Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Call to the Commemoration of Armenian Genocide in Turkey

Call to the Commemoration of Armenian Genocide in Turkey

Turks, Armenians and Europeans, let’s commemorate the Armenian genocide together and in Turkey!

24-april-commemoration-in-taksim-istanbulIn 1915, the implementation of a methodical and premeditated plan led to the extermination of one and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, in an attempt to destroy an entire civilization and to “Turkify” Anatolia. The Armenian people were the victims of a genocide which would soon serve as a gruesome reference for others to follow.

The successive governments of the Turkish Republic have since fought to deny the dark side of the history of their country, and to make their people and the world forget that the genocide ever occurred.

Until today the mere reference to these historical facts has provoked fierce opposition in Turkey, including verbal and physical threats and on occasion even murders against their authors. Genocide denial has encouraged racism and hatred against Armenians and other non-Muslim minorities.

While some allege that acknowledging the reality of the Armenian Genocide is an attack on the Turkish people and on Turkishness, it is in fact an attack on genocide-denial and a step towards justice and democracy.

For some years now, some in Turkish civil society have courageously organized commemorations of the Armenian genocide. A circle of truth and righteousness has gradually widened, as more and more voices joined in a humane and moving effort to confront the official discourse of genocide-denial.

Last year, for the first time in nearly a century, a foreign delegation made up of European antiracist, human rights and Armenian diaspora leaders joined the commemorations in Turkey, answering the call for solidarity launched by Turkish civil society.

Together we have shown that in Turkey those who acknowledge and remember the Armenian genocide are more determined and more numerous than those who deny it. We have shown that there exists a part of Turkish society that is strongly attached to the values of democracy and human rights, and is ready to confront its past with lucidity.

This year, human rights and anti-racist activists, committed citizens, civil society leaders, intellectuals and artists, united in Turkey and across Europe by a common desire to see the truth finally recognized, will commemorate the Armenian Genocide in Turkey on April 24th 2014. Even though we are on the eve of the centenary of the perpetration of the genocide, its legacy remains part of our present.

Our shared initiative is one for recognition, solidarity, justice, and democracy.

It is an initiative for recognition: it allows members of the Armenian Diaspora and Turkish Armenians who have resisted exile to openly mourn their ancestors; it allows Turkish individuals and organizations to ask for forgiveness on behalf of their ancestors.

It is an initiative for solidarity between all those who fight for the acceptance of history. The divide is not between Turks and Armenians but between those who struggle for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and those who promote denial. Quite simply, it is not a question of origins but of perspectives for the future.

It is an initiative for justice: In the words of Elie Wiesel, “Genocide kills twice, the second time through silence.” Denial is the perpetuation of genocide, and genocide is the most violent act which racism can lead to. Fighting denial is an attempt to heal the trauma transmitted in Armenian communities as well as in Turkish society from one generation to the next. Fighting denial is thus part of the fight against racism, for a more equal and a fairer society. It offers new generations the opportunity to look together towards the future.

Finally, it is an initiative for democracy, not only because lifting the taboo of the genocide is an indispensable condition for advancing freedom of speech in Turkey, but also because, as Jorge Semprun frequently recalled, democracy requires the vitality of civil society. Strengthening relationships between civil societies will reinforce those who have been fighting to advance democracy in Turkey and elsewhere in Europe.

For these reasons, on April 24 we will commemorate the Armenian Genocide together and in Turkey. We call upon all individuals committed to recognition, solidarity, justice and democracy to join us or to support us in turning   the page on a century of denial.

Paul Morin, Executive Director of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement – EGAM (Europe), Cengiz Algan & Levent Sensever, Spokespeople for Durde! (Turkey), Alexis Govciyan & Nicolas Tavitian, President Europe and Director of the General Union of Armenians Charity of the Armenian General Benevolent Union – AGBU (Europe), Ayse Öktem, Steering Committee member of YSGP Istanbul (Turkey), Charles Aznavour, Singer (France), Bernard Henri Lévy, Philosopher (France), Abdullah Demirbas, Mayor of Sur district of Diyarbakir (Turkey), Ara Toranian, Co-President of “Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations in France” (CCAF), Serge Klarsfeld, President of “Sons and Daughters of  Deported Jews from France” (France), Murat Timur, President of Van Bar Association (Turkey), Raffi Kantian, Chairman of the board, “German-Armenian Society” (Germany), Bernard Kouchner, former French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Founder of Doctors Without Borders and Doctors of the World, Adam Michnik, Historian, journalist, essayist and former leader of Solidarnosk (Poland), Ragip Zarakolu, Writer (Turkey),Romashuk Hairabedian, President of the “Armenian Social and cultural Foundation in The Netherlands” (The Netherlands), Jovan Divjak, Former Commanding General of Yugoslav Army, Defender of besieged Sarajevo (Bosnia), Ömer Laçiner, Writer (Turkey), Loris Toufanian, President of Armenian Youth Movement “Nor Seround” (France), Tahar Ben Jelloun, Writer and poet (Morocco), Dario Fo, Writer, Nobel Prize for literature (Italy), Ferhat Kentel, Sociologist (Turkey), Hakob Kazandjian, President of Armenian community of Cyprus (Cyprus), Miguel Angel Moratinos, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Spain), Murat Celikkan, Journalist (Turkey), André Glucksmann, Philosopher (France), Cindy Léoni, President of “SOS Racisme” (France), Yves Ternon, Historian and Professor (France), Sonia Aïchi, President of “FIDL” (High school’s Independent and Democratic Federation) (France), Yann Moix, Movie director and writer, Prix Renaudot 2013 (France), Oliviero Toscani, Photographer (Italy), Sacha Reingewirtz, President of the “French Union of Jewish Students” (France), Jean Yériché Gorizian, Spokeperson of Armenian Youth Movement “Nor Seround”, Richard Prasquier, President of “Foundation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah” (France), Laura Chatel &Lucas Nédelec Co-General Secretary “Jeunes Ecologistes” (France), Laura Slimani, President of Movement of Young Socialists (France), Alma Masic, President of Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) (Bosnia), Armen Artwich, Vice President of Foundation of Culture and Heritage of Polish Armenians (Poland), Deyan Kolev, Chairman of “Amalipe” (Bulgaria), Faik Akçay, Writer (Turkey), Sonia Avakian-Bedrosian, President of AGBU-Sofia (Bulgaria), Marian Mandache, Executive Director of “Romani Criss” (Romania), Çagla Oflas, Spokeperson of “Campaign for Confronting the Centennial Truth” (Turkey), Elina Chilinguirian, Journalist (Belgium), Raba Gjoshi, Executive Director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) (Kosovo), Prof. Dr Ayse Gözen, Professor (Turkey), Patrick Donabedian, Historian and lecturer, Aix-Marseille University (France), Mario Mazic, Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) (Croatia), Ümit Kurt, Writer (Turkey), Elena Gabriielian, Journalist (France), Jovana Vukovic, “Regional Centre for Minorities” (Serbia), Serdar Yazar, President of Turkish Community in Berlin Brandeburg (Germany), Akif Kurtulus, Writer (Turkey), Haik Garabedian, Co-president AGBU Young Professionals of Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Erika Muhi, Director of the Anti-Discrimination Bureau “NEKI” (Hungary), Gazi Giray Günaydin, Activist (Turkey), Irina Ghaplanya, Doctoral student, University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), Céline Gulekdjian, Film director (Belgium),Katalin Barsony, President of the “Romedia Foundation” (Hungary), Nurcan Kaya, Lawyer (Turkey), Inge Drost, President of the “Federation of Armenian Organizations in the Netherlands” (The Netherlands), Alain Daumas, President of “UFAT” (French Union of Roma Associations) (France), Roni Margulies, Journalist and poet (Turkey), Gueguel Khatchatouryan, President of the Armenian community in Milan (Italy), Adriatik Hasantari, President of “Roma Active” (Albania), Maja Micic, Director of Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) (Serbia), Elio Montanari, Photographer (Turkey), Hrant Kostanian, Associate Research Fellow, Centre for European Policy studies (Belgium), Marcel Kabanda, President of “Ibuka” (France), Filiz Montanari, Film Director (Turkey), Harout Palanjian, President of the Armenian community in the Netherlands (The Netherlands), Prof. Dr Sinan Özbek, Professor (Turkey),Héléne Piralian, Psychoanalyst (France), Miroslav Broz, President of “Konexe” (Czech Republic), Yildiz Önen, Spokeswoman of “Global Peace and Justice Coalition” (Turkey),Valentina Poghosya, Leader of the British Armenian community (United Kingdon), Maria De Franca, Director of “La Règle du Jeu” (France), Metin Algan, Activist of DurDe (Turkey), Balasz Denes, Director of “Open Society Initiative for Europe” (Hungary),  Cem Rifat Sey, Writer (Turkey), Witold Klaus, President of SIP (Association for Legal Intervention) (Poland), Jörn Sudhoff, Professor of Social Sciences (Turkey), Dogan Özguden, Chief Editor, Info-Türk (Belgium), Katarzyna Kubin, Director of the Board of the “Foundation for Social Diversity” (Poland), Zeynep Tozduman, Investigative Writer (Turkey), Kalle Larson, Director ofCentrum Mot Rasism (Sweden), Inci Tugsavul, Responsible editor Info-Türk (Belgium), Renée Le Mignot, Co-President of the “MRAP” (Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples) (France), Haluk Ünal, Film Director (Turkey), Nick Lowes, Founder of “Hope Not Hate” (United Kingdom), Aldo Merkoci, President of Mjaft Movement (Albania),Ahmed Moawia, President of the “Greek Forum for Migrants” (Greece), Jette Moller, President of “SOS Mod Racisme” (Danemark), Angela Scalzo, General Secretary of “SOS Razzismo” (Italy), Nicolai Radita, President of “Roma National Centre” (Moldavia), Boris Raonic , President de “Civil Alliance” (Montenegro), Paula Sawicka, President of “Open Republic” (Poland), Jacques Bérès, President of “France-Syria Democracy”, President of “Enfants Du Canal” (France), Bruce Clarke, Artist (South Africa), Roni Alasor, Journalist and writer (Bulgaria), Sebu Aslangil, Jurist (Turkey), Irena Borisova, Director of People Against Racism (Slovakia), Ofer Bronchtein, President of “Forum pour la paix” (France), Prof. Chan E.S. Choenni, Hindustani Migration and Indian Diaspora, Free University (VU) Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Andrei Dragomir, Director of the Moldovan Centre for Human Rights (Moldovia),Lina Gidlung, Director of Antidiscrimination bureau Upsala (Sweden), Janette Gronsfort,President of Rasmus Network (Finland), Merle Haruoja, Director of “Estonian Institute for Human Rights” (Estonia), Pierre Henry, General Director of “France Terre d’Asile” and Executive Board Member of the “European Council for Refugees and Exiles”, Hristo Ivanovick, President of “Alliance for Human Rights” (Macedonia), Krassimir Kanev, President of theBulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria), Anhelita Kamenska, Director of “Latvian Centre for Human Rights” (Latvia),  Joël Kotek, Professor (Belgium), Jacky Mamou, President of “Urgence Darfour”, former President of “Doctors of the World”, Edward Mier-Jedrzejowicz, Business Executive, Foundation M.K. z Tyskiewiczow Krolikiewicz (Poland), Anna Šabatová, Head of Czech Helsinki Committee (Czech Republic), Ahmed Samih, Head of the “Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies” (Egypt), Dominique Sopo, Former President of “SOS Racisme” (France), Rune Steen, Director of the “Norwegian Centre Against Racism” (Norway), Muhammadi Yonous, Head of the “Greek Forum of Refugees” (Greece),Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (League of Human Rights) (France), European Roma and Travellers Forum (ERTF), International Human Rights League.
Also supported by the following Political leaders
Ewald Stadler, Member of European Parliament (Austria), Michèle Rivasi, Member of the European Parliament (France), Sevil Turan, Spokeswoman of YSGP (Left Party of the Future) (Turkey), Meltem Oral, Spokeswoman of The Revolutionist Socialist Labour Party (DSIP) (Turkey), Ufuk Uras, 23rd term MP (Turkey), Klemen Zumer, Advisor, European Parliament (Belgium), Senol Karakas, Spokesman of The Revolutionist Socialist Labour Party (DSIP) (Turkey), Andrej Hunko, Member of the Bundestag (Parliament) (Germany), Naci Sönmez, Spokesman of YSGP (Left Party of the Future) (Turkey),
Serge Artunoff, Dentist (Belgium), Anelga Arslanian, Doctor (Belgium), Areg Barseghyan, International civil servant, Asian Development Bank (Armenia), Tatyos Bebek, Dentist (Turkey),Gilbert Dalgalian, Linguist (Belgium), Atilla Dirim, Translator (Turkey), Simon le Grand, International Civil Servant (Belgium), Dr Amine Ishkanian, Lecturer, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom), Souren Seraydarian, Former United Nations Executive (France), Zeynep Tanbay, Choreographer (Turkey), Sezai Temelli, Lecturer (Turkey), Lisa Abadjian, Psychologist (Belgium), Korhan Gümüs, Architect (Turkey), Güven Gürkan Öztan, Lecturer (Turkey), Silva Chemedikian, AGBU Sofia , Business Executive (Bulgaria), Michael Domanian AGBU – The Netherlands (The Netherlands), Chalabi Chalabi(The Netherlands), Alexandre Kalantarian (Administrator of S.A. Talent) (Belgium), Prof. Dr. Gençay Gürsoy (Turkey), Harout Mamikonian (The Netherlands), Lydia van de Fliert, International Human Rights Consultant (Belgium / The Netherlands), Ergun Günrah, PR (Turkey), Kate Markaryan, AGBU Europe (Europe), Oncho Cherchian, AGBU Sofia (Bulgaria)


Tel: (32-2) 215 35 76
Fax: (32-2) 215 58 60

Genocide Encyclopedias and the Armenian Genocide

Special for the Armenian Weekly
The two key human rights concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” have their roots in the response to the Young Turk mass deportations and massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Following the April 24, 1915 mass arrests of hundreds of Armenian political, religious, and community leaders in Constantinople and their subsequent exile and deaths, and the massacres of multitudes of other Armenian civilians, the Entente allied powers of England, France, and Russia on May 24, 1915 warned that the Young Turk dictatorship would be held accountable for the massacres and the “new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization.”
genocide encyclopedia 213x300 Genocide Encyclopedias and the Armenian Genocide
Drawing intellectual inspiration and editorial guidance from Israel Charny, a pioneering project was launched. In 1999, the two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 1999) was published.
In 1921, Soghomon Tehlirian was put on trial in Germany for having assassinated Mehmet Talat, one of the key Young Turk triumvirate responsible for the deportations and massacres of the Armenians. Raphael Lemkin, a young Polish university student, who would later become a lawyer, wondered why there existed domestic laws to deal with the murder of one person, but no international law to punish those responsible for the mass killing of a million or more persons. During the 1930’s, Lemkin suggested the twin concepts of “vandalism” and “barbarism” to deal with such crimes. The former dealt with the destruction of cultural artifacts, while the latter related to acts of violence against defenseless groups. By 1944, these twin concepts had merged into his proposed international term: “genocide.” The new concept, along with “crimes against humanity,” would become a key pillar of international law.
With the introduction of the two crucial legal concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide,” it remained for scholars and prosecutors alike to apply these principles to specific cases. Over time, there emerged the need to compare different historical and contemporary examples. Pioneering analytical and comparative books, such as Irving Horowitz’s Genocide (New Brunswick, Transaction Books, 1976) and Leo Kuper’s Genocide (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1981), were penned in this regard. Before long, the field of genocide studies emerged and was formalized with the birth of the International Association of Genocide Studies (IAGS) in 1994. However, a challenge familiar to many in comparative politics arose; given that most individuals and scholars lack the global expertise to know sufficient details about all of the major case studies, there was an urgent need for encyclopedias and dictionaries on genocide.
Drawing intellectual inspiration and editorial guidance from Israel Charny, a pioneering project was launched. In 1999, the two-volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, (Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 1999) was published. With substantial input by Rouben Adalian, the encyclopedia included two-dozen entries about the Armenian Genocide and the Ottoman Young Turk regime. The encyclopedia also contained several thematic entries that cited reference to the Armenian case. Adalian led the way with 17 entries that he penned on such such as the Hamidian Massacres, Adana, Musa Dagh, the Young Turks, Woodrow Wilson, and Henry Morgenthau, Sr. Other prominent authors included Vahakn Dadrian (Armenian Genocide documentation and courts martial), Roger Smith (Armenian Genocide denial), Robert Melson (comparison of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust), Samuel Totten (genocide films and literature), Peter Balakian (poetry on the Armenian Genocide), Sybil Milton (Armin T. Wegner), and Steve Jacobs (Raphael Lemkin). The two volumes were not only pioneering, but remain quite useful even today. This is a testament to their strong scholarship and the continued importance of the topic.
Soon after the appearance of the English-language two volume Encyclopedia of Genocide, a French-language one-volume version appeared: Israel Charny, ed., Le Livre noir de l’humanite: Encyclopedie mondiale des genocides (Toulouse, Editions Privat, 2001). For the most part in the French edition, the entries on the Armenian Genocide and other genocides were the same, but there were a few additions and deletions. Overall, students of the Armenian Genocide were exceptionally well served by the two editions.
The three-volume set edited by Dinah Shelton, titled Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (Detroit, Thomson Gale, 2005), provided extensive material on the Holocaust and attempted to be more inclusive of other genocides. However, the coverage on the Armenian Genocide (with under 10 full entries) was less in this 3-volume account than in the earlier and smaller English and French Encyclopedia of Genocide. Nevertheless, the entries were written by prominent figures: Vahakn Dadrian (Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, Talat), Dennis Papazian (Armenians in Russia and the USSR), Michael Hagopian (Armenian Genocide documentary films), Atom Egoyan (Armenian Genocide feature films), and Peter Balakian (poetry, including a section on the Armenian Genocide).
The cluster of entries was stronger on the arts angle of the Armenian Genocide than the history or sociology. For example, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. addressing the Holocaust was listed, but not Henry Morgenthau, Sr. on the Armenian Genocide. The entry on Benjamin Whitaker was an important one, but remained silent on the Turkish government’s powerful efforts to thwart the UN’s Whitaker Report, which contained an important historical reference to the Armenian Genocide. The encyclopedia did, however, include an entry by Christopher Simpson on German missionary Johannes Lepsius and his brave report during World War I on the Armenian massacres. On another positive note, some of the thematic entries provided references to the Armenian Genocide.
The one-volume account edited by Leslie Horvitz and Christopher Catherwood, Encyclopedia of War Crimes and Genocide (New York, Facts on File, 2006), contained only one main entry on the Armenian Genocide and one partial reference in the entry on “crimes against humanity.” This was inadequate coverage of one of the major genocides of the 20th century. It seemed that the pattern had become one of declining coverage. But that was about to change.
The two-volume collection co-edited and co-authored by Samuel Totten and Paul Bartrop (with some assistance from Steve Jacobs), titled Dictionary of Genocide (Westport, Greenwood, 2008), saw a return to more comprehensive coverage. While no Armenian Genocide specialist authors were listed as contributors, the volumes included at least 40 entries on the Armenian Genocide and covered a wide range of topics. Entries dealt with the key perpetrators (Abdul Hamid II, Committee of Union and Progress/CUP, Ahmed Djemal, Ismail Enver, Mehemet Talat, Mehemed Nazim), famous places and incidents (Adana, Deir ez Zor, Forty Days of Musa Dagh), key humanitarian figures (Johannes Lepsius, British Viscount James Bryce, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, German military medic Armin T. Wegner), international reaction (British and the Bryce Report on the “Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire,” American on the formation of the “Armenian Atrocities Committee”), films (“Ararat,” “Voices from the Lake,” “Armenia: The Betrayed”), genocide centers (Armenian Genocide Institute Museum, Zoryan Institute), Armenian Genocide denialist authors (Bernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy), links to related Ottoman genocides (Assyrians, Pontic Greeks), and the Holocaust. It is a highly readable set of volumes that provides useful summary information about the Armenian Genocide. However, some readers would want more detailed entries, and that was about to appear.
In the internet age, it was inevitable that an online encyclopedia of genocide would emerge. The American educational publisher ABC-CLIO recently created a large database on genocide that was primarily intended for high school students and teachers, but would also be valuable to university students and professors. Entitled “Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences,” it is available for an annual subscription fee. Developed in consultation with an advisory board comprised of Paul Bartrop, Steven Jacobs, and Suzanne Ransleben, the database continues to grow and be updated. At the current time, it contains seven main entries on the Armenian Genocide (Overview, Causes, Consequences, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, International Reaction) by Alan Whitehorn. There are also several discussion essays by various authors (including Colin Tatz and Henry Theriault) on Armenian Genocide recognition and how well the genocide has been known, and about 70 individual subject entries. Entries include pieces done by Rouben Adalian, Paul Bartrop, Zaven Khatchaturian, Robert Melson, Khatchig Mouradian, Rubina Peroomian, George Shirinian, Roger Smith, and others. However, not as many Armenian Genocide specialists have contributed as one might have expected. In addition to the encyclopedia entries and genocide timeline, there are some primary source documents and photos. The online database provides useful insight on the Armenian Genocide. It also suggests what might be possible if all of the entries were to be gathered together into a separate encyclopedic volume that is focused on the genocide. Unfortunately, this is something that has not yet been done, but that one hopes will occur before 2015.
Quite significantly, all of the genocide encyclopedias together show that the Armenian Genocide constitutes an important case study, as it is included in each and every genocide encyclopedia from the first to the most recent. This reflects academic consensus among genocide scholars that the mass deportations and killings of Armenians constitute genocide. These important scholarly reference works thus provide significant academic documentation that can serve to repudiate the Turkish state’s repeated polemical denials of the Armenian Genocide. Accordingly, these genocide encyclopedias ought to be cited by scholars, jurists, and citizens alike. The European Court of Human Rights, in its recent (Dec. 17, 2013) flawed decision on Armenian Genocide denial, should have been aware of such key academic reference works. If they had, their reasoning, in all likelihood, would have been different. Without a doubt, these encyclopedias’ coverage of the Armenian Genocide remind us that time is long overdue for the Turkish government and its citizens to face the dark pages of their history.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Amherst Reading Program to Feature ‘Sandcastle Girls’

AMHERST, Mass.—The Jones Library in Amherst is holding its second “On the Same Page” community reading program, and will feature The Sandcastle Girls by best-selling author Chris Bohjalian.
image001 Amherst Reading Program to Feature ‘Sandcastle Girls’ The following series of programs, sponsored by the Friends of the Jones Library System, will be held during the month of March at the Jones Library, and are based on topics and themes from the novel. “On the Same Page” will culminate in an appearance by Bohjalian on Tues., March 25, at 7:30 p.m., at the Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium. For complete program descriptions, visit
Tues., March 4 at 7 p.m., Woodbury Room. A screening of the documentary, “The Armenian Genocide,” produced in 2005 by Two Cats Productions. A discussion will follow, led by Henry Theriault, Professor of Philosophy at Worcester State University.
Sat., March 8 at 2:30 p.m., Goodwin Room. A book discussion led by Barry O’Connell, Professor of English Emeritus at Amherst College and a former professor of the author. A friendly discussion, open to all.
Thurs., March 13 at 7 p.m., Woodbury Room. “The American Missionaries and the Armenians: Successes and Limitations of Humanitarianism,” a presentation by Barbara Merguerian, vice president of the Armenian Museum of America, will take a look at the role of American missionaries in bringing aid to the Armenian people.
Tues., March 18 at 7 p.m., Woodbury Room. “Overcoming Evil: Preventing Genocide and Other Group Violence and Creating Peaceful Societies,” by Ervin Staub, Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, will take a look at the societal conditions that can lead to violence against groups and discuss how to prevent such conflicts.
Tues., March 25 at 6 p.m., Woodbury Room. Join the Friends of the Jones Library System and Chris Bohjalian at this special reception. Sponsored by the FOJLS, the event is free and open to the public.
Tues., March 25 at 7:30 p.m., Amherst Regional Middle School Auditorium. “On the Same Page…with Chris Bohjalian.” Bohjalian will talk about the book, with an introduction by novelist Cammie McGovern. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
Copies of The Sandcastle Girls can be borrowed from the Jones Library and branches, requested and checked out from the C/W Mars library catalogue, or purchased at Amherst Books or Food for Thought Books in Amherst.
The Sandcastle Girls is a New York Times bestseller that was included on several “Best Book of 2012” lists and Arts and Letters Award from the Armenian National
MG 2873 2 200x300 Amherst Reading Program to Feature ‘Sandcastle Girls’
Chris Bohjalian (Photo by Tom Vartanedian)
Committee of America and the Saint Mesrob Mashdots Medal by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia. This novel tells the parallel stories of Elizabeth, a Mt. Holyoke College graduate who, in 1915, accompanies her father to Aleppo, Syria, to aid Armenian refugees, and current-day Laura, a New Yorker trying to make sense of the life story of her grandmother Elizabeth, as well as her own past. The selection of this title is particularly timely, as the novel addresses the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915; the 100th anniversary of this tragedy is approaching, and is sure to receive media attention in 2015.
Bohjalian is the author of more than a dozen books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Night Strangers, Secrets of Eden, Skeletons at the Feast, The Double Bind, Before You Know Kindness, The Law of Similars, and Midwives. He won the New England Book Award in 2002, and his novel Midwives was a selection of Oprah’s Book Club. His work has been translated into more than 25 languages. He has also written for a wide variety of magazines, including Cosmopolitan, Reader’s Digest, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, and he has been a Sunday columnist for Gannett’s Burlington Free Press since 1992. A graduate of Amherst College, Bohjalian lives in Vermont with his wife and daughter.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Economic Blockades and International Law: The Case of Armenia

An adequate Armenian policy towards Turkey has spurred much debate, especially since the signing of the 2009 Armenia-Turkey protocols in Zurich. The opening of the border was considered one of the cornerstones of the protocols; thus, it is important to understand why the de-facto border was closed in the first place, and what alternatives to the protocols the Republic of Armenia has in mind.
armenia border 2 Economic Blockades and International Law: The Case of Armenia
The Armenia-Turkey border
This article presents the legal and historical background of the unilateral economic blockades imposed on Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan, and proposes certain measures that Yerevan may take to protect its national interests. This article will not, however, cover the topic of the de-jure borders of Armenia with its neighbors.
Interestingly, Turkey was one of the first states to recognize the independence of the Republic of Armenia (the legal heir of the Armenian Democratic Republic of 1918) on Dec. 24, 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1993, due to the ongoing war between the Artsakh Republic and the Republic of Azerbaijan, Turkey unilaterally closed its land and air borders with Armenia, although the airspace was later re-opened in 1995. Despite the closed border, some indirect trade still takes place between the two states, mostly through Georgia. However, transit entails additional costs and, obviously, an under-realization of the trade potential. The closed borders additionally block Armenia’s guaranteed access to the sea, which would enable more efficient trade opportunities. This has certainly translated negatively on Armenia’s ability to take part in international economic cooperation and to better integrate with multilateral trading blocs. The primary imported goods from Turkey to Armenia are food products, textile, chemical industries, and household goods. Armenia, on its part, exports raw and processed leather, jewelry, and various metal products to Turkey. To this day, Turkey and Azerbaijan have refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia. Additionally, Azerbaijan closed its border with Armenia and Artsakh during the Soviet era.
An economic blockade is a type of unilateral coercive measure. It is widely acknowledged that the term “unilateral coercive measure” is difficult to define. Nevertheless, these measures often refer to economic steps taken by one state to compel a change in the policy of another. The most widely used forms of economic pressure are trade sanctions in the form of embargoes and/or boycotts, and the interruption of financial and investment flows between sender and target countries. While embargoes are often understood as being trade sanctions aimed at preventing exports to a target country, boycotts are measures seeking to refuse imports from a target country. Frequently, however, the combination of import and export restrictions is referred to as a trade embargo.
Turkey and Azerbaijan have effectively been exercising an illegal unilateral economic blockade against Armenia, which has hurt the latter economically. The UN Security Council, the sole body to legally authorize sanctions against states, has not done so against Armenia.
On Dec. 1, 2011 the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the text of “Unilateral economic measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries” by a recorded vote of 118 in favor, 2 against (Israel, United States), and 49 abstentions. The General Assembly called on the international community to condemn and reject the imposition of such measures, while requesting that the Secretary General continue to monitor their imposition and to study their impact on countries and on development.
Earlier in October 2002, the General Assembly had adopted a resolution on unilateral coercive economic measures that called on states to not recognize or apply such measures imposed by any state across territorial boundaries, as they are contrary to recognized principles of international law. Armenia said that by voting in favor of the resolution, it condemned the continuing practice of imposing such measures, particularly in the South Caucasus region. Such measures contravene international law and the principles of the UN Charter, and their practice is detrimental to developing countries, as well as those with economies in transition.
Armenia is not yet recognized by the UN as a victim state of unilateral coercive measures. Its first objective should be to make sure that the economic blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan are categorized as a unilateral coercive measure. Armenia has previously stated at the UN that the negative consequences of sanctions have been felt beyond the countries directly affected, as they have also had adverse implications for the free flow of international trade and the effectiveness of international economic cooperation. Additionally, Armenia said that it does not agree with the imposition of unilateral economic measures as instruments of political and economic coercion against developing countries.
The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations was adopted by the General Assembly on Oct. 24, 1970. The maintenance of international peace and security and the development of friendly relations and co-operation between nations are among the fundamental purposes of the UN. According to the Charter, the people represented by the UN are determined to practice tolerance and live together in peace as good neighbors.
Turkey and Azerbaijan are in clear violation of the Principle of Good Neighborliness, as well as all of the General Assembly resolutions condemning unilateral coercive measures. Armenia, as a subject of international law, has to take actions to protect its rights and ensure that Turkey and Azerbaijan adhere to the accepted international norms and principles. Even though the General Assembly resolutions are not obligatory, they do create the guidelines and parameters for moving forward. Armenia must use this card to deal with the dual blockade as well as Azerbaijan’s accusations that Armenia is in violation of Security Council resolutions.
Treaty law provides countries and individuals the right to life, the right to an adequate standard of living (including food, clothing, housing and medical care), the right to freedom from hunger, and the right to health. By blockading Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan have violated these rights. The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights concluded that human rights must be taken fully into account when designing an appropriate sanctions regime; that effective monitoring should be undertaken throughout the period that sanctions are in force; and that the external entity imposing the sanctions has an obligation to take steps, individually and through international assistance and cooperation, in order to respond to any disproportionate suffering experienced by vulnerable groups within the targeted country. None of the requirements of this Committee have been followed by either Azerbaijan or Turkey.
Turkey and Azerbaijan are also in violation of customary international law and general principles. Within the United Nations more broadly, Member States have expressed their view that unilateral coercive measures of an economic character may constitute unlawful interferences. The 1965 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty, the 1970 Declaration on Friendly Relations, and the 1981 Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States—with a particular emphasis on economic measures, among others—establish the basis for the customary law.
In order to be regarded as intervention, the measures must be aimed at influencing the sovereign will of another state in undue fashion. Thus, where unilateral coercive measures intend to induce compliance with international legal obligations, such as non-use of force or human rights, they are less likely to infringe on the principle than when they are directed against the legitimate sovereign political decision-making of a state. The Turkish-Azerbaijani blockade in this case is clearly an intervention.
According to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council may impose forcible or non-forcible measures in situations that constitute at least a threat to international peace and security. This has not been done with regards to Armenia.
Some states view unilateral coercive measures as infringing on the right to self-determination, basing their claim on Articles 1, Paragraph 2, and 55 of the Charter of the United Nations. Finally, these states note that unilateral coercive measures can also have the impact of the deprivation of one’s means of subsistence, and can constitute an obstacle to the realization of the right to development. Armenia can and should also use these factors in its argumentation.
Armenia needs to be more aggressive in the international arena in presenting its predicament. The border is not simply closed, but has been closed in violation of the accepted international norms and international documents. Once the brief but aggressive phase of awareness-building bears some positive results, and once the government of Armenia finds the right time, it needs to take the next step of introducing various resolutions within all possible international organizations (especially the OSCE) and pressure Turkey to abide by international rules and norms. It would be helpful to study the economic blockade resolutions regarding Cuba that pass in the General Assembly every year. Some other strategies may prove to be useful for Armenia as well.
At the same time, it is important to keep the Artsakh issue on the margins. At the beginning, the pursuit should only be geared towards the Turkish blockade, and not the Azerbaijani one. There is a high risk of also discussing the Artsakh conflict in the UN, should Armenia involve Azerbaijan in its demands. It would be less risky to first pressure Turkey and then, based on the experience, decide on the course of action regarding Azerbaijan’s blockade.
It is clear that Armenia, as a member of the international community, has certain rights and privileges provided by international law, and should thus use all possible instruments in its toolbox to ensure that its national interests are served well. International law by itself is unlikely to produce any tangible results for Armenia, but it should be incorporated into the Republic of Armenia’s wider strategy and foreign policy.