Friday, February 27, 2015

Activists Turn Their Backs to Denialist Speakers at UofT

TORONTO, Canada—On Feb. 27, Armenian youth held a silent protest at a lecture entitled “WWI 100th Anniversary-Human Suffering in Eastern Anatolia,” featuring genocide deniers Justin McCarthy and Bruce Fein. The lecture, organized by the Federation of Canadian Turkish Associations, was held at the University of Toronto (UofT), St. George Campus.
Over 70 human rights activists from the university community, who made up the majority of those in attendance, held the silent protest by standing in unison and turning their backs to the lecturers.
Over 70 human rights activists from the university community, who made up the majority of those in attendance, held the silent protest by standing in unison and turning their backs to the lecturers. (Photo: Ishkhan Ghazarian)
The Armenian Youth Federation of Canada (AYF Canada), in collaboration with the Armenian Students Association (ASA) of UofT St. George and Scarborough campuses, and the Armen Karo Student Association spearheaded this protest action.
An activist holds a poster that reads, "Denial Fuels the Cycle of Genocide!"
An activist holds a poster that reads, “Denial Fuels the Cycle of Genocide!” (Photo: Ishkhan Ghazarian)
Over 70 human rights activists from the university community, who made up the majority of those in attendance, held the silent protest by standing in unison and turning their backs to the lecturers.
Protesters allowed the speakers to deliver their opening remarks. However, when it became apparent that the speakers would deny and misconstrue the factuality of the Armenian Genocide, the group stood up and turned their backs to the podium as a silent protest against genocide denial.
Several racial slurs and discriminatory comments were directed at the protesters as they stood in silence.
Lecture organizers briefly stopped the event, but after campus police made it clear that the form of protest did not interfere with the event, they were asked to continue.
Protesters continued standing with their backs to the podium as Fein spoke, then marched out in an organized walk-out, leaving the remaining twenty or so attendees to listen to the rest of the lecture.
The demonstrators then marched to UofT’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office to voice their concern regarding the event, and to deliver a petition of over 2,000 signatures denouncing the event and demanding that the university distance itself from the organizers and speakers. The group had previously sent to the university a letter signed by academics, human rights groups, and student associations, including Hillel of Greater Toronto, the Greek Students Association of UofT-Scarborough, and the Hellenic Students Association of Ryerson University, demanding that this event be cancelled.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Turkey’s Tactics of ‘Oriental Slyness’

Turkey has announced that the annual commemoration of the Gallipoli Dardanelles battles of World War I, which was traditionally held on March 18, will be held on April 24 this year. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited more than 120 world leaders, including President Serge Sarkisian of Armenia, to attend the Gallipoli ceremonies. The reason for the date change is apparent to all Armenians.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace (Photo: Official Website of the Turkish President)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace (Photo: Official Website of the Turkish President)
There is a term in Turkish, “Sark kurnazligi,” which means “Oriental slyness.” The term is used to define a person who resorts to cunning to deceive another, but both the deceiver and the deceived know that there is trickery involved, and more cynically, the deceiver does not care if the deceived person is aware of the deceit.
Already, a few state leaders have announced that they will attend, including “Turkey’s little brother” Azerbaijan, some African and Muslim states, and notably, Prince Charles.
It is worthwhile to remind these guests, and the entire English-speaking world, of another Turkish scheme involving trickery of dates that happened eight years ago.
The Holy Cross Church and Monastery complex on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van in eastern Turkey had been in ruins since 1915 and, in fact, was being willfully destroyed in the 1950’s by the Turkish Army. Only interference by famous Kurdish author Yashar Kemal (whose hidden Armenian roots were recently revealed) prevented the complete destruction of the last remaining church. In the 2000’s, the Turkish government decided to restore the church as a museum. The restoration was completed in early 2007, and the government announced the date of the opening of the museum to be April 24, 2007.
The Istanbul Armenian Patriarch of the time, Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, forcefully protested that by choosing this date the government was attempting to create political gains using Armenians’ pain, and that he would refuse to attend the opening ceremony if this insensitive decision was not revised. The government appeared to appease the patriarch but, continuing to employ tactics of “Oriental slyness,” announced that the date would now be April 11, 2007. The government was fully aware that April 11 was equally significant and unacceptable to the Armenians, as in the old calendar, which was in effect in 1915, April 11 was the same date as April 24. In fact, in 1919, the famous Armenian journalist Theodik, himself a survivor of the genocide, had compiled a list and the biographies of the 761 Armenian intellectuals arrested and subsequently murdered, in a booklet called Houshartsan Abril 11-i (Memorial to April 11).
The first April 24 commemoration took place in 1919, with the opening of a memorial sculpture called “Abril 11 Houshartsan,” in the Istanbul Armenian Cemetery in Taksim. In the 1930’s, the cemetery was expropriated and converted to the famous Taksim Square, the scene of recent protests against the government. All of these facts, known to both the Armenians in Turkey and the Turkish government, were revealed in an editorial in the Agos newspaper that questioned the wisdom of using these dates for the Akhtamar opening, under the headline: “Are you sure? Is this your final answer?” The headline was copied after the often-repeated question heard on the-then popular TV quiz show, “Who wants to be a millionaire?”
The date of that Agos editorial? Jan. 19, 2007—the day Hrant Dink was shot dead in front of the Agos newspaper offices.
The Akhtamar Museum was opened on March 29, 2007. Patriarch Mutafyan reluctantly attended, and shortly thereafter, he became incapacitated with a still-unexplained debilitating mental disease, and continues to live in a vegetative state. In the meantime, eight years after Dink’s murder, the real perpetrators and conspirators of the murder have neither been caught nor tried.
Therefore, it is now appropriate to again ask the Turkish government that sent the Gallipoli invitations for April 24, 2015, and any state leaders who choose to ignore the real significance of this date: “Are you sure? Is this your final answer?

Pope Francis Declares St. Gregory of Narek Doctor of the Church

VATICAN CITY (A.W.)—Pope Francis has declared celebrated 10th century Armenian mystic and poet, St. Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church. The Vatican said Monday that the Pope had agreed to bestow the honor on St. Gregory after the decision made by the Vatican’s office in charge of saint-making, reported the Vatican Radio.
St. Gregory of Narek,
St. Gregory of Narek,
The title of Doctor of the Universal Church is one of the church’s highest honors—reserved for people whose writings have greatly served the universal church, reports the Associated Press. In all, only 35 people have been given the title over the years. Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Teresa of Avila.
St. Gregory lived around 950 to 1005 and is regarded as one of the most significant figures of medieval Armenian religious thought. The Book of Lamentations, commonly referred to simply as the Narek, is a mystical poem in 95 sections, and is considered his most important work.
The designation comes only a few weeks before the Pope is scheduled to celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

Banners Celebrating Genocide Displayed in Turkey

Anti-Armenian banners celebrating the Armenian Genocide have been displayed in cities around Turkey. Meanwhile, on Feb. 22, two protests were held under the banner of “Demonstrations Condemning the Khojali Genocide and Armenian Terror,” in the Kadikoy and Beyoglu districts in Istanbul. Some protesters chanted anti-Armenian slogans, while others invoked the name of Ogun Samast, the ultra-nationalist youth who gunned down Agos Editor Hrant Dink in 2007.
A banner in the southwest province of Mugla reads, “We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleared of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors. –Young Atsizs.” (Atsizs refers to Nihal Atsiz, a leading ideologue of Turkish racism and a proponent of Turanism).
A banner in the southwest province of Mugla reads, “We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleared of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors. –Young Atsizs.” (Atsizs refers to Nihal Atsiz, a leading ideologue of Turkish racism and a proponent of Turanism).

The banners celebrating the Armenian Genocide were spotted in different parts of the country. In the southwest province of Mugla, a banner declared, “We celebrate the 100th anniversary of our country being cleared of Armenians. We are proud of our glorious ancestors. –Young Atsizs.” Atsizs refers to Nihal Atsiz (1905-75), a leading ideologue of Turkish racism and a proponent of Turanism. The banner was displayed in front of the Provincial Directorate of Youth and Sports in Mugla. The Directorate claimed the banner was hung far enough that they had not seen it, but that “responsible citizens” had removed it, according to Demokrat Haber.
Similar banners were also displayed in Manisa (north of Izmir), and Ordu (on the Black Sea coast). Demokrat Haber also reports that similar posters were put up by the Mayor’s office in Sogutlucesme, Istanbul, as well as Marmara University’s Goztepe campus.
“The Human Rights Association can only attempt to raise a voice protesting these initiatives. As long as the Turkish public is not upset, and feels no shame by these demonstrations, the discourse, and the slogans, there will be no real response to these rabid anti-Armenian initiatives,” human rights activist Ayse Gunaysu told the Armenian Weekly, adding, “This reality has been haunting me in recent days.”
Protests around Istanbul
In Kadikoy, an anonymous source observed around 1,000-1,500 protesters, many waving Azerbaijani flags. The source said aside from nationalist slogans, and chants about the “Khojali genocide,” anti-Kurdish slogans were also heard, presumably fueled by the recent killing of an ultranationalist man who was partaking in an attack against members of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) in Izmir. The anti-Armenian slogans were more muted than what had been observed during the Feb. 26, 2012 anti-Armenian protest, noted the source.
According to Gunaysu, a Weekly contributor, protesters might have been deterred from chanting rabidly anti-Armenian slogans during the latest rally due to the fact that those who had carried banners reading, “You are all Armenians, you are all bastards,” in 2012, had been sentenced to 5 months in prison, which was later turned to a 3,000 TL fine by the court.
The police were present in large numbers in Kadikoy, and blocked movement to main streets, including near the offices of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
According to Demokrat Haber, buses transported protesters—free of charge—from in front of the governorates of surrounding cities to where the Kadikoy demonstration was being held.
In the days leading up to the protest, the Human Rights Association (HRA) of Turkey’s Istanbul branch issued a statement condemning the protest, calling it a “pretext to incite ethnic hate against Armenians in Turkey.”
The organization also petitioned the Istanbul Governorate, warning officials of the anti-Armenian sentiments that were on the rise ahead of the planned protest.
According to Demokrat Haber, despite the fact that the protest organizers had claimed to have the proper permits to stage the rally, the Istanbul Governorate had not been notified about the demonstration, and had not received any permit applications. Furthermore, official sources held that in keeping in line with clause 6 of the “Law on Rallies and Demonstration Marches,” permits could not have been granted for the location of the rally, since the area is off limits as a public gathering space.
Similarly, the HRA received a fax from the Governorate of Istanbul, stating that their office neither received a request for permission for the protests, nor granted any such permission.
Meanwhile, according to a source, the Association of Reformist Youth of Azerbaijan has denied involvement in these protests. Earlier the HRA had reported that the protests were being organized by the Association of Reformist Youth of Azerbaijan, together with the Turkish Hearths Youth branches and the Turanist Movement Platform.
In Galatasaray Square in Beyoglu, a smaller protest was held with participants from the Nationalist Turkey Party and the Turan Hearths. According to the Turkish news outlet Haberler, the protesters shouted slogans against Armenia; calling Khojali a “part of the homeland” that was “under Armenian invasion.” The protesters also condemned the international community for supporting Armenia. Minor clashes with the police were reported.
The Feb. 20 HRA statement cautioned that anti-Armenian sentiments were on the rise, and that racist graffiti had been spray painted on and near churches, with messages such as, “You are all Armenians, you are all bastards.”
The HRA statement added, “You, officials who refrain from criminalizing racist slogans on church walls, who officially or unofficially permit protests and demonstrations preannounced by such slogans, if you do not enforce the law, you will become partners in the crime…”
Ayse Gunaysu and Burcu Gursel contributed to this report.

ANCA-WR Leads Successful Effort To Sever City of LA Ties To Genocide Denial Firm - Gephardt Government Affairs

Former Democratic House Majority Leader Turned Lobbyist Dick Gephardt Pivoted from Fully Supporting Armenian Genocide Legislation to Taking Turkish Government Money to Block U.S. Recognition of Armenian Genocide

The Armenian National Committee of America - Western Region (ANCA-WR) is encouraged that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is terminating a contract worth over $845,000 with Gephardt Government Relations, a firm which serves as a registered foreign agent for Turkey and a major tool in efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide.  Late last year, the ANCA-WR called upon Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to end any ties between the City of Los Angeles and Dick Gephardt, a known genocide denier, including a contract he had with LAWA. A seven-member Board of Airport Commissioners, six of whom were appointed last year by Mayor Eric Garcetti and approved by the Los Angeles City Council, governs LAWA.

"Since leaving Congress where he worked hard to pass Armenian Genocide resolutions, now becoming a paid lobbyist, Dick Gephardt has gotten rich earning huge sums of money from the Turkish Government to lobby his former colleagues to deny justice for the Armenian Genocide in a complete reversal of his position on the issue. As a Genocide denier, he doesn't deserve a single dollar from the citizens of Los Angeles, and should have no association with our great city," said ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. "We applaud LAWA and City of Los Angeles officials for their principled stand enforcing a zero-tolerance policy against deniers of genocide. LAWA's action reflects the highest standards of good governance and reinforces the proud standing of Los Angeles as a leader - nationally and internationally - on issues of genocide-prevention and human rights."

According to U.S. Government documents obtained by the ANCA-WR and cited in support of its request, Gephardt Government Relations had a contract worth over $845,000 with LAWA, which was agreed to in 2012 during the term of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Meanwhile, since the approval of the contract with LAWA, Gephardt Government Affairs has been drawing over $23,000 a month for its work for the airport while simultaneously representing the interests of the Turkish Government against the interests of the Armenian-American community. Gephardt has made a name for himself on Capitol Hill by trading on his congressional connections for his work on behalf of the Republic of Turkey. As documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (which regulates the lobbying activity of those who advocate on behalf of foreign interests in the United States) reveal, Gephardt himself has had to disclose the fact that he acts on Turkey's behalf as an ardent opponent of legislative efforts to fully recognize the Armenian Genocide.

New York Times writer and author of "This Town" Mark Leibovich outed Gephardt in 2013 for his hypocrisy on the Armenian Genocide.  In a television interview later that year, Bill Moyers asked Leibovich about Gephardt's stand on the Armenian Genocide. "In the House [of Representatives] he [Gephardt] had supported a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide of 1915. When he left Congress he was paid about $75,000 a month to oppose the resolution," Moyers commented. Leibovich responded by sharing, "Yes. I guess the word genocide goes down a little easier at those rates."  Also in 2013, Christopher Buckley, the son of William F. Buckley, wrote a review of "This Town" in The New York Times in which he cited Gephardt's genocide denial efforts. "There are a number of sanctimonious standout "formers" in Leibovich's Congressional hall of shame, but just to name a few exemplars who gleefully inhabit ethical no-worry zones and execute brisk 180-­degree switcheroos on any issue, including the Armenian genocide, so long as it pays: Dick Gephardt..."

In his most recent anti-Armenian actions on Capitol Hill, Dick Gephardt aggresively lobbied against H.R. 4347 in the 113th Congress, a House measure to return Christian churches in Turkey to their rightful owners. Last year he also did the bidding of his lucrative Turkish Government client by fighting against a U.S. Senate resolution on the Armenian Genocide authored by U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ).  Despite Gephardt's opposition, the Armenian Genocide bill advanced by Senator Menendez in April of last year was ultimately adopted by the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a vote of 12 to 5.

The move by the ANCA-WR to seek termination of LAWA's contract with Gephardt coincided with the launch of a nationwide campaign by a coalition of Armenian American groups, including the ANCA, to pressure Gephardt, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Dickstein Shapiro, LLC), Greenberg Traurig, Alpaytac, and LB International to stop advcancing the Turkish Government's Armenian Genocide denial agenda or face public scrutiny  and protest. The effort was launched on January 29th, with over 200 letters sent to Turkey's lobbying firms and the top businesses, universities, and NGOs who use their services, giving them until February 28th to drop their association with Turkey's genocide denial or end their relationships with these public relations firms. Among those receiving letters were PepsiCo, TIME Inc., Amazon, and the Chrysler Corporation, in addition to many others.

Friday, February 20, 2015

New Documentary: ‘Turkey, the Legacy of Silence’

PARIS, France—For the past two years, Anna Benjamin and Guillaume Clere have been driven by the desire to give a voice to descendants—in Turkey—of Armenian Genocide survivors. In January 2015, the two French journalists came closer to reaching their goal of producing a documentary and web-series that tells the story of four Turks who discover their Armenian origin—and who decide to break silence. To complete their project, they launched a crowd-funding campaign.

Through the portraits of Nazli, Armen, Dogukan, and Yasar, “Turkey, the Legacy of Silence” reveals the weight of silence that burdens thousands of Armenian descendants in Turkey. Indeed, after 1915, the price of survival was high: assimilation in Turkish and Kurdish families, conversion to Islam, and, above all, silence. After a century of silence, history is resurfacing: Multiple families are now asserting their Armenian heritage. By giving a face to the million descendants of these Islamized Armenians, “Turkey, the Legacy of Silence” is a worldwide call to remembrance. Today, despite risks, fear, and shame, Nazli, Armen, Dogukan, and Yasar have the courage to break the taboo on their Armenian roots.
“Turkey, the Legacy of Silence” will be released internationally for the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide in April 2015. Additionally, the public will be invited to offer testimony on the website.

 However, to reach these goals, the authors still need to raise funds. Firstly, in order to reach an international audience, the film must be translated to English and Armenian. In addition, the web-series must be edited and embedded in an interactive web site. Benjamin and Clere made four trips to Turkey for the project, scouting to find Armenian descendants, and shooting videos for the film. The documentary is in the process of being edited; it still has to be standardized, translated, developed, and illustrated.

With the help of their producer, Découpages, they obtained several guarantees, such as broadcast on the French channel “Toute l’Histoire” and writing and production help from the CNC (Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée). They also obtained an agreement from media outlets such as France Info and Mediapart to host the web-series.
Today, Benjamin and Clere are relying on the public’s generosity to honor the memory of this chapter of Armenian history, to mark the Centennial and to reveal the silence.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

UC Berkeley Student Govt. Passes Resolution Calling for Divestment from Turkey

BERKELEY, Calif.— The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) undergraduate student body Senate unanimously voted on Wednesday night to divest $72.6 million dollars worth of University of California bonds and investments in the Republic of Turkey for their crimes in and the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.
The resolution titled “A Bill in Support of Divestment from the Republic of Turkey” passed at 11:00 pm at Anna Head Alumnae Hall at UC Berkeley.
The resolution is part of a larger initiative (#DivestTurkey) spearheaded by the Armenian Youth Federation Western United States (AYF), calling on institutions to divest from the Republic of Turkey,
“With the support of not only our Armenian community here at Cal, but also with the Berkeley community at large, we are so proud to have been a part of history tonight with the passing of this bill at UC Berkeley” said Sareen Habeshian, a UC Berkeley student and Armenian Student Association member.
Raffi Margossian, UC Berkeley sophomore and ASA executive member stated, “I’m proud to see the ASUC take measures to hold our Regents accountable. I think it’s outrageous that our tuition money is invested without student input. This bill sends a larger message that calls for the need for student voice in UC investments”
The bill’s passage comes a few weeks after the UCLA student body government unanimously passed a similar resolution, and just two weeks after a University of California Student Association (UCSA) bill that was passed in Los Angeles also demanding divestment from the government of Turkey.
“I, like so many others, have grown up surrounded by conversations about ‘Hye Tad’ but it was always so abstract. What could someone like me do to raise the Armenian Cause, to move it forward, to fight for it? I am 100 years removed from the Genocide, I don’t live in the Homeland, I didn’t go to an Armenian school growing up, yet there has always been a pull towards something bigger than myself. We, as UC students, were given the chance to finally raise the Armenian Cause and fight for what is right and what is just. The Cause doesn’t belong in places only filled with Armenians. It should permeate every aspect of our life — our homes, our work place and especially our school — which is exactly what we did tonight by calling for the divestment of our tuition from the Republic of Turkey.” said Christina Mehranbod, UC Berkeley senior and AYF member.
To find out more about the (#DivestTurkey) Initiative contact

A scene from Wednesday's meeting of UC Berkeley Student government