Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pope Francis to Hold Mass for Armenian Genocide Centennial

BUENOS AIRES—Pope Francis will hold Mass for the Armenian Genocide Centennial in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, on April 12, 2015. The Announcement was made by the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires Mario Poli during a mass in the Armenian Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Narek on Sunday, Aug. 17, reported Presna Armenia.
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pablo Hakimian, the pastor of the Armenian Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Narek, said that the announcement of a Mass for the Armenian Genocide centennial is in response to an invitation by the Armenian Catholic Church.
“The Pope replied to the invitation from the Armenian Catholic Church a year ago through Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX to hold a mass for the recognition of the Genocide,” Father Hakimian told Prensa Armenia.
On June 3, 2013, Pope Francis held a meeting with a delegation led by Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, during which he also met a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors and stated, “It was the first genocide of the twentieth century.” The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement of its own: “The expressions of Pope Francis are absolutely unacceptable.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has publicly recognize the Armenian Genocide. In 2006, when he was still known as Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, he called the Genocide “The gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey against the Armenian people and the entire humanity.”
More recently, in May 2014, Pope Francis received His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. During the meeting, he said that we should never forget the blood poured by the Armenians in the last century. In June 2014, Pope Francis also received His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.
Pope Francis is not the first Pope calling on Turkey to admit its crimes. John Paul II also recognized the Armenian Genocide. In September 2001, during his farewell ceremony at the Zvartnotz International Airport in Yerevan, he said “The Armenian people have paid dearly for their frontier existence, so much so that the words ‘holiness’ and ‘martyrdom’ have become almost identical in your vocabulary. The terrible events at the beginning of the last century, which brought your people to the brink of annihilation, the long years of totalitarian oppression:none of these has been able to prevent the Armenian soul from regaining courage and recovering its great dignity.” Pope John Paul II also said a prayer at the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial, during which he said: “Wipe away every tear from their eyes and grant that their agony in the twentieth century will yield a harvest of life that endures forever. We are appalled by the terrible violence done to the Armenian people, and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity.”
The scheduled Mass on April 12, 2015, may be one of the largest events organized around the Genocide Centennial.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Islamic State Commander Says Turkey Instrumental in ‘Success’


Islamic State Commander Says Turkey Instrumental in ‘Success’

Islamic State fighters ride through streets as part of a military parade after gaining significant victories in Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

REYHANLI, Turkey—A senior commander of the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) has told the Washington Post that Turkey’s support was instrumental in the success of his organization, which now controls great swathes of Syria and Iraq. In an interview with the Washington Post on Aug. 12, the 27-year-old commander identifying himself as Abu Yusef explained that the Islamic State received most of its supplies from Turkey and had many of its fighters from Syria treated at Turkish hospitals. Abu Yusef, speaking to the Washington Post in the southeaster Turkish town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border, says much of that has changed as the Turkish government has begun cracking down on IS operations.
“It is not as easy to come into Turkey anymore,” Yusuf says. “I myself had to go through smugglers to get here, but as you see, there are still ways and methods.”
“We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals. And also, most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies,” Yusef told the Washington Post.
Turkey closed its doors on the Islamic State when the extremists took their war into Iraq, capturing 80 Turkish citizens in the process, 40 of whom are still in captivity. But now, Yusef says, the Islamic State has enough resources in Syria and Iraq that it no longer needs Turkey’s support.
The piece, authored by Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet, gives an exhaustive account of Turkey’s relationship with the Islamic State. It can be read on the Washington Post’s website.

Gulen-Linked Schools in Calif. to be Investigated by State

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Asbarez)—The Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Aug. 14 approved a statewide audit of the Magnolia Science Academies of California, which runs 12 tax payer-funded charter schools in the state that have ties to the Gulen Institute, affiliated to the Turkish cleric Fethulah Gulen.
Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms is one of the schools cited for financial mismanagement.
Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms is one of the schools cited for financial mismanagement.
The audit, requested by State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, brings forth major concerns of misappropriation of tax payer funds of the 12 Magnolia charter schools and their parent company, the Magnolia Education and Research Foundation (MERF).
In August of 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) audit on Magnolia Science Academies revealed major irregularities and misappropriation of funds for two of eight Magnolia Charter Schools in their jurisdiction: Magnolia Charter Schools number 6 and 7. In March of 2014, the LAUSD granted a conditional renewal of the Charter agreements, with reauthorization pending the results of the OIG’s findings.
“Charter Schools play an important role in the public education system by delivering a high quality education to our students. I am deeply troubled that public education funds are being abused by the Magnolia Academies. It was important to bring this request forward to ensure that our tax payer dollars aren’t being misspent at the expense of the students and the taxpayers who support public education,” said Nazarian.
The audit, which doesn’t have an official start date, will take 7-10 months to complete.
On June 27, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued findings indicating that Magnolia Charter School Academy 6 and 7’s conditional renewal were rescinded based on material fiscal and operational findings and fiscal mismanagement based on a forensic review of the schools and Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation. Magnolia sought a preliminary injunction to block the District from implementing the nonrenewal of the two schools.
During a July 25 hearing, Judge Luis A. Lavin granted the injunction in order to not disrupt the student community, but ordered a strict investigation into the finances of the MERF and the Magnolia schools.
The LAUSD said it viewed Judge Lavin’s protective orders as affirmation of the serious conditions the District faced with Magnolia. “Our primary concern has always been the students who attend Magnolia,” Superintendent John E. Deasy said. “While it is never an easy decision to disrupt a school community, Magnolia’s fiscal mismanagement and serious fiscal issues gave the District no choice. Now that Judge Lavin has provided these additional protective measures, the schools can remain intact while the administrative appeals process reaches its inevitable conclusion.”
Throughout the hearing on the preliminary injunction, Judge Lavin repeatedly indicated that the preliminary injunction is in no way a ruling on the merits of whether Magnolia should continue to operate. A trial setting conference will be held on October 14, 2014, and a hearing on the merits will be set sometime in January 2015.
If Magnolia fails to comply with any of the conditions outlined above, LAUSD can petition the court on an ex parte motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction.
On the national level, Gulen-affiliated schools have come under investigation for questionable financial practices, to filling teacher positions with often unqualified people brought in from Turkey.
Gulen-affiliated charter schools in ArizonaLouisianaPennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey have been under investigation by the FBI since 2011

Thursday, August 7, 2014

APP Conference Participants Announced

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Plenary will feature Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.” With discussions on Turkish politics, the media, Turkish-Armenian relations, and reparations, the conference will be held on Fri., Sept. 26, and Sat., Sept. 27, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.
The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.”
The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.”
Friday night’s plenary session will feature intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky in conversation with Alternative Radio’s David Barsamian. Topics to be discussed include Turkish politics and social movements, the Gezi Park protests, and imperialism. Turkey’s failure to come to terms with its history and human rights record, particularly with regard to the Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish question, will also be examined. The plenary will take place in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium (Building W16) from 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Levon Chorbajian, Carla Garapedian, and Aris Nalci will explore aspects of the media, including public relations, propaganda, and ownership, in the first of three panels on Saturday.
Turkey has been highly successful in distributing its narrative, often through professional public relations firms; despite having the advantage of historical truth, Armenians have not. The media often fails to present the Armenian Genocide as fact. Why? Does the U.S. mainstream media frame the issue as a controversy due solely to Turkish pressure, or are American foreign policy and corporate interests responsible?
Turkish-Armenian relations have myriad aspects, including “reconciliation groups” and other civil society exchanges promoted by the U.S. State Department. Are these initiatives in the interests of Armenia and Armenians?
Additionally, progressive Turkish academics, writers, and activists have been instrumental in initiating discussion of the Armenian Genocide within Turkey, especially following the murder of Hrant Dink. Have any gone beyond calls for recognition of the Armenian Genocide; that is, have any demanded justice in the form of restitution and reparations? What can and should Armenians expect from them?
The Turkish-Armenian relations panel will also consider denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state and others. Denial is becoming more sophisticated, as evidenced by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s statement this past April about “shared pain.” The panel will include Peter Balakian, Bilgin Ayata, and Marc Mamigonian.
The reparations panel will examine the possible legal channels and strategies Armenians might pursue to reclaim land and property stolen during the Armenian Genocide, looking at other cases in which reparations were paid. Panelists will discuss what was taken, its value today, pertinent international treaties and laws, and appropriate forums such as the International Court of Justice.
In addition to demanding reparations and restitution from Turkey, panelists will also consider whether Armenians should pursue reparations from all those nations and corporations who benefitted from the Armenian Genocide. If one believes that the Armenian Genocide did not end in 1923, but continues to this day, are those nations who ally themselves with Turkey colluding in the perpetration of the genocide?
With the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaching, panelists Umit Kurt, Edvin Minassian, and Thomas Samuelian will highlight these timely questions.
A discussion entitled “Where do we go from here” will conclude the 2014 conference. Saturday’s panels will be held in MIT Building 6, Lecture Room 120, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Conference sponsors include the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region USA, Alternative Radio, and the MIT Armenian Society.
For an MIT campus map, visit https://whereis.mit.edu/. For more information on the APP conference, visit http://armenianprogressive.com.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sassounian: Turkish Vice Prime Minister Ridiculed for Telling Women not to Laugh in Public

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc is the latest government official to put his foot in his mouth.
In a speech last week, this high-ranking official preached his perverted version of morality to Turkish women by telling them not to laugh in public! “A woman will know what is haram [forbidden] and not haram,” Arinc warned. “She will not laugh out loud in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”
Arinc, a co-founder of the ruling AK Party, continued his chauvinist sermonizing: “Where are our girls who slightly blush, lower their heads, and turn their eyes away when we look at their faces, becoming the symbol of chastity?” He ridiculed women for discussing cooking recipes and other “frivolous things” on cell phones. Imitating a female voice, he squeaked: “What happened to Ayse’s daughter? When is the wedding?” He told the women to talk about such insignificant matters “face to face,” not on the phone!
The Deputy Prime Minister’s demeaning remarks spread like wildfire. In defiance, tens of thousands of Turkish women went on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) posting “selfies,” pictures of themselves, laughing out loud. Rather than stopping their laughter, women started laughing … at him!
Arinc’s ridiculous comments were picked up by the international media, including Hurriyet, the guardian, ABC News, The Daily Star, National Post, Washington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Australian, and hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, blogs and websites. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister has become the laughing stock of the world!
The next day, instead of apologizing for his sexist remarks, Arinc made matters worse by insisting that he stood by his words, and attacked his critics. He wondered why everyone was focusing on a small segment of his hour-and-a-half speech. He proceeded to mock female celebrities: “There are some artists who laugh artificially and send me their photos. Real laughs relieve a person, but these are artificial ones. You all had your moment of fame, but when that eluded, you tried to attract attention with alcohol and such fake laughter. Despite being married with kids, women go on vacation with their boyfriends, while leaving their husbands behind, and never miss a chance to wrap themselves around a dancing pole.”
This is not the first time that Turkish officials have made such asinine statements. In the past, Arinc was quoted saying that a rape victim must have “wanted it.” He also stated that it is perfectly fine if parents give permission to their 15-year-old daughter to marry a 45-year-old man. Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gokcek, while condemning abortion, shamefully declared: “Why should the child die if the mother is raped? The mother should die instead.” Meanwhile, the Forestry Minister told women who were seeking employment, “Isn’t your housework enough?” Former Minister for European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagish, an AKP official who frequently made nonsensical statements, was quoted: “What happened in 1915 can’t be classified as genocide as far as I am concerned, but I was not around in 1915.”
Rather than being worried about women’s laughter, Arinc and Erdogan should be more concerned about their government’s increasing slide into authoritarian rule by jailing journalists, killing Christian priests, violating minority rights, supporting Jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and engaging in corruption, theft and embezzlement. This is the real immorality that Arinc should denounce.
By preaching totalitarian morality for women, the conservative Turkish leader is appealing to Islamist voters to support Prime Minister Erdogan who is running for President on August 10. Arinc’s stone-age strategy has backfired as nearly half of Turkey’s deeply divided society does not consider itself Islamist and was offended by his remarks. Erdogan’s rival in the presidential race, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, blasted Arinc’s statement, saying that “more than anything else, our country needs women to smile and hear everyone’s laughter!”
After Erdogan’s meteoric rise to power, his government has pursued brutal policies at home and abroad, bringing worldwide condemnation to the country. As the probable next President, Erdogan and his clique are most likely to continue undermining Turkey’s international standing, turning it into a rogue state. After the presidential election, Turkey’s Islamist women would only laugh in private, while the secularists would laugh in public and risk getting 100 lashes!

Monday, July 21, 2014

In the Shadow of 1915: Reflections on Hrant’s Assassination

 By on July 21, 2014

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The Armenian Weekly April 2014 Magazine
Seven years have passed since Hrant Dink’s assassination and those who planned his murder remain free. While the search for justice continues with a second round of trials, there seems to be insufficient political will to uncover the truth. With these new trials, I am reminded of Karl Marx’s famous adage about history repeating itself—the first time as tragedy, the second as farce. Frustrating as this may be, political will is precisely what prevents the Turkish justice system from discovering the guilty parties.
Friends and admirers of Hrant are understandably angry: How can the conspirators responsible for his assassination still be unknown? How can a single murder case last so long? The reasons are suggested in a “Tweet” posted by Prime Ministerial Advisor Hamdi Kilic on Jan. 2, 2014: “There is something known as ‘state tradition’ in this country; it still exists. It’s enough to read a little history to understand this.”
Kilic is right; the obstruction of justice in the Hrant Dink case is one of these disturbing “reflexes.” If we had simply read a little history, we would have understood what was transpiring in the trials of Hrant’s attackers. For a long time, Turks protesting Hrant’s murder resisted seeing the connection with the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Some were even angered by those who tried to suggest such a link. Yet, his assassins were well aware of this connection, and that is why they killed him. In deconstructing some of the founding myths of the Turkish state, Hrant threatened its traditions, and that is why his real killers remain free. His murder, as Kilic recognized, was an example of the Turkish state’s “traditional” reflexes.

Hrant murdered in revenge for Talat Pasha
Hrant Dink was killed in revenge for the assassination of Talat Pasha, the architect of the Armenian Genocide. Everything about his murder suggested a “vengeance operation” for the 1921 conspiracy to assassinate Talat Pasha in Berlin. This, for example, accounts for the decision to murder Hrant Dink in public rather than to kidnap him, kill him, and throw his remains in some remote location—the way all the other “unknown perpetrator” crimes have been committed in Turkey. The conspirators deliberately chose to come up from behind and to shoot him in the head on the street, in front of Agos, the newspaper he edited. The operation mirrored precisely how Talat Pasha was killed. His attackers wanted revenge for the murder of Talat Pasha, and they did so by targeting Hrank Dink.
As 2015 approaches… the Turkish state will undertake a search for so-called “Good Armenians”—and it will find them! It will use these puppets as a counter-weight to the “intransigent,” “belligerent,” and “uncompromising” Armenians in the diaspora.
We know that when Yasin Hayal, one of Hrant’s assassins, was released from prison after serving his sentence for the 2004 McDonalds bombing in Trabzon, he spoke with his father about Talat Pasha. “Do you know how Talat Pasha was killed?” he asked his father, adding, “Did you know that the person who killed Talat Pasha wasn’t punished? He was set free.”
Soghomon Tehlirian, a young man who witnessed the murder of his family during the genocide, assassinated Talat Pasha in broad daylight on March 15, 1921, on a Berlin street. The assailant approached Talat and, after confirming his identity, fired his pistol at the former Ottoman Interior Minister’s head. Hrant was killed in the same fashion.
This isn’t the only similarity between the killings: Although Tehlirian attempted to flee the scene of the crime, he was quickly apprehended. In fact, those who planned the attack on Talat wanted him to remain at the scene and to surrender himself to the authorities. Likewise, documents connected to the investigation surrounding Hrant Dink’s murder suggest that the plan was for his young assailant, Ogun Samast, to remain at the murder scene instead of fleeing. Everything was supposed to be just as in 1921. The aim was both to take revenge for Talat Pasha’s murder and to remind the Armenians that the genocide of 1915 had been carried out in order to silence them. The plotters were saying, “We established this Republic on the foundation of the Armenians’ annihilation, and since 1915 we do not give Armenians the right to speak freely on these lands.”

Muammer Guler and Dr. Resit
The case of Dr. Mehmed Resit, the Unionist governor of Diyarbakir during the Armenian Genocide, further demonstrates the connection between the events of 1915 and the murder of Hrant Dink. I would like to compare this man, who was personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Armenians, with Muammer Guler, who was the governor of Istanbul at the time of Hrant’s assassination in 2007 and was complicit in creating a climate conducive to the crime. It is then possible to extend the comparison of past and present figures to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Talat Pasha. The comparison works despite the fact that Prime Minister Erdogan attempted to resolve the Kurdish problem through peaceful means and has apologized—albeit half-heartedly and with the actual intention of needling the Republican Peoples Party and earning credit with voters—on behalf of the state for the massacres at Dersim in 1937-38.
In July 1915, the German Consul at Mosul reported to his superiors that some 2,000 Christians in Mardin and Diyarbakir, the majority of them Armenians, had been taken from their cities overnight and “slaughtered like sheep.”1 The consul claimed to have received this information from the district governor of Mardin and demanded that measures be taken to prevent such crimes. The German Embassy in Istanbul passed the information on to Interior Minister Talat Pasha, who then sent a cable to Governor Mehmed Resit, in which he repeated the information he had received, including the phrase “slaughtered like sheep.” Clarifying the target of the massacres, he issued the following order: “It is categorically prohibited for disciplinary measures imposed in regard to the Armenians to be implemented against other Christians.” And he demanded an immediate cessation to such measures “that might endanger the lives of [other] Christians.”2
Despite this cable, the indiscriminate massacres of Christians in the Diyarbakir province continued. In a July 22 telegram, Talat wrote to Dr. Resit stressing that the government’s policy of annihilation should be implemented against the Armenians, and no other Christians. He mentioned that “complaints are being received” and ordered the provincial governor to cease this practice, which “will put us in a difficult situation.”3
Armenians seeking recognition of the Armenian Genocide seek justice. Turks striving for democracy and human rights strive for freedom. The relationship between these goals is complex because they address separate problems. The attainment of one does not automatically bring about the righting of past injustices.
Nonetheless, Resit continued the massacres without differentiating between Armenians and other Christians. Finally, on Aug. 2, Talat sent a third telegram, complaining that reports of massacres continued to be received and that, “despite our having sent numerous cables, the Christians in the province continue to be killed.” He repeated that the government viewed the situation as intolerable. In the message, Talat reminded Resit that he was an official of the state and “as a [state] official, he was therefore obligated to carry out the orders he received without exception.” Finally, there was an explicit warning: Resit would be held directly responsible “for all activities and incidents by bandits and armed gangs.”4
These cables were transmitted in coded form. Their content was intelligible to only a few people, including Talat, Resit, and the government functionaries who sent or decoded them. No investigations transpired and no sanctions were imposed against Dr. Resit as a consequence of opposing or ignoring government orders that resulted in upwards of 2,000 persons being “slaughtered like sheep.” Indeed, the outcomes were the very opposite. Hilmi, the Mardin District’s official, who was opposed to the murderous actions of Governor Resit and who informed the German Consul of these crimes, was removed from his position.5 Even more significant, on account of their “successful” implementation of anti-Armenian policies in Diyarbakir, the security personnel who worked under Resit were awarded medals. A July 28, 1915 telegram orders the “promotion of some of the police and commissars who were instrumental in the arrest of Armenian committee leaders and other members in the province of Diyarbakir;” others received monetary awards or medals.6
Resit, who deported and killed thousands of Syriac and Armenian Christians from Diyarbakir and its environs, was eventually called to account—not for the mass murders he had ordered, but for keeping precious jewelry and other valuables from the deportation. An official message demanded that he “send to the capital” the confiscated items, as he had promised. An Oct. 6, 1915 telegram, with the special note “to be handled personally,” informed Resit that the government “has received reports that you have confiscated” monies, jewels, and other items belonging “to the Armenians who were deported and subjected to attack on the way.” The cable demanded information on the amount of gold and jewelry present, as well as the manner in which their records were kept. The subject that interested Talat was not the annihilation of these Christians, but the fate of the valuables confiscated from them.7
Eventually, Resit was rewarded with an appointment as governor of Ankara in recognition of his services. Yet, he was ultimately removed from this post and subjected to a criminal investigation for the misappropriation of the confiscated Armenian property and possessions. It seems that Resit attempted to purchase a seaside mansion in Istanbul with the Armenian jewelry he had confiscated, but when Talat caught word of this he had him removed from his position. The journalist Suleyman Nazif summed up the situation succinctly: “The same Resit that Talat Pasha had esteemed as a murderer…he removed from office for being a thief.”8 As Prime Ministerial Advisor Hamdi Kilic said, “There is something known as ‘state tradition’ in this country; it still exists. It’s enough to read a little history to understand this.” History shows that while the Armenian Genocide was taking place, the state praised Resit and others for murdering Christians, but condemned him for theft.
Returning to the comparison between Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler and Diyarabakir Governor Mehmed Resit, we find a similar lack of accountability. Like Resit, Guler was never called to account for the murder, but rather was rewarded for his loyal service—first with a seat as an AKP parliamentarian and later, by being appointed as Interior Minister. Ironically, he too was subsequently removed from his post for bribery and corruption. Nor was the situation different in the case of the police officials involved in Hrant’s case. All received promotions in the wake of the murder, just as in Diyarbakir in 1915. With history as our guide, we can appreciate why the real culprits in Hrant Dink’s murder have not been found.
Ninety years of state-sponsored denial have so blinded the public that we cannot conceive of the relationship between the 1915 genocide and the murder of Hrant Dink. But while the Turkish government has pushed us to forget the events of 1915, state officials have not forgotten. Turks grow uneasy at the mention of “genocide,” and calls for “genocide recognition” cause us to flee in terror before some unknown retribution. We resist using Hrant’s death as an opportunity to face up to history, to see the connection between that history and the killing of an Armenian newspaper editor. We are made to forget Hrant although he is the key—the key to the 40th chamber in the Arabian Nights fable, the one that others do not want opened, the key that is given to the heroes of those tales. We have a treasure chamber in our old houses where all of our secrets are kept. And Hrant is the key to that room. If the Hrant Dink murder case is ever solved, the secrets behind the establishment of the Turkish Republic will be revealed. But, sadly, in the present government, there is neither the courage nor the will to furnish the key, because the government is heir to these “state traditions,” and the “keepers of its secrets.”

Hrant and the diaspora
I predict that as 2015 approaches, Turkey will attempt to create an atmosphere of “reconciliation.” Appearing ready to resolve the Armenian issue, Turkey will portray Armenians in the diaspora as uncompromising “sectarians.” For this purpose, the Turkish state will undertake a search for so-called “Good Armenians”—and it will find them! It will use these puppets as a counter-weight to the “intransigent,” “belligerent,” and “uncompromising” Armenians in the diaspora. They will seek to pit their “Good” Armenians against the “Bad” Armenians of the diaspora. And they will use Hrant for this purpose, too. They will find the criticisms Hrant leveled at the Armenian Diaspora and use them without hesitation. Hrant’s own words will be exploited as a part of a new wave of hostility toward the Armenian Diaspora.
Do not be duped by this cynical scenario! Hrant criticized certain circles within the Armenian Diaspora, and some Diasporan Armenians criticized him. But he did so because he recognized that some diaspora groups could not see that the final struggle for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide would ultimately be fought and won within Turkey itself, in Anatolia. When we spoke by telephone, he frequently urged me to “tell those friends of yours that they should come and be part of the struggle here. The genocide took place on these lands, and its recognition will also occur here.”
Diasporan Armenians don’t readily appreciate that the struggle for recognition of the genocide is linked to the struggle for democracy in Turkey. At the same time, some Turks fail to grasp that the diaspora’s struggle to attain recognition is part of the Turkish struggle for democracy. The majority of those in the diaspora are uninterested in the Turkish struggle to achieve democracy and human rights; and many struggling for democracy within Turkey are hostile toward the Armenian Diaspora’s insistence on genocide recognition.
These tensions derive from the conflation of complementary goals. Armenians seeking recognition of the Armenian Genocide seek justice. Turks striving for democracy and human rights strive for freedom. The relationship between these goals is complex because they address separate problems. The attainment of one does not automatically bring about the righting of past injustices. The United States, for example, is a free and democratic country, yet its Native American population continues to pursue justice. And the search for justice by the indigenous peoples of Australia and Canada also continues. Thus, we need to both see and understand this one thing: In Turkey today it is essential that we not juxtapose freedom and justice; we must instead create a shared language and intellectual foundation in our search for both. We do not have to sacrifice one in our search for the other.
Hrant sought to construct a shared language for his struggle and that of the diaspora. He dreamed of staging a large diaspora conference for this purpose. Hrant’s murder demonstrated the absolute necessity for this “shared language,” as well as the error of attempting to conceive of the struggle for freedom in Turkey at the expense of recognition and acknowledgement of the Armenian Genocide. It has shown us that this recognition must be a shared demand of people in both the diaspora and in Turkey. The struggles for freedom and justice complete one another and must not be seen as either contradicting or opposing. If we understand what Hrant was trying to do, we must bring together these two struggles as one: the diaspora’s demand for recognition of the Armenian Genocide with the struggle in Turkey for human rights and democracy. Those wishing for a democratic Turkey that respects human rights must merge their struggle with that of the Armenian Diaspora. They must invite diasporans to Turkey and join their struggle to have the Armenian Genocide recognized abroad. And they must remember: The Armenian Diaspora is not their enemy but their friend, a valuable colleague who, due to the decades of denial by the Turkish state, has unfortunately grown accustomed to looking at things through cynical and mistrusting eyes.
If Hrant had lived, he would have joined the Armenian Diaspora. This is not idle speculation; I know of that which I speak. Hrant was never ignorant of 1915 the way many of us were. Every day of his life, he experienced the connection between the genocide and what he had to face; he felt it in his very bones. When his sentence was approved, he was serious about wanting to leave Turkey and walking, with his entire family, from his hometown of Malatya, on the path of deportation taken by his ancestors, all the way to the Der-Zor desert in northeastern Syria. “Just like my forefathers, they don’t want me to remain here,” he would say. “And if so, then there’s no point in my doing so. I’ll travel the path that they took.” In other words, Hrant saw the Armenian Diaspora as one of his options. With him, we must understand that some categories are meaningless and incorrect, like the categorization of a monolithic Armenian Diaspora, single-mindedly fixed on revenge and of the overarching conception of the “evil Turk.” These need to be discarded into the dustbin of history.

Hrant and the word ‘genocide’
When speaking with Turks, Hrant was polite and gracious enough to avoid the word “genocide.” “I know what was done to my people,” he would say, “but if my use of the word ‘genocide’ will be used against me as an excuse not to listen to the things I have to say, then I won’t use it.” Despite his extreme sensitivity and gentility in the matter, the authorities wanted to punish him anyway, claiming that he had used it—once! Before he was murdered, Hrant told me that he wanted to turn his trial for using the word ‘genocide’ into an historical showcase. “I will state that ‘Yes, 1915 was a genocide,’ and I will then turn the trial into a history course.” But they didn’t give him the chance.
Hrant Dink was murdered because he wanted to deconstruct Turkey’s founding myths. Those who planned the murder—the real culprits—have received promotions and praise for doing so. The sensitivity the government expressed over the confiscation of Armenian property was never shown toward the lives of Armenians. On the contrary, they oversaw the annihilation of a people. And the situation today is not so different! 1.5 million-plus-1. Hrant is the “plus-1.” Failing to recognize this, we cannot understand the crime or hope to solve it. As we approach the year 2015, the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian deportations and genocide, we won’t be able to confront this crime without first admitting to ourselves that, “Yes, 1915 was a genocide and it must be acknowledged as such.” And that “Hrant was murdered because he reminded us of the million-plus Hrants of 1915.”
Let Hrant Dink be a symbol for us. Let him be our Martin Luther King. Even as others in the past have gathered closely around Talat Pasha and his ilk, and even as they today gather around Erdogan and his, let us hold fast to Hrant. Let Hrant and the “1.5 million-plus-1” be our point of divergence between our republic and their republic. This is the only way that we can claim our Islamic selves, our Turkishness and/or our Kurdishness from the hands of murders —those of yesterday and of today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sassounian: Turkish Counter-Efforts Help Publicize Genocide Centennial

Armenians in the U.S. and around the world were needlessly alarmed by a recent article in the Turkish Hurriyet newspaper titled, “Turkish Americans prepare ‘master plan’ for 2015.”
No one should be surprised that the Turkish government and affiliated organizations worldwide have been earnestly planning to counter commemorative activities being organized by the Armenian government and the diaspora for the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2015.
Tolga Tanis reported in Hurriyet’s July 5 issue that the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) will invite Turkish-American groups to Washington in September to plan “proactive and active responses” to Armenian Centennial events.
ATAA reportedly will form Turkish “activist committees” to visit “lawmakers in each state, conduct social media campaigns, keep in touch with traditional media outlets, prepare online courses, and organize countrywide networking meetings for Americans.” Hurriyet also reported that ATAA will organize “at least 20 day-long conferences in partnership with local universities and with the participation of famous Turkish-Americans like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent.”
As part of its “reactive responses,” ATAA allegedly plans to counter:
– Articles, books, and films on the Armenian Genocide;
– Panels, conferences, and exhibitions organized by Armenians;
– “Anti-Turkish bills” in Congress.
Before Armenians get too excited about these purported Turkish schemes, the following questions must be asked:
– Is Hurriyet accurately reporting ATAA’s plans? The Turkish media is notorious for distorting facts and making up stories. Interestingly, no such announcement is found on ATAA’s website.
– If Hurriyet’s article is fully or even partly true, is it certain that ATAA will carry out any of its announced plans, or is this simply a propaganda ploy or fundraising effort?
As a starter, it has come to our attention that at least one critical part of Hurriyet’s story is a falsehood! Ara Khachatourian, the English editor of Asbarez newspaper, reported that a spokesman for the prominent TV personality has denied that Dr. Oz is involved in any way in Turkish denialist activities.
Likewise, I am trying to confirm if the alleged report about Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent’s involvement in genocide denial is accurate. It is noteworthy that Hurriyet has already amended its initial report, adding a disclaimer, possibly after complaints from Oz and Kent about the unauthorized and inaccurate use of their names: “The two individuals whose names are mentioned in the article above (Dr. Mehmet Oz and Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent) are two prominent figures on a long list of accomplished Turkish Americans who will be invited to speak at community events. They have no knowledge of or involvement in ATAA’s plans.”
I wish Oz and Kent were actually involved in Turkish denialist efforts, which would have triggered a worldwide boycott of Dr. Oz’s TV show and Coca Cola products. This would have provided Armenians a golden opportunity for publicity on the Armenian Genocide Centennial that no amount of money could buy.
Moreover, my fervent hope is that Hurriyet’s article will turn out to be totally accurate and that ATAA will carry out fully all of the promised activities. The more often Turkish denialists raise the Armenian Genocide issue, trying to counteract the established historical facts, the more they are inadvertently publicizing the Genocide Centennial, and thereby disgracing themselves in the eyes of the world!
While Armenians are unable to make their voices heard loudly in the international arena, in an ironic twist Turkey’s influential public relations firms in Washington would be of tremendous assistance! Equally helpful are the public pronouncements of Turkish leaders, such as the one by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 23, 2014, despite their denialist content. As an unintended consequence, ATAA’s anti-Centennial efforts will prompt the international media to pay ever greater attention to the continuing injustice suffered by Armenians, by providing more coverage to the planned commemorations.
Although Turkish counter-strategies should receive adequate scrutiny, Armenians should pay more critical attention to whether they are preparing themselves appropriately to observe the Centennial in the global arena, given the immense loss of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. By being overly obsessed with the sinister actions of Turkish denialists, Armenians may not be focusing sufficiently on their own obligation to honor the sacred memory of the victims and to demand justice!