Thursday, January 30, 2014

Response to Sassounian: Assad’s ‘Recognition’ of the Armenian Genocide

Harut Sassounian’s latest column, titled “Syrian President Finally Recognizes Armenian Genocide,” sheds light on the record of the Syrian government regarding the Armenian Genocide. The article however, ends with an unexpected conclusion, raising serious concerns.
In his column, Sassounian recounts in detail the cold attitude of the Syrian government regarding the issue of the Armenian Genocide during the period when Syria was in deep political and economic cooperation with Turkey (1999-2011). Much can be said about Syria’s record during that period, but the purpose of this article is to dwell less on the past and more on the present and the future.
Syrian President Mr. Bashar al-Assad, in his last interview with AFP, mentioned “the massacres perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians.” Sassounian, who is very sensitive when it comes to the use of the term “genocide” by U.S. presidents, seems to have been satisfied with Assad’s choice of words and called on Armenians to welcome Mr. Assad’s “belated statement on the Armenian Genocide.”
“After refraining from acknowledging the genocide for all the wrong reasons for so long, at least now the Syrian president is on record, telling the truth about past and present Turkish atrocities,” writes Sassounian, despite acknowledging Mr. Assad’s political motivation to pressure Turkey.
As a citizen of the Syrian Arab Republic and a proud member of the awakening Syrian society, I would have much preferred to see the representatives of the government of my country make official statements on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in times of peace—and not in the time of war, out of political expediency, and to blackmail Turkey.
True, Armenian Genocide recognition by various parliaments and governments usually comes in an environment of lobbying and political alliances, but the basic reason for Syria to recognize the Armenian Genocide is the historic burden. Syria, after all, is a land of witnesses to the genocide. Neighboring Lebanon is a case in point. The Lebanese parliament recognized the Armenian Genocide in 2000, without pressure and without seeking political dividends in the region.
I am also a proud citizen of the Republic of Armenia and part of its awakening society. We should be aware of the fact that Armenia still sets the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a foreign policy priority. Therefore, I regard Mr. Sassounian’s call to welcome the Syrian President’s statement deeply problematic. Welcoming such a statement undermines the moral high ground on which we stand as a nation that demands justice.
There is an enormous difference between the impact of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide at a time when the representatives of the Syrian government aren’t welcomed and are condemned on the international arena, and its impact at the time when they were the belle in the ball in most regional and international meetings and summits.
Mr. Sassounian, who is known as a fierce fighter of Turkish state propaganda, should not rule out the possibility that statements such as Assad’s could end up serving the policy of denial. Sometimes, the fact that the truth is being spoken is not as important as who is speaking it. Are we really that desperate to adopt Mr. Assad as a defender of our cause?

Ocalan: Turkey, World Should Recognize Armenian Genocide

ISTANBUL, Turkey (A.W.)—Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan reaffirmed the Armenian Genocide and called on Turkey and the world to confront history in a letter first published by Agos on Jan. 30.
ocalan Ocalan: Turkey, World Should Recognize Armenian Genocide
A recently released photo of Ocalan
The PKK leader, who was arrested in 1999 and is serving a life sentence in the Imrali prison, wrote the letter in the context of a heated debate in Turkey following a notorious comment by Kurdish leader Bese Hozat about Armenian, Jewish, and Greek lobbies. (For context, read Ayse Gunaysu’s column.)
Repeatedly using the term “genocide” when referring to 1915, Ocalan called the survival of the Armenian people “a great miracle,” achieved thanks to the efforts and struggles of the Armenians.
“Today, the entire world should confront the historical truth of what happened to the Armenians and share their pain, paving the way for mourning,” Ocalan said. “Inevitably, the Turkish Republic too will have to approach this issue with maturity and confront this painful history,” he added.
Ocalan called for continued, joint struggle for rights. He accused anti-democratic forces and lobbies of blocking the resolution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey, seeing the murder of Hrant Dink as part of this process.
Details to follow.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sassounian: Syrian President Finally Recognizes Armenian Genocide

In a lengthy interview last week with Agence France Presse (AFP) on the tragic situation in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad made an unexpected reference to the massacres of 1.5 million Armenians. This is the first time that any Syrian head of state has acknowledged the mass murders and identified the perpetrator as Ottoman Turkey.
During the interview, Assad compared the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to the brutal killings of civilians by foreign fighters taking place in Syria today: “The degree of savagery and inhumanity that the terrorists have reached reminds us of what happened in the Middle Ages in Europe over 500 years ago. In more recent modern times, it reminds us of the massacres perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians, when they killed a million and a half Armenians and half a million Orthodox Syriacs in Syria and in Turkish territory.”
Not surprisingly, two days later, Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, made a similar remark: “How about the Armenian Genocide where 1.5 million people were killed?”
The only other high-ranking Syrian official to have acknowledged the Armenian Genocide was Abd al-Qader Qaddura, then-speaker of the Syrian Parliament, when on July 16, 2001 he inscribed a poignant statement in the Book of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide Monument and Museum in Yerevan: “As we visit the Memorial and Museum of the Genocide that the Armenian nation suffered in 1915, we stand in full admiration and respect in front of those heroes that faced death with courage and heroism. Their children and grandchildren continued after them to immortalize their courage and struggle. … With great respect we bow our heads in memory of the martyrs of the Armenian nation—our friends—and hail their ability for resoluteness and triumph. We will work together to liberate every human being from aggression and oppression.”
While the parliament speaker’s 2001 statement was a candid and heartfelt message with no political overtones, the same cannot be said of Assad’s words on the Armenian Genocide, as he clearly intended to lash back at the Turkish government’s hostile actions against the Syrian regime. It is well known that Turkey has played a major role in the concerted international effort to topple Assad, by dispatching heavy weapons and arranging the infiltration of foreign radical Islamist fighters into Syria.
Relations between Syria and Turkey were not always hostile. Before the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the two countries were such close political and economic allies that the Assad regime banned the sale of books on the Armenian Genocide, and did not permit foreign film crews to visit Der Zor, the killing fields of thousands of Armenians during the genocide. Mindful of possible Turkish backlash, Assad’s staff cancelled my courtesy meeting with the president in 2009 after they discovered my countless critical articles on Turkey on the internet. Moreover, during the honeymoon period between the Syrian and Turkish governments, Assad advised the visiting Catholicos Aram I that Armenians should maintain good relations with Turkey and not dwell on the past!
In his recent interview with AFP, Assad also complained about the failure of Western leaders to comprehend developments in the Middle East: “They are always very late in realizing things, sometimes even after the situation has been overtaken by a new reality that is completely different.” Frankly, one could make the same criticism about Assad for realizing at his own detriment, only too late, the dishonesty and duplicity of Turkey’s leadership.
Regrettably, the Syrian president is not the only head of state who has failed to decipher the scheming mindset of Turkey’s rulers. Countless Middle Eastern, European, and American leaders have made the same mistake, trusting Turkey’s feigned friendship, only to be let down when the time comes for Turkey to keep its end of the bargain.
In recent months, with the increasing dissatisfaction of the international community with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s autocratic policies and belligerent statements, it has become crystal clear that no one knows the true face of Turkey better than Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Kurds, who have suffered countless brutalities, massacres, and even genocide under despotic Turkish rule.
Despite Assad’s political motivations, Armenians should welcome his belated statement on the Armenian Genocide. After refraining from acknowledging the genocide for all the wrong reasons for so long, at least now the Syrian president is on record, telling the truth about past and present Turkish atrocities.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sassounian: How Can Benefactors Meet Armenia’s and Diaspora’s Many Needs?

Peter Balakian, Professor of Humanities at Colgate University, recently wrote a thought-provoking commentary, titled: “A Broken Connection: The Armenian Financial Community and the Making of Culture.”
In his article, Balakian deplores the Armenian-American community’s failure to support a proposed Armenian Genocide
exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, on the eve of the Genocide Centennial in 2015.
The exhibit, “The Shadow of Mount Ararat: The Armenian Genocide,” would have been in display not only at the Illinois Holocaust Museum — the second largest such institution in the United States — but also throughout the country, and possibly in Europe and South America.
Balakian expresses his disappointment that the Chicago Armenian community could not raise the necessary $600,000 to fund the project, resulting in the cancellation of the planned exhibit. In his view, this incident “reflects a larger failure of the Armenian community in the United States to create culture, by which I mean: to use financial means to conceive and engineer cultural production.” Balakian believes that Armenian-Americans “have almost nothing to show in the domain of cultural production and representation in the mainstream.” With few exceptions, “Armenians have created no mainstream cultural foundations, museums, [and] performing arts centers.”
Balakian complains that “the Armenian financial community has not been able to bring to fruition one feature film about the Armenian Genocide or other aspects of Armenian history.” He quotes a Jewish scholar who told him: “There seems to be a disconnect between the Armenian business community and the Armenian arts community; the business people don’t see that investing in the arts is investing in the core continuity of Armenian civilization. Investing in the community’s culture should be understood as a celebration of the life of Armenians past and present, something that the Turkish perpetrators tried to extinguish. This is certainly the philosophy of a lot of Jewish investment in Jewish arts. It’s a ‘f-you Hitler’ attitude.”
While I share Balakian’s concerns, I would like to express some additional thoughts regarding this important topic:
1)  Most Armenian benefactors prefer to contribute and attach their names to tangible brick and mortar projects like churches and schools rather than more abstract endeavors such as public relations and the arts. Yet, everyone should realize that wealthy Armenians are entitled to spend their hard-earned money as they see fit. It’s their money and they decide how to spend it!
2)  The needs of the Armenian Diaspora and the Armenian Republic are so massive that it is practically impossible for even generous benefactors to satisfy everyone’s demands.
3)  There are no established mechanisms to prioritize the community’s need and assess their merit. Benefactors and charitable organizations are bombarded with requests to fund movies, publications, artwork, aid to Armenia, monuments, memorials, churches, schools and orphanages. Few benefactors have the time and expertise to judge the quality and utility of the proposed projects in so many diverse fields.
4)  Projects are sometimes funded not on merit, but on the basis of the personal relationship between the donor and the recipient. It could boil down to who is doing the asking!
5)  Even though Armenians are quite generous in supporting their community organizations, the requests often outstrip the available funds. One cannot name a single category of needs that receives adequate funding, including social, cultural, religious, political, athletic, and humanitarian activities. Can anyone say that there are sufficient funds to:
– Print all the books that are worthy of publication?
– Digitize ancient manuscripts and other valuable archival materials before they are lost forever?
– Produce professionally-made movies and documentaries on the Armenian Genocide and other topics?
– Fund Genocide Centennial projects?
– Provide funds for electing political candidates who endorse Armenian issues?
– Support concerts, art exhibits, museums, medical, scientific and countless other worthy projects?
– Meet the basic needs for the survival of Syrian Armenians, and the poor and needy in Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora?
Donors could certainly do more to support the seemingly endless needs of Armenians worldwide. However, a mechanism must first be established to prioritize the various needs, judge their merit, and make a professional presentation to potential donors. Finally, after the donation is made, periodic reports on the progress of the project must be given to the donor, demonstrating that the allocated funds are being properly spent to accomplish the promised objectives.

California Assembly Panel Adopts Genocide Curriculum Measure

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Standing strong against Armenian Genocide denial, the California State Assembly Education Committee unanimously adopted AB-659 on Jan. 15 a measure introduced by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian which would bolster the commitment of the State of California to teach of the Armenian Genocide to public school students in Grades 7-12.
Following the hearing, Nazarian said, “It was with great pride that I introduced AB 659, a bill that will call for the adoption of an oral testimony component in teaching students about the Armenian Genocide. I would like to thank the ANCA-WR for their assistance with this bill and look forward to their continued support as AB 659 makes its way to the Assembly floor. I would like to also commend my fellow colleagues on the Assembly Committee on Education in voting unanimously on the side of truth and justice”
Testifying forcefully in support of the measure was ANCA Western Region Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian. Turkish American groups presented a diatribe of genocide denial, which compelled Committee Chairwoman Joan Buchanan and fellow Committee members Rocky Chavez and Shirley Weber to set the record straight about the importance of speaking clearly about genocide and historical injustices.
In his remarks, Baghdassarian commended the Assembly members “for recognizing Turkey’s transparent attempt to distract [them] by engaging in genocide denial campaigns every time that the issue comes up before the Legislature. Following a 30 minute discussion, the Education Committee adopted the measure with a unanimous vote of 7-0. The bill now goes to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations for consideration.
In addition to the Armenian Genocide, the bill also “encourages the incorporation of survivor, rescuer, liberator and witness oral testimony into the teaching of human rights, the Holocaust, and genocide, including but not limited to, the Armenian Genocide, Cambodian, Darfur, and Rwandan genocides.” Furthermore, it encourages activities which would provide training and teaching resources to be able to more thoroughly teach about the Armenian Genocide.
This measure may also enhance the opportunities for the Genocide Education Project (GenEd), a non-profit organization, to conduct more teacher training sessions and further disseminate teacher resources.
Last year, The Genocide Education Project and the California Department of Education surveyed California high schools and learned that social studies teachers are lacking the resources and training they need to incorporate the Armenian Genocide appropriate in their curriculum. “Teachers seem very eager to teach about this important history, if provided the necessary tools,” said GenEd’s Roxanne Makasdjian. “Social Studies educators have told us that instruction on the Armenian Genocide is a good means of demonstrating to students that there is a continuum of genocide and human rights, not just isolated acts of evil. Learning about them in isolation, without studying the Armenian Genocide deprives students of an understanding of how denial, accountability, and reconciliation can significantly influence the tide of history.”
Video of introduction, statements, and adoption of the bill may be found at
Below is the text Baghdassarian’s testimony in Sacramento.
Madame. Chair and distinguished members of the committee:
I appear before you today to speak in support of this bill on behalf of Armenian-American community of California. In the brief time that I have I’d like to touch on three points. The first is to commend you for recognizing the transparency of the genocide denial campaigns that occur every time that the issue comes up before the Legislature. The second is to stress the significance of the Armenian genocide in 20th century history. And third, to take note of the fact that this legislation isn’t a departure from existing policy with respect to our meeting genocide education, but simply further codifies it those policies.
With respect to genocide denial, I don’t feel that it’s necessary to engage in a debate with deniers. As the grandson of four Armenian Genocide survivors, and the great-grandson of one of its victims, I can tell you unequivocally that there is question as to the truth. The only issue of controversy is to determine the consequences of those genocidal acts. And at the end of day that’s what the denial is about, the fear of consequences.
With respect to the significance of the Armenian genocide, scholars will tell you that there is a clear nexus between the Armenian genocide which precipitated the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler notoriously said immediately before setting the Holocaust in motion in 1939, “Who remembers the annihilation of the Armenians today?” When we consider that statement, in addition to the German complicity in the Armenian genocide, and many other factors, the totality suggests that the Holocaust and subsequent genocides cannot fully be understood by our children without an understanding of the Armenian Genocide.
Third and last is the fact that the legislature and the Board of Education have acted on this issue consistently over the years. In fact is also included in the History-Social Science Curriculum Framework which provides as follows:
Within the context of human rights and genocide, students should learn of the Ottoman government’s planned mass deportation and systematic annihilation of the Armenian population in 1915. Students should also examine the reactions of other governments, including that of the United States, and world opinion during and after the Armenian genocide. They should examine the effects of the genocide on the remaining Armenian people, who were deprived of their historic homeland, and the ways in which it became a prototype of subsequent genocides.
So the only thing that this bill will do is to bring the Education Code closer in line to the existing framework and content standards. Once again, I urge you to support this bill, and I thank you for your time.

Meaningful Steps: A Roadmap for Turkey as 2015 Approaches

n a previous article about the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide in 2015, I argued about the need to focus our limited resources to supporting independent academic research, to continue to reveal the truth and facts of 1915 and establish a “common body of knowledge” between Turks and Armenians. In this article, I will elaborate on the necessity to deliver those facts directly to the Turkish people; will outline some of the obstacles created by the denialist policies of the Turkish state; and finally, will provide a few suggestions for the Turkish state to consider by 2015.
Meaningful dialogue between two conflicting parties can only happen when both parties are aware of the facts and the truth. Even though the Turkish state has not allowed the truth of 1915 to come out until very recently, there are now clear signs that the taboos are finally being broken and that this “common body of knowledge” is emerging among Turkish opinion makers and ordinary citizens.
For four generations, Turkish citizens were brainwashed about the genocide by the state education system and the media. The Turkish people, however, can no longer be defined as a homogenous, uniform group. Clashes between the Turkish state and the sizable Kurdish/Alevi population, as well as the prosecution and punishment of the “deep state” leaders who ruled Turkey until a few years ago, have led some to question the state’s version of history regarding 1915. A few bright personalities/opinion makers in politics, academia, media, and literature have advocated for increased democratization, freedom of speech, and minority rights; moreover, they have acknowledged the truth about the genocide and demanded that the state do so as well. There is now a small but fast-increasing segment of the population that wants the state to face its past.
To date, there have been very few attempts for dialogue between the Armenian world and this liberalized segment of the Turkish population. Apart from the activities of the Hrant Dink Foundation based in Istanbul, the only contact has been through a few individuals in academia, film, media, music, and culture; and organizationally, by the Zoryan Institute in the academic field, by the Armenian NGO Civilitas through its recently opened office in Istanbul, and some recent political exchanges between Kurdish political parties and representatives of the ARF. Armenian academia, NGOs, and opinion makers should aim to establish direct contact with their Turkish counterparts to convey the truth through jointly organized conferences, seminars, TV programs, films, and translated publications.
Ordinary Turks, for example, should find out about the courageous Turkish officials who resisted the inhumane government decisions to annihilate the Armenian population in 1915. They should learn about the fate of the properties left behind by the annihilated Armenians, including hundreds of thousands of houses, fields, shops, warehouses, factories, mines, churches, and schools, all confiscated by the state, the Ittihat Terakki leaders, or local Muslim notables. They should understand that most of the Ataturk House Museums scattered all over Anatolia once belonged to deported or murdered Armenian citizens of the Ottoman state. They should be reminded that the very residence where the Turkish president sits today in Ankara was once owned by an Armenian family.
Of course, the Turkish state will continue to use all of its resources to prevent its citizens from finding out the truth. Notwithstanding the boasts of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan that the archives are open and have nothing to hide, the reality is that the Ottoman archives are not entirely open and have gone through two major cleanups.
The first cleanup and destruction of files was back in 1918, when the Ittihat Terakki leaders escaped from Istanbul in a German warship to avoid prosecution as war criminals, carrying several trunkloads of documents with them. At the same time, the main planner of the Armenian deportations and massacres, Special Organization Chief Bahattin Shakir, also burned rooms full of documents related to their activities.
The second purging was in the 1990′s when the Ottoman archives were reorganized, translated into modern Turkish, and digitized. A team of diplomats, historians, retired ambassadors, and military officers sifted through millions of documents with the objective of eliminating any incriminating reference to the Armenians.
Recent WikiLeaks documents indicate that the Ottoman archival documents, initially estimated at 50 million records, numbered more like 200 million and therefore, the intended purge could not be carried out effectively. Clearly, several thousand documents escaped scrutiny and a few prominent Turkish scholars like Taner Akcam, Umit Kurt, and Ugur Ungor have been able to produce significant historic facts about the intended annihilation of the Armenians and the confiscation of their properties based only on these archives. Recently it was revealed that all researchers delving into the Armenian issue in the Ottoman archives were being tracked and monitored. If their work was deemed to be against the state version, there would be harassment and funding repercussions against them, as well as the institutions where they worked/studied. Meanwhile, Turkish researchers who produce/falsify/create documents minimizing Armenian losses are encouraged and rewarded. In 2005, Murat Bardakci, an investigative journalist, published Talat Pasha’s diary, revealing that Talat had kept detailed records about the numbers and destination of the deported Armenians. He had tallied the loss of Armenians at 972,000, but had also stated that the total missing could exceed 1.2 million due to unaccounted relocations.
During a recent TV talk show about history called “Rear Window of History,” Bardakci invited a history professor from Sakarya University, a state-sponsored “expert” on the Armenian issue. This expert announced that the archives show that the Ottoman government took all precautions to care for the 300,000 Armenians, who were temporarily deported only from the eastern war front; that only a few thousand died from illness; and that most of them returned home safely after the war. Bardakci confronted him by producing Talat Pasha’s diary and the numbers that Talat himself had quoted. The expert said he was only able to work with whatever is available in the state archives. He also announced that Turkish historians have now “proven” that all the genocide allegations are “fiction” based on American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s book, which, he said, was specifically produced as a propaganda tool to drum up support for the United States to enter the war. Even Bardakci found this expert’s comments embarrassing for Turkey, as it would result in more ridicule internationally and weaken Turkey’s hand further on the eve of 2015.
If Erdogan really wants to prove that Turkey has nothing to hide, all he has to do is order the release of two sets of critical documents—the deportation books and the deeds. The first set of documents are the 33 dossiers of the Deportation and Liquidation Commissions formed in 1915-16 in various Ottoman Anatolian provinces. They recorded, listed, appraised, and held on to the assets of the deported Armenians for their eventual return, but also sold or distributed some of these assets to Muslim refugees. The whereabouts of these dossiers is a mystery, but it is speculated that they are still intact and kept in the prime ministry offices. The second set of documents contain the Ottoman land registry and property deeds records. In 2005, when the government attempted to comply with European Union (EU) modernization initiatives by translating and opening these records up to the public, it was prevented from doing so by a stern warning—dated Aug. 26, 2005—from the National Security Committee of the Turkish Armed Forces, which stated, “The Ottoman records kept at the Land Register and Cadaster Surveys General Directorate offices must be sealed and not available to the public, as they have the potential to be exploited by alleged genocide claims and property claims against the State Charitable Foundation assets. Opening them to general public use is against state interests.”
Recently, it came to light that a former prime minister had come close to taking a positive step toward resolving the Armenian issue. Being a very pragmatic politician, in the early 1990′s Turgut Ozal had sought to end Turkey’s denialist policy and had commissioned a study to quantify the amount of compensation owed to Armenians worldwide. It is reported that the study did come up with a monetary figure, but no further steps were taken, either because the cost would be exorbitant, or because Ozal mysteriously died in 1993. His sudden death is still a subject of speculation today, 20 years later; his body was recently exhumed and examined for the presence of poison. It is said that he was severely criticized by the military and the deep state, not only for this Armenian episode, but more critically, for his desire to end the separatist Kurdish issue by giving concessions.
Based on the feedback and comments my past articles have garnered, there seems to be a significantly wide readership in Turkey, even within their government circles. A recurring theme I hear is that the present government, unlike the previous ones, has taken many positive steps toward Armenians, but that there has been no acknowledgement or reciprocating goodwill from the Armenian side. The positive examples often cited include the restoration of the Akhtamar Holy Cross Church (note that the church is still known as the Akdamar Museum in Turkey); the return of several confiscated properties belonging to the Armenian church and charitable foundations (note that these returns are still less than 10 percent of the properties seized after the 1930′s, and include none from before 1915, and no private properties); and increased freedom of speech, with the utterance of the term “Armenian Genocide” no longer a punishable offense (note that people like Hrant Dink can still get killed for saying that term, and that his real murderers remain hidden). I do acknowledge that these are positive steps in the right direction, but they are only a few steps in a very long journey.
Perhaps the journey cannot be completed by 2015, but several concrete and specific steps must be taken by Turkey in order to achieve some credibility and respectability. Instead of diversionary tactical steps, like Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s recent visit to Armenia, which achieved nothing, I humbly offer a few suggestions for consideration by my Turkish government acquaintances:
1. Open the border with Armenia without any preconditions. Rename the Alican border-crossing the Hrant Dink Gate, in honor of the heroic advocate for dialogue.
2. Grant citizenship to all living descendants of the deported Ottoman-Armenian citizens.
3. Clean up the textbooks at all levels of the educational system by eliminating the falsifications, hatemongering, and discrimination toward the Armenians (and other minorities).
4. Initiate a state program by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to restore the more than 2,000 destroyed or deteriorating Armenian monasteries and churches, and return them to their rightful owner, the Armenian Church (Istanbul Armenian Patriarchate).
5. Offer a symbolic but meaningful apology to the Armenian people for all the crimes of 1915, by returning Mount Ararat and Ani to Armenia, perhaps as part of a territorial exchange based on equivalent land area.
6. Open up to the public the afore-mentioned documents related to the deportation/liquidation records and the Ottoman property deeds related to the deported Armenians.
7. Allow the compensation cases by descendants of Ottoman-Armenian citizens to proceed in Turkish and international courts.
8. Offer free transit and duty-free port facilities for Armenia at a Black Sea city such as Trabzon and Rize, as partial compensation for the economic losses of Ottoman-Armenian citizens.
Turkish acquaintances in government circles complain that the Armenians’ insistence on using the word “genocide” is a barrier to any progress toward dialogue about 1915. None of the suggestions above refer to that word, and all of them are doable by 2015, if there really is goodwill.
Once there is knowledge of the facts, followed by dialogue about the truth of 1915, among the Turkish opinion makers and ordinary citizens, the far-reaching result would be the creation of voters aware of the truth. Knowledgeable voters would then vote-in knowledgeable parliamentary members and eventually governments, which would set policies and decisions according to the voters’ preferences. I suggest that decisions taken in the Turkish Parliament respecting the truth of 1915 will be far more effective than any decision taken in the parliaments of third-party states.

Vatan daily newspaper, Sept. 12, 2011, “Bavul dolusu Ermeni belgesi kacirildi” (Trunkloads of Armenian documents were taken out).
Zaman daily newspaper, April 24, 2012, “Ozal Yasasaydi Ermeni Sorununu Cozecekti” (If Ozal had lived, he would have solved the Armenian issue).
Internethaber news online, Dec. 12, 2013, “Turkiye’de skandal: Ermeni meselesini calisan ogrenciler fislendi” (Scandal in Turkey: Students researching the Armenian issue are being monitored).
Murat Bardakci, Talat Pasanin Evrak-i Metrukesi (Talat Pasha’s Black Book), 2005, Everest Yayinlari (Everest Publishing House).

MLK, Through Dink, to Armenia Today

Eighty-five years ago, in this part of January, a man was born who would become one of the luminaries of the 20th century. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) came to lead a movement that initiated a transformation in the United States of America that continues even today.
The struggle for civil rights and equality of the 1950’s and 1960’s produced many positive results, but also backlash from those who held and abused power prior to that. One of the epitomes of that abuse was the murder of MLK. Along with the assassination of other leaders of the movement and many far less-well-known activists, the killing took its toll, and the country was deprived of an historic opportunity to take a great leap forward. The presumption of the forces that opposed equality, and by extension, simple human decency and dignity, manifested itself in their self-anointed right to kill people they thought didn’t deserve to live, whether it was MLK or Bobby Kennedy.
It’s interesting that those murdered were “tolerated” until their agenda came to include economic issues, particularly MLK. For me, this speaks to where the origins of these murders lie.
But why is all this relevant to Armenians and Armenia? Simple. Today, we are confronted with analogous anti-decency, anti-dignity forces. The government in Yerevan cudgels its citizens with horrible and corrupt policies that induce people to emigrate in frightening numbers. In occupied Armenian territories, we have a Turkish government that continues its unabated denial, and an egomaniacal Turkish prime minister who proclaims that he’ll be ready for 1915. To the east, we have the “junior Turks” and another egomaniacal leader who rips off his country’s wealth while blaming Armenians for Azerbaijan’s ills and having his snipers violate ceasefire conditions by picking off Armenians across the line of contact. Of course, we have the world powers who turn a blind eye to all this while loudly asserting their commitment to peace, stability, economic wellbeing, etc.
These are all grinding away at our “souls” and call for a response. One such response is the non-violent approach adopted by MLK. Activists in the Republic of Armenia have adopted this approach. But there are always questions as to whether this will work. Gandhi used it against the British, as did MLK against the racists of the U.S.
But will this continue to be effective in Yerevan? Would it work against the denialist occupiers of Western Armenia who have a murderous history? Who would dare to try? For that matter, who is there to try? What few Armenians live under the Turkish yoke have been understandably reticent, even cowed, and not just because of centuries of murderous Turkish persecution and repression; there is the far more recent murder, seven years ago in this part of January, of another man, one who dared speak truth to Turkish power, Hrant Dink. Even the Kurds, far more numerous than we are in Turkish controlled areas, have resorted to the use of violence.
But undergirding MLK’s approach was a philosophy of love. In our case, a similar ethic must be fully developed. Love of nation and country. Love of dignity. This love will provide the strength to go into “battle” non-violently. Even Gandhi argued that non-violence is not a license for cowardice. On the contrary, the cowards who avoid struggle under the pretense of non-violence earned Gandhi’s withering scorn.
Let’s go the route of putting our bodies peacefully on the line for our ultimate goals. If the Turks and other oppressors respond murderously, there is always the recourse to other measures.

Hasan Cemal Speaks at Dink Commemoration in Toronto

TORONTO, Canada—On Jan. 19, the Toronto Armenian community gathered to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink. More than 500 people filled the Armenian General Benevolent Union Centre to capacity, with standing room only. The keynote speaker was renowned Turkish journalist and author Hasan Cemal, who also happens to be the grandson of Cemal Pasha, one of the three leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress (Ittihat ve Terakki), which planned and perpetrated the Armenian Genocide in 1915.
 Hasan Cemal Speaks at Dink Commemoration in Toronto
Cemal (L) and Bedrosyan
Mgrditch Mgrditchian was the master of ceremonies. After a beautiful rendition of Sari Aghchig and Cilicia by young soprano Lynn Anoush Isnar, Raffi Bedrosyan, one of Hrant’s friends, introduced Hasan Cemal. Bedrosyan explained that Hasan Cemal worked for many years (until 1992) as the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily, the official mouthpiece of the Kemalist state and the defender of the denialist official version of history related to the 1915 events. Hasan Cemal then moved on to Sabah newspaper, the newspaper with the largest circulation at the time, as editor (until 1998), and then to Milliyet until March 2013, when he had to resign under pressure from Prime Minister Erdogan for criticizing the anti-democratic policies of the government. In recent years, Hasan Cemal got influenced by the writings of journalist Hrant Dink and historian Taner Akcam, and started questioning the veracity of the state version of history. As a result, he went through a gradual intellectual transformation, until he reached the conclusion that those events were indeed a genocide. In 2008, the year after Hrant Dink was assassinated, he went to Armenia and visited the Genocide Memorial, placing flowers there for Hrant and all the past genocide victims, sharing their pain. In 2012, he wrote a book titled 1915: Armenian Genocide in Turkish. The book, explaining his personal evolution, became a bestseller.
In his speech, Hasan Cemal stressed the need to separate personal family history from general history. He gave examples as to how he had to distinguish between his grandfather’s actions versus his stand against the genocide, and his dramatic meeting in Yerevan with the grandson of one of the planners of Cemal Pasha’s assassination in Tbilisi in 1922. Hasan Cemal also explained the long journey he had to go through from having a “captive” mind, based on the state version of history, to an “emancipated” or “liberated” mind, after seeking and finding the facts and truth about the 1915 events. Cemal stated that a small but fast increasing segment of the Turkish civil society has already started to acknowledge the truth about the genocide, and urged the Turkish state also to face its past and acknowledge and apologize for the 1915 events.
After his speech, there was a short discussion session among Hasan Cemal and two Zoryan Institute representatives, president Kurken Sarkissian and Executive Director George Shirinian, moderated by Raffi Bedrosyan, about the significance of building a “common body of knowledge” regarding the historic facts of 1915, in order to be able to have meaningful and constructive dialogue toward reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.
The Toronto commemoration was another proof that Hrant Dink’s legacy lives on and gains more momentum every year, both within Turkey and in all four corners of the world, with demands of truth and justice to prevail for the 1.5 million Armenians plus one

Saturday, January 18, 2014


January 17, 2014
New York State Social Studies Framework Committee
Knights and Daughters of Vartan
Revisions to the Resource Guide
It has come to our attention that the Social Studies Resource Guide with Core
Curriculum is in the process of being revised, and this letter is intended to address
specifically, section 10.5e in the Grades 9 - 12 section. The statement in question is
listed under “Human atrocities and mass murders occurred in this period.”
The statement reads,
“Students will examine the atrocities against either the Armenians or the
Ukrainians and the Holocaust.”
We assume the teacher will have the option of choosing to discuss either the Armenian
Genocide or the Ukrainian Holodomor - Famine Genocide, but discussion of the
Holocaust is a given. One must ask the question, “Why is there discrimination toward
one or the other?” “Why not include both topics, along with the Holocaust?
As way of background, I retired in 1999 as Director of Music for the Shenendehowa
Central School District, after a career of 37 years as a music teacher and administrator.
In 2003, I embarked on a project which consisted of visiting schools (at the invitation of
the school district), as well as church and community organizations, for the purpose of
discussing the “Armenian Genocide.”
On March 29, 2006, I was invited to attend a workshop sponsored by the Capital District
Council for the Social Studies, held at Shaker High School, and talk on the topic of
“Armenian Culture and the Armenian Genocide.” While I was pleased to have the
opportunity to “educate” my colleagues on the aforementioned topic, I was also taken
back by the lack of knowledge they possessed on the topic. I was therefore not
surprised when I went into the schools and discovered how little the students
themselves knew about the Armenian Genocide. Yet, when the topic of the “Holocaust”
came up, the students were able to immediately make an association.
Noted Armenian scholar and author Peter Balakian referred to the Armenian Genocide
of 1915-1923, as the first major genocide of the 20th century, as well the template for
the Holocaust, since there are so many similarities between the two events.
Noted American scholar Jared Diamond referred to the massacre of 5 - 10 million
Ukrainians at the hands of Stalin, from 1932-1933 as “The worst mass killings anywhere
in the Russian-dominated USSR. The loss of life has been compared to the Holocaust.
We urge the committee to include both events equally, not exclusively, as topics to be
included in the revised Curriculum Guide, and doing so, will give the students more
insight into, not only the Holocaust, but other genocides that followed the Holocaust.
“We study the past to better understand the present and the future.”
In closing, we respectfully reiterate our plea that both the Armenian Genocide and the
Ukrainian Famine-Genocide be included, along with the Holocaust, in section 10.5e of
the forthcoming revision. The Armenian and Ukrainian communities are prepared to
assist the State Education Department in identifying resources for both the teachers and
students to reach this goal.
Ralph Enokian
111 Wilkins Avenue
Albany, NY 12205
(518) 489-1304

Turkey: An Action Movie without a ‘Good Guy’

Special for the Armenian Weekly
In Turkey today, a very high-tempo, high-tension action scene is unfolding, with a life-or-death fight at the top of the state apparatus. A volcano of corruption is erupting once more, releasing all the filth from below the surface. We’re seeing the sons of cabinet members being taken from their homes, alongside prominent businessmen, and put into custody; the mass removal of middle- to high-ranking security officers; and comprehensive changes in the juridical organization. But there are no prospects for a better Turkey, because both parties of this fierce fight belong to the “bad guy” club—the ruling AK Party and the informal but all-mighty clandestine organization of the “Gulen community.”
erdogan gulen 1 Turkey: An Action Movie without a ‘Good Guy’
Gulen (L) and Erdogan (Photo:
The audience is deprived of the expectation of a reward for watching these horrors play out. There is no hope for the emergence of a good guy, who will punish the bad and set things right. There is no need to wait for it, because there is no good guy at all in this action film. None of the already-few forces of democracy in Turkey have the slightest role to play in the plot.
The new enemies are, in fact, old comrades-in-arms. Until very recently, both were acting in perfect harmony in their evil-doings—their vulgar, gross denial of the genocides of Asia Mnior’s Christian population, their repression of the Kurdish resistance, their involvement in judicial scandals (Turkey has the highest number of political prisons in the world), in human rights violations of every kind, in public racism and discrimination, in the prisons where life becomes hell for the inmates.
The disintegrating state apparatus
Now, let’s take a short look at what happened: On Dec. 17, 2013, the İstanbul police detained 47 people for their involvement in corruption and bribery. The names of the detainees created a stir: they included the sons of three cabinet members, Muammer Güler, the Minister of Interior, Zafer Çağlayan, Minister of Economy, and Erdoğan Bayraktar, Minister of Environment and Urban Planning; Mustafa Demir, the mayor of the district municipality of Fatih (known for the much-debated “urban renovation project” that left thousands of Roma homeless); as well as a number of prominent businessmen, including the Iranian-Azerbaijani Raze Zarrab and Süleyman Aslan, the general manager of the state-run Halkbank. Newspapers have also reported that Egemen Bağiş, the Minister of European Union Affairs, may be a potential suspect of bribery related to businessman Reza Zarrab.
The police reportedly confiscated some $17.5 million used for bribery during the investigation; $4.5 million came from Aslan’s residence, and $750,000 from the Interior Minister’s son’s home. Prosecutors accused 14 people, including 2 sons of cabinet members, of corruption, fraud, money laundering, and smuggling gold. On Dec. 21, the court ordered their arrest. Reports indicated that a new investigation would be held on Dec. 26 involving Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s sons, Bilal and Burak, as well as certain al-Qaeda affiliates from Saudi Arabia, such as Yusuf Al Qadi and Osama Khoutub. But police officers in the Istanbul Security Directory, newly appointed by the government just a few days prior, reportedly refused to carry out the orders of arrest. The deputy director of public prosecutions also didn’t approve this new operation. The man behind this second investigation, Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, was dismissed on the same day. Akkaş said he was prevented from performing his duty.
A few days later, on Jan. 7, the police force was purged, and the positions of 350 police officers were changed, including chiefs of the units dealing with fraud, smuggling, and organized crime.
The public’s amazing state of numbness
The only good thing in this show is the possibility that the Turkish people, still loyal to their “father state,” may take one tiny step towards doubting the morality of the entire mechanism that dominates their life. With each new scandal, the Turkish public is shocked at the extent of the corruption revealed. Yet, it always falls back into an everlasting state of oblivion, forgetting that corruption seems to be an integral part of the establishment.
The republican history is full of scandals that tell stories of large-scale irregularities, embezzlement, and abuse. Not very long ago, in 1996, the famous “Susurluk Accident,” during the peak of the armed clashes between the PKK and the Turkish army, had prompted  many to believe that nothing would be the same again. The car crash victims included the deputy chief of the Istanbul police department; a member of parliament who led a powerful Kurdish clan serving as the paramilitary armed support of the Turkish army; and the leader of the ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves, who was a contract killer on Interpol’s red list.
The scandal had revealed the close relations between the government, armed forces, and organized crime in a wide variety of unlawful activities that ranged from drug trafficking, gambling, and money laundering to extra-judicial killings and gross human rights violations in the Kurdish provinces. Although then-Interior Minister Ağar, who was shown to be closely involved with outlawed gang members, and then-Prime Minister Çiller, who led the state-sponsored assassinations, resigned after the scandal, no one received punitive sentences. Ağar was eventually re-elected to parliament as a leader of the True Path Party (DYP), and the sole survivor of the crash, chieftain Sedat Bucak, was released. In short, the perpetrators escaped justice. A number of Susurluk investigators subsequently died in car accidents suspiciously similar to the Susurluk car crash itself—two in 1997, and one in 1999.
The corruption that gave birth to Turkey
Nothing—no restructuring of the state apparatus, no reformulation of the founding values of the government, no enlightenment on the part of the Turkish public—came from this outpouring of immense filth that lay deep beneath the surface.
Corruption forms the very texture of life in Turkey, because corruption is the initiator, the founder, the very reason for its existence. Less than 100 years ago, it was founded on the massive plunder of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian property, and the unlawful transfer of their wealth to the state and to the local Muslim population.
Since then, since this tremendously large-scale theft, embezzlement, fraud, and corruption, we in Turkey all live on a vast land of sticky, stinky swamp, bubbling continuously, emitting nauseous vapors, fuming sickening smoke and, from time to time, creating small volcanoes that throw up the age-long filth the swamp has struggled to keep inside.
Parliament is now (as of Jan. 12) debating a government-proposed bill that would strengthen the Justice Ministry’s hold on a council that appoints judges and prosecutors and oversees their work. Opinion makers, academics, and politicians are on TV heatedly protesting (rightly) that this would put an end to the already feeble independence of the judiciary system.
The judicial system and denialism
From the start, the judicial system in Turkey was designed to serve denialism—the denial of the founding essence of the Turkish state, the genocide, the suppression of all opposition. It was the High Court of Appeals that, in 1974, decided that the minority foundations’ “1936 declarations”—given at the request of the government to record the immovable properties they presently possessed—should be considered to be the foundations’ charters and, therefore, unless it was clearly indicated that the foundation could acquire new immovables, acquisitions made after the declaration had no legal validity. So hundreds of immovables acquired by foundations after 1936 (by way of donation or passed on by elderly non-Muslim individuals, as they were once sources of income of the non-Muslim communities’ churches, hospitals, orphanages, cemeteries, and schools) were seized by the state. What was unbelievably unlawful in this decision was that these foundations of non-Muslim citizens of Turkey were referred to as the institutions of “foreigners”! Such is the lawlessness practiced by the highest body for justice in this country.
The swamp is sticky and contaminates everything that it comes into contact with. The recent scandal that led to a wide-scale cabinet reshuffling broke out during the so-called “peace process” between the PKK, the armed organization of the Kurdish liberation movement, and the Turkish government. While generally, individual Kurds and some prominent local officials in the Kurdish provinces display an honest and conscientious attitude towards Armenians’ demands for genocide recognition, recently one of the top-level Kurdish leaders, a woman, Bese Hozat, made anti-Armenian, anti-Greek, and anti-Jewish statements, causing great disappointment and resentment among democratic forces in Turkey.
In an interview with the Kurdish Firat news agency about the “parallel state” (a trendy phrase nowadays to refer to the Islamic Fethullah Gulen movement), Hozat said: “The Jewish lobby, the nationalist Armenians and Greeks are such parallel states. Such parallel states are in touch with one another and have interests from each other. Parallel states do not have formal and constitutional rights. It seems they do not have troops either, but they have an organized and a strong structure and they hinder the efforts for democratization in Turkey.”
It was only a couple of weeks before that Rupen Janbazian, in the Armenian Weekly, wrote how he was deeply impressed by his visit to Diyarbakir/Dikranagerd. “What is interesting, however, was that nearly a century after the genocide began, the descendants of those Kurds not only accepted our delegation in Dikranagerd with open arms, but actually apologized, time and time again, for the part some of their ancestors had in the genocide—something Armenians across the world wish to hear from the government of Turkey,” he said. “Hospitality is a trait Armenians have been known to value for millennia, but what we experienced in our six days in Dikranagerd was something I had, quite unfortunately, never felt in Armenia nor in the Armenian Diaspora, not to that extent, anyway. These people, who I had heard only negative things about from so many of my compatriots, were not only taking us to all the sites of Armenian civilization and culture in the city, but were giving us the factual, unadulterated history behind these places.”
The only hope for a ‘Good Guy’
Were Bese Hozat’s words an answer to Rupen Janbazian? No, this discourse has its roots in the original corruption, the initial one—the genocide and its denial, the one that gave birth to the still-fuming swamp that contaminates everything, even the politics pursued by the most radical opponent of the present Turkish state, the PKK.
These words reflect the dirty politics that the PKK leadership is itself caught up in, in this fight between the two bad guys, believing it has to choose the one that will maintain official power for the sake of the “peace process,” which will mean nothing if the original corruption is not revealed, recognized, and compensated.
These words also reflect the Turkish state’s biggest fear: the possibility of mutual understanding and cooperation between the politically involved Armenians and Kurds. The PKK leadership is forced to give into the government’s demands for a concession by declaring that it will not challenge the official Turkish thesis on the Armenian question.
But these words do not belong to the people of Dikranagerd who welcomed Janbazian. Here is how Janbazian described them in the Armenian Weekly: “One would assume that a stadium full of Kurds who don’t understand Armenian would be bored, uninterested, and ultimately indifferent—especially since we were speaking as representatives of a people who once called these lands ‘home.’ Yet, we witnessed the exact opposite that day. As I read out loud what we had written in the Western Armenian dialect of my forefathers, the audience watched and listened attentively. It almost seemed like they understood everything I said.”
It is clear that the politically conscious sections of the Kurdish people are far ahead of the PKK leadership, which is more interested in gaining ground in the negotiations behind closed doors than adhering to the ideal of justice.
The emergence of a “good guy” in this disgusting action film will depend on whether or not the movement for recognition from below can become strong enough to challenge the denialism that spews from the swamp of corruption.

23 Comments on Turkey: An Action Movie without a ‘Good Guy’

  1. “Corruption forms the very texture of life in Turkey, because corruption is the initiator, the founder, the very reason for its existence. Less than 100 years ago, it was founded on the massive plunder of Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian property, and the unlawful transfer of their wealth to the state and to the local Muslim population.”
    Thank you, Ayse, for writing this truth. Please be safe wherever you are.
  2. avatar David Marshall // January 17, 2014 at 11:46 am // Reply
    Balanced. Well written, well said. Provides a critical and necessary background for the uninitiated.
  3. I guess you could say we have the government we deserve.
  4. Another masterly written, revealing analysis of the state of affairs in present day Turkey by Ayse Gunaysu. Thank you Ayse. Your insightful wiritings should help both Turks, Kurds as well as Armenians to better define where they stand towards each other. I will pray for your safety and well-being.
  5. avatar Ralph Magarian // January 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm // Reply
    Turkey: An action movie without a “good guy.” A well written concise narrative of present day Turkey problems in all aspects of Turkish life. But what can one expect from a country that extolls republicanism yet the government still has a residual Ottoman mentality.
  6. Ayse. I am speechless by your frank article on the truth of the Turkish State. I can only say THANK YOU!!!!! Please be Safe!
  7. LOL..After I read armenian articles about Turkey,I have feelings of pity and anger towards armenian groups..on the other hand I am of the opinion that you armenians have a huge desire to explain everything in terms of 1915…You live in the past because that’s where your thoughts are..I understand you are desperately seeking out an answer to a question everywhere but that’s all..May Allah help you inshallah!
    • This is surely a typical response from a typical ignorant and “loyal” Turk who neither has the integrity nor the intellectual capacity to express a point of view to defend or to try to dispute the author’s frank and eye-opening words against the corrupt leadership of a country with blood on its hands. Instead, just like a pre-programmed robot, he can’t help but throw in a poisonous remark completely unrelated to the topic of discussion in attempts to change the course of reality being discussed about the country to which he must remain loyal unconditionally like an illiterate brainwashed peasant.
      The truth and the words expressed in this article must be a kick in the face for the likes of you for whom his nation can do no wrong and anything negative spoken about it must be the works of some foreign conspirators. You indeed represent a model Turkish citizen and you deserve the government you got and more. Obviously, it is you who needs pity because Armenians “living in the past” is nothing but an expression of a hidden fear in you for exposing your criminal and genocidal past.
      The Armenians don’t need allah, whose teachings were used by racist Turkish Imams to help expedite race extermination, to help them with anything. You, on the other hand, need help from a shrink to get you out of that darkness you live in.
    • Well said Ararat. Well said.
  8. avatar David Marshall // January 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm // Reply
    I am not an Armenian, nor a Kurd, nor a Greek, or a Assyrian, but I have been working in the field of human rights for 40+ years, and I will say it again Atilla: “Balanced. Well written, well said. Provides a critical and necessary background for the uninitiated.”
  9. To: Atilla “the Hun”: Clearly a fair description of you and Your Government.
  10. would that be ATTILA THE HUN.
  11. Ayse Gunaysu is exceptional. She writes with clarity and truth about the criminal foundations of the Turkish state. Without coming to terms with this past (and present!), Turkey will remain stuck with corrupt and defunct governance.
    I hope Ms. Gunaysu’s article is available to the misnformed Turkish public. They can’t all be as closed-minded as poor Atilla!
  12. Allah=Death, inspired by Evil
  13. @ Atilla
    I advise you to learn good about our “PAST” , as your and your nations “future” is going to be shaped by our “past”…
  14. Ironically (or sadly for us Armenians), Turkey is doing much better in terms of democracy and corruption than Armenia. Folks in Armenia would dream to see their corrupt “leaders” go to jail. Here are the corruption index ranks of the two countries:
    Turkey: 53
    Armenia: 94
    These numbers should be embarassing for every patriotic Armenian. Until Armenia is a democracy, Armenians cannot even start to hope to gain anything out of anything going on in Turkey. In fact, given the demographic trends, my prediction is Armenia will not even be around in 20 years. That is, unless it becomes a democracy.
    • No, not really, Yıldırım քոչվորoğlu: read the title of the report. It says ‘Perceptions’. Nobody actually _measured_ it, buddy boy.
      These numbers not only are _not_ embarrassing, but they are meaningless.
      And my prediction for the next 20 years is this, Turkbeijani քոչվորoğlu:
      -your fake homeland of Turkbeijan will break up into several parts: Talyshstan, Lezgistan, Avaristan,…,Sultanate of Baku Khanate.
      -NKR will expand to the Kur river. Nakhichevan will be voluntarily returned to RoA.
      -Turkey will be effectively broken up into 3-4 parts, like Iraq: Kurdistan, Alevi/Shia, Islamist Sunni, Secular Kemalist.
      -RoA and (Turkish) Kurdistan will begin negotiations on how to come up with a mutually beneficial mechanism regarding Western Armenia.
      About those surveys and indexes. Here is a couple for your edification, sonny boy. I can come up with dozens and dozens more that measure something or other, but if you remember last semester you failed to progress to double-digit arithmetic: we are eager to educate you, but we do not want to reverse what little progress we have made with your education by causing an overload, son.
      [Global Food Index: Armenia is far ahead Azerbaijan in food quality and affordability]
      {In the Global Food Index affordability, quality and diversity ranking of food, compiled by the Oxfam International organization, Armenia is significantly ahead of Azerbaijan. Armenia took the 57th place in the overall ranking, Azerbaijan – the 91st. Georgia is not noted in this rating. Iran is on the 80th place, Turkey – on the 77th.}
      Armenia: 57
      Turkey: 77
      Turkbeijan: 91
      [Armenia Ranks High in Economic Freedom]
      {Armenia is ranked 18th among 43 countries in the Europe region in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom released by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation.
      Armenia’s neighboring countries and Customs Union member states are ranked as follows: Georgia, 22nd; Iran, 173rd; Azerbaijan, 81st; Turkey, 64th; Russia, 140th; Belarus, 150th; and Kazakhstan, 67th.}
      Armenia: 41
      Turkey: 64
      Turkbeijan: 81.
      And about that Democracy: go and spread your fake democracy in your fake homeland of Turkbeijan, Yıldırım քոչվորoğlu.
      Democracy reminder nomad:
      China: one party, autocratic rule.
      India: full democracy.
      China leaves India in the dust in every measure of human development, and economic & military progress.
      China just landed a robot on the Moon: only the 3rd country to do so.
      Meanwhile, India is making tremendous progress in the Gang Rape Index.
    • avatar Random Armenian // January 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm //
      You have a seething, irrational hatred of democracy. Why? There is a very high correlation between the level of democracy and the level of quality of life and a strong economy.
      Putting a rover on the moon is not an indicator of a good government. India for example has its own space program with their own indigenous rockets. They’re sending a probe to Mars. The Soviet Union put a man in orbit first, built space stations and also put rovers on the moon (there is an Armenian connection with that rover btw). But I doubt you’d want to live under a soviet/communist system of government. Even Iran is putting rockets and test animals into orbit.
      For all your cherry picking, it’s insanely easy to do the same by picking prosperous, low corruption, democratic countries to make authoritarian and autocratic countries look bad.
      You feel threatened by a democratic style government and country. Why? My guess is you don’t want your guy, Serj, threatened by votes and democracy.
      Are you currently living in a western, non-autocratic, country? I assume you are. Why aren’t you living in Armenia?
  15. avatar Garbis Yessayan // January 18, 2014 at 1:43 pm // Reply
    “Balanced. Well written, well said. Provides a critical and necessary background for the uninitiated.”
    “Thank you, Ayse Gunaysu, for writing this truth. Please be safe wherever you are.”
  16. The corruption in Turkey is further evidenced by those who have followed nato to their own shame I’m speaking of minister who tried to blame my President for being in cahoots with isis LOL
    The recent false and treacherous accusations spewed from the mouth of Turkish Foreign Minister Davutaglu are a sign of the growing desperation of the defeated west to salvage their standing.
    Their plots to take Bashars honor are in vain. Never would a honorable commanding officer ever give support to forces arrayed against his own brothers in arms.
    To suggest such a thing is dishonorable and surely an indication of Davutaglus own character.
  17. So let me get this straight … Vahagn here, when he voices opinions against Armenia (as you perceive it as such), then he is a fake Armenian or at least a bad one … But Ayse, when she does the same to her own people, then she is a sublime human being?
    My opinion on Ayse … There are certain kinds of people in the world who derive pleasure from being contrarian or anti-establishment. It is from such people that Soviet communism tried to build a revolutionary group in Turkey. The cold war is over, but these confused souls are still left there, influencing a next generation of rebels without a cause … Some, like Ayse, have found a cause in the Armenian Genocide. Which in itself is a noble cause. The problem is, doesn’t Turkey have its own deep problems with poverty, democracy, etc? If she is trying to do good, why does she do it for another nation’s interests and not her own? Well, that would not be contrarian enough, that is why! Not to further deconstruct her motivations, she also seems to be a narcissistic person seeking at least some form of praise (even contrarians need it). What is the point of her coming and saying all this to Armenians if not to get a pat on the back, WHILE at the same time feeling like she is a true contrarian. A great bargain indeed.
    Ayse, yes, Turkey, as any former empire, has a lot of skeletons in its closet. One does not build an empire without them. Look at America. Built upon the genocide of MANY nations … a whole race in fact. And has constructed a country on the back of slave labor, and still exploiting their descendents. The only country that has used a nuclear bomb upon civilian cities. Yes, Turkey is not perfect. But that does not give you a moral right to trash it amongst its sworn enemies. You have every right to say what you say. But why say it here? Are you that desperate for an applause?
    • avatar Ayşe Günaysu // January 18, 2014 at 6:26 pm //
      Karim, whoever you are (I am using my own name, written exactly as it is written on my official Turkish ID, but I don’t know who you are, I am in the open but you are not, you are hiding, I am not), you ask if I am that desperate for an applause. Here is the answer: I am saying all these in my home country for 20 years and am hated by the majority of my compatriots, seen as a traitor, insulted in internet forums, even threatened. I have written hundreds of articles in Turkish in Turkey hundred times more in length than I have written in Armenian Weekly. I am in the conference rooms, meeting halls and on the street as well. It’s just that you can’t believe an ethnic Turk and Sunni Muslim by birth can sincerely, honestly believe what he/she is saying against his/her own country’s government policies, isn’t it? Well, I am not alone. We are here in Turkey, openly doing what we do, writing what we write, unmasked. Where are you? THis is the first time I answer an insult in AW website, and it will be the last.
  18. Dear Ayşe,
    I have to congratulate you, and thanks to you, for your determination as a Turkish lady journalist with a such a courage, and bravery, uncovering the hidden truth of Turkey’s past, where most liberal minded Turkish intellectuals are afraid to do so!

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Turkey, U.S. Need to Change Policy Towards Syria’s Kurds

Special for the Armenian Weekly
On Nov. 5, I was among a group of panelists who took part in the European Parliament’s 10th conference on Turkey and the Kurds. It was surely an honor to address such a distinguished crowd, including the widely acclaimed woman Kurdish politician and activist Leyla Zana. But I can happily confess that my greatest joy was to be able to finally meet Saleh Muslim, my co-panelist and the co-chairman of Syria’s most influential Kurdish party, the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), in the flesh.
photo 5 1024x796 Turkey, U.S. Need to Change Policy Towards Syria’s Kurds
The author with PYD co-chairman Saleh Muslim
Mr. Muslim and I had spoken countless times. But we were never able to meet in person. Not for lack of will or of opportunities. He was supposed to be in Washington last month to speak at a groundbreaking conference organized by Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish grouping, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), to discuss the role of the Kurds in the new Middle East. But Mr. Muslim was unable to come and was left addressing us all via Skype.
This is because the U.S. government denied him a visa. Not because Mr. Muslim had committed any crime. Not because the PYD had committed any unlawful act. Nor was it because the main Kurdish militia, known as the People’s Defense Units (YPG), in Syrian Kurdistan or Rojava had ever engaged in terrorist activity. On the contrary, they are combatting well-known and extremely brutal terrorist groups who are officially designated as such by Europe and the United States. I am talking about al-Qaeda, about the heartless people who killed Mr. Muslim’s youngest son Sherwan in October, not to mention countless innocent civilians
Mr. Muslim continues to be denied a visa because of the well-worn and utterly hypocritical policy of supporting so-called “good Kurds” against the “bad.” It is a policy that has been practiced for centuries and continues to be practiced by regional powers, including my own country, Turkey.
This policy is not only harmful to the Kurds but to the very countries that practice it, and to regional stability as a whole. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Rojava, where Turkey has been mentoring assorted and armed Syrian opposition groups, not only to fulfill its thus far elusive goal of toppling President Bashar Assad but also to keep the Syrian Kurds’ legitimate aspirations in check.
This policy is morally and strategically flawed.
I say morally flawed because Turkey’s policy of keeping its borders shut with areas that are under the Syrian Kurds’ control means that tens of thousands of people living in those regions are deprived of urgently needed humanitarian aid. Of medicine, of water, of milk. Women and children, the sick and the elderly are suffering as I write.
Turkey has repeatedly claimed that its policy on Syria is based on ethics, on morality. If so, how can Turkey justify keeping its doors shut to the Kurds when border gates controlled by other opposition militias remain open?
Ask a Turkish official and the answer you get will no doubt be that the PYD is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Syrian clothing. My answer to that is, “So what?” To be sure, there are close ideological and organizational links between the PKK and PYD. According to some estimates, one third of the PKK’s fighting force is made up of Syrian Kurds. I met some of them when I last went to the Qandil Mountains in 2010.
It is therefore unsurprising that sympathy for the PKK runs strong among Syrian Kurds who have lost countless sons and daughters in the mountains and whose mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters have, like Mr. Muslim and his wife, Ayşe Effendi, been jailed by the Assad regime.
Also let us not forget that the borders drawn up by the Allied powers less than a century ago left many Kurdish families divided. Turkey’s Kurds cannot remain indifferent to the plight of the Syrian Kurds, for they are one and the same people. Label it as you will, the Kurdish movement inspired by the imprisoned PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan, is growing stronger by the day. It is the most popular Kurdish movement in Turkey, in Iran, and in Syria. It is well established in Europe and increasingly so in the United States. Most importantly, the PKK is moving away from violence to peaceful politics. Ocalan has declared unequivocally that the days of armed struggle are over.
The other reason why Turkey and the United States say they won’t engage with Mr. Muslim and the PYD is because the latter has refused to join the Istanbul-based Syrian opposition and to take up arms against the Assad regime. Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, made it clear that this is why Ankara has frozen dialogue with Mr. Muslim.
Setting aside the fact that the Assad regime has committed crimes and must be punished, looking at the tragic and messy picture in Syria today, the path chosen by the Kurds—that of neutrality—seems unquestionably right. Rojava is, relatively speaking, one of the safest areas in Syria, and not just for the Kurds.
Arabs, Assyrian Christians, Armenians, Alawites, and Yezidis all have been offered protection and a chance to take part in the Syrian Kurds’ brand new experiment with democratic self-rule. They have been spared the destruction of Assad’s killing machine. The Kurds of Syria are at last able to taste freedom. The PYD’s strategy is paying off.
But what of Turkey’s strategy? If the purpose was to prevent the Kurds from pursuing their cultural and political rights, it has clearly failed. The Kurds are steadily consolidating their autonomy through the establishment of local councils, and plan to hold elections and draw up a constitution. Their battle against the jihadists has won them a growing number of friends within Syria and beyond.
Moreover Turkey’s perceived backing of jihadist groups in a proxy war against the PYD is jeopardizing its attempts to make peace with its own Kurds. How can you purport to be seeking peace at home when you are complicit in the Kurds’ suffering next door? And what is the logic in refusing to deal with the PYD—on the grounds that it is no different from the PKK—when you have accepted Abdullah Ocalan as a legitimate interlocutor for achieving peace?
And how can Ocalan and the BDP believe that Turkey is acting in good faith when it is applying such double standards? The Kurds certainly want to know.
If the main concern is Turkey’s security, well that hasn’t worked out all that well either. All along our 900-kilometer border with Syria, the al-Qaeda-linked group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and ash Sham or ISIS is steadily consolidating its hold, save for in those areas controlled by the Syrian Kurds.
I recently spent several days touring the Syrian border. People are scared. Very scared. Especially the Alevis in the Hatay province who fear that al-Qaeda will attack them as well. I spoke to Ali Yeral, a leading Alevi sheikh in Hatay, who told me that he and his family had received numerous death threats. Also in Hatay, I met Syrian Turkmen fighters who had just returned from their villages across the border. They were desperate for help. ISIS had seized control of their villages, unleashing a reign of terror among the civilian population. Just months ago, Turkmen brigades had fought alongside the jihadists against the Kurds. One of the Turkmen who took part in the battle against the Kurds told me that Turkey, as he put it, “gave us lots of bullets.”
Al-Qaeda’s growing presence in Syria is also threatening to destabilize Turkey’s close ally, the Iraqi Kurds. ISIS claimed responsibility for the October suicide bomb attack that claimed the lives of innocent civilians. While many of us have criticized the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Northern Iraq for sealing its border with Rojava, the fact remains that above and beyond the differences between the KRG leader, Massoud Barzani, and the PYD, the Iraqi Kurds want at all costs to prevent the war between al-Qaeda and the Syrian Kurds from spilling over to their side of the border.
To sum up: Turkey needs to change its Syria policy and to resume government-level dialogue with Syria’s Kurds. There is absolutely no reason why Turkey and the Syrian Kurds cannot enjoy the same kind of strategic and economic ties that Turkey now has with Iraq’s Kurds.
The same holds true for Europe and America. Be they in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, or Syria, the main Kurdish political parties are secular, and pro-Western, and though we cannot as yet call them true democrats we can credit them for trying.
The Kurdish movement inspired by Abdullah Ocalan is no exception. The funny thing is that when I talk to Turkish and Western officials in private, they all agree. My trip to the border left me feeling that things are changing for the better, that Turkey has finally realized the enormity of the risk and is making an effort to restrict the movements of al-Qaeda.
In turn, much responsibility lies with Mr. Muslim and his friends to prove that they are truly committed to democracy and to disproving the claims of all those who say that the PYD is bent on replacing one dictatorship with another.
My hope is that they will not seek to settle past scores with the Arabs, and to uproot those who were forcibly settled by the regime in Kurdish lands. For they, too, are victims. I recognize that none of this simple or easy in times of war. I look forward to traveling to Rojava in the near future. I am hearing encouraging rumors that I may be able to cross through Turkey, legally; that the borders may soon be re-opened. And if not, as we say in Turkish, when one door closes another opens.

This article is an adapted version of the speech delivered by Amberin Zaman at the European Parliament on Dec. 5‏