Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waltzing Around Denial: A Response to Jirair Libaridian

In early June, a conference held in Tbilisi, Georgia, generated great controversy. The individual and organization at the heart of this conference have, for much of the past decade, been actively engaged in efforts to extend the denial of the Armenian Genocide into academia as well as in the political realm in North America.
The Armenian Weekly published a report outlining the problem as we saw it, quoting five scholars who weighed in on the issue. We also reprinted Asbarez Editor Ara Khatchatourian’s editorial on the subject, and a letter to the editor from George Aghjayan, in our opinion pages.
Almost all of the scholars from Armenia who were scheduled to speak at the conference subsequently withdrew.
Also in early June, Prof. Jirair Libaridian, who was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at the Tbilisi conference, contacted the Weekly asking for the opportunity to respond. This month, we received and published his six-page response, which was incidentally much longer than the articles he was responding to combined.
While it is for the readers to judge whether Prof. Libaridian’s arguments adequately address the concerns previously expressed in the Weekly, several points necessitate a short editorial response:
1)  Prof. Libaridian calls the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) “an organization accused of being at the forefront of denialist efforts in American academia.” This is a rather charitable description, to put it mildly. The TCA’s denialist record, highlighted in our articles, speaks for itself. There is even a U.S. federal appeals court decision designating the TCA as engaging in genocide denial. Yet, it seems, no amount of evidence is conclusive enough for Prof. Libaridian. Ironically, this is a common strategy for genocide deniers as well, who profess to be unconvinced regardless of the amount of conclusive evidence one throws at them.  We believe that there is more than enough information available for Prof. Libaridian, or any other informed reader, to conclude whether these are “accusations” or “facts.”
2) Prof. Libaridian accuses the Weekly of a “lack of professionalism” for not consulting him before publishing the editorial, the letter to the editor, and the opinions by five scholars. Yet, we are entitled to have a position on this matter, and to express it in our pages. When Libaridian approached us with a request to respond, we welcomed it too.
3) Prof. Libaridian alleges that we did not produce “an article that informed the public of the basic facts and the essence of the controversy.” The essence of the controversy is explained clearly in our article: “The individual and organization at the heart of this conference have, for much of the past decade, been actively engaged in efforts to extend the denial of the Armenian Genocide into academia as well as in the political realm in North America.”  We believe that this is where discussion of the matter begins. Interestingly, Prof. Libaridian, in a lengthy interview published on the Groong Armenian News Network prior to the conference, neglected to even mention the Turkish Coalition of America (as if it were peripheral to the discussion). Even in his response to the Weekly, he neglected to address the track record of the TCA and its impact on the conference. If anyone is avoiding “basic facts,” it is not the Weekly.
4) Prof. Libaridian asks, “Wasn’t it possible for the editors of these newspapers to imagine that another writer could produce quotes by another five scholars or more whose opinions regarding participation in the Tbilisi conference would be the opposite of what five protagonists quoted in that article had to say?” Yes, such a scenario is, indeed, possible. It is also possible for Prof. Libaridian or any individual to produce quotes by five scholars who deny the Armenian Genocide. Or five scholars who deny the Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, or global warming. There are people with all kinds of opinions everywhere.
5) “At the end, we are not talking about the factuality of the Genocide; rather we are looking at the politics of Genocide recognition,” argues Prof. Libaridian. But when the latter undermines the former, in our opinion, are we not allowed to express that opinion?
6) Prof. Libaridian asks, “Why is the assault against the participants directed against scholars of Armenian origin?” First, the Weekly made no “assault.” It offered the informed, critical remarks of five individuals for whom Libaridian professes “great respect.” Second, none of the scholars interviewed made it an issue of Armenian versus non-Armenian scholars. We believe scholars—Armenians, Turks, or others—who take part in such conferences are legitimizing denial and, worse, giving credibility to one of the most virulent denialist-funding institutions. This is our strongly held opinion. Expressing it does not constitute an assault.
7) He further asks, “Will the denialists disappear if we boycott their conferences? Is a conference best left to denialists?” No, Prof. Libaridian, they will not disappear; but, yes, we believe that denialist-funded and denialist-organized conferences are best left to denialists.  Is there any compelling evidence to suggest that the denialists will disappear if we embrace them and legitimize their conferences through participation? Moreover, how is it helpful for genocide recognition to engage with the most regressive, rabidly anti-Armenian agents of genocide denial?
8) Prof. Libaridian asks, “Are Armenians in the same situation regarding the international recognition of the Genocide as Jews are regarding that of the Holocaust?” No, we are not in the same situation. And had Holocaust scholars not had the wisdom to marginalize Holocaust deniers decades ago, they would still be arguing with fringe elements because denialists will never be satisfied with any amount of evidence presented.
9) “Can we be sure that Turkish or other scholars who share our pain but do not use the term genocide or who do not agree to reparations are less ‘dangerous’ than those who openly oppose the use of the term?” Prof. Libaridian repeats variants of this argument several times. However, there is a difference between scholars and institutions that do not use the term “genocide,” and an institution that spends millions of dollars filing lawsuits against scholars and institutions of higher learning and bullying legislatures to deny the genocide.
10)  Prof. Libaridian says, “The conference was being held with the co-sponsorship of the most important university in Georgia, a critical neighbor of Armenia, with the participation of many scholars and others from that country and elsewhere who would have heard only a denialist position had Armenian scholars not participated.” Here, it is Libaridian himself who is making the issue one of Armenian scholars vs. non-Armenian ones. Moreover, we believe that any Georgian or other scholar would have, one hopes, the common sense to ask the question, Why aren’t Armenian scholars present? The answer would be clear.
11)  “There were no limitations on what and how I could discuss and no request was made, nor could one be accepted, for prior approval of my talk,” writes Libaridian.  Of course there were no limitations. Because the entire point of the denialist is to say: “Look, we are discussing the matter! ‘Both sides’ are represented! The ‘debate’ is ongoing!” They know they cannot prove that the genocide did not take place; they also know that they do not need to. They just need to manufacture doubt.
12)  “Turkey and the Turkish world represent a complex reality. Turkey or Turks cannot be seen as good or bad.” We do not require a lecture on the complexities of Turkey from  Prof. Libaridian. The Weekly has regularly provided a forum for Turkish writers who embody this complexity, as well as a venue to discuss the changing perceptions of Turkey and Turks among Armenians. However, in this “complex” reality, we do not wish to engage with the most regressive elements, those pouring millions into denial. There are many others with whom we can engage and are engaging across the spectrum.
13) “One cannot engage in these processes expecting to achieve a desired goal by arbitrarily defining safe moral/intellectual limits for oneself, leaving out what may disturb one’s comfortable scholarly and quasi-political world.” No, not “arbitrarily.” However, there are always moral limits to be drawn as journalists, writers, and scholars. It is far from “arbitrary” to draw a line at playing into the hands of a denialist state and those who advance its policies. To those who draw the line elsewhere, we wish them luck. But we hope we have the right to express the opinion, strongly, that ours is a different path.
14)  In his reference to Prof. Hovannisian—in which he compares TCA with UCLA! –Prof. Libaridian seems to have no interest in understanding the issue at stake here. His analogy only makes sense if Prof. Hovannisian had invited Shaw to present “the Turkish side of the story” in his classes and conferences, or had agreed to represent “the Armenian point of view” in Shaw’s.
15) Finally, Prof. Libaridian asks if it “is incontestable, irrefutable, incontrovertible, that somehow they [the five scholars quoted in the Weekly article] have managed to find the ultimate truth, the ultimate value, and the ultimate morality.” This is a non-question and normative moral relativism, at best. One can ask that question about anything and everything. And in so doing, one will end up lacking an opinion, a position, a moral compass on anything.

Anti-Gülen Demo in Westwood

Anti-Gülen Demo in Westwood

Fetullah Gulen
The fourth in a series of demonstrations against the Gülen movement’s various manifestations in the U.S. took place on Sunday, July 28, from 5. to 6:30 p.m. in front of the Pacifica Institute in Westwood, just south of the UCLA campus.
Some twenty people, mostly Turks judging by the language spoken, held placards criticizing the Gülen movement’s establishment of 135 charter schools across the U.S. A very detailed leaflet was distributed to the few passersby. Many of the placards included a picture of Kemal Ataturk, and some people simply held a picture of him. This is a clear indication of the divide in Turkish society between the secularist/Ataturkists and Islamist/Gülenists.
One of the participants in the demonstration explained that it is the Gezi Park actions in Bolis that have motivated other Turks to come forth, since they no longer felt alone. Yet, in explaining the small number at the demonstration, she also conveyed that many people are still afraid to come forth because “these are powerful people,” referring to the Gülenists.
Another participant was also quite communicative with this reporter and attributed the low turnout to insufficient preparation. It became evident that he is one of the “reasonable” Genocide deniers, asserting that Armenians have spread many lies in the U.S. and these would henceforth be met by counter-information by Turks. His mindset was the “yes, Armenians died, but so did Moslems” one.
The previous three demonstrations were held in Oakland (at one of the Gülenist charter schools), at Gülen’s home/compound, and in New York, on the preceding two Saturdays.
Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish cleric who left Turkey for medical reasons (or fled, depending on who is describing it) in 1999. He lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania on a large property, and is reputed to be a multi-billionaire. Gülen is a prolific writer and orator. His followers, many of whom reside in the U.S. have been engaged in establishing charter schools across the U.S. where Turkish language and culture is heavily emphasized. Many of the teachers in those schools immigrate specifically to teach in those schools. The Anatolian Festival held periodically in Orange County is organized extensively by Gülen’s followers.
Various U.S. media, among them “60 Minutes”, have done exposés of this movement’s activities in the U.S., raising serious questions about the legalities of some of their doings.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Real Turkish Heroes of 1915

Germany has decided to name several neighborhoods, streets, buildings, and public schools in Berlin and other German cities after Adolf Hitler and other Nazi “heroes.”
1x1.trans The Real Turkish Heroes of 1915
Talat Pasha
If the above statement were to be true, how would you react? How do you think Germans would react? How do you think Jews still living in Germany would react? My guess is that you, the Germans, and the Jews would all find it inconceivable, offensive, and unacceptable.
And yet, it is true in Turkey, where it is acceptable to name several neighborhoods, streets, and schools after Talat Pasha and other Ittihat ve Terakki (Committee of Union and Progress) “heroes” who not only planned and carried out the Armenian Genocide, but were responsible for the loss of the Ottoman Empire itself.
At last count, there were officially 8 “Talat Pasha” neighborhoods or districts, 38 “Talat Pasha” streets or boulevards, 7 “Talat Pasha” public schools, 6 “Talat Pasha” buildings, and 2 “Talat Pasha” mosques scattered around Istanbul, Ankara, and other cities. After his assassination in 1922, Talat was originally interred in Berlin, Germany, but his remains were transferred to Istanbul in 1943 by the Nazis in an attempt to appease the Turks. He was re-buried with full military honors at the Infinite Freedom Hill Cemetery in Istanbul. The remains of the other notorious Ittihat ve Terakki leader, Enver Pasha, were also transferred in 1996 from Tajikistan and re-buried beside Talat, with full military honors; the ceremony was attended by Turkish President Suleyman Demirel and other dignitaries.
Is this hero worship misguided or deliberate? Is the denial of 1915 only state policy, or is it wholeheartedly accepted by the Turkish public, brainwashed by the state version of history?
Undoubtedly, there was mass participation in the genocide committed by the Ittihat ve Terakki leaders, resulting in the removal of Armenians from their homeland of 3,000 years, as well as the immediate transfer of their wealth, property, and possessions to the Turkish and Kurdish public, and to thousands of government officials. Yet, despite this mass participation and the hero worship, there were also a significant number of ordinary Turks and Kurds, as well as government officials, who refused to participate in the massacres and plunders. There is complete silence and ignorance in Turkey about these righteous officials who refused to follow government orders and instead tried to save and protect the Armenians. They paid dearly for their actions, often with the loss of their positions or even their lives as a consequence. This article will cite some examples of these real and unsung heroes.
Celal Bey was the governor of Konya, a vast central Anatolian province and a hub for the Armenian deportation routes from north and west Anatolia to the Syrian desert. He knew exactly what the Armenians’ fate would be along these routes, or if they survived the deportations and reached Der Zor; he was previously the governor of Aleppo and had witnessed the atrocities there. Celal Bey had attempted to reason with the Ittihat ve Terakki leaders, saying that there was absolutely no Armenian revolt in Anatolia, nor in Aleppo, and that there was no justification for the mass deportations. However, one of his subordinates in Marash inflamed the situation by arresting and executing several Marash Armenians, triggering a resistance by the Armenians. As a result, Celal Bey was removed from his governor’s post in Aleppo and transferred to Konya. Once there, he refused to arrange for the deportation of the Konya Armenians, despite repeated orders from Istanbul. He even managed to protect some of the Armenians who were deported from other districts and arrived in Konya. By the time he was removed from his post, in October 1915, he had saved thousands of Armenian lives. In his memoirs about the Konya governorship, he likened himself to “a person sitting beside a river, with absolutely no means of rescuing anyone from it. Blood was flowing down the river, with thousands of innocent children, irreproachable old men, and helpless women streaming down the river towards oblivion. Anyone I could save with my bare hands, I saved, and the rest went down the river, never to return.”
Hasan Mazhar Bey was the governor of Ankara. He protected the Ankara-Armenian community by refusing to follow the deportation orders, stating, “I am a vali [governor], not a bandit. I cannot do this. Let someone else come and sit in my chair to carry out these orders.” He was removed from his post in August 1915.
Faik Ali (Ozansoy) Bey was the governor of Kutahya, another central Anatolian province. When the deportation order was issued from Istanbul, he refused to implement it; on the contrary, he gave orders to keep the deported Armenians arriving in Kutahya from elsewhere, and treat them well. He was soon summoned to Istanbul to explain his subordination, and the police chief of Kutahya, Kemal Bey, took the opportunity to threaten the local Armenians—either convert to Islam or face deportation, he said. The Armenians decided to convert. When Faik Ali Bey returned, he was enraged. He removed the police chief from his post, and asked the Armenians if they still wished to convert to Islam. They all decided to remain Christian, except one. Faik Ali’s brother, Suleyman Nazif Bey, was an influential and well-known poet who urged his brother not to participate in this barbarianism and stain the family name. Faik Ali Bey was not removed from his post despite his offers of resignation. He ended up protecting the entire Armenian population of Kutahya, except for the one who converted to Islam and was deported.
Mustafa Bey (Azizoglu) was the district governor of Malatya, a transit point on the deportation route. Although he was unable to prevent the deportations, he managed to hide several Armenians in his own home. He was murdered by his own son, a zealous member of the Ittihat ve Terakki Party, for “looking after infidels [gavours, in Turkish].”
Other government officials who defied the deportation orders included Reshit Pasha, the governor of Kastamonu; Tahsin Bey, the governor of Erzurum; Ferit Bey, the governor of Basra; Mehmet Cemal Bey, the district governor of Yozgat; and Sabit Bey, the district governor of Batman. These officials were eventually removed from their posts and replaced by more obedient civil servants, who carried out the task of wiping out the Armenians from these locations.
One of the most tragic stories of unsung heroes involves Huseyin Nesimi Bey, the mayor of Lice, a town near Diyarbakir. While the governor of Diyarbakir, Reshit Bey, organized the most ruthless removal of the Armenians in the Diyarbakir region—with a quick massacre, rather than lengthy deportation, immediately outside of the city limits—Huseyin Nesimi dared to keep and protect the Lice Armenians, a total of 5,980 souls. Reshit summoned Huseyin Nesimi to Diyarbakir for a meeting, but arranged to have his Circassian militant guard Haroun intercept him en route. On June 15, 1915, Haroun murdered Huseyin Nesimi and threw him into a ditch beside the road. Since then, the murder location, halfway between Lice and Diyarbakir, has become known as Turbe-i Kaymakam, or the Mayor’s Grave. The Turkish records document this murder as “Mayor killed by Armenian militants.” In an ironic twist of history repeating itself, in October 1993 the Turkish state army attacked Lice, supposedly to go after the Kurdish rebel militants there; instead, they ended up burning down the entire town and killing the civilian population. This became the first case the Kurds took to the European Human Rights Court, resulting in a 2.5 million pound compensation against the Turkish state. At the same time, several wealthy Kurdish businessmen were targeted for assassination and murdered by then-Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. One of the victims was a man named Behcet Canturk, whose mother was an Armenian orphan who had managed to survive the Lice massacres of 1915.
Governor Reshit was also responsible for firing and murdering several other government officials in the Diyarbakir region who had defied the deportation orders: Chermik Mayor Mehmet Hamdi Bey, Savur Mayor Mehmet Ali Bey, Silvan Mayor Ibrahim Hakki Bey, Mardin Mayor Hilmi Bey, followed by Shefik Bey, were all fired in mid- to late-1915. Another official, Nuri Bey, the mayor of first Midyat and then Derik, an all-Armenian town near Mardin, was also fired by Reshit Bey, and subsequently murdered by his henchmen. His murder was blamed on Armenian rebels. As a result, all of the Armenian males in Derik were rounded up and executed, and the women and children deported.
The names of these brave men are not in the history books. If mentioned at all, they are labeled as “traitors” from the perspective of the official Turkish version of history. While the state and the masses committed a huge crime, and while that crime became a part of their daily life, these men rejected the genocidal campaign, based on individual conscience, and despite the temptation of enriching themselves. These few virtuous men, as well as a significant number of ordinary Turks and Kurds, defied the orders and protected the Armenians. They are the real heroes, and represent the Turkish version of similar characters in “Schindler’s List” or “Hotel Rwanda.” Citizens of Turkey today have two choices when remembering their forefathers as heroes: to either go with the mass murderers and plunderers who committed “crimes against humanity,” or the virtuous human beings with a clear conscience who tried to prevent the “crimes against humanity.” Getting to know these real heroes will help Turks break loose from the chains of denialist history over four generations, and start to confront the realities of 1915.

Tuncay Opcin, “Ermenilere Kol Kanat Gerdiler (They protected the Armenians),” Yeni Aktuel, 2007, issue 142.
Ayse Hur, “1915 Ermeni soykiriminda kotuler ve iyiler (The good and the bad in the 1915 Armenian Genocide),” Radikal newspaper, April 29, 2013.
Seyhmus Diken, “Kaymakam Ermeniydi, Oldurduler… (The mayor was Armenian, they killed him…),” Bianet, April 23, 2011.
Orhan Cengiz, “1915: Heroes and Murderers,” Cihan News Agency, Nov. 2, 2012.
Tuncay Opcin, “Ermenilere Kol Kanat Gerdiler (They protected the Armenians),” Yeni Aktuel, 2007, issue 142.
Ayse Hur, “1915 Ermeni soykiriminda kotuler ve iyiler (The good and the bad in the 1915 Armenian Genocide),” Radikal newspaper, April 29, 2013.
Seyhmus Diken, “Kaymakam Ermeniydi, Oldurduler… (The mayor was Armenian, they killed him…),” Bianet, April 23, 2011.
Orhan Cengiz, “1915: Heroes and Murderers,” Cihan News Agency, Nov. 2, 2012

Thursday, July 18, 2013

US Administration Holds Briefing with Armenian Americans on Syria Humanitarian Assistance

WASHINGTON— Armenian American civic, church, and charitable organization leaders from across the United States took part today in a U.S. government briefing on Syria humanitarian assistance efforts by the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.
statedepartment 300x300 US Administration Holds Briefing with Armenian Americans on Syria Humanitarian Assistance
The briefing was held at the State Department
The briefing was held at the State Department and included participation, via tele-conference, by representatives of a broad range of community leaders. The full array of urgent humanitarian issues of concern to Armenian Americans were raised by community leaders during the meeting.
The Armenian community of Syria, like many other Christian and minority populations, has been caught in the middle of fighting between government and opposition forces, suffering along with the rest of the population from food and energy shortages, blockades, violence, and instability. The large Christian Armenian population in Aleppo, along with the smaller communities in Damascus, Kessab, and elsewhere have been targets of attacks and kidnappings.
Among the Armenian American community’s publicly-stated humanitarian priorities, going into today’s meeting, were:
1) Ensuring the balanced and needs-based distribution of U.S. humanitarian aid to all areas of Syria, including those like Aleppo with large Armenian and other Christian populations;
2) Preventing humanitarian blockades of civilian populations, such as those creating crises in Aleppo;
3) Providing additional assistance to the Armenian government and NGO’s supporting and helping to settle Syrians who have fled to Armenia, and
4) Assisting the Armenian Church and charitable groups in Lebanon as they support the very considerable humanitarian needs of refugees from Syria.
While the Armenian presence in Syria has a very long history, the majority of Syrian Armenians are descendants of those who found shelter, safety, and a new life in Syria after the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. The Armenian community numbered approximately 100,000 at the start of the present conflict. Estimates today are that as many as half of the community has left Syria, some permanently, others with the hope that they will be able to return. More than 10,000 Syrian Armenians have already fled to the Republic of Armenia, and another 10,000 or more have found refuge in Lebanon.
The Armenian American community, along with Armenian communities around the world, has undertaken far-reaching and life-saving humanitarian efforts, through the Armenian Apostolic, Catholic, and Evangelical churches, Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, Armenian Relief Society, Armenian General Benevolent Union and other avenues. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has undertaken a grassroots effort to educate Congressional legislators about the plight of Armenians and other affected minorities in Syria and urged Congress to provide relief and resettlement support for at-risk Armenians and other Christian populations in Syria and throughout the Middle East as part of the FY 2014 foreign aid bill.

The ANCA’s testimony before the House Subcommittee on Foreign Operations is available at:
Citizens and civil society groups in the Republic of Armenia have organized the “Help your Brother” civic initiatives, airlifting relief supplies to Armenians and other Syrian populations caught in the conflict. The Armenian government has also undertaken a broad array of actions to support and integrate refugees from Syria. These efforts are ongoing, but do not represent a substitute for the scope and scale of aid that can be provided by the international community.

Heritage Park ‘Commemorates, Contributes to Entire City’

“Memorials are tricky,” wrote Karen Cord Taylor in “Downtown View” (June 18, 2013). “The most successful examples are, of course, Lincoln’s, Washington’s…The Armenian Genocide Memorial on the Greenway, is another success. I was skeptical…[but] Armenian Heritage Park turned out to be lovely and interesting. It evokes an experience beyond the catastrophe it commemorates. It contributes to the entire city, not to a single group of people.”
Vanderwarker mg 1400 200x300 Heritage Park ‘Commemorates, Contributes to Entire City’
Peter Vanderwarker Photo
Many have visited the Armenian Heritage Park on Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway since its unveiling on May 22, 2012. They spend time there, meet family, friends, and colleagues there. The park’s two features—an abstract sculpture (a split dodecahedron resting upon a reflecting pool) and a labyrinth—serve to engage all ages.
This year on the first Sunday in April, the sculpture was reconfigured for the first time. The annual reconfiguration—one of over 20—celebrates the immigrant experience, celebrates those who were pulled away from their country of origin and came to these Massachusetts shores, establishing themselves in new and different ways. The Sculpture is “dedicated to lives lost during the Armenian Genocide of 1915-23 and all genocides that have followed”; those words are etched on the base of the reflecting pool upon which the sculpture rests. Its waters wash over its sides and reemerge as a single jet of water at the labyrinth’s center, representing hope and rebirth. The white flowers blooming in late April pay fitting tribute.
On the evening of April 23, a candlelight vigil, hosted by the AGBU Young Professionals with the AYF-YOARF Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter, fittingly commemorated the 98th anniversary of the genocide with poetry, prayer, and song as candles flickered in the rain’s mist.
The labyrinth, an ancient pattern of concentric circles, celebrates life’s journey. The words “Art, Science, Service, and Commerce” are etched around its outer circle in recognition of the accomplishments made.
In collaboration with the Labyrinth Guild of New England, monthly labyrinth walks are held at the park on the third Wednesday of the month from May to October at 7:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The park’s labyrinth is the only labyrinth on public land in the northeast. People travel worldwide to walk a labyrinth. “Labyrinth designs have been found on ancient coins, embossed on pottery, etched onto cave walls through the Renaissance,” reported Cheryl Balian Scaparrotta in “Labyrinths Exploring the Path of Life” (WestonWellesley Magazine, Winter 2012/2013), which profiled the Armenian Heritage Park on the Greenway.
World Labyrinth Day, an international initiative of the Labyrinth Society, was held for the first time at the park on Sat., May 1. Each year on the first Saturday of May at 1 p.m., people worldwide “walk as one in peace and harmony.”
Public programs at the park are offered in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office of Art, Tourism and Special Events, and the Greenway Conservancy with the Friends of Armenian Heritage Park. Corporate walks and meetings at the Park also providing opportunities to engage. Several corporations and the Boston Elderly Commission have been building awareness of the health and team-building benefits of walking a labyrinth. Many have observed that although the park is in the middle of the city, there is a unique sense of quiet and calm felt by the visitors.
Fourth graders from the North End’s Eliot School recently met with the park’s architect/designer to learn about how a geometric shape becomes art, and how the split dodecahedron was constructed and is reconfigured annually.
For Boston By Foot and other walking and bus tours, the park has become a popular destination. During Labor Day weekend, the Armenian Heritage Park will be highlighted in the Boston Arts Festival at Christopher Columbus Park.
On Oct. 24, the fourth annual Najarian Lecture on Human Rights at Faneuil Hall will take place. An endowed public program, the purpose of the endowed series is to advance understanding of human rights issues and societal abuses worldwide, and to increase awareness of the work of individuals and organizations so that we are all more actively engaged. The annual lecture at Faneuil Hall has been inspired by the New England women and men—intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, and citizens—who from 1895-1918 at Faneuil Hall heard the eyewitness accounts of the atrocities taking place against the Armenian minority of the Ottoman Empire, and spoke passionately about the urgent need for intervention. Distinguished Bostonians, among them Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Alice Stone Blackwell, heard these accounts and were moved to assist the Armenians. Philanthropists nationwide raised over $100 million. The American Red Cross launched its first international mission with Clara Barton to bring aid to the Armenians. America’s first international human rights movement was thus launched, as told in author Peter Balakian’s The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response.
The construction of the park and the establishment of its endowed public programs have been made possible because of the commitment of generous supporters. The Armenian Heritage Foundation, sponsor of the park, is comprised of representatives from 42 Armenian-American parishes and organizations within Massachusetts. The foundation has now embarked on the last phase of the campaign to build the endowed fund for the park’s ongoing care and maintenance. That the park be impeccably cared for is critically important. There are several ways to support and participate. Contributions may be made online at or by mail. For a sponsor form with the address, e-mail A few naming opportunities at the park remain. For more information, call James Kalustian (617-899-4309), Charles Guleserian (617-484-6100), or Haig Deranian (617-489-9465). All supporters will be acknowledged in the Commemorative Book.
For more information, visit or e-mail

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sassounian: In Major Policy Shift, Armenia Demands Lands from Turkey

Ever since independence in 1991, Armenia’s leaders have been reluctant to make any concrete demands from Turkey beyond recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Only in recent years, Armenian officials have begun to speak about “the elimination of the consequences of the genocide,” without specifying the “consequences” and the means for their “elimination.”
Earlier this month, however, a major shift was announced in Armenia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Turkey, when Aghvan Hovsepyan, the prosecutor general of Armenia, called for the return of historic Armenian territories at an international conference of Armenian lawyers in Yerevan. This is the first time a high-ranking Armenian government official has made such a public demand from Turkey.
In a lengthy and comprehensive speech, Hovsepyan stated that the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by various countries is simply a moral and emotional issue. Calling for a switch to “the legal field,” he indicated that “to eliminate the consequences of the Armenian Genocide,” Turkey must “pay compensation to heirs of the Armenian Genocide, return to the Armenian Church the miraculously still-standing Armenian churches and properties in Turkey, and give back the ‘lost territories’ to the Republic of Armenia.”
Prosecutor General Hovsepyan insisted that unless Armenians adopt this bold approach, they will not accomplish any concrete results in the next hundred years, just as they did not in the last hundred years. He proposed a thorough legal review of all international agreements regulating Armenia-Turkey relations, from the Berlin Treaty of 1878 to the signed but not ratified protocols of 2009. He also declared that the region of Nakhichevan is “an inseparable part of Armenia, albeit occupied by Azerbaijan.” Hovsepyan urged the assembled lawyers from around the world to prepare the legal case for territorial demands from Azerbaijan and Turkey, and present it to the Armenian government for eventual submission to the International Court of Justice (World Court).
Statements made by a prosecutor general usually do not carry much weight in international affairs, if not for the fact that several other high-ranking officials, including President Serge Sarkisian, Constitutional Court President Gagik Haroutyunyan, Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan, Minister of Justice Hrair Tovmasyan, and Minister of Justice of Artsakh (Karabagh) Ararat Tanielyan, also made remarks on restitutive justice at the lawyers’ conference. It was clear that the prosecutor general was the designated spokesman of the Armenian government to articulate its new tougher line toward Turkey in advance of the Genocide Centennial.
President Sarkisian, using more circumspect language than the prosecutor general, told the lawyers’ conclave: “The international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and elimination of its consequences will always remain a salient issue. As long as the Armenian state is in existence, all efforts to deny and send into oblivion this historical reality will be doomed. This greatest crime against humanity must be recognized and condemned once and for all, and first of all, by Turkey itself.”
In keeping with the government’s new policy orientation, Constitutional Court President Gagik Haroutyunyan announced that a special committee would be formed to prepare the legal documentation necessary for the pursuit of Armenian Genocide claims.
At the conclusion of the conference, the participants issued a joint statement asserting that the priority for Armenian lawyers is not proving the self-evident facts of the genocide, but preparing a comprehensive legal document “to remedy the consequences of the Armenian Genocide.”
This is a welcome development in terms of arriving at a consensus between the Armenian government and the Armenian Diaspora on the objectives to be pursued for the 100th anniversary of the genocide.
However, in order to move beyond mere emotionally inspiring statements, the Armenian leaders must take two immediate steps:
1) Withdraw the Armenian government’s signature from the counter-productive Armenia-Turkey protocols. On the eve of the Genocide Centennial, it would be inconceivable to move forward with fruitless efforts to improve relations with Turkey, while preparing to file a lawsuit for restitution.
2) Form a team of international law experts to begin structuring the legal case against Turkey in the World Court and/or the European Court of Human Rights.
While skeptics may not take seriously the recent policy pronouncements of the Armenian authorities, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has no such doubts. Last week, Ankara denounced the Armenian territorial demands, announcing angrily that “nobody can dare to claim territory from Turkey!”

Aleppo Crisis: Urgent Appeal for Help

On July 13, the ARS Eastern USA board of directors issued the following statement on the unfolding crisis in Aleppo and how the Armenian American community can help.
An estimated 60,000 Armenians in Aleppo, Syria are affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria. Thousands of Armenian families are facing dismal food shortages as food prices have skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.
The Armenian Relief Society of Eastern USA Board remains committed to helping Syrian Armenians affected by the ongoing Syrian conflict and resulted humanitarian crisis. We are extremely saddened by reports that thousands of Armenian families in Aleppo presently are unable to buy food and are in unsafe conditions. We are following the heroic acts of ARS Syria members.
During this period of extreme need, our region is compelled to support our ARS Syria ungerouhiner, who have continued to provide humanitarian assistance to the Armenian community, without regard for their own safety. We must follow their lead and provide much needed financial support.
We, Armenian Relief Society of Eastern USA Board of Directors, urge the Eastern USA community to help us continue our relief efforts, act quickly, and join us in our fundraising efforts.
Be part of the Syrian-Armenian relief efforts by making a tax-deductible donation to this humanitarian cause and designate the “Fund for Syrian Armenian Relief” as your program of choice. For more information or to make a donation, visit, call (617) 926-3801 or write to ARS Eastern USA Inc., 80 Bigelow Ave., Suite 200, Watertown, MA 02472.
ARS Eastern USA Board of Directors

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Turkey Pursues New Ottomanism Under the Cover of Pan-Islamism

By Appo Jabarian
Executive Publisher / Managing Editor
USA Armenian Life Magazine

Turkish-executed and Neo-Con-supported International invasion of Syria by Islamic extremists and terrorists is already more than two years old.

While the United States, Russia, France, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Iran and others are actively competing for their respective national interests, Turkey has been quietly seeking the creation of the New Turkish Ottoman Empire.

On several occasions Turkey has expressed a desire to re-establish itself as the nucleon of a New Ottoman Empire threatening to ‘devour’ all of the Middle East, Caucasus, Central Asia, and parts of Europe.

“In this context, it is useful to consider how useful a resuscitated Ottoman aggressor would be to transnational corporate (and perhaps NATO) elements, who might see it as a vehicle to be used against Russia and China,” wrote

Once the bridge is crossed, can New Ottoman Turkey turn against its Western and Arab paymasters in the Gulf monarchies? A rear-view mirror look into the recent past provides the answer — a resounding yes!

During the heydays of the previous Ottoman regime, the Turkish Sultans and their entourage did not hesitate to be despotic vis-à-vis their Arab, Armenian, Greek, Alevi, Circassian, Jewish, Assyrian and European subjects.

Apparently neither the West nor the Middle East has learned any lessons from the past.

At a time when Washington and Europe are praising Turkey as the model of Muslim democracy for the Arab world, Turkish human rights advocates say the crackdown is part of an ominous trend. Most worrying, they say, are fresh signs that the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is repressing freedom of the press through a mixture of intimidation, arrests and financial machinations, including the sale in 2008 of a leading newspaper and a television station to a company linked to the prime minister’s son-in-law,

Mr. Erdogan’s reputation as a tolerant Muslim has been badly damaged during the recent internal and external developments. Mr. Erdogan’s veil hiding his real ambitions has evaporated.

Now it turns out that his policies suppressing freedom of speech are married to his undemocratic treatment of the press and the Gezi protesters. His true face of Ottoman intolerance, “prickly and thin-skinned” persona has surfaced on more than one occasion. His arrogance, human rights advocates say “contributes to his animus against the news media.” Ottoman despotism against moderate Islam, Christianity and secularism has been re-launched.

There are a number of news accounts regarding the now-tarnished ‘moderation’ of Mr. Erdogan and his AK Party government. In reality the regime has a story inextricably linked with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Bank Al-Taqwa. This is has to say about the bank: “The Al Taqwa Bank (occasionally Bank al Taqwa or simply Al Taqwa) is a financial institution incorporated in 1988. It is based out of The Bahamas, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Al Taqwa Bank was accused by the United States of having links to Islamist terror organizations, and that it was a major source of funds for the operations of Osama bin Laden and his associates.”

However “on August 2, 2010, the bank was removed from a list of entities and individuals associated with Al Qaeda that is maintained by the UN Security Council,” in order to pave the road for unholy cooperation between oligarchs in the West and Islamic extremists and terrorists via Erdogan’s Turkey. In reality, the quality of relationship between Ankara and the neo-Cons in the West is nothing more than mutual exploitation majeure.

What other steps are being taken to establish the new Ottoman Turkish Empire?

Since Turkey is keenly aware that it cannot facilitate the victory of the ideology of Ottomanism over Arab nationalism, Ankara has resorted to overtly supporting Pan-Islamism. When Pan-Islamism failed to spread among Muslim Arabs, Turkey resorted to exporting to Syria foreign Muslim extremists from various foreign countries.

The Turkish war of attrition against Syrian Arab nationalism transcending ethnicity and religion is a blatant example of Ankara’s Ottoman ambitions. Many sources confirm that Turkey has been a leading enabler of Islamic extremist fighters in Syria.

The neo-Ottoman Turkish master plan calls for the elimination of Arab nationalism by way of first liquidating Syria’s moderate Muslim Sunni Arabs who have long forged strategic partnership with fellow Muslim Alawites, Kurds, Shias, Druze as well as Christian Armenians, Syriacs, Greeks and others.

In a recent statement critical of Erdogan’s policies, Arab Americans For Syria (AA4Syria) lambasted Turkey’s inhumane role in Syria: “Ankara’s government has been involved in an act of war against the Syrian people for the past 2 years, and here is how: 1. Turkey helps harboring and training terrorists and mercenaries from all over the world, and providing safe passage to them in and out of Syria; 2. Turkey helps bringing in arms, artillery, money, and logistic support to all the different terrorist groups in Syria; 3. Turkish-backed terrorists have been systematically attacking Syrian villages mainly inhabited by minorities. Villages that are heavily populated with Syrian Christians, Kurds, and Armenians have been paying a very heavy price in recent months as Turkey escalated its Ottoman Empire historical persecution” of moderate Sunnis, Alawites, Kurds, Arab Christians and Armenians in Syria.

Reminiscent of Ottoman culture of looting, AA4Syria underlined: “Turkey, with the full knowledge of its government, has been facilitating the transport of stolen goods from over a 1000 robbed factories from the industrial city of Aleppo into Turkey. Whole factories, goods, equipment, and machinery have been dismantled and passed through to Turkey. This form of international piracy is leading to the destruction of the Syrian economy.”

Mr. Erdogan is ‘lionized’ in the Middle East as a ‘powerful’ regional leader who can ‘stand up’ to Israel and the West, but in reality his government operates under the cover of Pan-Islamism vying to undermine Arab nationalism and promoting Ottoman-era feudalism to systematically weaken the Arab nation and to eventually pave the way for New Ottomanism.

Armenian tombstones found in Istanbul’s Taksim Square

rmenian tombstones found in Istanbul’s Taksim Square

YEREVAN, JUNE 29, ARMENPRESS. Armenian graves have been found in Istanbul’s Taksim Square at the course of the construction activities. As reports “Armenpress” citing, the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey Ömer Çelik and opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu stated this.
Among other things the Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey Ömer Çelik noted that 16 tombstones and walls of historic monuments dating back to the 19th century have been found at the course of the construction works. Experts from the Archaeology Museum of Turkey arrived at the square, after the tombstones were found.
From 28 May 2013, protests raised against the plans of replacing Taksim Gezi Park with a reconstruction of the historic Taksim Military Barracks (demolished in 1940), with the possibility of housing a shopping mall. The protests developed into riots when a group occupying the park was attacked by police. The subjects of the protests have since broadened beyond the development of Taksim Gezi Park, developing into wider anti-government demonstrations. The protests have also spread to other cities in Turkey, and protests have been seen in other countries with significant Turkish communities. In 31 May 2013, police suppressed the protesters with tear gas, arrested at least 60 people and injured hundreds. The police action received wide attention online. Protesters organized and gathered on İstiklal Avenue, reaching thousands on the night of 31 May. 5 men died in the clashes between the Police and the protestors, more than 7500 people were injured and 5 thousand – arrested.

Sassounian: Despite Lavish Public Praise, US Deeply Troubled by Erdogan

Some months ago I wrote a column titled, “Obama Is Exploiting Turkish Leaders’ Craving for Flattery,” explaining that the U.S. president is able to persuade Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to do his bidding by taking advantage of his weakness for lavish praise!
Those aware of Erdogan’s authoritarian streak—on full display during the recent brutal attacks on protesters in Istanbul and other Turkish cities—have been deeply troubled by U.S. officials’ repeated mischaracterization of the prime minister’s dictatorial regime as “a role model for the Islamic world.”
The insincerity of such assessments was exposed when WikiLeaks made public thousands of confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, indicating that American officials’ real opinion about Erdogan is the exact opposite of what they have been stating in public.
The embassy dispatches, published by the German magazine Der Spiegel, described the Turkish prime minister “as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers.” In a May 2005 cable, the U.S. Embassy surmised that Erdogan never had a realistic view of the world and believes he was chosen by God to lead Turkey. A knowledgeable source told American officials that “Tayyip believes in God…but does not trust him.”
U.S. diplomats report that the prime minister gets almost all his information from Islamist-leaning newspapers, ignoring the input of his own ministers. The Turkish military and intelligence services no longer share with him some of their reports. He trusts no one completely, surrounding himself with “an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors.” Despite Erdogan’s macho behavior, he is reportedly terrified of losing his grip on power.
Although the Turkish leader declared war on corruption when he first assumed office, informants told U.S. Embassy officials that corruption exists at all levels, even within the Erdogan family. A senior government advisor confidentially told a journalist that the prime minister enriched himself from the privatization of a state oil refinery. An Energy Ministry official alleged that Erdogan asked Iranians to sign a gas pipeline deal with a Turkish company owned by an old schoolmate. Furthermore, two American sources claimed that the prime minister had eight Swiss bank accounts. Erdogan has denied all such allegations, insisting that his wealth is mostly derived from gifts received at his son’s wedding, and acknowledging that an anonymous Turkish businessman has been paying the expenses of his four children to study in the United States. Such explanations are viewed by the American Embassy as “lame.”
The embassy’s cables contain many other startling accusations against Erdogan. Informants have told U.S. officials that when his political party’s candidate lost the Trabzon mayoral race, the prime minister allegedly funneled millions of dollars from a secret government account to his close friend Faruk Nafiz Ozak, whom he had named as head of the local Trabzonspor football club. The money was for hiring top players so that the soccer team’s victories would overshadow the accomplishments of the elected mayor.
According to a cable sent by former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, Erdogan’s appointees lacked “technocratic depth.” While some “appear to be capable of learning on the job, others are incompetent or seem to be pursuing private…interests.” High-ranking Turkish officials have informed the American Embassy in Ankara that they are appalled by the prime minister’s staff. Erdogan reportedly appointed as his undersecretary a man exhibiting “incompetence, prejudices, and ignorance.” Women’s Minister Nimet Cubukcu, an advocate of criminalizing adultery, obtained her position because she happened to be a friend of the prime minister’s wife. Another minister is accused of “nepotism, links to heroin smuggling, and a predilection for underage girls.”
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, highly praised by U.S. officials in public, also comes under private scrutiny and criticism. According to confidential American Embassy cables, Davutoglu “understands little about politics outside of Ankara.” In fact, U.S. diplomats are alarmed “by his imperialistic tone…and his neo-Ottoman vision.” In a January 2010 dispatch, the American ambassador reported that Turkey has “Rolls Royce ambitions but Rover resources.” Former Defense Minister Mehmet Gonul was also critical of the foreign minister, warning American officials about his “Islamist influence on Erdogan,” and calling him “exceptionally dangerous.”
Having spoiled Erdogan through lavish public praise, despite privately acknowledging his character flaws, U.S. officials must now assume full responsibility for the prime minister’s reckless behavior at home and abroad.