Monday, June 27, 2016
Saturday, June 25, 2016
YEREVAN—In an address to Armenia’s civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, in the presence of President Serzh Sarkisian, Pope France, who arrived in Armenia Friday, called the Armenian Genocide the “first of a deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century.”
In remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered in Italian, the pope reflected on Sarksiain’s visit to the Vatican last year for the Genocide centennial and said, “Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”
He also paid homage to the Armenian people “who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity.”
“Armenians worldwide appreciate the Pope’s explicit condemnation of the Armenian Genocide – as a clear case of genocide – upon his arrival in Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Pope Francis – through words and actions – continues to openly challenge Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. By speaking directly and fearlessly about the Armenian Genocide, this time upon Armenian soil – and then making a pilgrimage to pray at the sacred Dzidzernagapert memorial – the Pope is both strengthening Christian solidarity with Armenia and taking a courageous stand for truth and justice.”
Below, is the official English translation of the Pope’s address.
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It gives me great joy to be here, to set foot on the soil of this beloved land of Armenia, to visit a people of ancient and rich traditions, a people that has given courageous testimony to its faith and suffered greatly, yet has shown itself capable of constantly being reborn.
“Our turquoise sky, our clear waters, the flood of light, the summer sun and the proud winter borealis… our age-old stones … our ancient etched books which have become a prayer” (ELISE CIARENZ, Ode to Armenia). These are among the powerful images that one of your illustrious poets offers us to illustrate the rich history and natural beauty of Armenia. They sum up the rich legacy and the glorious yet dramatic experience of a people and their deep-seated love of their country.
I am most grateful to you, Mr President, for your kind words of welcome in the name of the government and people of Armenia, and for your gracious invitation that has made it possible to reciprocate the visit you made to the Vatican last year. There you attended the solemn celebration in Saint Peter’s Basilica, together with Their Holinesses Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch-Catholicos of All Armenians, and Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of the Armenians, recently deceased. The occasion was the commemoration of the centenary of the Metz Yeghérn, the “Great Evil” that struck your people and caused the death of a vast multitude of persons. Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.
I pay homage to the Armenian people who, illuminated by the light of the Gospel, even at the most tragic moments of their history, have always found in the cross and resurrection of Christ the strength to rise again and take up their journey anew with dignity. This shows the depth of their Christian faith and its boundless treasures of consolation and hope. Having seen the pernicious effects to which hatred, prejudice and the untrammelled desire for dominion led in the last century, I express my lively hope that humanity will learn from those tragic experiences the need to act with responsibility and wisdom to avoid the danger of a return to such horrors. May all join in striving to ensure that whenever conflicts emerge between nations, dialogue, the enduring and authentic quest of peace, cooperation between states and the constant commitment of international organizations will always prevail, with the aim of creating a climate of trust favorable for the achievement of lasting agreements.
The Catholic Church wishes to cooperate actively with all those who have at heart the future of civilization and respect for the rights of the human person, so that spiritual values will prevail in our world and those who befoul their meaning and beauty will be exposed as such. In this regard, it is vitally important that all those who declare their faith in God join forces to isolate those who use religion to promote war, oppression and violent persecution, exploiting and manipulating the holy name of God.
Today Christians in particular, perhaps even more than at the time of the first martyrs, in some places experience discrimination and persecution for the mere fact of professing their faith. At the same time, all too many conflicts in various parts of the world remain unresolved, causing grief, destruction and forced migrations of entire peoples. It is essential that those responsible for the future of the nations undertake courageously and without delay initiatives aimed at ending these sufferings, making their primary goal the quest for peace, the defense and acceptance of victims of aggression and persecution, the promotion of justice and sustainable development. The Armenian people have experienced these situations firsthand; they have known suffering and pain; they have known persecution; they preserved not only the memory of past hurts, but also the spirit that has enabled them always to start over again. I encourage you not to fail to make your own precious contribution to the international community.
This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Armenia’s independence. It is a joyful occasion, but also an opportunity, in cherishing the goals already achieved, to propose new ones for the future. The celebration of this happy anniversary will be all the more significant if it becomes for all Armenians, both at home and in the diaspora, a special moment for gathering and coordinating energies for the sake of promoting the country’s civil and social development of the country, one that is equitable and inclusive. This will involve constant concern for ensuring respect for the moral imperatives of equal justice for all and solidarity with the less fortunate (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Farewell Address from Armenia, 27 September 2001: Insegnamenti XXIX/2 , 489). The history of your country runs parallel to its Christian identity preserved over the centuries. That identity, far from impeding a healthy secularity of the state, instead requires and nourishes it, favoring the full participation of all in the life of society, freedom of religion and respect for minorities. A spirit of unity between all Armenians and a growing commitment to find helpful means of overcoming tension with neighboring countries, will facilitate the realization of these important goals, and inaugurate for Armenia an age of true rebirth.
The Catholic Church is present in this country with limited human resources, yet readily offers her contribution to the development of society, particularly through her work with the poor and vulnerable in the areas of healthcare and education, but also in the specific area of charitable assistance. This is seen in the work carried out in the past twenty-five years by the Redemptoris Mater Hospital in Ashotzk, the educational institute in Yerevan, the initiatives of Caritas Armenia and the works managed by the various religious congregations.
May God bless and protect Armenia, a land illumined by the faith, the courage of the martyrs and that hope which proves stronger than any suffering.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
As if Turkish President Recep Erdogan did not have enough headaches, he now faces a new accusation that he may have forged his college diploma. If true, he would be forced to resign from his presidential seat and possibly go to jail or into exile.
Rumors have been circulating for some time that Erdogan may not have a college degree which would disqualify him from his presidential position according to Article 101 of the Turkish constitution which requires that presidential candidates “have completed higher education.”
Journalist Cengis Candar, in an Al-Monitor.com June 15 article titled: “Is Erdogan’s university diploma forged?” exposes the serious suspicions regarding the validity of the Turkish President’s college diploma.
As Candar explains, “Erdogan went to an imam-hatip school, a high school-level institution that educates religious preachers. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, graduates of those schools could pursue their higher education only in theology.” Nonetheless, when Erdogan ran for President in August 2014, he presented to the Higher Electoral Board a photocopy of his diploma claiming to have received a college degree in 1981 from the Dept. of Economic and Administrative Sciences of Marmara University.
The problem here is that Marmara University was founded only in 1982, making it impossible for Erdogan to have graduated a year before the University came into existence. Since the Dept. of Economics was established only in 1983, Erdogan could not have graduated from that department in 1981, as he claimed. Unfortunately, none of these suspected allegations can be thoroughly investigated in Turkey by the media or civil society in view of the dictatorial nature of the Erdogan regime which routinely shuts down newspapers and prosecutes all opponents.
The President’s aides are adamant that the accusations against Erdogan are not valid, as they emanate from members of opposition parties. The first complaint came from former judge Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu who presented to the Higher Electoral Board his suspicion that Erdogan did have a college degree because of the existing discrepancies in the photocopy of his diploma. The Electoral Board promptly rejected the judge’s appeal.
A second challenge was mounted by extreme Turkish nationalist Gokce Firat who presented detailed arguments to support the claim that Erdogan’s diploma is a forgery. Firat demanded to see Erdogan’s original diploma rather than the photocopy he had submitted to the Higher Electoral Board. The Turkish nationalist accused the President and Dean of Marmara University of aiding and abetting in the crime of forging Erdogan’s diploma. He claimed that the signatures of the President and Dean of Marmara University seen on the copy of Erdogan’s diploma do not match the ones on Firat’s own diploma from the same university. He also questioned the validity of the sequence of the number found on Erdogan’s diploma. Finally, Firat claimed that even the design of the Turkish President’s diploma is different from the ones held by other graduates.
Earlier this month, the pro-Kurdish HDP Party submitted an official parliamentary inquiry, asking Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz “to clarify the mystery surrounding the validity” of Erdogan’s university diploma. In response to a similar request to the Higher Electoral Board, the HDP received a notarized copy of the Turkish President’s diploma. However, the HDP announced that it will continue to challenge the validity of the diploma.
In his article, Cengiz Candar raised serious concerns about Erdogan’s legitimacy as President of Turkey should it be proven that his diploma is forged: “If taken seriously, the follow-up to the controversy could create monumental legal questions in Turkey. If it turns out Erdogan was never qualified to be elected president, whatever he has signed or implemented would have to be considered null and void from a purely legal point of view. Politically, it would provide an armory of ammunition to his critics whose numbers abroad are rapidly increasing. And if Erdogan’s university diploma proves to be a forgery, that would naturally provide ammunition to his international opponents to bring up the argument of whether his title is legitimate.”
While President Erdogan is demanding a DNA test to verify the ethnic origins of the 11 Turkish members of the German Parliament who voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it may be more appropriate to carry out a chemical analysis of his diploma. Erdogan should also undergo a psychological examination to evaluate his persistently irrational psychotic behavior!
YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—France plans to enact a new law that will make it a crime to publicly deny the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, the French ambassador to Armenia, Jean-Francois Charpentier, said on Tuesday.
“The text is practically ready,” Charpentier told a news conference in Yerevan. “So I think that we will hear about it soon.”
Charpentier said that President Francois Hollande is behind the bill drafted by French government officials and legal experts. He stressed that the bill would criminalize the denial of not only the Armenian Genocide but also other genocides officially recognized by France.
The two houses of France’s parliament already passed a law against Armenian Genocide denial in December 2011 and January 2012. The move, hailed by Armenia but condemned by Turkey, was orchestrated by Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy.
France’s constitutional court subsequently struck down the law, however, saying that it runs counter to freedom of speech.
Hollande pledged to ban genocide denial when he ran for president in 2012. He told leaders of France’s influential Armenian community at the time that a new corresponding bill should be drafted with “utmost legal security” so that it satisfies the French Constitutional Council.
Hollande, 61, is expected to run for a second term in presidential elections slated for April-May 2017.
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Tuesday, June 14, 2016
BERLIN (Deutsche Welle)—Sevim Dagdelen has urged action after receiving death threats over the Armenian genocide vote in Germany’s parliament. She said she wants Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be prevented from entering Germany.
Dagdelen, a member of the Bundestag, demanded that “anyone in Turkey who calls for violence against members of the German parliament should get an entry ban” to Germany. “This includes President Erdogan,” she told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.
Since the vote, Dagdelen and 10 other German MPs of Turkish origin have faced the ire of Turkish nationalists, receiving death threats and even having their personal details published in newspapers and in mosques.
Dagdelen, who is the Left party’s migration policy spokesperson, told the paper that German Chancellor Angela Merkel should respond more forcefully to Erdogan’s attacks.
The politicians are now under 24-hour police protection after Erdogan compared them to terrorists and demanded they have blood tests to prove their Turkish origins.
The lawmakers have also been warned not to make trips to Turkey for the time being, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
Aydan Özoguz of the Social Democrats (SPD) called on Turkish groups in Germany to unequivocally denounce the Turkish response. Özoguz, who is the government’s integration commissioner, has also received death threats.
“I expect Turkish associations in Germany to clearly condemn the threats against MPs,” she told Bild am Sonntag, adding that Turks can remain committed to their origins without being an extension of Turkey.
Her comments were backed up by Green Party leader Cem Özdemir, who was one of the initiators of the Bundestag’s Armenian Genocide resolution.
“You may not agree with the resolution, but Turkish organizations must issue unqualified denouncements of the death threats,” he told the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
Earlier, Özdemir had told the paper that Erdogan’s response to the issue was “unworthy of a head of state,” adding that he was worried. “What if someone goes crazy?” Özdemir asked, referring to threats against him and his family.
Germany’s Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) supported German politicians and called the threats made against lawmakers unacceptable.
“No one should be dehumanized or threatened,” DITIB national spokesperson Murat Kayman said. “This is not up for discussion and there is no justification for it. That’s the basic agreement of civilized societies.”
Tuesday, June 7, 2016
BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Despite ‘Sultan’ Erdogan’s insults and threats, the German Parliament went boldly forward last week and recognized the Armenian Genocide. In retaliation, Turkey immediately withdrew its ambassador from Berlin.
The historic Bundestag resolution, adopted with a near unanimous decision (1 vote against and 1 abstention), is titled: “In remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire 101 years ago.” According to ARD television, 74% of the German population agrees that genocide was committed against Armenians. Another revealing survey cited by “Der Spiegel” magazine found that 91% of the German public does not trust Erdogan!
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fed up with Erdogan’s repeated blackmails, decided to put Turkey’s megalomaniac dictator in his place, while Pres. Obama has to muster the courage to do so! The German leadership had to fend off not only the Turkish regime’s attacks but also sharp criticism from many of the three million Turks living in Germany.
After the Parliament’s decision, Erdogan arrogantly declared: “We have nothing in our past to be ashamed of, but those countries that often accuse Turkey of ‘Armenian genocide’ have the blood of millions of innocent victims.” Turkey’s minister of justice Bekir Bozdag was just as brazen, as he told Germans: “First you burn the Jews in ovens, and then you come and accuse the Turkish people of genocide.” Erdogan and Bozdag must be reminded that Germany, unlike Turkey, long ago admitted the Nazi-era crimes, apologized for the Holocaust, and paid billions of dollars in compensation.
It remains to be seen if ‘big mouth’ Turkish leaders would dare to take punitive actions against Germany, besides the routine withdrawal of their ambassador, as they do each time another government acknowledges the Armenian Genocide. Should Erdogan decide to go beyond making empty threats, such steps would backfire on Turkey as Germany is its largest trading partner. Turkey’s economy is already in serious trouble after Russia banned the import of Turkish goods and discouraged its citizens from going to Turkey as tourists because of the downing of a Russian jet by the Turkish military near the Syrian border last year.
Turkish leaders have already damaged their country’s interests by making provocative and scandalous announcements which have helped to publicize worldwide the German Bundestag’s action on the Armenian Genocide. Thousands of newspapers, websites, TV and radio stations covered the German decision and the Turkish outbursts. It is noteworthy that the international media paid particular attention to the German Parliamentarians’ admission that their country, a military ally of Turkey during World War I, was complicit in the Armenian Genocide.
The New York Times and The Times of London, two of the most prestigious newspapers in the world, published powerful editorials on June 3 reaffirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide, supporting the German’s Parliament’s decision, and urging Turkey to confront its dark past.
In an editorial titled, “Yes, It’s Genocide,” The New York Times wrote: “… It was a genocide, the first of the 20th century…. The Armenians are fully justified in their quest for a historical reckoning…. President Obama, who as a candidate in 2008 pledged to recognize the events of 1915 as a genocide, has failed to do so…. The Germans, who have admirably confronted the terrible genocide in their own history, did the right thing in defying Mr. Erdogan’s threats.”
The London Times’ editorial, “Genocide Denial: The mass slaughter of Armenians needs to be acknowledged by Turkey,” was just as impactful: “The German resolution is right not only in its message but also in diplomacy. Turkish pique is regularly directed at allies who recognize the Armenian genocide. That response is worse than undignified and ahistorical: it is a denial of suffering on an unspeakable scale that poisons the politics of Europe to this day, and it needs to be challenged. The slaughter of Armenians was not, as Turkish apologists maintain, one of the unplanned but inescapable tragedies that happen in wartime. It was a specific campaign of deportation and mass killing by the Ottoman regime.… Modern Germany and its statesmen have expressed repeatedly their nation’s remorse for genocidal barbarism in the last century. It is long past time for Turkey to do the same.”
Having recognized the Armenian Genocide and acknowledged its own share of responsibility and complicity, Germany now has to make appropriate amends to Armenians, thus setting a venerable example for Turkey, not only in recognition, but also in restitution!