Friday, December 30, 2011

France Genocide Bill Sponsor Receives Death Threats

PARIS—“All Frenchmen of Armenian descent, who live in France have the right, to protect the memory of their ancestors slaughtered in 1915,” Valerie Boyer, the French member of parliament who drafted the bill criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, said on her Facebook page.
“This law aims to punish all those, who will question the fact of Genocide in French territory,” she explained.
“The Armenian genocide is recognized in Russia, Canada, Argentina, Italy, Sweden and even in Germany. Its denial is penalized in Switzerland. Yet, none of these states is being threatened in its diplomatic relations or business by Turkey,” Boyer wrote.
Meanwhile, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Monday that Boyer has become a target of death threats and her Web site was hacked by Turks.
According to RFE/RL, Boyer told the BFMTV station that she, her children and parents have received “extremely grave” threats since then. “It’s totally paradoxical to be the author and the rapporteur of a text which speaks of human rights, human dignity, recognition and protection of the weak, and legislate under threat, be threatened by a foreign state and then be subjected to extremely grave personal threats,” she said.
“Death threats, threats of rape and threats of destruction, name-calling and insults. I find this very shocking.”
Boyer added that she will lodge a “complaint” with relevant French authorities but is undaunted by the threats. “This process can only strengthen us in both our beliefs and our resolve,” she said.
An adviser to French Interior Minister Claude Gueant told “Le Figaro” daily on Monday that the lawmaker and her family will be given a “discreet and effective protection for some time.” “The risk is not very high but we are not immune to a disequilibrium,” the official said.
Boyer, who is also the deputy head of French parliamentary caucus promoting ties with Armenia, spoke to the French news channel following a hacker attack on her website.
Visitors to were automatically redirected on Sunday to another website purportedly owned by a Turkish hacker group presenting itself as GrayHatz. It displayed the Turkish national flag and contained a message to the French government and France’s 500,000-strong Armenian community.
“You, the Diaspora Armenians, are such cowards that you don’t have guts to open up the Armenian archives and face the truth,” read the message posted in Turkish and English. “You, the French people, are so pitiful and pathetic that you are disregarding the truths for votes.”
The latter accusation was in tune with the Turkish government’s claims that Sarkozy engineered the bill’s passage to gain the support of French-Armenian voters in next year’s presidential election. Ankara has also denounced the legislation as an infringement of freedom of speech and academic debate.
“Freedom of speech and state propaganda are very different things,” Boyer told the French lower house last Thursday in a clear reference to Turkey’s vehement denial of a government policy to annihilate the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during World War One.
Boyer’s website was still disabled as of Monday evening, displaying a blank page. The UMP deputy’s Facebook page had scores of abusive comments from apparently Turkish users and messages of support from Armenians posted in recent days.
Under the adopted legislation, anyone in France publicly denying the Armenian genocide could face a year in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros ($58,000). In order to enter into force the law needs to be approved by the French Senate dominated by members of the opposition Socialist Party.
The Paris-based news service reported on Monday that the Senate majority leader, Francois Rebsamen, has demanded that the government include it on the Senate agenda “as soon as possible.”
“Even if this text carries electoral suspicions, nothing would be worse today than to bury it, thereby creating misunderstanding and disappointment of the Armenian community, having raised the indignation and anger of the Turkish community,” Rebsamen said in a statement.
Turkey recalled its ambassador in Paris and imposed political and military sanctions on France following the National Assembly vote. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to take more punitive steps if “the current [French] attitude is maintained.”
Turkish ambassadors from all over the world reportedly gathered in Ankara on Saturday to discuss ways of preventing more countries from taking similar measures ahead of the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian massacres in 1915.
“We should all be prepared also because we will face an intensive campaign from the Armenian diaspora in 2015,” the AFP news agency quoted an unnamed senior Turkish diplomat as saying on Friday. “And we should take history not from 1915 but from 1914 and explain what happened in the Balkans during that period,” said the diplomat.
While criticizing the French bill, some Turkish commentators have urged the authorities in Ankara to address the genocide issue more openly. “We have avoided any talk on 1915 for decades,” Mehmet Tezkan wrote in the “Milliyet” daily.
“One must be blind not to see what will happen four years later,” Tezkan said, according to AFP. “The genocide will be recognized by the entire world in 2015 on its 100th anniversary.”
Meanwhile, the leader of the Socialist majority in the French Senate reportedly demanded that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government submit the bill to the upper house of parliament “as soon as possible.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Turkish Journalist: French Vote Is Only A Prelude, Hurricane Coming

From: Mihran Keheyian <>
Date: Fri, 23 Dec 2011 17:22:06 +0400 (AMT)
TURKISH JOURNALIST: FRENCH VOTE IS ONLY A PRELUDE, HURRICANE COMING PanARMENIAN.NetDecember 22, 2011 - 13:24 AMT PanARMENIAN.Net - Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand describesthe Armenian Genocide bill pending vote in the French parliament as'a signal flare.' "It is the tip of the iceberg that will hit Turkey in 2015," he saysin a piece of opinion published by Hurriyet Daily News. "The French vote is only a prelude. They are preparing to blow likea hurricane in coming years," Birand says. "What do we do? As always, we are trying to prevent what is comingby harsh warning letters and threat-filled statements. We are sendingdelegations to France trying to influence every segment. Next, we willtemporarily withdraw our ambassador and maybe there will be callsto boycott French goods. We will bring forward our significance forEurope, our strategic value, but nothing will change. These methods donot serve their purpose anymore. Moreover, they will be more uselesstoward 2015," he presumes. "Turkey has lost its struggle against the genocide. For almost 100years, first it buried its head in the sand, did not discuss it, ithas even left its own society ignorant. For all those years, it wasnot able make the international community believe that "there was nogenocide." It did not go beyond a total denial. We have missed thattrain," Birand says. "Only bold steps can save us from this accusation. The way to dispersethe genocide wind passes through launching of new "initiatives" thatwill surprise the world public. By publicly apologizing for mutuallosses and taking those steps to activate relations with Yerevan,we can only hold on to the edge of the genocide cliff. Otherwise,2015 will very much batter Turkey." he says. "A question I am very curious to hear the answer is this: "Is therea planned operation in Ankara to mitigate the losses of the coming2015 earthquake?" If not, be sure that we will feel the pain immensely. Actually, we are already late, but again, some things can be done. Let's not forget, the more we postpone taking precautions, the moreit will become expensive and cause risky decisions for us to escapefrom the trap. For once, let's act like a European, not like a Turk,"Birand advises. "To counterbalance 2015, threats such as "we will put an embargo, wewill withdraw our ambassador," will not work or affect anybody. Theonly way to draw the attention of the world public passes from takingbolder steps," he concludes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


What Turkish tour guide Asil Tuncer said, with respect to Apple Inc.'s founder, the late Steve Jobs' visit to Turkey, caused great uproar in the country. The guide claimed that Jobs considered the Turks as enemies, and he did not even shake hands when bidding farewell to the tour guide.
Tuncer noted that when they had approached the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, and he had told that it was a church at first but then it was turned into a mosque, Steve Jobs had asked: "You, Muslims, what did you do to so many Christians? You subjected 1.5 million Armenians to genocide. Tell us, how did it happen?"
And the Turkish tour guide's denials further infuriated Steve Jobs, who left Turkey one day early.
To note, in Steve Jobs' biographical book it is written that, after the Armenian Genocide, his step-mother, Clara Hagopian, had emigrated from Malatya, Turkey.
Apple Inc.'s legendary founder had lost his battle to cancer on October 5, at age of 56.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Turkey has not apologized for Armenian Genocide but demands apology from others – Harvard Prof.

Turkey has not apologized for Armenian Genocide but demands apology from others – Harvard Prof.
December 13, 2011 00:46
Turkey has not apologized for the Armenian Genocide and should not demand that others must apologize for the flotilla clash, said renowned legal expert Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz speaking at the annual business conference in Tel Aviv.
“Turkey has never apologized for the genocide in Armenia. Talk about chutzpah? Talking about Turkey demanding an apology from anybody?” he emphasized.
Dershowitz severely criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for demanding an apology from Israel over the flotilla incident, Israeli Arutz Sheva website reports.
He also added that Israel’s record is better than that of Turkey and NATO and others when it comes to the ratio of civilians to terrorists who are killed in warfare.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sarkisian Urges Turkey to Face its History

MARSEILLES, France—President Serzh Sarkisian urged Turkey to face its own past and “repent” for the Armenian Genocide, saying that it is inevitable for Turkey to eventually recognize the Genocide.
Sarkisian was speaking at an official reception organized by Marseille’s Mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin and attended by members of the Armenian community. He was visiting Marseilles to take part in a meeting of the European People’s Party and to inaugurate a new Armenian consulate in that city, where there is a large Armenian population.
“We are confident that Turkey will repent. This is neither a precondition nor a effort to exact revenge. Turkey must face its own history,” said Sarkisian.
The president said that Armenia’s position has not changed and that Yerevan is ready to have friendly relations with its neighbors. He cited the example of post-World War II Germany and Poland, when German Chancellor Willie Brandt visited the Warsaw Ghetto fully cognizant of the crime his country had perpetrated against Poland.
“Sooner or later Turkey, which considers itself a European country, will have a truly European leadership that will bow its head at Dzidzernagapert, The sooner the better, but that is up to the Turkish people,” said Sarkisian.
“One day Turkey’s leadership will find the strength to reassess its approaches to the Armenian Genocide,” added Sarkisian.
He also called a recent visit by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Armenia “historic.” He added that Sarkozy’s statements in Yerevan, urging Turkey to come to term with its past was unprecedented, adding that no other world leader has never made such statement.

Bill Criminalizing Genocide Denial Passes French Parliament Committee

PARIS—The committee on constitutional law of the French National Assembly approved a draft bill on criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide, reported freelance journalist Jean Eckian.
The bill introduced by Valerie Boyer and co-signed by 40 parliament members of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the New Center parties, levies a fine of 45,000 euros and a one year prison sentence for those who deny the Armenian Genocide.
The bill will now be sent to the entire National Assembly for a debate and vote.
“I hope that we will go to the end and that France will always be a country of human rights,” said Boyer.
The resolution amends the law on freedom of press so that racially motivated crimes are now punishable by law.
A similar bill was approved by the National Assembly on October 12, 2006. On May 4 the French Senate rejected the measure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Devilish Marks’ and Rape in the Time of Genocide

“The story of those who didn’t die—the story of young women who survived and stayed behind—has never been told. Men write down history. So it is with Genocide. There is no room for the women. They were impure, tainted, and despised. Yet they were the ones who suffered most. They were the ones who paid a terrible price. They had to carry the heaviest burden of all: they had to regenerate life.”

'Devilish marks'
These powerful words are narrated by Suzanne Khardalian, the director of “Grandma’s Tattoos” (2011). The film chronicles her quest to uncover the atrocities that scarred her grandmother, a woman who bore “devilish marks”—tattoos on her face and hands—that were the persistent reminders of a time in captivity and rape. Much of her experiences remain a mystery to her progeny, but the few tidbits Khardalian discovers years after her grandmother’s death are but a faint yet terrifying echo of the hellish occurrences that haunted the survivors to the grave.
Variations of the “weird” tattoos inked on the grandmother’s face were seen on other female survivors as well. Thousands of these women—documented “cases”—lived and died quietly. Their stories still remain under-documented, and even taboo.
The League of Nations Archives in Geneva houses a collection of intake surveys from the Rescue Home in Aleppo, Syria, between 1922 and 1930. It details the profiles of around 2,000 women, girls, and boys who often escaped captivity—as domestic and sexual slaves—making their way to the Home. The tattoos stood out on many of their faces and hands. They were the fortunate ones who were able to flee from their captors.
Military men, Turks, Kurds, and Arabs would either snatch or bribe the gendarmes escorting the deportation caravans and bring Armenian women, girls, and boys into their homes, and harems, as servants, slaves, wives, or concubines. Others were sent to state-run orphanages where a Turkification process was underway. Accounts from the deportation marches tell of mass mutilations and unimaginable sexual violence. Children were raped then shot, as they became unable to continue on the death marches. The “good looking” deportees were distributed among men in different villages. Girls were sent to high-level government officials for their sexual pleasure, and forced into orgies. The director of the Rescue Home, Karen Jeppe, stated that out of the thousands of women who came her way, only one had been spared sexual abuse, as Matthias Bjornlund notes in his article “A Fate Worse than Dying.”

Khardalian with a tattooed woman and her child in Der Zor.
The Armenian children who were transferred to the perpetrator community—a common phenomenon in genocide—were regarded as slaves by Western humanitarians, since they became a source of free labor, were subjected to forced conversions and child marriages, and were sold on impulse, writes Keith David Watenpaugh in his paper “The League of Nations’ Rescue of Armenian Genocide Survivors and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism, 1920–1927.” Jeppe estimated that there were as many as 30,000 Armenian survivors held in rural Upper Mesopotamia.
“The children and young people arriving in Aleppo told of deportations, separations, mass extrajudicial killings, and repeated rapes, followed by years of unpaid servitude as agricultural workers or domestic servants, servile concubines, unconsenting wives, and involuntary mothers,” writes Wattenpaugh.
These survivors were placed in the bottom of the “gendered hierarchy” within the household, explains Watenpaugh. Because they were unprotected, they could be sold or sent to a different household on a whim. The girls were desirable as brides or second wives as they had neither protectors nor a bride-price. All children born to these girls belonged to the fathers. Furthermore, “unrelated girls and boys in the household—regardless of religious or ethnic origin—were sexually available to senior males.”
The women and children who were finally able to escape and find their way to the rescue shelters and orphanages had to piece together what bits of themselves they could salvage to see to the rebirth of the nation. The hardships were not lacking for the survivors, and as they tried to simply survive, many of the horrors were buried, along with the bones of their loved ones.
Khardalian’s documentary adds another chapter to this story of quiet suffering that many women bore in the decades following the genocide. The loss of lives and land has dominated the discourse on genocide, often at the expense of the stories of the survivors, specifically the women. The mass rapes, enslavement, and servitude were not closed chapters. Those scars remained with the surviving victims, who mostly kept their silence. Sadly, rape remains a taboo topic within Armenian communities. Often it is the victim who is viewed as somehow tainted or incomplete. Furthermore, in an effort to “protect” both victim and honor, lips stay locked and eyes look away. Sometimes it may take more than a lifetime for scars to summon truth, as was the case with the grandmother’s “devilish marks.”

Screenings of “Grandma’s Tattoos” and discussions with the director are being held this month in Detroit, New Jersey, and Boston.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Moral Considerations in the Art-Restitution Lawsuit Between the Armenian Church and the Getty Museum

By Michael Toumayan
On Nov. 4, a Los Angeles Times article, written by Mike Boehm, reported that in an effort to get back the Canon Tables of the 13th-century Zeyt’un Gospels from the Getty Museum, the Armenian Diaspora has inaudibly put its weight behind the Armenian Orthodox Church’s quest to repatriate the allegedly stolen illuminated manuscripts back to Armenia, where the rest is housed at the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts.

Getty Museum
In 1915, as Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign by the Ottoman Empire, the intact codex changed hands for safekeeping. The eight pages that were torn from the larger codex during the Armenian Genocide ultimately resurfaced with an Armenian American immigrant family in Massachusetts, which sold them to the Getty in 1994.
Church attorneys were initially asked by the Getty to come up with solutions, and no less than 16 were put forth, only to be rejected by the Getty. Clearly the content of a proposal for a solution is a critical component to any successful resolution of conflict, but equally necessary is the timing of the efforts. Resolution can only be achieved if the parties are sincere in negotiating.
One wonders whether the Getty was ready and sincere when it asked church attorneys to come up with solutions. However, for the sake of being aware of our cognitive biases, we should also question whether both parties were engaging in positional bargaining, a negotiation strategy that involves holding on to a position, rather than interest-based bargaining in which parties collaborate to find a “win-win” solution to their dispute.
Nevertheless, on Nov. 3, 2011 a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the museum’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim that the Canon Tables are “wrongfully in the possession, custody and control” of the J. Paul Getty Trust, in the Getty Museum. Instead, the judge ordered the parties to four months of mediation, scheduling a March 2 resumption if the case isn’t settled. Citing that it was “not clear” whether the case would fall within statute-of-limitations law, perhaps the judge’s ruling may create the necessary conditions for the dispute to be ripe, and both will perceive that there is a suitable way out.
With a murky history and 90 years later, one cannot rule out the Getty’s possible legal possession and title to the disputed manuscripts. Simultaneously, the Getty’s concern in the preservation of world artistic heritage should not confine itself to considering just the legal entitlement. In mediation, where context is pivotal, there is an ethical obligation that rests on the mu­seum taking into account the moral strength of the church’s case based on the circum­stances during times of turmoil. Now is the time for the museum to exhibit consistency with its own core ethical values while also demonstrating sensitivity to the sacred values of the Armenian nation in its quest for restorative justice.
For the mediation to be successful, both must enter into it willingly and away from a zero-sum mindset, through a cooperative approach. The potential benefits of mediation will outweigh the steep cost of litigation, but more importantly, the long-term outcome will be a healed and expanded relationship between the two. This may open the path for a joint restoration project where both can take part in repairing the lost gleam of the larger Zeyt’un Gospels and have them showcased with other extraordinary works of Armenian art from the vaults of the church.

Michael Toumayan is an independent political commentator on the Caucasus and Middle East affairs. He holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution and mediation from Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Knesset to discuss Armenian Genocide recognition in early December

November 25, 2011 15:17
TEL AVIV. – The Knesset committee on education, culture and sport, headed by Alex Miller will discuss the issue on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in early December. However, coalition key parties’ opinion on the issue varies, IzRus portal reports.
The committee will have a session devoted to recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire. The committee decided to discuss the issue at the Knesset plenary session this May. According to preliminary estimations, majority of the committee, headed by Miller are against the recognition.
Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud Party) wants to participate in the session. He made a public speech for the recognition in May. Besides, Ze’ev Elkin, who is also for the recognition, will participate in the session. The key parties of the coalition “Likud” and “Israel is Our Home” (IOH) principally differ on the issue. Significant majority of the ruling party is for the recognition, Reuven Rivlin, Ze’ev Elkin, Gilad Erdan and Benny Begin among them.
At the same time IOH members are categorically against. Moreover, even the discussion is harmful for the strategic partner Azerbaijan.
“There is no single chance that the Knesset will recognize the Genocide. It is impossible. We cannot afford breaking relations with Azerbaijan, our main strategic partner in the Muslim world because of arguable issues of the history regarding events which occurred one hundred years ago,” Israeli deputy FM Danny Ayalon (IOH) told IzRus portal.
“I am against populist decisions, and will not accept outrageous behavior during the session,” Miller said on Thursday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Seminar in Germany focuses on inner-Turkish debate of 1915
Potsdam, Germany - Why does Turkey have such difficulty in dealing with its historical past? Why can the Turkish authorities not acknowledge that in 1915 the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire was the victim of genocide? If the German post-war political elite was capable of facing up to the Holocaust and establishing relations with the Jewish people, in Israel and elsewhere, why cannot the Turkish leadership do as much?
The question was raised during a seminar in Potsdam, Germany on November 5, on "The Inner Turkish Discussion of 1915/1916" (Die innertürkische Diskussion über 1915/16 in German). Other issues discussed were the history of Turkish denial and how Turkish publications have attempted to deal with this, as well as subjects related to the genocide itself, the fate of the survivors, and how Armenians have been struggling with their traumatic past.
What made this gathering sponsored by the Lepsiushaus ( and held at Potsdam University quite special was the list of guest speakers, almost all of them prominent Turkish intellectuals, most of them from Turkey. Their task was to present the current status of the discussion process inside the country regarding 1915/1916.
The title of the event itself is symptomatic of the problem: instead of referring to the Armenian genocide, it cited "1915/1916," perhaps to protect those Turkish participants from being subjected to punitive measures from state authorities on their return home.
In fact, one planned guest speaker, Ragip Zarakolu, a prominent publisher who has issued books on the Armenian question, was prevented from attending the conference by an arrest on October 28, when he, along with 48 others, were detained in a crackdown on suspected sympathizers of the plight of Turkey's Kurds.
Thus, the Potsdam gathering was a special event, because the themes addressed and the personalities involved constituted a challenge to the current Turkish establishment, albeit neither political nor militant, but nonetheless a challenge on the intellectual and psychological level.
Policy of the Turkish republic
The comparison to the German treatment of the Holocaust was historically relevant and instructive. In answer to the question, why Turkey has such difficulties in dealing with its past, some suggest that they fear demands by the Republic of Armenia and/or the Diaspora for territorial concessions and reparations, the latter on the German model of compensation to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and to the state of Israel.
But there is more. Elke Hartmann, an Ottoman expert from Berlin, explained that Turkey, unlike Germany, was neither defeated nor occupied. To be sure, the Ottoman Empire lost in World War I, but the Turkish Republic emerged victorious from its struggle for national sovereignty and independence.
In post-war Germany, it was the occupying powers who organized the Nuremberg trials which tried, convicted, and executed leading Nazis for crimes against humanity. In subsequent years, especially in the 1960s, historians worked through the Nazi experience, and the broader German public was educated about the reality of the Nazi regime.
In Turkey, immediately after the Ottoman defeat, trials were also held and leading Young Turk officials, who had not managed to flee the country, were put on the dock, convicted, and in some cases executed. Others, including the leading figures Talaat Pasha and Djemal Pasha, were hunted down in their exile and assassinated by Armenian vigilantes.
But after the establishment of the Republic in 1923, Mustafa Kemal declared the assassinated Turks to be martyrs, and, where possible, had their remains returned to Turkey for heroes' burials. To grasp the import of this act, one should reflect on a hypothetical rehabilitation of Nazi leaders by Germany's post-WWII leader Konrad Adenauer.
As Rober Koptas, the new editor in chief of Agos, Hrant Dink's newspaper, explained, the 1919 trials had been made possible because an opposition government had come into power after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the flight of the leading Young Turks. One could write about it, discuss it openly, and Turks heard a lot about the atrocities against Armenians in 1919.
But with the establishment of the Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal, that changed radically. Kemal arranged for CUP members on trial by Allied powers in Malta to be freed, and redefined the perpetrators as martyrs. Thus, the policy of "forgetting" began with the establishment of the Republic.
The phases of denial
The history of the Turkish Republic's handling of 1915/1916, was summarized by Elke Hartmann, who stepped in for Prof. Dr. Halil Berktay from Sabanci University on short notice. In a paper on "1915 and Scientific Reappraisals since the founding of the Turkish Republic: Between State Guidelines and Freedom of Research," Berktay showed how at the time of the events, the perpetrators knew exactly what they were doing, and demonstrated it in their memoirs, for example, those of Talaat, which were full of justifications for what had occurred. After Turkey's war of independence, the policy was one of silence and forgetting. Attempts from the outside to address the genocide, as in making of the film on Musa Dagh in the 1930s, were blocked by Turkish political pressure.
Although the dramatic revelations of the dimensions of the Holocaust after World War II overshadowed discussion of the Armenian genocide, in 1965, when Armenians in Armenia and elsewhere demonstrated to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their tragedy, and began to erect monuments, the issue was again on the political agenda.
A turning point occurred in 1973, when the first Turkish diplomats were assassinated by 78-year-old genocide survivor Gourgen Yanikian, which inaugurated the wave of revenge killings. This led to a policy change in Turkey, in that the Turkish authorities decided to present their own version of events. As Koptas put it, after the assassinations began, Turkey realized that "they had a 1915 problem."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dadrian, Akcam Co-author Book Setting Istanbul Trials in Legal Context

In the aftermath of its disastrous defeat in World War I, Ottoman Turkey had to face the wartime crime of the destruction of its Armenian population. An inquiry commissioned by the Ottoman government in 1919 presented enough preliminary evidence to organize a series of trials involving the perpetrators of these crimes. It is the record of these trials, and the unparalleled details they provide on the planning and implementation of the crimes, that brought together the two most renowned scholars of the Armenian Genocide, Professors Vahakn Dadrian and Taner Akcam, in their first joint publication. After years of research and analysis, the authors have compiled the complete documentation of the trial proceedings and have set these findings in their historical and legal context.
The book is entitled Judgment at Istanbul: The Armenian Genocide Trials and is published by Berghahn Books of New York and Oxford.
In describing the book, Dadrian said, “This is a most important work, for two reasons. First, it is based on authentic Turkish documentation, which the Ottoman government was forced to release during the trials. Second, unlike most books on the Armenian Genocide, which are historical interpretations, this study, for the first time, is based also on the testimony of high-ranking Ottoman officials, given under oath, on the magnitude of the crimes against the Armenians, and in this sense, serves as a legal case study of the Armenian Genocide.”
During his more than 50 years of research on the subject, Dadrian discovered that the Takvim-i Vekayi, the official Ottoman government’s gazette, was not the only major source of information on the military tribunals. In fact, Renaissance, a French-language Armenian newspaper in Istanbul at the time, reported summaries of many of the trial proceedings taken from the reports of the Ottoman-language newspapers of the day, which were otherwise not accounted for in official government records.
Akcam, the book’s co-author, noted that “While the official government record lists only 12 trials, newspapers provide us details on 63. For the first time, information from the Ottoman newspapers of the era has been utilized to reconstruct the trials. A great deal of effort was required to track down all issues possible of 14 different Ottoman newspapers, which meant visiting many libraries in different cities. Often, the articles we were looking for had been cut out of the paper in one location, but we were able to find a copy in another location.”
The Zoryan Institute sponsored the collection of these newspapers, their translation and transliteration, as part of the long-term project known as “Creating a Common Body of Knowledge,” and retains copies in its archives.
According to the Institute’s president, K.M. Greg Sarkissian, “The objective is to provide knowledge that will be shared by Turkish and Armenian civil societies and western scholarship. The aim is to locate, collect, analyze, transliterate, translate, edit, and publish authoritative, universally recognized original archival documents on the history of the events surrounding 1915, in both Turkish and English. Elaborating on the importance not only of the primary source material in this book, but also the analysis provided by the book’s authors,” he continued, “the more such documents are made available to Turkish society, the more it will be empowered with knowledge to question narratives imposed by the state. Restoring accurate historical memory will benefit not only Turkish, but also Armenian society. Both will be emancipated from the straightjacket of the past. Such a common body of knowledge will hopefully lead to an understanding of each other, act as a catalyst for dialogue, and aid in the normalization of relations between the two societies. Judgment at Istanbul is the most recent example of the Zoryan Institute’s strong belief in the importance of a Common Body of Knowledge as a key factor in helping the future of any relationship between Turkey and Armenia.”
The trials described in Judgment at Istanbul had a far-reaching bearing in the international community. As the first national tribunal to prosecute cases of mass atrocity, the principles of “crimes against humanity” that were introduced then had their echo subsequently in the Nuremberg Charter, the Tokyo Charter, and the UN Genocide Convention. This book is an essential source for historians, legal scholars, political scientists, sociologists, policy makers, and those interested in genocide studies, Turkish studies, and Armenian studies. It also holds great current relevance, with recent interest internationally regarding the Armenian Genocide and its denial.
To order a copy for yourself or as a gift, or to help sponsor a book to be placed in university libraries, contact the Zoryan office by calling (416) 250-9807 or e-mailing

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Something Armenian in Portugal


Portugal does not have a sizeable Armenian community or an Armenian Church. But it is here, in Europe’s westernmost country, that the philanthropist Calouste Gulbenkian’s esteemed private art collection accidentally found its home.
Surrounded by a vast property featuring stretches of lawn and bamboo gardens, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Museum is a centerpiece of Lisbon’s cultural life. On a warm day last summer, tourists and Lisboans took in the splendor of the peaceful landscape, pausing to appreciate one of the city’s most visited sites.
Inside, schoolchildren and art enthusiasts browsed Gulbenkian’s extensive collection, which is comprised of more than 6,000 pieces dating from antiquity to the early 20th century. These include works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and Monet, as well as Persian rugs, Chinese pottery, and jewelry by Rene Lalique.

Gulbenkian began acquiring artwork at a young age. Born in Istanbul in 1869, he was the son of a wealthy merchant who had holdings in the oil fields of the Caucuses. After earning a degree in engineering and applied science at King’s College in London, Gulbenkian was encouraged by his father to get involved in the oil business.
Earning British citizenship in the wake of the 1895 massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Gulbenkian established valuable networks with leading European and Russian oil businessmen.
In 1907, he helped found the Royal Dutch Shell Group, and five years later was influential in the development of the Turkish Petroleum Company, of which he owned a five percent share. Gulbenkian’s insistence on securing this fraction with subsequent projects eventually earned him the epithet “Mr. Five Percent.”
During World War II, Gulbenkian planned to emigrate to America. But a brief visit to neutral Portugal—where he found a welcoming and hospitable atmosphere—changed his course. Gulbenkian spent the last 13 years of his life at the fashionable Hotel Aviz in central Lisbon.
During this time, he decided to establish an international foundation to showcase his art collection and to bring together different cultural values and interests. After Gulbenkian passed away in 1955 at the age of 86, his vision was realized with the opening of the Foundation and Museum in Lisbon in 1969.
Building on Gulbenkian’s artistic vision, the foundation added a Modern Art Center to the property in 1983. Dedicated primarily to 20th-century Portuguese artists, the center also serves as a depository for other modern pieces.
Known for its leading efforts in restoration and preservation, the Modern Art Center attracted the attention of Vartoosh Mooradian, the sister of the artist Arshile Gorky, and her son, Karlen. The Mooradians placed their collection of Gorky works here in 1985.
In her will, Mooradian left the artwork to the Eastern Diocese, which has continued the partnership with the Gulbenkian Foundation. The works have been exhibited at various times in Lisbon and thanks to this unique collaboration, the Gorky paintings have been exhibited at museums worldwide. In 2007, the Paris branch of the Gulbenkian Foundation worked with the Centre Georges Pompidou to display Gorky’s works as part of the “Year of Armenia” in France. In addition, Gorky’s works have been shown at the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and most recently at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

‘I Want for Armenians what I want for Kurds’: An interview with Mayor Abdullah Demirbas

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (A.W.)—Abdullah Demirbas is a man on a mission. The mayor of Diyarbakir’s central district strives to restore some of the city’s multicultural, multiethnic character through a series of initiatives to renovate places on worship, adopt multilingualism, and encourage those with roots in the city to return.

I sat down with the mayor in his office in Diyarbakir on Oct. 23.
“For decades, we were told, ‘people [of different cultures] can’t live together, so we won’t tolerate difference, we will make them all the same,’” Demirbas laments. “Ours is an effort to restore what was lost during the state’s campaign to erase different identities, faiths, and cultures in the city.”
From the moment a visitor enters the city, signs of this multicultural approach manifest themselves, literally. Diyarbakir is the first city in Turkey to welcome its visitors with signs in Armenian.
“We could have done it in Turkish and Kurdish only. But these lands do not belong to the Turks and Kurds alone. They are also the lands of Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans,” the Kurdish mayor explains.
These signs are not just for visitors, but constitute an effort to change mindsets. “We want the people living in the city to realize that historically, Diyarbakir has always been a multicultural city,” he noted.
More than 100,000 Armenians lived in the Diyarbakir province in 1914. Although mostly peasants living in villages like Palu and Lice, the majority of the tradesmen in the province were also Armenian. In turn, Armenian craftsmen and artisans, constituted a significant presence in the province.
The Armenian genocide shattered this vibrant community. Diyarbakir witnessed one of the most violent and comprehensive campaigns of massacre in the Ottoman Empire, with most Armenians being killed outside the city walls. The Armenian wealth was confiscated by the authorities and local elites. Within a few years, the centuries-old Armenian presence in the province was erased.
Demirbas does not mince his words when talking about the Armenian genocide. “Our grandparents, incited by others, committed wrongs. But we, their grandchildren, will not repeat them. Not only that, but we will also not allow others to repeat them,” he says. “We learned from the past. Those lessons inform our actions in the present, and will continue informing them in the future.”
The mayor insists that he does not believe in “dry apologies” but actions that demonstrate genuineness and sincerity. He sees the renovation of Sourp Giragos as one manifestation of this approach. “Today, we are not simple asking for forgiveness in a dry fashion,” he notes. “I am a Kurd. And I want for Armenians what I want for the Kurds.”
“What is your message to the Armenians who were uprooted from their ancestral lands?” I ask him. He changes his posture, looks at me straight in the eyes, and says, “Return! At least come and find your homes and your lands. If you can find your old houses, renovate them! Have a home here too. This is your motherland. Other lands cannot and will not be your motherland. Come to your lands, we want to correct the past wrong. This is our message!”
Demirbas has suffered dearly for his multicultural initiatives and for being an outspoken critic of the Turkish state. Twenty-three lawsuits have been filed against him, he says, asking for 232 years of imprisonment. “I am the only mayor in Turkey who was forced out of his post. I was imprisoned for two years for my opinions and policies, but when I returned, I was reelected with an even bigger margin,” he says.
Diyarbakir, a predominantly Kurdish region, promises to become an oasis of multiculturalism in a desert of denial and oppressive policies. The strategy of embracing all cultures—as opposed to struggling solely for Kurdish autonomy and rights—could serve as an example for other Kurdish dominated municipalities in the Southeast.
Demirbas’s efforts are not lost on the international community. The European Union and the U.S. encourage Diyarbakir’s multicultural initiatives and restoration efforts. The EU has provided a grant to highlight the city’s historic and cultural heritage. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, U.S. consuls in Istanbul and Adana, and embassy staff attended the mass in Sourp Giragos. The consuls also attended the consecration of the church the day before. “Our multicultural approach is in line with theirs,” the mayor notes.
The Turkish state, on the other hand, is far behind, argues Demirbas. “There was no representative from the state today [in Sourp Giragos]. But they will come. They will have to. And it all depends on our struggle,” he says. “I was thrown in prison, my 16-year-old son has joined the PKK and is on the mountains, and [the state] will harass me again, they will imprison me again, even something worse might happen to me, but I act based on my convictions. And one day they, too, will come.”

By Khatchig Mouradian

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Open Letter to "Facing History and Ourselves"

Readers are urged to contact "Facing History" at;

The below letter by journalist and human rights activist David Boyajian of Belmont, Massachusetts is addressed to Facing History and Ourselves Executive Director Margot Strom, Associate Executive Director Martin Sleeper and Board Chairwoman Tracy Palandjian.I am deeply offended and disappointed to learn that one of our nation’s foremost genocide education organizations–Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO)--has elected to “partner” with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to sponsor a panel discussion on “The New Anti-Semitism: A Contemporary Discussion in Historic Faneuil Hall” in Boston on November 7, 2011.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, will be one of the panelists. I respectfully urge you to withdraw FHAO from its partnership with the ADL for this event. Mr. Foxman and the national ADL have denied the factuality of the Armenian genocide of 1915–1923 committed by Turkey. And they have used their considerable influence to actively assist the government of Turkey to defeat Armenian genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress. A political agreement two decades ago among Turkey, certain organizations such as the ADL, and Israel brought this about.
Since the summer of 2007, due specifically to their disapproval of the ADL’s genocide denial and lobbying efforts against the Armenian-American resolution, more than a dozen major Massachusetts cities and towns have ceased their affiliation with the ADL’s so-called “No Place for Hate” program.
In April of 2008, for precisely the same reasons, the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA), which represents every city and town in the state, also severed ties with “No Place for Hate.” The national ADL drew widespread condemnation from principled Jews, human rights advocates, editorialists, and others. These events made national and international news.
To deflect growing criticism, on August 21, 2007 Mr. Foxman issued a statement which masqueraded as an acknowledgment of the Armenian genocide. The statement not only used deceptive and dishonest language, such as “tantamount to genocide,” but also implied that the Armenian killings were not intentional but rather merely the “consequence” of Turkish “actions.” FHAO is aware that Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention specifically requires “intent” for killings to be considered genocide. “Consequences” is, however, the opposite of “intent.” Cities, towns, and the MMA weren’t buying Mr. Foxman’s act. They severed ties with the ADL’s “No Place for Hate” even after the ADL statement.The ADL has yet to unambiguously recognize the Armenian genocide. And Mr. Foxman continues to oppose passage of the Armenian genocide resolution, contemptuously calling it a “counterproductive diversion.”
Neither Mr. Foxman nor the ADL has ever apologized to the Armenian people for their actions.The ADL has stated that any diminishment of the Holocaust is anti-Semitic and constitutes hate speech. Yet the ADL has diminished the Armenian genocide. By its own definition, therefore, the ADL is guilty of hate speech. Would FHAO partner with an organization and man that diminished the Holocaust and opposed the many Congressional resolutions on the Holocaust? Why, then, would you partner with the ADL? This is incomprehensible, especially as FHAO has long had an educational program on the Armenian genocide We know that the ADL and similar groups’ appeasement of Turkey–for example, Mr. Foxman presented Prime Minister Erdogan with a “Courage to Care Award” a few years ago–has failed dismally on an international level as well.I am at a loss to understand why or how your partnership with Mr. Foxman has come about. One hopes that ADL members among FHAO’s donors and its treasurer, Elizabeth Jick, who is an ADL Executive Committee member, did not unduly influence your decision.I respectfully call upon you to withdraw FHAO’s partnership with the ADL in the November 7 event. I hope that when FHAO considers the facts and the long-term credibility of its programs and dedicated staff, it will do the right thing.Sincerely,David BoyajianBelmont, MAcc: Media; genocide scholars.Note: To ask Facing History and Ourselves to not partner with the ADL on November 7, contact FHAO by e-mail, phone: 617-232-1595, toll-free 800-856-9039; mail: 16 Hurd Road, Brookline, MA 02445.=

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Human Rights Court Rules Turkey Cannot Criminalize Genocide Recognition

STRASBOURG—The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday unanimously ruled that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide cannot be criminalized in Turkey. The verdict stemmed from a case brought to the court by noted scholar Taner Akcam.
In the case Taner Akcam vs. Turkey, the court ruled that Turkey’s ongoing criminal prosecution of scholarship on the Armenian Genocide issue constituted a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court ruled that the Turkish law meant the Akcam lives in constant fear of prosecution for his views about the vents of 1915. In his suit Akcam said that the fear of prosecution for his views on the Armenian issue had caused him considerable stress and anxiety and had even made him stop writing on the subject.
Akçam, who is an associate professor at the Robert Aram, Marianne Kaloosdian and Stephen and Marion Mugar Chair in Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., is a Turkish and German national who was born in 1953. As a professor of history, he researches and publishes extensively on the historical events of 1915 concerning the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire. The Republic of Turkey, one of the successor states of the Ottoman Empire, does not recognize the word “genocide” as an accurate description of events. Affirming the Armenian issue as “genocide” is considered by some (especially extremist or ultranationalist groups) as a denigration of “Turkishness” (Türklük), which is a criminal offence punishable under Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code by a term of imprisonment of six months to two or three years. Amendments have been introduced following a number of controversial cases and criminal investigations brought against such prominent Turkish writers and journalists as Elif Şafak, Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink for their opinions on the Armenian issue.
Notably, in October 2005 Hrant Dink, editor of Agos, a bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper, was convicted under Article 301 for denigrating “Turkishness.” It was widely believed that because of the stigma attached to his criminal conviction, Dink became the target of extremists and in January 2007 he was shot dead.
The three major changes introduced to the text were: to replace “Turkishness” and “Republic” with “Turkish Nation” and “State of the Republic of Turkey,” to reduce the maximum length of imprisonment to be imposed on those found guilty under Article 301; and, most recently in 2008, to add a security clause, namely any investigation into the offence of denigrating “Turkishness” has to first be authorized by the Minister of Justice.
On 6 October 2006 Akçam published an editorial opinion in Agos criticizing the prosecution of Hrant Dink. Following that, three criminal complaints were filed against him by extremists under Article 301 alleging that he had denigrated “Turkishness.” Following the first complaint, he was summoned to the local public prosecutor’s office to submit a statement in his defense. The prosecutor in charge of the investigation subsequently decided not to prosecute on the ground that Akçam’s views were protected under Article 10 of the European Convention. The investigations into the other two complaints were also terminated with decisions not to prosecute. The Government submitted that it was unlikely that Akçam was at any risk of future prosecution on account of the recent safeguards introduced to Article 301, notably the fact that authorization was now needed from the Ministry of Justice to launch an investigation.
Accordingly, between May 2008 (when this amendment was introduced) and November 2009, the Ministry of Justice received 1,025 requests for authorization to bring criminal proceedings under Article 301 and granted such authorization in 80 cases (about 8% of the total requests). Furthermore, Akçam had not been prevented from carrying out his research; on the contrary, he had even been given access to the State Archives. His books on the subject are also widely available in Turkey.
According to Akçam, however, the percentage of prior authorizations granted by the Ministry of Justice was much higher, and these cases mainly concerned the prosecution of journalists in freedom of expression cases. He submitted statistics from the Media Monitoring Desk of the Independent Communications Network for the period from July to September 2008 according to which a total of 116 people, 77 of whom were journalists, were prosecuted in 73 freedom of expression cases. Akçam further claimed that the criminal complaints filed against him for his views had turned into a harassment campaign, with the media presenting him as a “traitor” and “German spy.” He has also received hate mail including insults and death threats. He further alleged that the tangible fear of prosecution had not only cast a shadow over his professional activities – he effectively stopped writing on the Armenian issue in June 2007 when he brought his application to this Court – but had caused him considerable stress and anxiety.
Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), Akçam alleged that the Government could not guarantee that he would not face investigation and prosecution in the future for his views on the Armenian issue. He further alleged that, despite the amendment to Article 301 in May 2008 and the Government’s reassurances, legal proceedings against those affirming the Armenian “genocide” had continued unabated. Moreover, the Government’s policy on the Armenian issue had not in essence been changed and could not be predicted with any certainty in the future.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on June 21, 2007. Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven, composed of Françoise Tulkens (Belgium), President; Danutė Jočienė (Lithuania), David Thór Björgvinsson (Iceland), Dragoljub Popović (Serbia), András Sajó (Hungary), Işıl Karakaş (Turkey), Guido Raimondi (Italy), Judges; and also Stanley Naismith, Section Registrar.
The decision of the Court The Court found that there had been an “interference” with Akçam’s right to freedom of expression. The criminal investigation launched against him and the Turkish criminal courts’ standpoint on the Armenian issue in their application of Article 301 of the Criminal Code (any criticism of the official line on the issue in effect being sanctioned), as well as the public campaign against him, confirmed that there was a considerable risk of prosecution faced by persons who expressed “unfavorable” opinions on the subject and indicated that the threat hanging over Akçal was real.
The measures adopted to provide safeguards against arbitrary or unjustified prosecutions under Article 301 had not been sufficient. The statistical data provided by the Government showed that there were still a significant number of investigations, and Akçam alleged that this number was even higher. Nor did the government explain the subject matter or the nature of the cases in which the Ministry of Justice granted authorization for such investigations. Moreover, the court agreed with Thomas Hammarberg, Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, in his report which stated that a system of prior authorization by the Ministry of Justice in each individual case was not a lasting solution which could replace the integration of the relevant Convention standards into the Turkish legal system and practice.
Furthermore, in the Court’s opinion, while the legislator’s aim of protecting and preserving values and State institutions from public denigration could be accepted to a certain extent, the wording of Article 301 of the Criminal Code, as interpreted by the judiciary, was too wide and vague and did not enable individuals to regulate their conduct or to foresee the consequences of their acts. Despite the replacement of the term “Turkishness” by “the Turkish Nation,” there was apparently no change in the interpretation of these concepts.
For example, in the case Dink v. Turkey of 2010 the Court criticized the Turkey’s Court of Cassation for understanding them in the same way as before. Thus Article 301 constituted a continuing threat to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. As was clear from the number of investigations and prosecutions brought under this Article, any opinion or idea that was considered offensive, shocking or disturbing could easily be made the target of a criminal investigation by public prosecutors. Indeed, the safeguards put in place to prevent the abusive application of Article 301 by the judiciary did not provide a guarantee of non-prosecution because any change of political will or of government policy could affect the Ministry of Justice’s interpretation of the law and open the way for arbitrary prosecutions.
In view of that lack of forseeability, the Court concluded that the interference with Akçam’s freedom of expression had not been “prescribed by law,” in violation of Article 10.
NOTE: Under Articles 43 and 44 of the Convention, this chamber judgment is not final. During the three-month period following its delivery, any party may request that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber of the Court. If such a request is made, a panel of five judges considers whether the case deserves further examination. In that event, the Grand Chamber will hear the case and deliver a final judgment. If the referral request is refused, the Chamber judgment will become final on that day. Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its execution.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

: Armenian Surp Giragos Church In Turkey ready for Holy Mass

Armenian Surp Giragos Church ready for Holy Mass

Historic Armenia, the land of our roots, where less than a century ago, our parents and grandparents lived and raised Armenian families rooted in the faith, language, traditions and history of our ancient race, now left void of its original inhabitants, magnetically draws us to its soil with an unquenchable thirst of what had once been a glorious past.

The Armenian Church Surp Giragos in Dikranagerd (Diyarbakir), which was one of the biggest and important Armenian churches in Middle East, now is ready to be reopened after a century of tragic silence. Many hundred Armenians from all over the world are expected to attend the Holy Mass in Diyarbakir on 23rd October.

According the historians, Surp Giragos Dikranagerd church, dating from 15th century, with its seven altars and several different buildings, was partially destroyed in 1915-1916 during the Genocide and left in ruins for nearly hundred years. The church was given back to the Armenian community in Diyarbakir in devastated condition in 1960, when some thousand Armenians were still living in the city and its surroundings. The condition of the church deteriorated in the 1970s – 1980s when nearly all Armenians left Diyarbakir.

Some years ago, the Armenian community in Turkey made an action plan with the cooperation of the Kurdish Municipality in Diyarbakir to restore the church. The Armenian Diaspora, especially in North America, also supported financially part of the restoration with fund raising events. The Kurdish Municipality in Diyarbakir gave 600 000 US dollars for the rebuilding.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

1915 events were Genocide - Turkish MP

1915 events were Genocide - Turkish MP
October 18, 2011 00:04
ISTANBUL. - Turkish MP from Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, Altan Tan restated his words recently said in the international scientific conference in Artuklu University in Mardin, Turkey in the interview with Agos Armenian newspaper published in Istanbul.
Altan insisted that Kurds and Muslims also played a role in the 1915 Genocide implemented against Armenians.
“Not all Kurds though took a sword. However, Kurds do have their serious share of blame in the Genocide,” Altan stated criticizing also the attitude of the Muslims in rejecting the Genocide.
Altan Tan had earlier stated that as a political figure he calls the 1915 events Genocide implemented against Armenians. No matter what the conditions were, those people were killed. The proof is the territory and the demographic situation. At that time 13 million people lived in Turkey and Armenians made 10% of the population. Currently the population is 75 million, while Armenians are only 40,000, MP had stated.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Wearing Emporio Armani considered Armenian propaganda in Turkey, and is punishable by law
October 17, 2011 11:41
ISTANBUL. – Turkish press widely covered Taraf daily’s columnist Roni Margulies’ funny story about three unlucky Turks, who were found guilty of wearing Emporio Armani t-shirts and thus carrying out Armenian propaganda.
In his article, Margulies presents the three Turks’ self-defending speeches made in the court. “…a merchant asked me why I’m wearing that t-shirt and called the police…I don’t think I was making propaganda,” said the first defendant.
The second defendant noted that he already gave testimony to the gendarmerie, insisting: “I didn’t have ulterior motives…That t-shirt is a very well-known Italian brand…I don’t find myself guilty.”
The third defendant likewise did not find himself to be guilty, underscoring that the t-shirt was a gift from his mother, since it is a famous Italian brand.
The article also notes that the three translators, who had come as a result of a public announcement by Town Hall of Avsha Island, where this incident occurred, confirmed that Emporio Armani means “Armenian Empire,” and subsequently the defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
Roni Margulies also wrote this story might sound improbable, but stated that, aside from the court ruling, rest of the story is completely true.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jewish-American lobby will neither support nor obstruct Armenian Genocide bill - analyst

Jewish-American lobby will neither support nor obstruct Armenian Genocide bill - analyst
October 15, 2011 12:28
YEREVAN. – Current stance of America’s main Jewish organization is to not support, but also not obstruct, the Armenian Genocide bill, Heritage Foundation’s Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy Project Manager Ariel Cohen said in an interview with Public Television of Armenia, commenting on deterioration of Turkish-Jewish relations.
“The Turks can no longer place their hopes on the Jewish lobby. The AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) main Jewish organization’s current stance is to not support, but also not obstruct, the Armenian Genocide bill…We also know that a great majority of ethnically Jewish congressmen is in favor of this bill, for several years now. I believe there would be certain movement and dynamics toward approval of this bill, just as it happened in France, or Sweden, or in other parliaments,” Cohen noted.
In response to the question whether deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations would impact Israel-Armenia and Israel-Azerbaijan relations, Cohen stated: “Armenia has very good relations with Iran, but Israel does not…Israel has friendship with Azerbaijan and buys petroleum. We also see Turkey exerting pressure on Azerbaijan so that Baku limits its relations with Israel. I hope Baku would act otherwise. Even though Israel would not want to deteriorate relations with Azerbaijan, I do anticipate certain warming between Yerevan and Jerusalem.”
With respect to the observation that there is inconsistency in Turkey’s steps, as it is speaking about the need to lift the blockade of Gaza yet it keeps its border with Armenia closed, the American analyst said: “European Union and US consider Hamas a terrorist organization…but…when conducting friendship with Palestine, Turkey cooperates with Hamas, and not Mahmoud Abbas (President of the Palestinian National Authority). Turkey remains silent when Hamas launches missiles at Israel. The same Turks continue to combat against the Kurds. Is this nothing but duplicity?”
And reflecting on Armenian-Turkish relations, Ariel Cohen maintained: “Just as Turkey supports Hamas…[Turkish PM Recep Tayyip] Erdogan did not heed, in the same way, Hillary Clinton’s encouragements to normalize relations with Yerevan. In Washington…a question is rising: is Turkey an ally?”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Steve Jobs spoke fluent Armenian

Apple CEO Steve jobs who, passed away on Wednesday at age 56, is said to have had a good command of the Armenian language.Conducting a probe into the great legend ' s biography, the Arab language website has found out that Jobs, who was raised in the family of an Armenian mother and an American father, spoke Armenian fluently. "[Jobs ' adoptive mother] Claire Hagopian played a very big role in bringing up the genius," the website said, adding that Jobs had never been keen to speak about his biological parents. Jobs was born in San Francisco and was adopted by the family of Paul and Clara Jobs (née Hagopian) of Mountain View , California . Paul and Clara later adopted a daughter, Patti. Jobs ' biological parents – Abdulfattah John Jandali, a Muslim Syrian immigrant to the U.S from Homs, who later became a political science professor, and Joanne Schieble (later Simpson), an American graduate student who went on to become a speech language pathologist – eventually married. Together, they gave birth to and raised Jobs ' biological sister, novelist Mona Simpson.Jobs experimented with different pursuits before starting Apple Computers with Stephen Wozniak in the Jobs ' family garage. Apple ' s revolutionary products, which include the iPod, iPhone and iPad, are now seen as dictating the evolution of modern technology.A book about Job ' s is coming soon. iSteve: The Book of Jobs, authored by a former CNN CEO and an editor of the British Times, Walter Isaacson, is the first official biography of the Apple legend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Turkish PM promised to reward Macedonia for defeating Armenia


Turkish PM promised to reward Macedonia for defeating Armenia
October 06, 2011 13:43
Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised a reward to of Macedonia’s football team for defeating Armenia on October 7, says portal, citing its sources in Macedonian Parliament.
According to the source, Erdogan voiced the tempting offer at his private meeting with the Speaker of Macedonian Parliament Trajko Veljanoski.
The point is the leadership of Turkey wants to avoid the meeting of Turkish team with rapidly progressing Armenian team in Euro 2012 play-off.
For the first time in history Armenia has a real chance to reach the final stage of EURO 1012 if it plays successfully with Macedonia and Ireland (October 7 and 11).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lawsuit Seeks Return of Seized Lands: Incirlik Airbase Sits on Disputed Territory

By Aram ArkunMirror-Spectator Staff
LOS ANGELES — The struggle for justice concerning the Armenian Genocide has taken many forms. Armenians have tried to use academia, the media, legislation and diplomacy, protests and even, briefly, violence in this struggle. Until recently international political and scholarly recognition of the Armenian Genocide’s very existence was the primary goal, but with this seemingly largely accomplished, despite some important exceptions, Armenian efforts have turned to the issue of compensation and land. American and international courts have furnished new arenas to pursue these efforts. The California-based lawyer Vartkes Yeghiayan has been the most active single individual in initiating lawsuits for compensation to Genocide victims and their descendants. Most recently, after a series of suits against insurance companies withholding payments to the heirs of Armenian victims, he filed suit directly against the Republic of Turkey and two Turkish banks concerning Armenian-owned land now either near or part of an airbase used by the United States in Incirlik, Turkey.
This airbase, seven miles east of the city of Adana in southeastern Turkey, has played an important role in supporting the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its construction began in 1951 and was completed in 1954 as part of US Cold War efforts. Its strategic location turned it into a primary host for U2 spy missions into the Soviet Union and for the 1958 US intervention in Lebanon. It also has served as a hub for US humanitarian aid to Turkey. The US operates there as part of NATO. Nuclear bombs are stored at the base. More mundanely, but pertinent for the lawsuit, large American corporations like Baskin- Robbins, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut operate on the territory of the base. The properties on which the base lies were entrusted to Ziraat Bank from 1915 to 1923, and to the Central Bank of Turkey thereafter.
The three Armenian-American plaintiffs — Rita Mahdessian, Alex Bakalian and Anais Haroutunian — are represented by the Yeghiayan Law Firm, together with Los Angeles attorneys Kathryn Lee Boyd and David Schwarcz of Todd, Ferentz, Schwarcz & Rimberg. Michael Bazyler from the Chapman University School of Law, a specialist on genocide law and restitution, is serving as a consultant. The three plaintiffs, acting on behalf of their respective relatives and families, have deeds and documents proving that their grandparents owned part of the land of the base. The lawsuit, filed on December 15, 2010, asks for “fair market rents and other relief” for roughly 122.5 acres of property estimated to be worth $63.9 million based on data from the US Department of Defense. Roughly $100 million is sought as compensation.
One of the plaintiffs in particular, Mahdessian, is Yeghiayan’s wife, adding no doubt an additional personal element to the suit, though Yeghiayan did not initiate it for this reason. Yeghiayan said in a recent interview, “Many survivors from Incirlik found me. We had about 14 property deeds and we have another 16 deeds of other people who want to join the lawsuit but are still negotiating conditions. In almost every property deed they mention the names of neighbors, three out of four of which are Armenians. So there are a lot more Armenians for whom we are looking. I put ads in papers to find them but am still awaiting further contacts.”
Yeghiayan provided additional information about the background of the plaintiffs. In his words, “plaintiff Alex Bakalian is a resident of Washington, DC, and lawful heir of three relatives, each of whom owned property in Turkey. Bakalian’s first relative is his paternal grandfather, Dikran Bakalian, who was born in 1868 in Adana and died June 1950 in Beirut, Lebanon. Dikran Bakalian and his family were forced to flee in 1921, leaving behind all their possessions and properties. Bakalian’s second relative is his paternal grandmother, Kalina Hatun (Gulenia) Shamassian. Born in 1892 in Adana, she married Dikran Bakalian in 1903. She died in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1978. Kalina Hatun (Gulenia) Shamassian’s only surviving son, Guiragos Bakalian, currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon, and Bakalian is his nephew. Bakalian’s third relative is Ahsapet Shamassian (born Bouldoukian), the sister-in-law of his paternal grandmother. She was born in Adana, married Hovsep Shamassian (the brother of Kalina Hatun (Gulenia) Shamassian), and eventually settled in Damascus, Syria.”
The second plaintiff, Anais Haroutunian, “is a United States citizen and resident of Pasadena, Calif. Anais Haroutunian is the granddaughter and lawful heir of Apraham Geovderelian. Apraham Geovderelian owned four pieces of property in Incirlik. In 1915, when the Armenian Genocide began, he was murdered together with his wife and three of his children. The four remaining children all relocated to Beirut, Lebanon, and are now deceased.”
The third plaintiff, Mahdessian, representing the Boyadjian family, including maternal cousin Mihran Boyadjian, is “related to Mihran Boyadjian Sr., who owned two properties in Adana. Mihran Boyadjian Sr., fled Adana in 1915 at the outset of the Armenian Genocide. When the province of Adana was given to France as a mandate at the end of World War I, Mihran Boyadjian Sr., returned to Adana to reclaim his properties. However, when the French mandate was removed in 1922 and the region returned to Turkey, Mihran Boyadjian Sr., had to escape from the province of Adana/Incirlik again, with his family, and relocate to Hama-Homs, Syria. The family then moved to Cyprus.”
In a May 17, 2011 article in the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet by Vercihan Ziflioglu, Yeghiayan stated the rationale behind his lawsuit, “In this case our clients are able to sue the government of the Republic of Turkey, the Central Bank of Turkey and the Ziraat Bankası because of the following reasons: Turkey committed a violation of international laws and proceeded to illegally confiscate properties from their rightful owners; in the process, Turkey also proceeded to violate its own constitution and the Lausanne Treaty. But more importantly, they have used these ill-obtained properties to run commercial operations.”
Turkey refused to accept service of the lawsuit, so the plaintiffs had recourse to US diplomatic channels. Turkey was given sixty days (by August 19, 2011) to answer but did not, while the two banks, the Central Bank of Turkey and T. C. Ziraat Bank, received an extension allowing them to respond by September 19. They proceeded to hire several US attorneys, including David Saltzman from the firm of Saltzman and Evinch. Saltzman has served as counsel for the Turkish embassy in Washington in the past, and counsel for the Turkish Coalition of America. He has been involved in a number of other lawsuits on behalf of Turks or Turkey against various Armenian parties, and has promoted denial of the Armenian Genocide. The bank’s newly hired attorneys filed replies on September 19 asking for dismissal of the case on a number of grounds. They argued that though banks, the two institutions qualify as “foreign states” with sovereign immunity from the jurisdiction of the California court; furthermore, they claimed that the Act of State doctrine, according to which the courts of one country may not judge the domestic acts of another government, bars the suit, while the 1934 claims agreement between Turkey and the US, and the 1980 agreement for cooperation on defense and economy between the same two countries also conflict with this suit. The court and the state of California would be impermissibly interfering with US foreign affairs. The convenience of the parties involved and the interests of justice require a different forum for this action.
The defendant banks argued that all applicable statutes of limitations bar the suit, and finally, they asserted that there is no relevant claim given for which relief can be granted. Now it is the turn of the plaintiffs represented by Yeghiayan to give their counterarguments to the court against the banks.
The Republic of Turkey, unlike the banks, has continued to take a different approach. Consequently, on August 29, the plaintiffs asked the US District Court for the Central District of California to declare the Republic of Turkey to be in default, which could eventually result in a variety of penalties and a decision in favor of the plaintiffs. As Yeghiayan said in the May 17 Hürriyet article, “Choosing to ignore the lawsuit won’t make it go away.” The court agreed that Turkey was in default on September 1.
In addition to the newspaper Hürriyet, the lawsuit has received further coverage in other Turkish media outlets like Vatan (September 2, 2011), Today’s Zaman (September 9) and In the latter’s September 7 issue, an article entitled “Incirlik Ermeni degil, vakıf malı çıktı!” argues that the Incirlik property actually belonged to the Ramazanoglu Foundation. Journalist and researcher Fatih Bayhan claims that his evidence concerning the Incirlik properties goes back to the 1500s, and wonders how the Armenians would have obtained these properties. The Ramazanoglu Foundation has opened thousands of lawsuits, according to Bayhan, to get back its properties in the Adana area and elsewhere, and has already won some of them. A writer in Today’s Zaman Mobile Edition (September 15) summarizes an interview of Yeghiayan in the Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, wonders about the statute of limitations, and promises to follow the case as it develops.
In the Republic of Armenia, Naira Hayrumian in a December 23, 2010 article speculated that the United States was somehow behind this lawsuit, and other actions against Turkey concerning the Genocide, as a way to threaten and pressure Turkey to carry out various US policies. In this particular case, she wrote that it was connected to talks Turkey was holding with Iran concerning a new NATO anti-rocket defense system. However, Hayrumian has not presented any evidence to back up this theory, while Yeghiayan’s dedication to the issue of compensation and justice for the Genocide seems enough to ensure that similar lawsuits will continue to be filed. Yeghiayan commented on the claim of US manipulation behind the scenes: “Absolutely not true. We represent the clients who have justifiable claims as will be proven in court and we have no connection to the US Government nor are we trying to put pressure on the US Government.”
Yeghiayan continues his work on other Armenian Genocide-related legal issues while pursuing the Incirlik case. In 2007, a US district court judge ruled that Armenian Genocide survivors’ heirs could use a law passed by the California legislature in 2000 extending the statute of limitations to sue German insurance companies, but this was reversed in a 2009 ruling by a three-judge panel of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This reversal was overruled in December 2010. This case, Movsesian v. Victoria Versicherung, still is unresolved as the defendants now have requested a panel of judges to rehear the case. There are a number of other Armenian Genocide-related lawsuits that Yeghiayan is involved in at the present.
There is also an outstanding dispute between Yeghiayan and his former partners, Mark Geragos and Brian Kabateck, concerning the disposition of money jointly won from the French insurance company AXA for Armenian Genocide victims’ heirs, which hopefully will be settled quickly, justly and openly, thus restoring confidence in the judicial route for compensation for Armenian Genocide victims. According to Roman M. Silberfeld, the lawyer representing Yeghiayan on this particular matter, Yeghiayan has already provided through a voluntary and cooperative process documents which Silberfeld expects will satisfy Geragos and Kabateck that in fact nothing improper has taken place. As far as AXA is concerned, there will be a hearing before Judge Christina A. Snyder in Los Angeles on September 26. The three parties (Yeghiayan as represented by Silberfeld, Geragos and Kabateck) and their law firms are intensively conducting an investigation. They intend to file a joint report for the court outlining what they discover about the settlement administration, which was not conducted directly by any of the three lawyers. There are some half a dozen problems to be sorted out involving a significant sum of money. Some 75 people who were issued multiple checks say that they did not receive all the checks to which they were entitled.
CenterAR News

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ottoman Military Band Parade Organizers Pull Event Permit

LOS ANGELES—Organizers of the Ottoman Military Marching Band parade, scheduled for Monday in Hollywood have abruptly cancelled their special events permit, according to the relevant unit at the Los Angeles Police Department.
The Pacifica Institute, the parade organizers, bills itself as an organization established by Turkish-Americans aimed at establishing cross-cultural awareness. However, the group is nothing but a brazen front for the notorious Gulen movement, which is at the center of controversy and an FBI investigation into its charter school establishment throughout the country. The Pacifica Institute is also the organizer of the Anatolian Festival, which is slated for next weekend at Irvine Meadows.
Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, its local Los Angeles chapter, the Armenian Youth Federation and community leaders have been working diligently to address the abrupt cancellation and the community’s anger toward the organizers of this egregious event.
In an announcement issued on Tuesday The ANCA-WR questioned “the irresponsible decision by the City of Los Angeles to grant a permit to a group who claims descent from the notoriously murderous corps of the Ottoman Army known as the janissaries. The nature and planned performance of the band are not only insulting but wholly unacceptable to the Armenian American community.”
“Just over one mile from the borders of Little Armenia, in Los Angeles, the adoptive home of hundreds of thousands of Armenian Americans – including many whose families were gravely affected by the Armenian Genocide – the Ottoman Military Marching Band will play the anthems of a military credited with exterminating 1.5 million Armenian people and hundreds of thousands of other minorities within the Ottoman Empire. It is a chilling parallel: the Band will again march through the streets of an Armenian neighborhood, recreating the horrific scene of the Ottoman military parading through Armenian towns and villages 100 years ago, before they methodically and brutally murdered the Armenian populace in the first genocide of the 20th century,” said the ANCA-WR.
“The parade’s planning and execution, in a heavily Armenian-populated community, leaves no question that the Ottoman Military Marching Band is brazenly taunting the Armenian American community in a blatant example of hate speech. Despite this flagrant attempt at incitement, we call upon the Armenian American community of Los Angeles to oppose this painful and egregious provocation peacefully,” continued the ANCA-WR statement.
Follow Asbarez for more on this developing story.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

At UN, Sarkisian Armenian President Makes Case for Self-Determination

UNITED NATIONS—President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday addressed the 66th United Nations General Assembly, making the case for applying of the principle of self-determination to Nagorno-Karabakh.
In his remarks, Sarkisian also drew the international community’s attention to the increasing efforts by Azerbaijan to thwart the Karabakh peace process and spreading what he termed “armenophobia.”
On the Turkey-Armenia front, Sarkisian outlined that while many nations and international organizations have recognized the Armenian Genocide, Turkey continues to deny that historical fact.
“Without recognition and condemnation, it will be impossible to develop and implement effective mechanisms of prevention, which is one of the UN’s priorities. Armenia will contribute its most to the recognition, punishment, and prevention of genocides,” said Sarkisian.
Below is the translated text of the President’s remarks provided by the presidential press service.
Mister President,Mister Secretary-General,Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firstly, I would like to thank and wish much success to Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz al Nasser, the President of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly, and thank Mr. Deiss of Switzerland for his leadership during the 65th session.
I would also like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his second term in office.
Mister President,
I wish to recognize the important choice of the general debate theme for this session and highlight the role of mediation in the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and as a means of preventing the resumption of hostilities.
We highly appreciate the mediation efforts of global and regional structures and organizations in various parts of the world in preserving peace and security and in conflict settlement through peaceful negotiations.
It is particularly worth mentioning the engagement of regional organizations that have built-up an enormous experience in mediation and have an in-depth knowledge of the political, cultural, and military realities on the ground. The success of mediation hinges, among other things, upon the articulation of a clearly-defined mandate. A case in point for us is the mission of the OSCE Minsk Group in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Another key factor worth highlighting here is the mediators’ role in preventing conflict escalation and the resumption of hostilities. This aspect of mediation is sometimes overlooked, yet it is of no less importance to international peace and stability than finding a solution to a contentious matter.
Mr. President,
Three years ago, when I had the honor to speak from this rostrum, I stated that the time has come for seriously considering the exercise of the people’s right to self-determination in the 21st century. We are today witnessing new cases of the exercise of this inalienable right.
In this context, I would like to congratulate the newly-elected 193rd member of the United Nations Organization, the Republic of South Sudan. Its path to having a place in this august hall has been long and difficult, but the people of South Sudan, through the free expression of will, exercised their right to live sovereignly and independently, thus crossing the path that many of the UN member states present here today have crossed.
Mr. President,
The people of Nagorno-Karabakh made the same choice two decades ago by exercising their right to self-determination, by withstanding the war unleashed by Azerbaijan, and surviving bloodshed to earn their right to live in freedom.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement talks are continuing with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs. We are grateful to the co-chair countries and their leaders for their mediation efforts. However, the mediators cannot reach an agreement in place of the negotiating parties.
Azerbaijan’s utter unwillingness to reach an agreement and its “everything or war” position have stalled progress in the peace talks. Despite the expectations and the high-level advice from the international community, Azerbaijan took yet another step back during the last meeting in Kazan by rejecting the previously elaborated arrangement and trying, in fact, to break down the negotiation process.
Baku has turned armenophobia into state propaganda, at a level that is far beyond dangerous. It is not only our assessment; the alarm has also been sounded by international structures specializing in combating racism and intolerance. Even more dangerously, armenophobic ideas are spread among the young Azerbaijani generation, imperiling the future of peaceful coexistence.
By denying and destroying all that is Armenian, Baku stubbornly continues to disseminate false accusations against Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the Armenians at all levels everywhere, including here, within the framework of the UN. The Azerbaijani propaganda machine continues regularly to overwhelm the international community and the domestic audience with horrendous lies about the so-called “Armenian brutality” and the killings of children. These stories are fabricated and disseminated using a trite yet painful logic, whereby their authors believe that some people out there will rise to the bait of this black PR against Armenia, and it will thus serve a purpose.
In recent years, owing to the efforts of the Minsk Group co-chair countries, particularly the direct mediation by the President of the Russian Federation, a number of documents have been signed, including the Meindorf, Astrakhan, and Sochi Declarations, which have stressed the need to strengthen the confidence-building measures between the parties. The signature of the President of Azerbaijan also stands on those documents.
Azerbaijan, however, continues to turn down the repeated proposals by the international community concerning agreement on the non-use of force and strengthening the confidence-building measures.
Moreover, the belligerent rhetoric and war threats uttered by Azerbaijan have intensified and ceasefire violations have grown more frequent, continuing to deprive of life innocent civilians. All of this is orchestrated from the highest state level.
The dangerous rise in manifestations of armenophobia not only fails to contribute to an atmosphere of trust in the region, but also leads to questions about Azerbaijan’s understanding of the goals of the United Nations to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors. Aspiring for membership in the Security Council of the UN with such an understanding is impermissible and even dangerous.
Mr. President,
In the frameworks of this Assembly, alongside debates on some of the most vital and urgent issues of our time, a high-level meeting took place yesterday on the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration, which reiterated the urgent need to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of intolerance.
Unfortunately, such intolerance is known to us, Armenians, not only through the examples I mentioned earlier. As a nation that has survived a genocide, the most extreme form of racism and xenophobia, we are morally obliged to act for the prevention of future genocides.
The elimination of racism and xenophobia and the inculcation of tolerance can become a truly effective mechanism if accompanied with clear prescription of liability. Impunity and avoidance of liability give birth to yet new crimes. Hence, it is incumbent upon us in the international community to identify and denounce without delay any expression of intolerance, but especially its extreme forms.
The Genocide of the Armenians perpetrated in the Ottoman Empire has been recognized and condemned by numerous countries, parliaments, international organizations, and genocide scholars’ community. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for the Republic of Turkey, which continues to engage in a policy of denying this atrocious crime committed against humanity.
We unequivocally welcome the clear position adopted by the international community in precluding any possibility of immunity or pardon for perpetrators of genocide or other crimes against humanity.
Without recognition and condemnation, it will be impossible to develop and implement effective mechanisms of prevention, which is one of the UN’s priorities. Armenia will contribute its most to the recognition, punishment, and prevention of genocides.
These references to the Armenian Genocide lead me to recall another important celebration marked this year: the 150th birthday of Fridtjof Nansen, the first High Commissioner for Refugees. In the most difficult period for my nation, the great humanist rendered priceless support to the survival of the homeland-deprived fragments of the Armenians fleeing from the Genocide. Holders of the Nansen passports settled in various countries of the world, reaching as far as South America. They rose to their feet and partook in the development of the countries and peoples hosting them.
I believe that justice and the equality of rights between states have become standards in international relations owing to such powerful individuals who promoted their vision of morality in that cruel world of the “realpolitik.”
Mr. President,
Speaking from this rostrum in 2008, I had expressed hope that the Armenia-Turkey normalization process initiated by us and the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the borders closed by Turkey, trespassing international law, would become the first steps in enabling us to start a dialogue and overcoming the air of mistrust, suspicion, and uncertainty existing between us. Although our initiative was commended and widely supported by the international community, Turkey has in all ways possible aborted the ratification and implementation of the protocols we initialed in 2009.
Mr. President,
Today, on the eve of the Rio Summit on Sustainable Development, political will must be demonstrated to honor the international commitments in order to turn the South Caucasus into a region of cooperation and prosperity.
The correlation between security and development is not an abstract theory for our region where economic cooperation and deeper integration with the global economy are hindered by unlawful blockades and the blockage of regional integration projects.
These attitudes, alongside the fueling of an arms race, not only are dangerous for the peoples of the region, but they also continue to absorb the resources direly needed for sustainable development.
The time has come for the leaders of the countries in our region to try to stand above the dictates of a narrow political agenda and to move towards solutions that are aimed at a peaceful and prosperous future for generations to come.
I want to believe that, not in the distant future, our region will be perceived as a solid and firm bridge uniting civilizations, rather than as a dividing line.
Mr. President,
Two days ago, the Republic of Armenia celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence. In September 1991, Armenia restored its independence, realizing the dream of the Armenian people and reuniting with the Family of Nations.
In the realm of history, 20 years may seem like a short period, but it has served for the present generation as a period of great change, construction of independent statehood, and a renewed perception of their role and place in the world. I wish to take the opportunity from this esteemed rostrum to express my gratitude to all the states, peoples, and individuals that have supported us in these 20 years of development and construction of statehood.
Freedom, peace, and democracy are our choice, and we are committed to this path. We are proud of our achievements today. In two decades, the Republic of Armenia has implemented a wide-scale program of constructing statehood. Much has been done in the fields of democratization, human rights and economic reforms, the establishment of the rule of law and liberal economy. We have many achievements, but much still remains to be done. Above all, we are convinced that we are on the right path, a path that is irreversible.
Mr. President,
Exactly a decade ago, New York, the city which is home to the United Nations Organization, experienced one of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind, the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Armenia unconditionally supports and actively contributes to the international community’s counter-terrorism efforts and all of the UN’s initiatives in this area. We are doing and will continue to do our best for the world to be a safer and more peaceful place.
We stand ready, to the best of our abilities, to contribute to global security and respond to global threats, be it through peace-keeping missions, elimination of the consequences of natural disasters, environmental protection, or the fight against terrorism, racism, and intolerance. Over the years, we have proven our aspirations and determination with deeds, and we stand ready to continue doing the same.
Thank you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garbis: Reflecting on 20 Years of Independence

By: Christian Garbis

Twenty years ago when Armenia declared itself independent from Soviet rule, it was not only claiming statehood, it was calling for a restoration of values. The Armenian people would be able to think and create freely in a fledgling democracy that was both naive and highly optimistic. Many people believed that prosperity was on the horizon, jobs would be created, and a bright future awaited them. Little did they know that both war and unchecked entrepreneurship would set them back several years. Some have never seen any kind of prosperity after independence, whether financial or spiritual.

When Armenians worldwide feel confident that the Armenian government is able to provide the means and conditions for promoting growth throughout the regions, they will begin to immigrate.
Armenia today is ruled by a handful of wealthy families competing for prominence, similar to what you would find in a Hollywood film about the mafia, but without all the gory violence. The common people are subjects to the nepotistic society these leaders, or oligarchs, have created. Citizens who speak out against government decisions are cruelly suppressed by this system. Others are victims to bad policies and lose their livelihoods in the process. Civil society is weak, and initiatives to bring about change in the form of grassroots movements are often supported by outside special interest groups, mainly from the U.S. or Europe. Narcissism has long become a virtue of the nepotists, with their general disregard for law and order, and respect for neighborhood peace violated day and night. Society is increasingly polarized, with the dividing line between the haves and have-nots all the more obvious. The social equality of Armenia’s Soviet past is long gone.
Although the president is quite aware of the dire economic and societal issues that most Armenians face daily, he either plays them down or fails to address them. For instance, he recently discounted the somber fact that entire villages have been relocating to remote parts of Russia as part of a controversial resettlement program promoted by the Russian government. Judging from the headlines in the Armenian press, it is clear that the president is often out of sync with what is transpiring in the country he supposedly rules.
Below is a list of problems that the president needs to contend with to ensure Armenia’s democratic and economic progress in the years to come:
Create jobs. In the wake of independence, countless factories that were prosperous during the Soviet era closed either overnight or during the course of several years. Although some, like chemical plants and sugar processing facilities, have reopened in recent years, Armenia’s industrial output is nowhere near what it was just before the Soviet Union began to crumble. The permanent closure of key factories in rural areas, like Sisian in the southern Syunik region and Charentsavan to the north of the capital, not to mention scores of other towns throughout the country, have resulted in depopulation, with many people once living in small towns and villages flocking to Yerevan or leaving the country—most of them for Russia—in search of work. The president must create an environment whereby new factories can be built by wealthy Armenian citizens or foreign businessmen currently weary of doing business in Armenia. Eradicating corruption in the tax and customs departments and simplifying the business registration process would be an excellent start.
Promote small business. Yerevan Mayor Karen Karapetyan made himself a public enemy by sweeping traders off the streets (oddly only florists are allowed to sell roses from sidewalk stands) and destroying inconspicuous kiosks where cobblers, tailors, and cigarette sellers set up shop. Shopkeepers are harassed by taxmen and some are even forced to close for days on end while they scramble to clear up minute discrepancies found as a result of loopholes purposely left open by the tax authorities to extort bribes. Although Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has often talked about encouraging the growth of small businesses, he has been reluctant to disclose the details of policies his government plans to implement. Tax breaks coupled with guaranteed interest-free government loans would encourage small businesses to open and help nurture an environment of trust.
Encourage civil society. In flourishing, deep-rooted democracies, dissent and opposition to government policy are tolerated, and public advocacy is allowed to function. Initiatives to promote civil society must be implemented, mainly by immediately stopping police confrontations or crackdowns on peaceful demonstrators. Society cannot be built while oppression and fear loom overhead Armenian citizens.
Tax the wealthy and give tax breaks to the lower classes. Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue can be generated if only oligarchs were taxed, the sums of which could be funneled to important social programs. By 2006 estimates, 26.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Free housing could be provided to impoverished citizens still living in shacks, temporary housing, or on the street. Also, pensioners could finally receive monthly stipends that are in line with the current standard of living, which is continually on the rise with food prices often skyrocketing, especially in the period leading up to the holiday season. The government should aim to eradicate poverty nationwide, and it can easily do so if and when taxes are properly collected.
Prevent emigration and promote immigration. President Sarkisian desperately needs to draft a plan for slowing down the exodus from Armenia. That should include job creation through promoting foreign investment in the manufacturing and IT sectors, an increase in the minimum wage, and equal opportunity, particularly in government agencies. He also needs to address the relatively low birthrate, with 12 children born for every 1,000 people and on average 1 child born per household, according to 2011 figures. He must also ensure that infrastructure is modernized even in the most remote villages of the republic. Several areas of Artsakh along with the Armenian-controlled territories surrounding it must be populated, and that again can only come about with increased investment and the vital infrastructure in place. When Armenians worldwide feel confident that the Armenian government is able to provide the means and conditions for promoting growth throughout the regions, they will begin to immigrate.
These are only a handful of issues that loom over Armenia’s destiny. There are just as many if not more challenges related to Armenian foreign policy that must be addressed, the most important being the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, which seems to be floating in an eternal stalemate.
In his Independence Day remarks, President Sarkisian hailed the new generation of the republic, recognizing its “concerns and demands” of a better society. He also stated that “… in the next 20 years we will be able to build a country that will come close to our ideals. I believe in that because I believe in our collective power.”
Now the pressure is on the president. He alone can muster the support of both an apathetic public and the oligarchic society backing him by making the right policy decisions that will benefit all, not just a select few. That is a difficult balancing act, but the means to accomplish such a feat simply need implementing and the vision to do so. Having said that, it is up to Armenian society as a collective whole to ensure he aspires to the same ideals to which he alludes—the same that all citizens expect to live by.