of new mass killings during 2019.
The Early Warning Project stated that “genocides are never spontaneous. They are always preceded by a range of early warning signs. If these signs are detected, their causes can be addressed, preventing the potential for catastrophic progression.”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s founding charter, written by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, states that “only a conscious, concerted attempt to learn from past errors can prevent recurrence to any racial, religious, ethnic or national group. A memorial unresponsive to the future would also violate the memory of the past.”
Turkey’s high risk of committing genocide once again is based on its past and present actions. The Turkish government has not only committed genocide against Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks a century ago, but continues to commit mass killings against its minority Kurdish population. Even more concerning is the fact that Turkish leaders deny their history of mass murders and shamefully remain unapologetic, which leads to the commission of new crimes against humanity!
Turkey’s genocidal risk assessment is understated as the study only includes mass killings within a country, excluding the victims of interstate conflict. As Turkey has been involved in large-scale military attacks against Kurds in Syria and Iraq, and threatens to expand its military actions in Northern Syria, the risk of its commitment of mass crimes is much higher than the study indicates.
The Early Warning Project explains that the failed coup attempt in 2016 increased the chances of mass killings in Turkey. Over 100,000 military and civilian personnel were dismissed and tens of thousands were imprisoned, many without a trial. “Other [Turkish genocide] risk factors include a lack of freedom of movement, the country’s anocratic regime type [a mix of autocratic and democratic characteristics], a large population, a history of mass killings, and the ongoing armed conflict between the government and Kurdish rebels.”
Turkish Journalist Jailed for Telling the Truth
An Istanbul court sentenced Turkish journalist Pelin Unker to imprisonment for 13 months and 15 days after being accused of defaming her nation’s former Prime Minister and two of his sons. She was also fined $1,615 on January 8, 2018.
Unker had written an article in the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, exposing that former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and his two sons owned five shipping companies in Malta. After serving as Prime Minister for two years, Yildirim became Speaker of Turkey’s Parliament. He is currently a candidate for Mayor of Istanbul on behalf of Pres. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Yildirim family’s ownership of companies in Malta was exposed by the “Paradise Papers” and published in newspapers around the world. As I had reported in my June 2017 article, the Yildirim family owned the following shipping and other foreign assets worth $140 million:
18 ships (Dutch conglomerates, fully or partly owned)
1 ship (Netherlands Antilles company)
4 Malta companies
7 properties in the Netherlands
8 ships in the Netherlands
3 ships in Malta
Strangely, Pelin Unker was the only journalist punished for exposing the Yildirim assets. Unker said she will appeal the unfair sentence as Yildirim acknowledged in court that he owned the companies in an offshore tax haven. The former Prime Minister and his sons filed a lawsuit in November 2017, accusing Unker of “insulting and slandering a public official.”
Gerard Ryle, Director of the International Consortium of Independent Journalists, condemned Unker’s punishment “as yet another disgraceful attack on free speech in Turkey.” Ryle added: “the sentence ignored the truth of the Paradise Papers’ investigation and it would have a chilling effect on what little remained of press freedom in Turkey. This unjust ruling is about silencing fair and accurate reporting. Nothing more. ICIJ commends Pelin Unker’s brave and truthful investigative reporting and it condemns this latest assault on journalistic freedom under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s autocratic rule.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Turkey 157th of 180 countries on the 2018 World Free Press Index. RSF described Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists!”