Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Columbia University Researchers Confirm Turkey’s Links to ISIS--WE REMEMBER 1915--WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING

A team of Columbia University researchers from the United States, Europe, and Turkey confirmed last week that the Turkish government has provided to ISIS: military cooperation, weapons, logistical support, financial assistance, and medical services. This detailed investigation was headed by David L. Phillips, Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He had served as Senior Advisor and Foreign Affairs Expert for the U.S. Department of State.
Here are brief excerpts from the extensive research documenting the direct links between Turkey and ISIS:
  1. Turkey Supplied Military Equipment to ISIS
  • An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014: “Most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies.”
  • Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), disclosed on Oct. 14, 2014, documents from the Adana Office of the Prosecutor, revealing that Turkey supplied weapons to terrorist groups. He also produced transcripts of interviews with truck drivers who delivered the weapons to the terrorists.
  • According to CHP Vice President Bulent Tezcan, Turkish agents drove three trucks loaded with rockets, arms, and ammunition to ISIS in Syria, on January 19, 2014.
  • Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Fuat Avni as stating that Germany and the United States had audio tapes confirming that Turkey provided financial and military aid to terrorist groups associated with Al Qaeda on Oct. 12, 2014.
  • Documents made public on Sept. 27, 2014, revealed that Saudi Prince Bandar Bin Sultan financed the transportation of arms to ISIS through Turkey.
    Turkey and ISIS connection
    Turkey and ISIS connection
  1. Turkey Provided Logistical Assistance to ISIS Fighters
  • According to a June 13, 2014 article in Radikal newspaper, Turkish Interior Minister Muammar Guler issued the following directive: “Hatay is a strategic location for the Mujahidin crossing from within our borders to Syria. Logistical support for Islamist groups will be increased, and their training, hospital care, and safe passage will mostly take place in Hatay.”
  • The Daily Mail reported on August 25, 2014 that many foreign militants joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq after traveling through Turkey.
  • Britain’s Sky News obtained documents showing that the Turkish government stamped passports of foreign militants seeking to cross the Turkish border into Syria to join ISIS.
  • A senior Egyptian official indicated on Oct. 9, 2014 that Turkish intelligence is passing to ISIS satellite imagery and other data.
  1. Turkey Trained ISIS Fighters
  • CNN Turk reported on July 29, 2014 that in the heart of Istanbul, places like Duzce and Adapazari have become gathering spots for terrorists.
  • Turks who joined an ISIS affiliate were shown on July 28, 2014, at a public gathering in Istanbul.
  • A video showed an ISIS affiliate holding a prayer-gathering in Omerli, a district of Istanbul.
  • According to Jordanian Intelligence, Turkey trained ISIS militants for special operations.
  1. Turkey Extended Medical Care to ISIS Fighters
  • An ISIS commander told The Washington Post on August 12, 2014, “We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals.”
  • On Oct. 12, 2014, Taraf newspaper reported that Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, a founder of Pres. Erdogan’s ruling party (AKP), divulged that Turkey supported terrorist groups and still supports them and treats them in its hospitals.
  1. Turkey Supported ISIS Financially Through Purchase of Oil
  • On Sept. 13, 2014, The New York Times reported on the Obama administration’s efforts to pressure Turkey to crack down on the extensive network of oil sold by ISIS.
  • Fehim Taştekin wrote in Radikal on Sept. 13, 2014 about illegal pipelines transporting oil from Syria to Turkey.
  1. Turkey Assisted ISIS Recruitment
  • Kiliçdaroğlu announced on Oct. 14, 2014 that ISIS offices in Istanbul and Gaziantep are recruiting fighters. On Oct. 10, 2014, the Mufti of Konya stated that 100 men from his city had joined ISIS four days ago.
  • OdaTV reported that Takva Haber served as a propaganda outlet for ISIS to recruit Turkish-speaking men in Turkey and Germany.
  • Minister of Sports, Suat Kilic, an AKP member, visited Salafi Jihadists who are ISIS supporters in Germany. These Jihadists recruit supporters by distributing free copies of the Quran and raising funds to sponsor suicide attacks in Syria and Iraq.
  • OdaTV released a video showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.
  1. Turkish Forces are Fighting Alongside ISIS
  • American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh asserted in the London Review of Books that “Prime Minister Recep Erdogan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a Jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups.”
  • On Sept. 20, 2014, Demir Celik, a Member of Parliament representing the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), stated that Turkish Special Forces had joined ISIS in the battlefield.
  1. Turkey Helped ISIS in Battle for Kobani
  • Anwar Muslim, Mayor of Kobani, revealed on Sept. 19, 2014 that trains full of Turkish forces and ammunition were delivered to ISIS. On September 30, 2014, a CHP delegation visited Kobani, where locals declared that everything from the clothes of ISIS militants to their guns comes from Turkey.
  • A Nuhaber video showed on Sept. 25, 2014 Turkish military convoys, carrying tanks and ammunition, moving freely under ISIS flags in the Jarablus region of Syria and the Karkamis border crossing.
  • Salih Muslim, PYD leader of Kurdish fighters, reported that 120 militants had crossed into Syria from Turkey on Oct. 20-24, 2014.
  • According to an op-ed written by a YPG Kurdish commander in The New York Times on Oct. 29, 2014, Turkey regularly allows ISIS militants and their equipment to pass freely over its border.
  • Diken reported on Oct. 1, 2014: “ISIS fighters crossed the border from Turkey into Syria in full view of Turkish soldiers.”
  1. Turkey and ISIS Share a Worldview
  • RT reported on Oct. 3, 2014 on Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks detailing Turkish support to ISIS.
  • Hurriyet newspaper quoted a Turkish civil servant on Sept. 26, 2014: “I was shocked to hear words of admiration for ISIL from some high-level civil servants.”
  • An AKP council member posted on his Facebook page: “Thankfully ISIS exists…. May you never run out of ammunition….”
  • Erdogan’s son Bilal and Turkish officials met with ISIS fighters, according to Sariyer Gozlem.
It is absolutely unacceptable that while ISIS is committing mass murder in Paris and other European cities, its NATO ‘ally,’ Turkey, is continuing to aid and arm these terrorists. It is high time that Turkey is expelled from NATO and its leaders are indicted and brought to justice for their role in these heinous crimes.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Only 35 Percent of Americans Are Aware There Was an Armenian Genocide

Sassounian: Only 35 Percent of Americans Are Aware There Was an Armenian Genocide

For the first time, a prestigious nationwide survey, conducted on Nov. 9 by Zogby Analytics, reveals the extent of the American public’s knowledge and opinion on the Armenian Genocide and Artsakh (Karabagh). The survey results, made available exclusively to this writer, have a +/- 3.1 percent margin of error.
‘To the question, are you aware that there was an Armenian Genocide, surprisingly only 34.8 percent of those surveyed answered yes.’
To the question, are you aware that there was an Armenian Genocide, surprisingly only 34.8 percent of those surveyed answered “yes”; 49.6 percent “no”; and 15.6 percent “not sure.” One would have expected that a much higher percentage of U.S. citizens would be aware of the Armenian Genocide, particularly after the large-scale Centennial commemorative events this year. The fact that half of all Americans have never heard of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians indicates that a major effort is needed to educate the public.
Zogby Analytics provides extensive information about the background of the participants in the survey. Here are some interesting details:
– While male respondents are evenly divided on the above question, there is a serious imbalance among women—twice as many females are unaware of the Armenian Genocide compared to those who are.
– Around half of all respondents are equally ignorant about the Armenian Genocide, regardless of political party affiliation. Liberals are slightly more knowledgeable than moderates and conservatives. Surprisingly, the majority of “Tea Party” and “Occupy Wall Street” sympathizers are cognizant of the Armenian Genocide.
– College graduates are more likely to know about the Armenian Genocide than those who are not.
– The age group 25-34 is the most knowledgeable about the Armenian Genocide, while the least knowledgeable is the age group 35-53.
– Hispanics are far more knowledgeable than “Whites” about the Armenian Genocide; African Americans and Asian Americans are the least knowledgeable.
– Catholics are more aware of the Armenian Genocide than Protestants.
– West Coast Americans are more aware of the Armenian Genocide than their counterparts in the east; while those living in central and southern U.S. are the least knowledgeable.
– Americans with the highest income category ($100,000+) know the most about the Armenian Genocide; those making $35,000-$50,000 a year know the least.
In summary, the American most informed about the Armenian Genocide is: male, right or left-wing political activist, college graduate, 25-34 years old, Hispanic, Catholic, lives on the West Coast, and makes over $100,000 a year; whereas the American least informed about the Armenian Genocide is: female, mainstream political party member, not a college graduate, 35-53 years old, African American or Asian American, Protestant, lives in the central or southern states, and makes $35,000 to $50,000 a year.
Here are eight other genocide and Artsakh-related questions that survey participants were asked to answer:
– 46.5 percent of Americans agree that the United States government should call on Turkey to publicly admit the Armenian Genocide; 16.1 percent disagree; and 37.4 percent don’t know.
– 39 percent agree that “the U.S. Congress should pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide…even if it risks destroying diplomatic relations with a key, strategic ally in the Middle East”; 22.5 percent disagree; and 38.5 percent don’t know.
– 63.2 percent agree that “if an ally of the United States initiates a program to eradicate, persecute, or displace populations within their own country, the U.S. should end economic and/or military aid to that ally”; 10.5 percent disagree; and 26.3 percent don’t know.
– 20.1 percent believe that when a country commits genocide, it should pay reparations “in cash”; 11.8 percent say that it should compensate by returning the occupied “land”; 10.7 percent, “by other symbolic act”; 9.4 percent, “no reparations should be paid”; and 48 percent don’t know.
– 31.3 percent believe that the United Nations should determine what the reparations should be when genocide is committed; 23.8 percent say it should be decided by the International Criminal Court; 12.1 percent, the United States Congress; 3 percent, Amnesty International; 2.5 percent, the European Court of Human Rights; 0.8 percent, the Pope; and 26.5 percent don’t know.
– 37.9 percent believe that the United States should use “economic sanctions” against a country that “refuses to recognize and take responsibility for its crimes against humanity”; 16.4 percent say the U.S. should use “political/diplomatic pressure”; 8.6 percent, “embargo”; 2.6 percent, the U.S. should declare war; 4.5 percent, “do nothing”; and 30 percent don’t know.
– 38.3 percent agree that “the United States should intervene if Azerbaijan acts to expel the ethnic Christian Armenians [of Artsakh] who have resided there for centuries”; 21.8 percent disagree; and 39.9 percent don’t know.
– 40.4 percent agree that if Azerbaijan attacks Artsakh, the United States should call on Israel, which is selling sophisticated weapons to Baku, to cut off its diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan; 16.9 percent disagree; and 42.7 percent don’t know.
This first of its kind survey could serve as a valuable guide to the Armenian-American community to know where to concentrate its educational efforts and lobbying resources.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Sassounian: United Nations to Commemorate Victims of All Genocides on Dec. 9

On Sept. 11, after years of persistent diplomatic efforts, the Republic of Armenia succeeded in having the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly adopt by consensus a generic resolution on all genocides.
Introduced by Armenia and co-sponsored by 83 other nations, the resolution establishes Dec. 9 as the “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.” Dec. 9 was chosen since the U.N. Genocide Convention was adopted on that day in 1948.
Henceforth, on every Dec. 9, the U.N. will commemorate and honor the victims of all genocides. Even though the resolution does not mention any particular genocide, it is up to Armenians to ensure that their genocide is included in official U.N. commemorations on that date. No one will be surprised should the Turkish government attempt to block such Armenian efforts!
Ironically, Turkey was one of the co-sponsors of the genocide resolution, probably out of a concern that opposing it would have revealed its deep-seated anxiety on the subject of genocide. Consequently, Turkish officials acted as if this resolution was unrelated to their country’s past and present genocidal crimes against Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds!
Among the 84 countries co-sponsoring the resolution were the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Iran. Interestingly, Azerbaijan and Rwanda did not co-sponsor it. Azerbaijan was reluctant to support any resolution proposed by Armenia. Rwanda, on the other hand, felt the resolution was unnecessary, since the U.N. had designated April 7 as the “International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.” In contrast, Israel co-sponsored the resolution, even though the U.N. had already set Jan. 27 as the “International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.”
The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect issued a statement last Friday commending the adoption of the U.N. resolution, and listing the “significant anniversaries of the most atrocious crimes of the last century,” including “the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, 40th anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities in Cambodia, and the 20th anniversaries of the genocide in Rwanda and at Srebrenica, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.”
Ambassador Zohrab Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s representative to the U.N., spoke of his “sense of duty” while presenting the proposed resolution to the General Assembly on Sept. 11. Paying tribute to Raphael Lemkin, who had coined the term “genocide,” the ambassador stated: “For the victims of our past inaction, the International Day will render dignity. The denial to millions of the sanctity of life is ultimate injustice. Justice denied haunts generations of survivors. We speak from experience.”
Another genocide milestone forgotten by the international community and Armenians is the 30th anniversary of the adoption of a report by the U.N. Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. The historic document titled, “Revised and updated report on the question of the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide,” was drafted by British Rapporteur Benjamin Whitaker. It is noteworthy that Mnatsakanyan referred to this report twice in his speech, while introducing the genocide resolution to the U.N.
In paragraph 24 of his report, Whitaker cited several cases of genocide in the 20th century, specifically mentioning the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, in footnote 13, Whitaker added: “At least 1 million, and possibly well over half of the Armenian population, are reliably estimated to have been killed or death marched by independent authorities and eye-witnesses. This is corroborated by reports in United States, German, and British archives and of contemporary diplomats in the Ottoman Empire, including those of its ally Germany. The German Ambassador, Wangenheim, for example, on 7 July 1915 wrote, ‘the [Turkish] government is indeed pursuing its goal of exterminating the Armenian race in the Ottoman Empire’ (Wilhelmstrasse archives).”
Regrettably, Whitaker passed away last year. But, there are three other former members of the U.N. Sub-Commission—Erica Daes (Greek), Leandro Despouys (Argentinian), and Louis Joinet (French)—who staunchly supported the reference to the Armenian Genocide in the Whitaker report, which the Sub-Commission adopted on Aug. 29, 1985, by a 14-1 vote.
All three human rights experts should be invited to the United Nations on Dec. 9, 2015, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Whitaker Report, and recognize his unique contributions to the cause of prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide!
Amb. Mnatsakanyan, Armenia’s Foreign Ministry, and the Armenian government should be commended for their effective leadership at the U.N. on genocide prevention!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

1.5 Million Minus 2: DNA Testing Brings Ancestors Back from the Dead

Special for the Armenian Weekly
Every Armenian family has the same story: persecution, fear, robbery, rape, murder … genocide … and the unknown. They say there can never be closure without the ability to mourn over the grave of a loved one. The denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government surely hinders closure, but for the survivors, never knowing what had happened to those left behind or lost during the death marches into the Syrian desert remained an equally harmful open wound.
My maternal grandmother had four sisters. One rescued my grandmother from the six years she had been living as a slave and the two of them ultimately found their way to the United States. Another sister starved to death in an orphanage. The two remaining sisters, one 17 and one an infant, were sent to the Syrian desert with their mother, and none were ever heard from again.
Nayiri Arzoumanian, Sarah Aghjayan, and the author in Burunkishla, May 2013 (Photo: Khatchig Mouradian)
Each time I travel to Western Armenia, I meet hidden Armenians—“remnants of the sword”—and many are searching for relatives thought to have escaped to the United States or elsewhere. Unfortunately, most often all that is known is a name: Garabed, Mariam, etc. Much too vague to allow for any connection to be made, even in the rare case where a village of origin is known. Most don’t even know the village, as their mother or grandmother was plucked from the caravans and only knew they were from Kharpert or Palu or some other region.
A year and a half ago, I joined the Armenian DNA Project through Family Tree DNA. While I was interested in my ancient DNA and the migration of man out of Africa, what really motivated me was the hope of connecting with descendants thought murdered during the genocide. Possibly descendants of the sisters my grandmother never heard from after they were sent to the desert. I wanted to bring them back from the dead.
In DNA testing, relationships are measured in shared centiMorgans (cMs), a way to quantify the probabilities. Both the total shared cMs and the longest segment are considered when determining the most likely relationship between two people. Segments longer than 10 shared cMs are generally thought to be indicative of a common ancestor.
For example, through testing, it has been shown that grandchildren have shared cMs with their grandparent that range from 875-2,365, with an average of 1,760. At the same time, a person could have shared cMs of 236-1,301 with a great aunt or uncle. So, based solely on that, if you were to have shared cMs of 900 with someone, their relationship to you could be anywhere from a grandchild/grandparent to a first cousin, once removed.
When I first received my DNA results, there were a handful of people who were identified as distant relatives by Family Tree DNA—as 4th or 5th cousins. Our shared cM was generally in the range of 30-40, with the longest segment of between 10 and 15. I contacted a few of these people and our knowledge was too scant to determine with any certainty how we might be related. Regardless, the common ancestor was very distant.
Last summer, while traveling in Western Armenia with the Arzoumanian family who also happened to hail from my grandfather’s village of Burunkishla in the Boghazliyan district of Yozgat, we discussed our possible relationship. They decided to have their father, Hrair, tested. The results showed we were 2nd or 3rd cousins; our shared cM was 132 with numerous segments over 15 cM and the longest 30 cM. Clearly, we were very closely related, which was not a complete surprise, although it was exciting to finally confirm a previously unknown relationship.
Based on our combined knowledge of family history, we believe Hrair’s maternal grandmother was a sibling to one of my great-grandparents. Again, so much family history was lost during the genocide that it is impossible to determine exactly at this time.
Then, about a month ago, the moment I had been hoping for: I received a hit on my DNA that was either a 1st or 2nd cousin, and it was someone living in Turkey! For perspective, our total shared cMs were 400 with a longest common segment of 90. This was a much closer relative and someone I knew nothing about. Could it be a descendant of my grandmother’s sisters?
I sent an e-mail to the man and waited impatiently for four days. Then, the response: The mother of the man tested was known to be Armenian. I was conversing with his son and this is the story he told.
In 1915, two sisters from Maden begin the march to certain death. The older of the sisters is a beautiful and clever young girl. Along the way, a cavalry officer desires to marry her. She agrees to do this in order to save her little sister. In fact, she demands that the younger sister be protected and live with them. Thus begins their new lives in Chermoug as Muslims.
While living with her older sister, a Muslim man sees the younger sister and falls in love. They marry and live in Chungush. Soon, three children are born. However, the husband dies young. The dead man’s brother marries his Armenian widow sister-in-law to care for his orphaned niece and nephews, and they have three additional sons together. The man whose DNA was tested was a son from this second marriage.
The older sister would have a son who died young. She died soon thereafter, leaving no surviving offspring.
Nevart (3rd from the left) with Angel (2nd from the right)
While the story would seem to match what might have become of my grandmother’s sisters, the places and names did not match that side of my family. Instead, the names of the parents of those two orphan Armenian girls matched the names of my father’s great-grandparents. In addition, my great-grandmother was born in Maden.
I wrote the story of my great-grandmother, Nevart Antreassian, in an article on the Georgetown Girls. Nevart’s sister, Angel, also survived and came to the United States. 25 years ago, when I first started researching my family history, I spoke to Angel’s husband, Khoren Krikorian, and an aunt about what was known of the family. I do not know how Angel survived 1915, but it was most likely through an orphanage in Kharpert, since in 1920 she graduated from Yeprad Varjaran. Around 1922, she left for Lebanon in the final wave of missionaries, orphans, and other desperate remnants.
As for my great-grandmother, Nevart, by the time of these events she was already married and living in Diyarbakir with children of her own. Her husband conscripted into the Ottoman army and presumed dead, Nevart endured the march to Aleppo with her two young children.
In looking through my folder from 25 years ago, I found a page of handwritten notes from a phone conversation with my aunt about Nevart’s family. It was sparse, fragments here and there: father was a horseshoer, etc.
Then, two words written at the bottom: “another sister.” In talking with my parents, they knew nothing of this, but of course so much time has gone by. But what is now known is that the woman in question was my great-grandmother’s sister.
Lost sister of Nevart and Angel
So many questions remain and most likely will never be answered.
Why the mention of only one sister? Could the older sister really have been the mother trying to protect her daughter? How could Angel have been in Kharpert until 1922 and not known her sister was alive in Chungush? Was this a situation, like so many others, where after forced marriage, conversion to Islam, and children, these “remnants of the sword” considered themselves dead to their Armenian families and were treated as such by the Armenian community?
Nevart and Khachig Garabedian
Not surprisingly, my newfound relatives in Turkey have another Armenian grandmother in the family. She was born in the village of Havav in Palu and as late as the 1930’s she was still in correspondence with her brother in New York. Based on a letter written in Ottoman Turkish in 1934, I have identified this family as well.
It is said that the two Armenian girls, now sisters-in-law, were very close and their families’ love for them is evident.
Angel and Khoren Krikorian
Our mutual excitement at having found lost relatives after 100 years knows no bounds. Over the past month, we have been sharing pictures and stories and anxiously await the day when we can meet in person. Interestingly, based on where and when I have traveled through Western Armenia, it seems we know some of the same people and may have actually been together without ever knowing our family connection.
The people in this story remain victims of genocide, but they no longer are tallied in the dead. The 1.5 million has been reduced by 2.
For those wishing to learn more about the Armenian DNA Project, visit

Sassounian: To Get Rid of ISIS, Turks Must First Get Rid of Erdogan

Turkey has not only refused to join its NATO allies in fighting against ISIS, but has trained, armed, and facilitated the infiltration of thousands of terrorists into Syria and Iraq.
The British Guardian reported that in May, when U.S. Special Forces raided the compound of ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf in Eastern Syria and killed him, documents seized during the raid revealed Ankara’s close collaboration with ISIS. Hundreds of articles have been published around the world describing various aspects of Turkish assistance to ISIS. Daniel Pipes in his Washington Times article, “Turkish Support for ISIS,” reported that “Turks offered far more than an easy border crossing: they provided the bulk of ISIS’ funds, logistics, training, and arms.” Pipes also revealed that wounded ISIS fighters are treated in Turkish hospitals, and Turkey has paid $800 million to ISIS for illicit oil shipments.
Vice President Joe Biden confirmed Turkey’s sinister role in helping Islamist terrorists at a Harvard University speech last October: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad—except that the people who were being supplied were all Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” The Vice President also revealed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told him privately: “You were right. We let too many people through.” Biden later apologized for his public remarks to soothe Erdogan’s wrath.
In an astounding revelation, Mitchell Prothero of reported on Aug. 24 that Turkish intelligence had alerted Islamist terrorists that a group of U.S.-trained fighters was about to cross from Turkey into Syria. Upon arrival, many of the 54 graduates of the $500 million U.S. training program were promptly intercepted and kidnapped by al-Qaida’s Nusra Front!
Last month, when Turkey finally agreed to join the war against terror and “allowed” the United States to launch airstrikes on ISIS targets from Incirlik Air Base, U.S. officials’ initial delight turned into dismay when they realized that the Turkish military’s priority was attacking the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, not ISIS. By going after Kurdish militants, Turkey was in fact helping ISIS because the Kurds were the only reliable U.S. military partners on the ground.
Beyond wishing to undermine long-held Kurdish aspirations for an independent Kurdistan, by unleashing large scale bloody attacks against Kurds in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, Erdogan is hoping that on Nov. 1, Turkish voters would help his party regain the parliamentary majority it lost in the June elections. Unfortunately for Erdogan, the attacks on Kurds have created a widespread backlash among many Turkish citizens who lost their loved ones serving in the military, simply to boost the President’s political rating!
In desperation, Erdogan may well resort to one more trick in the coming weeks. Seeing that bombing Kurds is not generating the expected public support in the upcoming elections, he could order massive attacks on Kurds throughout Eastern Turkey. He would then use the excuse of an all-out civil war to declare a state of emergency, suspend Parliament, and rule with the iron fist of a theocratic Ottoman Sultan!
The United States and its NATO allies have an obligation to do everything possible to stop the monster they have created before he destroys everything on his path. Erdogan is a serious menace to his own citizens—Turks, Kurds, and others—as well as a destabilizing force to the entire region! The vicious attacks on the Kurdish population in Eastern Turkey makes the best case why Kurds deserve independent statehood and can no longer tolerate the brutal Turkish regime!
The Obama administration should follow the wise counsel of Eric S. Edelman, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and undersecretary of defense from 2005-2009. In a commentary published in The New York Times on Aug. 27, Edelman suggests that the United States “restrict Turkey’s access to senior-level meetings; reduce intelligence cooperation; and withhold American support for Turkey in international financial institutions.” These steps and many others must be taken in the next few weeks before November’s parliamentary elections.
In an Aug. 31 editorial, The New York Times Editorial Board described Erdogan’s political shenanigans as an attempt to “salvage his ambitions for continued authoritarian rule and greatly expanded powers.”
To bring the problem of terrorism in Syria and Iraq under control, restore stability in these countries, and stop the escalating bloodshed inside Turkey, the Turkish people must ensure that Erdogan’s party does not regain its lost parliamentary majority!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

As Turkey Targets Militants, War Grips Kurdish Lands Once Again

As Turkey Targets Militants, War Grips Kurdish Lands Once Again

Officers conducted searches of young people during a security operation this month in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir. Credit Usame Ari/Associated Press
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Across the Kurdish lands of southeast Turkey, a bitter war that had long been stilled by a truce has suddenly come roaring back, threatening to undo a hard-won economic turnaround here and adding a new battlefield to a region already consumed by chaos.
Cafes in this city that usually stay open until midnight now close at dusk. Jails are filling, once again, with Kurdish activists and officials accused of supporting terrorism. Residents say they are stocking up on weapons, just in case.
In the mountains, Kurdish guerrillas hastily set up vehicle checkpoints and then dissolve into the rugged terrain in a game of cat and mouse with Turkish soldiers. In the countryside, burned and mangled vehicles blight a landscape blackened by forest fires set by the Turkish Army — a tactic that destroys militant hide-outs but also apple and cherry orchards and stocks of feed for villagers’ cows and goats.
“It shouldn’t be like this,” said Kudbettin Ersoy, 66, who sells watermelons here from a wooden cart. “I was hopeful that peace would come and the blood would stop flowing. We are all citizens of this country.”
It has been one month since Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, resumed armed conflict against the militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. Many — Kurds and political analysts alike — see the war as a coldly calculated political strategy by Mr. Erdogan, whose Islamist Justice and Development Party lost its parliamentary majority in national elections in June, to stoke nationalist sentiments and regain lost votes in a new election.
June’s vote gave no party a majority, and a deadline for coalition talks ended fruitlessly on Sunday, paving the way for a snap election in November.
The war against the P.K.K. has also underscored the continued divide between the West and Turkey over how to handle the Middle East’s raging wars.
Conflict with the P.K.K. resumed just as Turkey said it would join the American-led coalition against the Sunni militants of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh, who control a large part of Iraq and Syria. Turkey opened its air bases to the United States and began carrying out its own airstrikes against the group.
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Black Sea
150 Miles
But since then, Turkey has carried out roughly 400 airstrikes against P.K.K. targets in the mountains of northern Iraq, where the group has bases, and inside Turkey, compared with three against the Islamic State. The imbalance has deepened a sense in the West that Turkey’s priority is restraining Kurdish ambitions of autonomy that had gained momentum amid the region’s turmoil, rather than fighting the Islamic State.
Even so, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told Reuters on Monday that Turkey would soon start a “comprehensive” air operation against the Islamic State in northern Syria.
The resumed war’s toll so far can be measured in lives lost: more than 65 Turkish soldiers and police officers, and more than 800 people the government has identified as militants, according to the semiofficial Anadolu News Agency. The war is also being measured in the return of fear and old anxieties over a conflict that, through decades, claimed close to 40,000 lives.
“When the president couldn’t make the government himself, he targeted the Kurds, and restarted this war,” said Osman, who was sitting at a teahouse here one recent morning and gave only his first name because he was fearful of speaking openly against Mr. Erdogan.
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Turkey Announces Anti-ISIS Operation

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaks on a new agreement with the United States to flush Islamic State fighters out of northern Syria.
By REUTERS on Publish Date August 24, 2015. Photo by Umit Bektas/Reuters. Watch in Times Video »
Omer Tastan, a spokesman here for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., which for the first time exceeded a 10 percent legal threshold to earn representation in Parliament in Turkey’s election in June, said that the government, in going after the militants, has also cracked down on the political side of the Kurdish movement.
“People working for the party are detained every day,” he said. “Young people are trying to protect their neighborhoods.”
The forest fires near Lice, a P.K.K. stronghold outside of Diyarbakir, are a menacing reminder of the tactics the Turkish Army used in the 1990s, the conflict’s cruelest decade.
“It is to intimidate the local people, to say that we can go back to the 1990s,” Mr. Tastan said.
Smoke from armed clashes between Turkish soldiers and Kurdistan Workers’ Party fighters in the district of Lice last week. Credit European Pressphoto Agency
Mr. Erdogan once saw peace with the Kurds as crucial to his legacy — two years ago, he said he would drink “hemlock poison” if it meant an end to the war. But many have come to believe that he now views war as the only way to preserve his power. And amid the tumult, Mr. Erdogan on Monday formally called for new parliamentary elections.
“We feel Erdogan personally restarted the war because of the elections,” said Yesim Alici, an H.D.P. official in Lice.
On the other side of the conflict, there are also signs of rising anger toward Mr. Erdogan and the government officials who have been attending, with great publicity, the funerals of Turkish soldiers killed by the P.K.K.
A Turkish military officer whose brother was killed in a Kurdish attack lashed out Sunday during the funeral, in a video that was widely circulated on social media in Turkey.
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Why Turkey Is Fighting the Kurds Who Are Fighting ISIS

While the United States has long sought Turkey’s help in fighting ISIS, getting its help has revealed a tangle of diverging interests in the region.
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“Who killed him? Who is the reason for this?” Lt. Col. Mehmet Alkan shouted as he pushed through the crowd toward his brother’s coffin.
“It’s those who said there would be a solution, who now only talk of war,” he said, in a statement many took to be a reference to Mr. Erdogan and his previous efforts, now abandoned, for peace.
Government officials blame the P.K.K. for the renewed hostilities and say the group used the relative peace of recent years to rearm itself. While the P.K.K. has also stepped up its attacks against the Turkish state, and is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, it has also become more legitimized internationally over the past year. The group has fiercely fought the Islamic State in northern Iraq, and its affiliate in northern Syria has become a reliable ally of the United States against the jihadist group there.
This is highlighted by the daily arrival of dead bodies of Kurdish fighters at the main cemetery here. They come from three battlefields: Iraq, Syria and Turkey. There are three teams of gravediggers working day and night, and cemetery workers have stocked up on wood for coffins and cloth for wrapping corpses.
Members of a youth movement linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party stood guard near Diyarbakir, Turkey, on Aug. 17. Credit European Pressphoto Agency
“What the Kurds are doing in northern Iraq and in Syria against ISIS is not just for the Kurds, it’s for all of humanity,” said Mehmet Celik Kilic, who runs the cemetery.
On a recent afternoon, a woman who gave only her first name of Pakize was visiting the grave of her son, a P.K.K. fighter who died in northern Iraq three years ago, during the last outburst of conflict.
“God, this is enough,” she said. “The soldiers, the guerrillas, they are all our sons.”
Across the region, even as war has resumed, hopes for peace remain.
In the mountains outside the city of Tunceli — called Dersim by the locals, and the site of a massacre against the Kurds carried out by the Turkish state in the 1930s — villagers who had been expelled from their homes in the 1990s had only in recent years begun rebuilding their lives. Many took out cheap loans to build houses or invest in beehives to harvest honey, taking part in the expansion of consumer credit and the booming economy that Turkey enjoyed over the last decade.
On a recent morning, two women, sitting in the shade of an almond tree, said they already lost everything once, in the 1990s.
“Our house,” said one of the women, Zarife Tasbas, who said she was about 60. “Our animals. Our orchards and trees.”
Their surroundings are the very picture of bucolic mountain living: a verdant valley of grapevines and pear trees, set to the gentle background noise of a rolling stream. All this is in jeopardy, they say, because recently they were told by local elders — who were told by the army — that they must leave their homes because of planned military operations.
“We have told them we will lose everything if we leave,” said the other woman, Yomos Deniz, 55, who makes a living selling the honey produced by her 40 beehives. “We’d rather die than leave here.”

Ceylan Yeginsu contributed reporting from Istanbul.