Friday, January 25, 2013

Bedrosyan: Hrant’s Message and the Way Forward

On the sixth anniversary of his assassination and more significantly, on the sixth anniversary of the Turkish state’s inability or unwillingness to find his real killers, Hrant Dink was remembered by tens of thousands of people in many countries as well as in Turkey, including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Diyarbakir, Malatya, and Bodrum. Throughout the world, Turkish and Armenian speakers repeated his vision and message of direct dialogue between Turks and Armenians. Year by year, instead of gradually diminishing in numbers toward oblivion, as is the case for other assassinated journalists in Turkey, there is a snowballing increase in the number and intensity of people attending the Hrant Dink commemorations, protesting and demanding justice, as well as adopting Hrant’s message with more determination. It is not the tiny Armenian community in Turkey, but Turks (and Kurds) from all walks of life who have embraced Hrant as a tragic hero. The momentum is building to declare Hrant a martyr—the first shared martyr by the historically opposing nations of Armenians and Turks.
1x1.trans Bedrosyan: Hrants Message and the Way Forward
After being systematically brainwashed by the state with ever-changing official versions of history, people in Turkey have now finally started to learn the true historic facts, reasons, and consequences of 1915, not just the Turkish version versus Armenian version.
But what exactly was Hrant’s message? He would define Armenians and Turks as two sick people, clinical cases—Armenians suffering from trauma (obsessed with 1915) and Turks suffering from paranoia (fear of consequences of acknowledging 1915). He would advocate Armenians and Turks to be each other’s doctors, with dialogue as the only prescription. And he would clap his large hands vigorously, exclaiming, “There is no other medicine, no other doctor, no, no, no.” He knew dialogue would be useless if one couldn’t discuss the painful year of 1915, but only pleasant subjects such as Turks’ and Armenians’ shared values, shared culture, shared foods like dolma and kebab. He knew that dialogue would also be useless if one was unable to really “listen and hear,” in addition to talk. And most importantly, he knew that dialogue would be useless if one didn’t know the real historical facts of 1915. After being systematically brainwashed by the state with ever-changing official versions of history, people in Turkey have now finally started to learn the true historic facts, reasons, and consequences of 1915, not just the Turkish version versus Armenian version. So, if and when there is willingness to talk and listen, both sides can and should engage in direct dialogue, without the need to convince third parties to pressure the other side.
Hrant had studied zoology, and he would explain that if you remove any living organism from its natural environment, you would cause its extinction. He would then say, “If you remove an entire people from its land where it has lived continuously for 3,000 years, even if you transport them with great care in ‘golden airplanes,’ this would still be similar to taking an axe to the roots of an ancient tree.” He didn’t need to explain 1915 with long words; in a corner of the Agos newspaper, every week, he would place some facts about a village or town in Anatolia—could be in west, east, north, south, or central Anatolia—giving the Armenian and total population numbers, the names and numbers of churches and schools there, before 1915. He would have photos of these active Armenian churches and schools in that village or town before 1915, and photos of these non-existent churches or schools today, totaling more than 4,000 buildings. That would be enough for anyone to understand the reality of 1915.
But he wouldn’t only talk about the Armenians gone or dead in 1915. He was much more interested in talking about the Armenians who remained, who stayed in Anatolia, who stayed and survived, but no longer as Armenians. These were the Armenians who survived by converting to Islam, by assuming Turkish, Kurdish, or Alawi identities. These were the Armenian girls and boys captured or sold, kept hidden, protected or married to Turks and Kurds. And entire Armenian villages that converted to Islam, or stayed protected by friendly Kurdish and Alawi leaders. Hrant was obsessed with this subject. What happened to these people? Did they secretly keep their Armenian identity? Did they pass it on to the next generations? Where are they now? How many are there? If there are “hidden Armenians,” what would be the trigger for them to “come out of hiding”?
Genocide is not a single event but a continuous process. It is not only denial of a genocide that continues it, but also assimilation and conversion that continue it. Scholars have recently started defining genocide not only as the destruction of an oppressed nation, but also the construction of the oppressor nation—using assimilation and conversion processes. For Armenians, these processes continued on all fronts.
Hrant didn’t or couldn’t write much about this sensitive subject, but he was preoccupied by it, gathering stories, anecdotal evidence, always encouraging others to find out more. Clearly, this was not a subject that could be researched openly and scientifically, but whenever a new revelation came out about hidden Armenians in Anatolia, he would be greatly excited. His lawyer Fethiye Cetin’s book My Grandmother was only an example of the fate of the hidden Armenians. In an interview with London filmmaker Nouritsa Matossian for the documentary “Hrant Dink: A Heart Of Two Nations,” Matossian asked him, “Do you see Armenian faces in Anatolia?” Hrant: “Yes, often.” Nouritsa: “Apparitions [meaning, ghosts]?” Hrant: “Apparitions and real ones.” One could tell that Hrant, the emotional Hrant with the biggest heart, was like a child who had a secret he could hardly keep.
The answer to the question that kept him wondering—What would be the trigger for the hidden Armenians to come out?—came four years too late for Hrant to witness, unfortunately. The trigger was the reconstruction of the Diyarbakir Surp Giragos Church in 2011. Thousands of Anatolians, young and old, Turkish and Kurdish, in appearance and identity, returned to their Armenian roots with the reopening of this church. Some got baptized in the church, some changed their Turkish names to the Armenian original, some changed their identity to Armenian but remained Muslim (a new phenomenon of Muslim-Armenians), some started learning the Armenian language. Hrant would have danced with joy to see an 11-year-old Kurdish girl not only learning Armenian but also singing Armenian songs at the first Armenian concert in the Diyarbakir Surp Giragos Church in 2012. Hrant would have danced on the table after seeing a thousand people from Adiyaman, Amasya, Arapkir, Dersim, Diyarbakir, Elazig, Harput, Hemshin, Istanbul, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Malatya, Musadagh, Sason, Sinop, Sivas, Tokat, Van, and Yozgat organize activities together and celebrate the Surp Hagop Day in December 2012, singing Armenian songs, even though no one knew how to speak Armenian.
Hrant was an Anatolian Armenian and wished to have the same democratic rights as all other citizens of the state, without being excluded, without being discriminated against, without being pressured to lose his identity. Armenians wished to have exactly the same things 100 years ago—no more, no less. The state felt threatened, and when fear got combined with opportunity it wiped out the Armenian identity in Anatolia to build a Turkish identity that excluded all others, including Greeks, Assyrians, and Kurds. The enormous transfer of wealth and assets from Armenians to Turks has added to the fear and paranoia of the state in facing its past. A new Turkish identity, which does not fear diversity or minority identities, needs to be created in Turkey in order to face both the past and the future. The state has finally started this process with the Kurds, but not the Armenians. The Kurds have started this process with the Armenians, openly acknowledging their role in 1915, and starting to make amends. It is hoped that Turks will see the light and follow them.

Two Armenian Women Attacked in Istanbul in Past 24 Hours

Second attack not confirmed independently 
ISTANBUL, Turkey—Two elderly Armenian women were attacked in Istanbul’s Samatya district on Jan 22 and 23, less than a month after an 84-year-old Armenian woman was brutally murdered in Istanbul, raising the number of violent attacks against elderly Armenian women to at least four in recent months.
1x1.trans Two Armenian Women Attacked in Istanbul in Past 24 Hours
Two elderly Armenian women were attacked in Istanbul’s Samatya district on Jan 22 and 23.
The Jan. 22 attack happened around 5 p.m. when the victim, 83-year-old Sultan Aykar was about to enter her ground-floor apartment. She then saw the intruder and, frightened, she fell. The attacker proceeded to kick her. Hearing her screams, neighbors came down, scaring off the masked man, reported Bianet. The neighbors described the attacker as a male between the ages of 35 and 40, with gray hair, and dressed in black. During the attack, Aykar suffered damage to her eye. She has now lost sight in that eye, despite surgery on Jan. 23. The victim’s daughter, Menzar Etik, said her mother did not have any enemies, as she was a quiet woman. Etik did not believe the attacker’s intention was robbery, as the attacker did not attempt to steal her purse, and there was nothing more than a broken TV in her apartment.
Today (Jan. 23), another attack was reported on yet another elderly Armenian woman. The attack happened on the street, near the Samatya High School, sources reported. The two assailants ran away.  The victim was covered with blood. Shortly thereafter, she disappeared.  Community members and plainclothes policemen have been unable to find or identify the woman.
The Armenian Weekly could not independently confirm the report on today’s attack.
In turn, Agos editor Rober Koptas told the Weekly, “We spoke to churchmen, taghagans, shopkeepers, police, and lots of people but none of them confirmed it.”
The Samatya area is home to many Armenians. The community is weary of these attacks, and calls for caution have been made.
In recent years, there have been several attacks against Armenians in Turkey. In early December another Armenian woman was attacked and robbed; while months earlier an Armenian woman was attacked by a taxi driver and called an infidel.
On Jan. 6, three assailants tried to kidnap an elderly Armenian woman, according to Turkish sources. The attempt failed.
According to human rights activists, the common thread that runs through all of these crimes is not just their being motivated by hate or being committed in an environment that breeds intolerance against Armenians, but also the efforts of the authorities to play them down and cover them up.
The Armenian Weekly will continue following up on this issue.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Armenians in Italy

Armenians in Italy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Armenians in Italy
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Milan, Rome and Venice
Armenian, Italian
Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Evangelical and Protestant
Related ethnic groups
Armenian, Hamshenis, Cherkesogai groups
Armenians in Italy covers the Armenians who live in Italy. There are currently 3.000 Armenians in Italy mainly residing in Milan, Rome and Venice.[2]
Besides the general population, there are monastic communities on the island of San Lazzaro (Venice) and at the Moorat-Raphael College of Venice as well as Armenian clergy at the Holy See (Vatican).


[edit] History

The oldest information about Armenians living in Italy goes back to the 6th-8th centuries. Later, in the 9th-10th centuries, a great number of Armenians moved to Italy from Thrace and Macedonia. They were the descendants of Paulicians chased from Armenia by emperor Constantin.
As to Armenian communities, they were formed in Italy in the 12th-13th centuries, when active trade was going on between Cilician Armenia and Italian big city-republics as Genoa, Venice and Pisa. Under Cilician Armenian king Levon II (1187–1219) (also known as King Leo II of Armenia), treaties were signed between the two parties, according to which Italian merchants had the right to open factories and to develop industrial activities in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia and Armenian merchants could do the same in Italian towns. These treaties were periodically renewed, as long as the Cilician Armenian Kingdom existed. In the 13th century the number of Armenians in Italy increased because of the new wave of emigrants after the invasion of Tatars and Mongols.
Beginning with the 15th-16th centuries the process of catholicizing Armenians was strengthened in Italy which greatly contributed to their assimilation with Italian people. Nevertheless, some Armenian organizations continued to function with the aim to preserve national identity. As a result first Armenian books were printed in Venice.
Besides, in the beginning of the 18th century the Armenian Congregation of the Mechitarists (Armenian: Õ„Õ­Õ«Õ©Õ¡Ö€Õ¥Õ¡Õ¶, also spelled Mekhitarists), was founded in Venice, on the St. Lazzaro Island (San Lazzaro degli Armeni). It exists up till now with its monastery, library, manuscripts depository and publishing house, and is considered as a centre of Armenian culture in Italy.
There is also the reputable Moorat-Raphael College in Venice for general education with student body from Armenians from many countries and Collegio Armeno (The Pontifical Armenian College) in Rome for preparation of clergy in the Armenian Catholic Church.

Sassounian: Turkey Claims Non-Turkish Antiquities by Intimidating Foreign Museums

The Turkish government has recently embarked on an aggressive campaign, pressuring a large number of European and American museums to return antiquities that were taken out of the country during Ottoman times.
While it is understandable that nations would want to recover ancient relics that were part of their patrimony, in the Turkish case there are certain anomalies that merit closer scrutiny.
If these valuable relics were taken out of Turkey in recent times without proper authorization, one could argue that the Turkish government is perhaps entitled to them, even though they emanate from ancient civilizations that predate the conquest of that part of the world by Ottoman Turks.
It is ironic that the country claiming these antiquities is one of history’s biggest looters and pilferers of other nations’ cultural heritage, such as churches, monasteries, monuments, and schools belonging to Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks. One must have clean hands before having the audacity to accuse others of theft.
Most shocking of all, the Turkish government is preparing a lawsuit against the British Museum in the European Court of Human Rights based on Article 1 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states, “Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions.”
According to an article by Ceylan Yeginsu in the International Business Times (IBT), using human rights laws to recover antiquities is a novel concept never before used by any country. It is incredible that one of the biggest violators of human rights in the world is getting ready to sue the British Museum ostensibly for violating the rights of Turkish citizens.
Turkey is planning to file this lawsuit on Jan. 30 to reclaim the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, “one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.” The British Museum, however, argues that it had not misappropriated this ancient relic. Olivia Rickman, the press and PR manager of the museum, told IBT that the sculptures from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in the museum’s collection were acquired in 1846, 1857, and 1859. Rickman further states that “these pieces were acquired during the course of two British initiatives, both with firmans [legal permits issued by the Ottoman authorities] that granted permission for the excavation of the site and removal of the material from the site (1857 and 1859) and Bodrum Castle (1846) to the British Museum.”
IBT quoted Charlotte Woodhead, an expert in cultural heritage law at the University of Warwick in England, stating that she was not aware of human rights legislation ever being used before to reclaim such objects. “If a claim is brought before the European Court of Human Rights, it will be interesting to see on what basis it is argued and also to see what the outcome is,” Woodhead stated.
Turkey has also used an Ottoman law banning the export of artifacts in order to claim ownership of ancient artifacts from major museums around the globe, such as the Louvre in Paris, the Getty in Los Angeles, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Harvard’s Dumbarton Oaks. If Turkey can claim Ottoman-era assets, then it must be held responsible for Ottoman-era liabilities such as plunder, territorial conquest, and genocide!
By filing such questionable lawsuits, Turkey’s real intent is to intimidate foreign museums into returning the claimed artifacts. If the museums do not cave in to Turkish pressure and refuse to turn over these items, it would be interesting to see if the Turkish government would still go ahead with its threatened lawsuits. The big risk for Turkey is that if the courts reject its claims, no museum would ever agree to return any of the demanded antiquities.
However, should a foreign museum wish to return an ancient relic to Turkey, it should make it conditional on the Turkish government officially identifying the true origin of the object, such as Hittite, Roman, Greek, Armenian, or Assyrian. This is necessitated by the fact that Turkey has omitted all references to the origin of ancient Armenian churches and monuments from inscriptions presently affixed to the entrance of these sites.
Turkish efforts to reclaim antiquities from the world’s great museums provide a unique opportunity for Armenians to publicize Turkey’s misuse and outright destruction of thousands of Armenian churches, monasteries, schools, cemeteries, and castles.
Armenians should petition the European Court of Human Rights, objecting to the return of any artifacts to Turkey, unless its government makes a legally binding pledge to preserve and identify all remaining Armenian monuments on its territory. The next step would be to demand that Turkey return the more than 2,000 churches to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul.

Posted by Harut Sassounian on January 22, 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Kurdish State and Western Armenia

Kurdish State and Western Armenia

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The establishment of the Kurdish state is becoming real, whereas no official, even expert opinions are expressed by Armenia on the attitude of Yerevan to the Kurdish factor and activities to be taken ahead of the emergence of the fact. Even opponents of change of borders do not deny the emergence of a new neighbor. The Kurds of Iraq and Syria do not hide their intention to unite, while Ankara does everything not to allow the Turkish Kurds to join, while Ankara does everything to prevent their unification with the Turkish Kurds. The negotiations between Abdullah Ocalan and Erdogan focused on limiting the wishes of Turkish Kurds to sovereignty, not allowing them to speak about independence. The roadmap of the Turkish-Kurdish relations published in Turkish media indicates Turkey’s readiness to grant sovereignty to the Kurds or its likelihood to allow Ocalan and his supporters to go to the newly established Kurdish state. Erdogan is ready to topple Assad in Syria, invest millions of dollars in Iraqi Kurdistan not to allow independent Kurdistan to the Turkish territory, even lobby independent Kurdistan in Washington in February, however, not in Turkey but in the territory of Iraq and Syria. Does the United States agree with Turkey’s approach? Perhaps, not. It proceeds from the policy of Turkey’s containment and total control of the United States on the region. Most probably, Armenia is also involved in these plans. At least, there is danger that the territories of Western Armenia where Kurds or converted Armenians live will also be included in the Kurdish state. Nobody knows anything about global projects – is Turkey’s fragmentation, establishment of the Kurdish state and unification of two parts of Armenia under consideration? In any case, the plan is not a dogma and it can undergo change depending on the policy of interested states. What steps does Armenia take to set up relations with Kurds to prevent accession of the territories of Western Armenia by the possible Kurdish state? These steps are taken idly or are not taken at all. However, even in the absence of public statements by Yerevan, Ankara understands the threat and in the past week three assaults on Armenians were reported in Turkey. Turkey is warning Armenia. While Erdogan is moving towards reconciliation with Kurds, Armenians undergo a policy of threat and intimidation. Turkey instills fear among Armenians on new massacres to intimidate them. It is clear that all these tendencies, Kurdish and Armenian, have not been initiated in the region and are part of the global policy which is obviously trying to stop the Ottoman plan. However, both Kurds and Armenians must find out the handiness of the political conjuncture, what threats ensue and what prospects open up. However, all this is not a discourse in Armenia yet. It is not ruled out that the Kurdish issue will culminate 3 years later when the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide will be marked, and redesign of borders will take place in the context of the territorial compensation to Armenians. In this case, Turkey’s anger will be against the Armenians rather than Kurds and the West. Armenia needs clear safeguards that geopolitical changes will not affect it negatively. It is possible that under their light the possibility of requesting military assistance from the United States by Armenia is considered.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Funeral of Murdered Armenian Woman in Istanbul Evokes Memories of Earlier Cover-Ups

TANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)—The funeral of 84-year-old Marissa Kuchuk (Küçük), who was brutally murdered in her apartment in Istanbul, was held on Jan. 5, amid fears that violent acts against the country’s Christian minorities will continue to be swept under the rug.
1x1.trans Funeral of Murdered Armenian Woman in Istanbul Evokes Memories of Earlier Cover Ups
In recent years, there have been several attacks against Armenians in Turkey. On April 24, 2011, Sevag Balikci was killed by a fellow soldier.
Armenian Weekly Columnist Ayse  Gunaysu pointed to possible attempts to silence the family of the victims. “Before the service, while waiting in the church yard, there was a heavy silence—the silence of those who know but are unable to speak about what they know. The family was asked not to talk to the ‘outsiders.’”
“I noticed, thanks to my experience during the military dictatorship years, that there were dozens of policemen in plainclothes inside and around the church,” she told Armenian Weekly Editor Khatchig Mouradian in an interview.
Kuchuk’s funeral  was held at the Armenian Church in Samatya (current name Mustafapasha), where hundreds gathered to pay their respects. “Both inside the church and the churchyard were full of people of all ages,” said Gunaysu, who attended the funeral. “While the coffin was being carried on the shoulders [of mourners], I saw Marissa’s daughter, hardly able to walk, held by the arms by two other middle aged women.”
On Dec. 29, Marissa Kuchuk was stabbed seven times and her throat was slit. The perpetrator(s) carved a cross on her chest using a sharp object, according to some Turkish newspaper and TV reports.
Gunaysu, who is also an active member of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association, talked to the Armenian Weekly about the necessity and, at the same time, the impossibility of protesting against Kuchuk’s murder,  because that would leave the victim’s family in a difficult situation.
Gunaysu and others from the Human Rights Association had visited the victim’s family a few days earlier. “The funeral and the visit we paid the family made me lost in a suffocating feeling that we can do absolutely nothing to help the family and their neighbors, because whatever we would do to protest this murder would make them feel even more uneasy,” she said.
“They know that they would be the ones who would pay for it in one way or another, while our protest would only provide us with the satisfaction of having fulfilled our ‘duty,’” she added.
Gunaysu pointed to “an enormous abyss separating us from the family. While we would try to defend human rights, they would be all alone in their daily lives in a world of denial.”
In recent years, there have been several attacks against Armenians in Turkey. Earlier in December, another Armenian woman was brutally attacked and robbed. Months earlier, an Armenian woman was called an infidel and attacked in a cab by the driver himself. On April 24, 2011, Sevag Balikci, an Armenian serving in the Turkish Army, was killed by a fellow soldier in what was clearly a hate crime on Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day. In January 2007, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered in broad daylight in Istanbul.
According to human rights activists, the common thread that runs through all of these crimes is not just their being motivated by hate or being committed in an environment that breeds intolerance against Armenians, but also the efforts of the authorities to play them down and cover them up.

Sassounian: Obama is Exploiting Turkish Leaders’ Craving for Flattery

While political leaders often exaggerate their achievements and brag about the superiority of their nation, such claims become absurd if they are far removed from reality and border on chauvinism and narcissism.
When leaders harbor an exaggerated sense of self-importance, they can be easily manipulated by others who exploit their insatiable appetite for flattery. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is one of several high-ranking Turkish officials who may be suffering from such a character flaw.
The Turkish media provided extensive coverage to a Los Angeles Times article reporting that “Pres. Obama has logged more phone calls to Erdogan than to any world leader except British Prime Minister David Cameron.” When the two met at the United Nations in New York, Obama gave Erdogan “more face time than any other world leader,” lasting almost two hours. The U.S. president reportedly praised the Turkish prime minister for showing “great leadership.” The L.A. Times specifically noted that Obama even “resorted to flattery” by subsequently phoning Erdogan “to rave about a Turkish basketball tournament.”
The Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, published a follow-up article further highlighting the close relationship between the two leaders: “Erdogan and Obama’s phone chats reveal Turkey’s ascent.” The article included a photo in which the American and Turkish leaders are shaking hands while brimming with wide smiles.
Although Erdogan does not look kindly upon anyone who writes unflattering words about him and frequently sues journalists daring to criticize his policies, prominent Turkish commentator Semih Idiz risked imprisonment by writing an article last week in Al-Monitor titled, “Is Erdogan Aiming to Be a Latter-Day Sultan?” Idiz underlines the prime minister’s “authoritarian tendencies and lack of tolerance to any criticism, especially from a free press.”
The Turkish journalist writes in great detail about Erdogan’s plans to run for president in August 2014, but not before drafting a new constitution that would transform the current head of state’s ceremonial post into “an executive presidency” that would not be “encumbered by a system of checks and balances.” If elected president, Erdogan would have “the power to dissolve the parliament, rule by decree and appoint government ministers, senior bureaucrats, and jurists without parliamentary approval.”
It is not a mere accident that Erdogan recently told Turkish journalists that the American presidential system, with checks and balances that limit the power of the president, is not suitable for Turkey: “The U.S. president cannot appoint an ambassador, he cannot even solely decide on the sale of a helicopter. … That’s why we should create a Turkish-style presidential system.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who used to be a serious scholar, appears to be emulating his conceited prime minister. Last week, in his opening remarks at the annual conference of Turkish ambassadors held in Ankara, Davutoglu made a highly arrogant statement claiming that Turkey plays a critical role in world affairs: “Because the global powers know that now history flows through Ankara, parties that ignore Ankara cannot understand history. The one that risks relations with Ankara will take risks in all regional policies. … Those who want to understand history must be present in Ankara, Istanbul, and every other place in Turkey, because from now on we will be more actively present in shaping the flow of history.”
These preposterous words are uttered by a foreign minister who assumed his current post by pompously declaring that his country pursued a policy of “zero problems with neighbors.” The harsh reality is that Turkey now has almost no neighbors without problems! Indeed, Ankara has serious conflicts with neighboring Armenia, Cyprus, Greece, Iran, Iraq, and Syria.
Not to be outdone by his senior colleagues, Turkey’s controversial European Union affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, greeted the New Year with a fresh list of outlandish statements: “Today there is no government in Europe which is more reformist than our government. While EU countries are struggling in crisis, our country is experiencing the most democratic, prosperous, modern, and transparent period in its history. The ‘sick man’ of yesterday has gotten up and summoned the strength to prescribe medication for today’s Europe…and to share the EU’s burden rather than being a burden to it.”
Obama has discovered that he can get more out of Turkish leaders with honey than vinegar, capitalizing on their overwhelming desire for praise and flattery. The problem is that such lavish praise has turned Turkey into a “spoiled brat” that has become a serious menace to the entire neighborhood!

No Rest for the Energized Scout Tufankjian

BROOKLYN, N.Y. (A.W.)—After taking the most popular photo on Facebook and most re-Tweeted tweet in history, what’s next for Scout Tufankjian?
1x1.trans No Rest for the Energized Scout Tufankjian
Photographer Scout Tufankjian photographs President Barack Obama during the last presidential campaign.
The Brooklyn-based photojournalist is taking trips to Moscow and Kolkata to document the Russian- and Indian-Armenian communities. She also once spent a month traveling to many of the Armenian villages in Anatolia as part of a diaspora project.
She continues to do freelance work in the New York area and never wastes an opportunity to promote her book Yes We Can: Barack Obama’s History-Making Presidential Campaign, which sold out its initial 55,000 copy run a month before its December 2008 release.
The prize winner topped a cache of 12,000 photographs she shot throughout the campaign in what proved a non-stop vigil on the trail with scores of cameramen jostling for competition. The image of Michelle and Barack embracing ultimately wound up being used by the president’s campaign on both Facebook and Twitter, alongside the caption, “Four more years.”
Within hours, the photo became Facebook’s “most liked” photo, sending Tufankjian into a twitter of her own with the instant popularity.
“I had no idea the response was going to be like this,” she exclaimed. “My friend e-mailed me on election night to tell me and I didn’t believe her. I had no idea about the Facebook thing until the next day. It’s been incredible.”
The photo was shot in Dubuque, Iowa, in mid-August, on the final day of a three-day bus tour across the state. The president hadn’t seen his wife in several days and when the pair met at an event onstage, the embrace was heart-rending.
It is in Iowa where the thought of running for office really gripped the president.
“I’ve always had a deep admiration for the Obamas as a couple,” said Tufankjian. “They have a deep love and respect for one another. It is truly one of equals. You see it in the way they speak and listen to one another. I find that deeply inspirational. So that’s why I chose to focus on just them, rather than the crowd in the background. I wanted to capture them as man and wife.”
Tufankjian doesn’t take credit for the popularity of the “shot that was seen around the world.” It had nothing to be about the image or the lens she chose.
“It’s all about how people feel about the Obama family,” she maintains. “And how they feel about them in that moment.”
The campaign trail was extremely long and tiring at times, including one 48-hour stretch with only a short respite between each event. Grueling as this was, Tufankjian felt the 2008-09 campaign trail was more demanding.
“The flight attendants on Air Force One took great care of us and made sure we were fed and had power to charge our laptops and camera batteries,” she recalled. “That’s the most important part of the job.”
Is there a side to President Obama that’s surprising?
“The thing that is most remarkable about him is that he’s exactly the same person on stage as he is off stage,” she agrees. “I was able to introduce my parents to the president, which was a wonderful experience.”
Born in Boston to an Armenian-American father and Irish-American mother, her ancestors escaped the genocide from Musa Dagh. Her Armenian ancestry has always remained transparent throughout her career, promoting it at every opportunity.
It wasn’t until her junior semester abroad in Northern Ireland that Tufankjian began taking photography seriously. She got an internship with the New Haven Register. When that ended, off she went to the West Bank and Gaza to cover the Second Intifada.
She split her time working in the United States and in Gaza over the next five years. In 2006, she began photographing then-Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, a full-time stint that extended the next three years.
From there, it was on to such international waters as Haiti, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, along with work on the Armenian Diaspora Project, a photo project aimed at creating a portrait of the global Armenian Diaspora.
She studies the work of other Armenian photographers like Karsh and Harry Koundakjian, along with those like Chris Hondros, Stephanie Sinclair, Gerda Taro, and Damon Winter. Her own pictures are a personal treasure. Many of them continue to remain viewable through the campaign’s website and Flickr page.
As to her name Scout, it came from the Harper Lee book and film, To Kill a Mockingbird.
“My parents were obsessed with it,” she admits. “They were going to name me Atticus if I was a boy. Scout is the name of the little girl in that book.”
Scout Tufankjian’s List of Favorites
Music: Akon and Gogol Bordello
Composer: Rachmaninoff
Armenian singer: Charles Aznavour
Junk food: salt and vinegar potato chips
TV show: “Twin Peaks”
Sport: hockey
Movie: “His Girl Friday”
Screen Star: Dana Andrews
American song: “The Emperor’s Soundtrack” by Lupe Fiasco
Armenian song: “Aravat Luso” by Gevorg Dabaghyan
Form of relaxation: reading detective stories
Most embarrassing moment: turning bright red and babbling incoherently when being introduced to Jay Z
If you could trade places with anyone for a day: Sherlock Holmes
Pet peeve: people who stop at the top of subway stairs
Vacation spot: Istanbul
Day trip: Coney Island
American book: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler or Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Armenian book: The Complete Armenian Cookbook by Alice Bezjian (I love to eat!)
Athlete: Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce
Armenian: My dad, along with the brave folks at PINK Armenia
Proudest accomplishment: My book, Yes We Can: Barack Obama’s History-Making Presidential Campaign
Quote: “The most important thing about photography is to like the people you shoot and let them know it” (Robert Capa)

Post-Genocidal Turkey:Ayse Gunaysu

Below is the full text of a speech delivered by Armenian Weekly columnist Ayse Gunaysu during a panel discussion at the Grotowski Institute in Wroclaw, Poland on Nov. 10. For more about the event, click here.
1x1.trans Gunaysu: My Views on Post Genocidal Turkey
A scene from the panel discussion
I thank the Grotowski Institute for inviting me, and for their generous hospitality. And I thank you, dear audience, for taking the time and coming to listen to us. I feel privileged to be here with you.
I’m a Muslim Turk by birth. In other words a descendant of the perpetrators of the Genocide of Ottoman Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. I’m not a historian, not a scholar, or a writer. Just a human rights activist. So I can only share with you my feelings and my views about post-Genocidal Turkey.
Now… I ask you to imagine that I am a German woman, coming from Germany.
But imagine that Germany was not defeated in the WWII, on the contrary it was the victorious side and therefore was not caught red-handed in the crimes it committed. The world didn’t have the chance to see the films of gas chambers and the heap of dead bodies. And imagine that Germany used all the technology and industrial power it had to cover up and deny the Holocaust. Imagine the Holocaust/Shoah is denied in Germany officially, publicly, socially, culturally, in every sense.
Of course denial is not only to say “no, that did not happen.” Imagine that the whole state apparatus and the social life is organized around this denial. The text books, the mainstream media, the academia, the civil society, internet all say the same thing, trying to justify the extermination of Jews and others. They say it was not without reason. It was inevitable. We had to do that for the survival of our nation. Moreover it was not us who butchered them. They butchered us.
Imagine museums, encyclopedias, exhibitions in Germany all tell these lies and what’s much more terrible, almost all German people believe the government wholeheartedly, with no doubt at all.
Imagine that the remaining Jews are targeted by German racists, and hate speech against Jews is a normal thing in Germany. Imagine Jews live under such conditions in Germany.
A question: With such a Germany and such a denial of the Holocaust, would Europe be the same? Would Poland be the same? Would there be a Grotowski Institute?
I asked you to imagine this to once again think on how a denial of Genocide would change life itself.
In such a life objective reality means NOTHING. Just nothing. Objective reality doesn’t count at all. What determines life is the subjective reality – i.e. what people sincerely believe.
This is exactly the case with Turkey in the context of Armenians and the Armenian Genocide. This is the Turkey where I come from.
Recognition, repentance  humility, feeling shame make one a human. In the absence of this, a people, a country is liable to commit new crimes, to normalize violence, in fact makes violence a way of life – just is the case with Turkey. In the absence of these there is no room for a sort of catharsis, repentance and cleaning oneself off the guilt. This is the case with Turkey since the Genocide. The successive governments went on and still go on committing new crimes.
Now a few words about me. I hope my story will offer some kind of insight into the reality of Turkey. I was a Marxist-Leninist, a Communist, a secret member of the outlawed Communist Party of Turkey between 1970-1985.
We were devoted anti-imperialists, particularly anti-American. For us Turkey was under imperialist oppression and exploitation. So national independence of our country was one of our top priorities. In other words the “evil” was outside of us. We didn’t see the evil within our country. The enemy was far away, so cursing and shouting slogans against the far-away enemy was much more easy and convenient than fighting the evil right beside us.Despite our outspoken internationalism, we were surely nationalists without being aware of it.
We were anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist believing in class struggle but we became anti-fascist, only after the para-military, government-backed ultra-nationalist mobs started to kill us in the street, in our homes, in factories, at schools in the late 1970’s.
But fascism was for us an anti-communist movement. We never woke up to see that fascists were racist Turks as well reflecting the racist essence of the Turkish state, the extension of the Genocidal Ottoman Empire.
Oh yes, we, the Turkish left, were – undoubtedly, surely and vehemently anti-racist.
But which racism? The racism in the United States and in the South Africa – again far away from us. Racism had nothing to do with our country! We were totally blind to the very racist environment we were living in. Denial of Genocide, hate speech against Armenians and non-Muslims in general, discrimination, portraying non-Muslims as potential traitors were all around us and we didn’t see it! We were like fish living in a sea of racism without being aware of it.
Our blindness was so much so that we didn’t even think of campaigning against the Nazi-like “oath” children were made to chant every morning at school. Generations of children started and are starting today classes every morning with that “Oath,” chanted together as loud as they can: that we were proud of being Turks and we were ready to sacrifice our own existence for the sake of the existence of Turkishness! Every morning! Together with a handful of our non-Turkish and non-Muslim class-mates: Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds!
This went on and on for decades. Non of our “international”, Marxist-Leninist selfless comrades – including myself – initiated a campaign against this Nazi-like practice at schools.
OK, we were “internationalists” But what kind of an internationalism was it?
We would give our lives for the national liberation wars in Africa and Asia. We sang Latin American revolutionaries’ songs, memorized their slogans, we shed tears for Angola. But we were unaware of what was happening under our nose. We knew nothing and said nothing about the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians – tiny communities, the children of the genocide victims doomed to live in a racist environment. And Kurds in Kurdish provinces who were subject to practically different legislation – under a permanent state of emergency law.
We were masters of the history of the Soviet Communist Party in every detail, Trotsky’s fight against Stalin, the history of the Vietnamese fight against America, but we didn’t know the true history of our own country. But why?
Because of a very successful disinformation and manipulation of Turkish republic’s founding ideology and the founding myths. The history re-written by the Kemalist leadership, in a totally misleading way. Let’s not go into details – it will take a lot of time.
What happened to Turkey after 1915? Turkey found no peace ever after, no real democracy, no real development. Once the developed urban West Armenia with colleges, theaters, rich cultural life became a barren land, a land of blood and tears. Kurdish uprisings followed one another repressed with huge bloodshed and forced displacements.
Military interventions followed one another. The one in 1980 was a disaster. Tens of thousands of people were jailed, unimaginable methods of torture was used, many died in prison and 36 people were executed. Despite formal restoration of democratic institutions the Constitution in force today is essentially the Constitution adopted by the military rule.
Now a war is going on in the southeast Turkey, the historical Western Armenia and Kurdistan. It is estimated that 50 thousand people died, most of them Kurds. Now 10 thousand Kurdish human rights activists, municipal workers, politicians, people engaged in a total peaceful struggle are in jail. And a massive hunger strike is under way.
Genocide denial is the destruction of all collective values, all ethics, all sense of justice, in one word the hearts and minds of the entire nation.
You may hear that things are cha
nging in Turkey as regards the Armenian “issue” as they say. Yes, but very slowly, very irregularly and very disappointingly.
Thank you for listening to me.

Turkey Parliamentarians Argue Over Who Killed Armenians

ANKARA, Turkey (A.W.)—The Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TGNA) witnessed an argument between parliamentarians over who killed the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915, Turkish newspapers reported on Jan. 3.
1x1.trans Turkey Parliamentarians Argue Over Who Killed Armenians
‘Your history is the history of massacres.’
“Your history is a history of massacres. You know very well how the grandparents of those who are struggling today were killed,” said parliamentarian Sirri Sakik (Mush), from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), according to the Turkish newspaper Radikal.
In the ensuing argument, parliamentarian Yusuf Halacoglu, from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), addressed Kurdish members of the National Assembly asking, “Then tell me frankly—and I, in turn, will show you all the documents—who killed the Armenians?”
Halacoglu is the former director of the Turkish Historical Society.
Other members of parliament pointed to massacres committed against Kurds, while parliamentarians from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) argued that it is the Kurdish guerilla group PKK that has committed atrocities in Turkey, and that Turkish history is genocide-free.
Nurettin Canikli, head of AKP parliamentary group said, “There is no massacre, genocide, and assimilation in this nation’s history.”