Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Australia's misplaced friendship with Turkey

The NSW Parliament recently passed a resolution condemning the genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman empire against its Assyrian, Pontic Greek and especially Armenian communities during the Great War. 
The Turkish Consul-General in Sydney, the foreign ministry in Ankara and even the city council in Çanakkale (Gallipoli) immediately responded. They deny that the genocide had even occurred and have warned state parliamentarians that they will not be welcome in Turkey when the two nations commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign in 2015.
Australians unaware of the details might be surprised at the vehemence of the Turkish response. Aren’t Turkey and Australia friends? Don’t the Turks generously welcome Australian and New Zealand visitors to Gallipoli throughout the year but especially in April? What have we done to offend them?
The answer is that the parliamentarians have had the temerity to acknowledge the truth about one of the great crimes against humanity of the twentieth century. (Let’s for the moment put aside the question of whether a parliament’s view is even relevant. If the parliamentarians had resolved that the genocide had not happened it would still be an historical fact. But both Turks and Armenians regard legislative endorsement of their version of the past as scalps, and the Armenians are winning.)
Australians have been captivated by the Turkish narrative of Gallipoli. The Turkish nation has built around the campaign (in which they defeated a British (and Anzac) and French invasion of Turkish soil) a national epic of salvation. That Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of the modern Turkish nation, commanded some of its defenders makes Gallipoli part of Turkey’s national founding myth. In this the two nations have something in common.
The problem is that the day before the 1915 invasion, the Ottoman empire, suspicious of its Armenian minority, embarked upon the systematic elimination of the empire’s Armenian population. Impartial scholars accept that about a million-and-a-half of the empire’s two million Armenians were killed directly or died of starvation and sickness over the next few years. Neutral missionaries and diplomats, and even Turkey’s German allies witnessed and reported the massacres and deportations – as did Anzac prisoners of war. 
The world was outraged at the time, and the surviving Armenian community, including a substantial Armenian diaspora in the Middle East, Europe, North America and Australia, has never forgotten it. Turkey, on the other hand, denies that genocide occurred, disputing its definition in international law or arguing that while villagers may have been deported they died of incidental causes. 
The NSW resolution disrupts the astoundingly successful charm offensive Turkey has conducted in Australia for years, fostering a positive relationship with Australia through the shared ordeal of Gallipoli. The NSW resolution, instigated by Australia’s energetic Armenian National Council and promoted by the Christian Democrat MP Rev. Fred Nile (but also by the premier Barry O’Farrell), has upset Australia’s acquiescence with Turkey’s desire to emphasise the shared history of Gallipoli while eliminating any reference to the genocide.
You might argue that the Armenian genocide is remote from the Australian experience of the Great War. In fact, Australian troops (both prisoners of war and as combatants) encountered the genocide and its effects, and Australian civilians contributed vast amounts of money and time to the international relief effort mounted from 1915 and for years after. In effect, Australian troops in the Middle East were fighting to defeat a regime capable of state sponsored atrocity, just as Australia’s forces in the Second World War were fighting to defeat the regime responsible for the Holocaust. The Armenian genocide is part of the story of the Great War, something to which Australians should not be blind, and certainly not blinded by Turkish denial.
The controversy obliges Australians to take sides. I am an impartial historian, having been convinced of the facts by the historical evidence. That claim makes me immediately suspect in Turkish eyes. I suppose I’ll be banned as well. But having examined the evidence, I am co-writing a book on Australia and the Armenian genocide. As President of the recently-formed coalition Honest History, dedicated to standing up for honesty in our relationship to the past, I cannot connive at the falsification of history.
Australia and Turkey are friends. But friends tell each other the truth. They don’t react like children – ‘if you say that you can’t be my friend anymore!’ Turkey’s extraordinary response to the NSW parliamentarians will oblige Australians to choose between being a friend of Turkey or being a friend of the truth. I know which way I choose.

Peter Stanley headshotProfessor Peter Stanley is a military historian at the University of NSW, Canberra.

Armenian Genocide Protest image from Shutterstock.com

Peter Stanley

The Power of the Word--The Turkish Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu

Ragip Zarakolu (photo: AP Photo/Muard Sezer)
The Turkish Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu

The Power of the Word

For almost 40 years now the Turkish publisher, author and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu has been a thorn in the side of the Turkish state. He has been jailed several times and there are numerous indictments against him going through the courts. But Zarakolu has never lost his faith in the power of the word. Profile by Ceyda Nurtsch
Describe someone as a bulwark against the Turkish state, and a quite different image springs to mind. Ragıp Zarakolu is a diminutive man with frizzy, grey hair, a full beard and a thin voice. Bright eyes sparkle behind his spectacles. There is an air of cosiness about him. It soon becomes apparent that he loves to laugh. Even when he's talking about things that others regard as no laughing matter.
For example, that there are 20,000 titles on the list of banned Turkish literature, because as new governments take power they add more titles without deleting any of the old ones. "The list reads like a history of Turkish literature," says Zarakolu ironically.
A warrant for arrest
He was also able to maintain a sense of humour when he was released from the high security Kandıra prison in the spring of 2012, after six months behind bars. He had been arrested in the spring of the previous year as part of a campaign to detain anyone suspected of links to the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK). The Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul had issued a warrant for his arrest, as well as for the arrest of a large number of lawyers, politicians, students and activists on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activities.
Ayse Nur Zarakolu at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1997 (photo: AP Photo/Murad Sezer)
Ambitious leftwing book publisher: Zarakolu founded "Belge" in the Istanbul district of Sultanahmet in 1977 together with his wife Ayşe Nur, who died in 2002. It still exists to this day...
​​The reason: He had given a lecture at the political academy of the pro-Kurdish BDP (Peace and Democracy Party). Those detained also included his son Deniz and the political scientist Büşra Ersanlı. When he was released from jail, Zarakolu's comments to journalist were typically of a humorous nature: "The true political academies in Turkey are the prisons," he said.
Zarakolu sums up his experiences in an article: "In my 60 years of working life I have experienced nothing but pressure, interrogation, trials, exile and death threats." He has been indicted more than 70 times to date, and has served several jail sentences. On previous occasions however he was not locked up as an alleged terrorist, but because of newspaper articles or books published by his own publishing house Belge ("Documents").
Challenging every kind of taboo
The publishing house, located in the Istanbul district of Sultanahmet and founded in 1977 by Zarakolu and his wife Ayşe Nur, who died in 2002, publishes books on politics, economics, philosophy and the cosmopolitan diversity of the region. The publishing house's declared goal is to "challenge every kind of taboo".
Without doubt, the business experienced its darkest days during the military junta led by General Kenan Evren, when thousands of books were either burned or recycled into waste paper. Some 50 publishing houses and 500 bookshops were closed down at the time. Editors and journalists working on socialist and pro-Kurdish publications faced jail terms totalling over 1,000 years.
But Zarakolu had no intention of closing down, as long as he wasn't being forced to do so. This makes it the only leftwing publisher to have been founded before the coup and to have survived to this day. While he may have had to refrain from publishing classic works of Marxist literature during the junta years, he continued to sell Marxist political and economic analyses.
The Turkish general Kenan Evren at a press conference on 16 September 1980 in Ankara (photo: picture-alliance)
Taking a tough line with leftwing intellectuals and publishers: The darkest days for "Belge" were undoubtedly during the military junta led by General Kenan Evren, when thousands of books were destroyed. Some 50 publishing houses and 500 bookshops were forced to close at the time
As the publishing climate began to improve, alongside its usual academic and theoretical works the business began to publish a series of books containing poems, short stories and novels written by political prisoners. Then came translations of books written in Greek, and books about the Armenian genocide, about the Jews and the Kurds.
Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize
Zarakolu believes it would be too short sighted to tackle individual governments. "Parties or the power games of religious groups are not my thing. I have a problem with the state, the others come and go. In this country, governments are nothing more than visitors. But then there are still those who rule the roost, some describe them as the 'deep state'," says Zarakolu, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
"It may well be the case that a new constitution has been under discussion for 10 years, and that the issues of the past are increasingly a feature of public discourse, but attempts to reopen a Christian seminary on the island of Halki continue to be blocked," says Zarakolu, who was himself born on another of the Princes' Islands, Büyükada – a place where Muslims, Christians and Jews have always lived together.
Since the murder of the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, Zarakolu has observed a change of mindset in Turkish society, a "bursting out of the conscience", as he puts it. "The reactions to the murder came as a surprise to the state first and foremost. The authorities hadn't expected it. It was as though all victims of the extremist, tyrannical state joined in empathy with the murdered man. In a knee-jerk reaction, they poured onto the streets crying out 'we are all Armenians, we are all Hrant Dink'."
Zarakolu views the next two years as something of a litmus test for Turkey. The year 2015 sees the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, on 24 April. "Turkey must tackle the issues raised by its history and the political system. Not for the Armenians, who were either killed or who still live in fear to this day," says Zarakolu. "It must do this to liberate itself from its infamy. It must do this for its own citizens."
Ceyda Nurtsch
© Qantara.de 2013
Translated from the German by Nina Coon
Editor: Lewis Gropp/Qantara.de

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Disturbing Sightings… of the Ghosts of Two Evil Empires

Almost a century after their violent “demise” at the hands of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk—two impromptu revolutionaries whose cross-purposes of international and national socialism shaped the gruesome decades that followed their success—the restless specters of the “defunct” empires of the Russian czars and the Turkish padishahs are making sporadic appearances on the political scene.
1x1.trans Disturbing Sightings… of the Ghosts of Two Evil Empires
Tatul Sonentz Papazian
The location of this haunting seem to be the liberated and yet-to-be-completed edifices of their former non-Russian and non-Turkish subjects’ homelands, particularly the steadily fading patrimony of the Armenians. Clattering the ghostly chains of searing memories of subjugation to imperial misrule marked by genocidal slaughter and gruesome purges of not so long ago, this pair of ghostly appearances are becoming more defined every day. Of course, long-dormant specters do not appear without the occult expertise of inspired conjurers imbued with denial-induced visions of past “glories” waiting to be resurrected and offered their “rightful” place in a time-defying, nostalgia-induced “reality” of retrograde “visionaries.”
Two such visionary candidates to apprentice sorcery have revealed themselves as the prophetic conjurers of these creepy apparitions: President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of the (formerly Soviet) Russian Federation, of direct linage to the late Romanov Empire, a.k.a. “Holy Mother of all Orthodox Russians”—(Saints preserve us!), and leader of the “United Russia” Party—a euphemism for a desired future, soon to make a transition from an ectoplasmic existence to existing actuality, as “Imperial Russia.”
And, in the other corner, Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the (formerly Kemalist) Turkish “Republic” (immediate descendent of the Imperial Ottoman Caliphate of all Sunni nations, a.k.a. “the Sick Man of Europe,” scourge of all infidel guiavours). A steadfast politician with global ambitions (and somewhat unsteady diplomatic skills), Erdogan, the head of the “Justice and Development” Party, heads a cabinet assembled through the norms of a shared nostalgia for the glorious days of the Ottomans, their spiritual and ideological forebears.
Judged by sporadic statements about its vision of the future of Asia Minor and the Middle East, this group seems to spend most of its time in séances conjuring the “benign” ghosts of Sultans Selim, Suleiman, Mourad, et al., deftly trying not to arouse the gory specter of the most notorious mass murderer of them all, Sultan Hamid II…
Two contemporary anachronisms of governance—since the Great War of almost a century ago, the one “to end all wars”—have yet to shed their imperial/colonial trappings, both overt and covert, before they can claim true and deserved membership in the 21st-century family of nations.
To make peace with their neighbors, they must renounce all genocidal practices of economic, cultural, and political aggression and forced ethnic cleansing and assimilation, still practiced endemically against their not so negligible “minorities.”
To start with, they have to cease their occult practices of haunting their long-suffering neighbors with the despicable specters of two defunct empires that still conjure an endless series of unspeakable, agonizing horrors.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Turkey Tags Minorities With ‘Race Code’

St. Giragos Armenian Church in Turkey
State Racism Still Alive in Turkey, Leaked Document Reveals
ISTANBUL—Turkey’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that minorities in the country are given secret codes depending on which community they belong to and that such information is sent to the Education Ministry. This confirmation comes less than a week after the categorization system was revealed by the Armenian-Turkish weekly newspaper, Agos.
Concern over the “race codes” was raised on August 1 after Agos uncovered an official document penned by the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate, revealing that Turkey’s population administration system has been categorizing citizens who have Armenian, Jewish or Anatolian Greek origins with secret “race codes.”
“Minority citizens’ race status is given to the Education Ministry based on information taken from the state register of the Ottoman period,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement that was sent to Agos on August 1. The statement also said that contemporary state registers do not record any information about the race or religion of citizens.
“There are no categories of race, breed, or sect in the state registers,” said the statement sent to Agos.
Race statuses for minorities are taken from their nationality or race information during Ottoman times and sent to the Education Ministry, according to the 40th and 41st articles of the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed between Turkey and Western powers in 1923 and paved the way for the establishment of the Turkish Republic.
“Citizens with Armenian origins are coded as ‘2,’” Agos said in its lead story on August 1.
The uncovered document, sent from the Istanbul Provincial Education Directorate to the Şişli District National Education office, stated that “since 1923, the secret code of Armenians has been ‘2’ on identity registration certificates,” according to Agos.
“Since 1923, identity registration certificates have had a secret ‘race code,’” the document added.
An official from the population administration told the daily Radikal that the practice was being conducted “to allow minority groups to use their rights as dictated by the Lausanne Treaty.”
As part of the practice, Greeks are classified as “1,” Armenians are coded as “2,” while Jews are registered as “3” in the system. Other non-Turkish groups are not coded, an official told Radikal.
Opposition party lawmakers harshly criticized the alleged document.
“If this is true, it is grave. It must be examined. I will bring this to Parliament’s agenda,” Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told Hürriyet Daily News.
Altan Tan, a deputy of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), stated that there had long been such allegations but that they were always denied by the authorities. Tan urged Interior Minister Muammer Güler to make a statement on the issue.
“If there is such a thing going on, it is a big disaster. The fact that the state is illegally profiling its own citizens based on ethnicity and religion, and doing this secretly, is a big catastrophe,” Tan said.

System Of A Down Takes Genocide Affirmation Center Stage

System Of A Down Takes Genocide Affirmation Center Stage

LOS ANGELES—System of a Down lead singer Serj Tankian challenged a capacity crowd at their July 29th Hollywood Bowl show to imagine a world in which those who claim to speak for the international community remained silent on the Holocaust – as they do on the Turkish Government’s genocide perpetrated against its Armenian, Greek and Assyrian populations from 1915-1923.
With Daron Malakian’s soulful riffs of the Armenian ballad “Zepiuri Nman” (Like a Breeze) in the background, Tankian stated:
“Imagine if this is the 1940s, and World War II had just started, and America decided not to enter the war on the side of Britain.”
“Imagine if, Americans became allies with Nazi Germany and decided that we’re going to push away the Holocaust, never use the word Holocaust in Government policy.”
“Imagine what a life that would be.”
“Imagine being Jewish and living in L.A. and not hearing your President or your Congress use the word Holocaust.”
“That’s exactly what Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians feel when our government doesn’t use the word genocide.”
The four members of System of a Down have been at the forefront of calling on the U.S., and international community as a whole, to work toward a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide, and all genocides, since the very inception of their Grammy award-winning band. Their efforts are spotlighted in the documentary “SCREAMERS” – which highlights international inaction in the face of the Armenian and Darfur genocides. Tankian and System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan travelled to Washington, DC in April, 2006, for a three-day advocacy campaign urging Congress to speak truthfully about this crime.
Tankian made a short video in April, 2009, viewed more than 330,00 times, urging President Obama to honor his campaign pledge to properly commemorate the Armenian Genocide. Successive annual April 24th statements by the President have stopped short of referencing the crime as ‘genocide.’
Watch a segment of the film SCREAMERS,  including a performance of System’s powerful anti-denial anthem P.L.U.C.K.

Maybe Artsakh’s Time Has Come

Seldom does the Sarkisian Administration do anything that elicits a favorable comment. However, the apparent shift in President Sarkisian’s approach to reclaiming our historic Western Armenia lands was a distinct surprise, and long overdue. Evidently the prosecutor general of Armenia, Aghvan Hovsepyan, was chosen as the point man to stress the need to place Armenia’s demand for these lands on a firm legal basis. This obvious need has always existed, but that it is now publicly supported by Yerevan changes the dynamics. The significance of this policy change can be seen in the immediate response by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warning Yerevan that it “…is out of the question to [even] think about…” reclaiming land from Turkey.
1x1.trans Maybe Artsakhs Time Has Come
Christmas tree on Renaissance Square in Stepanakert (Photo by Arevik Danielian, The Armenian Weekly)
This seemingly seismic change by Yerevan suggests that it may be time to rethink the situation in Artsakh. In the nearly 20 years since the ceasefire in 1994, Artsakh has made progress in repairing the infrastructure laid waste by the Azeri military. In addition, a government based on democratic principles has been formed, together with the foundation for an economic system that could rapidly expand given sufficient inputs. However laudable this progress has been, we cannot allow Artsakh to experience this same slow rate of infrastructural and economic development for the next 20 years. There is a vital need to accelerate its development. This may well be the time to craft a more aggressive policy that will meet this objective.
An important component of any policy would be to increase the population and to facilitate a planned settlement pattern that would meet Artsakh’s strategic needs. The situation in Syria has generated a small in-migration of Armenians responsible for the creation of several new settlements in the Kashatagh region of Artsakh. However, these recent settlers have not appreciably changed the fact that during the two decades since 1994, the population has been virtually stagnant with respect to numbers and its distribution. Both economic development and spatial integration (the need to effectively tie the various regions of Artsakh together) are directly dependent on maintaining a sustainable annual increase in population and creating a settlement pattern that meets the country’s economic and military objectives.
Immediately some will say that Armenia does not have the will or the influence to openly support such an aggressive policy with respect to Artsakh. Well, for an official of the present administration to speak of placing our demand to reclaim land from Turkey on a firm legal basis seems to be a far more aggressive stance for Yerevan to take than what is being suggested for Artsakh. That being so, this may well be the opportune time for Artsakh to benefit from a comprehensive policy that will accelerate the development of its socioeconomic infrastructure and its economy, and encourage in-migration and the strategic placement of new settlements. The continued concentration of people in the capital district (Stepanakert and Shushi) will prove to be an economic and military liability. This concentration of people and economic activity increases the vulnerability of Artsakh to attack. It also unfairly skews the allocation of resources to the core area at the expense of rural development. If the next 20 years experience the same slow, but commendable, rate of development that we have witnessed during the first 20 years, it is likely that Artsakh will see a net loss of population. That is a politically dangerous situation to contemplate.
Artsakh is ours. We have a responsibility to ensure that Artsakh remains ours. This requires the adoption of a development program that reflects this reality. Azerbaijan and Turkey will surely object and use every means at their disposal to condemn any initiative that increases Artsakh viability. We cannot allow our efforts to be circumscribed by either Baku’s or Ankara’s specious claims or threats of military action. Neither should the expected diplomatic pressure from countries more intent on their geostrategic interests than on justice for Armenia and Artsakh keep us from our task.
The first step is to place the right of the Karabagh Armenians to declare their independence on a firm legal foundation. This is an objective I have consistently advocated. It is up to the relevant experts, which would be convened by Stepanakert and supported by the ARF, and other political parties (this is a task that Yerevan should assume) to determine whether the declaration by the Karabagh Armenians was governed by the former Soviet constitution; the principle of self-determination; or the principle of remedial secession. Once the legal basis is determined, the present principles governing the negotiations become obsolete. It should be noted that these principles, however nuanced they may have been over time, have never addressed the possibility of de jure independence for Artsakh.
We should not lose sight of the fact that Armenia and Karabagh have some leverage based on their geostrategic location that more than overcomes its small combined area. Should Artsakh’s independence fail in any respect (meaning, the area under the present jurisdiction of Stepanakert is not granted sovereignty), we would see a profound effect on every country bordering the South Caucasus as well as those beyond, such as the United States and Western Europe.
As Armenia’s ally and supposed protector, Russia will have been shown to be a paper tiger. Its influence in the South Caucasus will have suffered irreparable harm. Its restive Islamic provinces on the north slope of the Caucasus might view this as an opportunity to renew or intensify their struggle for independence. The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics beginning in February 2014 has already been targeted by the Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov. Turkey, the principal beneficiary should Artsakh fail, would be free to expand its economic and political influence in the South Caucasus across the Caspian Sea to compete with Russia (and Iran) in Central Asia. Iran could face possible ethnic issues in its northwest region adjacent to Turkey and Azerbaijan and in the northeast along the border with Turkmenistan. Presently, however, the large Azeri minority in Iran has achieved an acceptable accommodation with Tehran. As Turkey’s principal competitor in the greater Middle Eastern region, any expansion of Ankara’s influence, whether in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, or the South Caucasus, would be a direct threat to Iran’s interests within the region. As for Armenia, its influence within the South Caucasus would be severely diminished permanently. The Armenians of Javakheti and the crypto-Armenians of Turkey could well end up as collateral casualties.
Finally, the last ripple from what would be the catastrophic loss of Artsakh would be the needless sacrifice of our 7,000 azatamartiks and the credibility of Hai Tahd. If Artsakh should fail, is it realistic to believe that Armenians will continue to embrace Hai Tahd as representing a set of achievable objectives?
We cannot allow the next 20 years to pass without a comprehensive policy to increase Artsakh’s population and accelerate the improvement of its social and economic infrastructure. Artsakh is not only the key to Hai Tahd, but the key to Armenia’s future. It is the future frontier that could attract our recent out-migrants to return home to a land of opportunity as well as appealing to those long in the diaspora who have a desire to return to their mayreni yergir.
How the Minsk Group or the Congressional Armenian Caucus would respond to such an aggressive policy to develop Artsakh is an issue that has to be anticipated and properly addressed. This is why a strong legal, moral, and historic case must be prepared to support Artsakh’s declaration of independence. As for Baku, it has very few viable options to exercise. It could finally come to terms with reality and accept Artsakh as its neighbor. Should that be more than Aliyev can accept, then his remaining option is to depend on the military he has so often threatened to use. Unfortunately, even Aliyev must realize that resorting to military action faces many unknowns, ranging from the loyalty and effectiveness of his ground troops in actual combat situations; the support of the civilian population for a renewal of hostilities; and the ability of his military to breech Artsakh’s defenses within the first 72 hours. This latter objective is almost a requirement, as there would be an immediate call from a host of concerned nations for a cease fire.
The Caucasus is an historic powder keg. A second conflict could be the fuse that ignites the entire region. Neither Russia, Iran, Turkey, the United States, or Western Europe or the various corporate interests want—or could—benefit from either an expanded or protracted conflict. The unintended consequences would be akin to an unfortunate opening of a Pandora’s box.
Any danger we may encounter from pursuing an aggressive development policy for Artsakh is significantly less than the danger we face by relying on others to protect our vital national interests.