Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sassounian: Turkish Counter-Efforts Help Publicize Genocide Centennial

Armenians in the U.S. and around the world were needlessly alarmed by a recent article in the Turkish Hurriyet newspaper titled, “Turkish Americans prepare ‘master plan’ for 2015.”
No one should be surprised that the Turkish government and affiliated organizations worldwide have been earnestly planning to counter commemorative activities being organized by the Armenian government and the diaspora for the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide on April 24, 2015.
Tolga Tanis reported in Hurriyet’s July 5 issue that the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) will invite Turkish-American groups to Washington in September to plan “proactive and active responses” to Armenian Centennial events.
ATAA reportedly will form Turkish “activist committees” to visit “lawmakers in each state, conduct social media campaigns, keep in touch with traditional media outlets, prepare online courses, and organize countrywide networking meetings for Americans.” Hurriyet also reported that ATAA will organize “at least 20 day-long conferences in partnership with local universities and with the participation of famous Turkish-Americans like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent.”
As part of its “reactive responses,” ATAA allegedly plans to counter:
– Articles, books, and films on the Armenian Genocide;
– Panels, conferences, and exhibitions organized by Armenians;
– “Anti-Turkish bills” in Congress.
Before Armenians get too excited about these purported Turkish schemes, the following questions must be asked:
– Is Hurriyet accurately reporting ATAA’s plans? The Turkish media is notorious for distorting facts and making up stories. Interestingly, no such announcement is found on ATAA’s website.
– If Hurriyet’s article is fully or even partly true, is it certain that ATAA will carry out any of its announced plans, or is this simply a propaganda ploy or fundraising effort?
As a starter, it has come to our attention that at least one critical part of Hurriyet’s story is a falsehood! Ara Khachatourian, the English editor of Asbarez newspaper, reported that a spokesman for the prominent TV personality has denied that Dr. Oz is involved in any way in Turkish denialist activities.
Likewise, I am trying to confirm if the alleged report about Coca Cola CEO Muhtar Kent’s involvement in genocide denial is accurate. It is noteworthy that Hurriyet has already amended its initial report, adding a disclaimer, possibly after complaints from Oz and Kent about the unauthorized and inaccurate use of their names: “The two individuals whose names are mentioned in the article above (Dr. Mehmet Oz and Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent) are two prominent figures on a long list of accomplished Turkish Americans who will be invited to speak at community events. They have no knowledge of or involvement in ATAA’s plans.”
I wish Oz and Kent were actually involved in Turkish denialist efforts, which would have triggered a worldwide boycott of Dr. Oz’s TV show and Coca Cola products. This would have provided Armenians a golden opportunity for publicity on the Armenian Genocide Centennial that no amount of money could buy.
Moreover, my fervent hope is that Hurriyet’s article will turn out to be totally accurate and that ATAA will carry out fully all of the promised activities. The more often Turkish denialists raise the Armenian Genocide issue, trying to counteract the established historical facts, the more they are inadvertently publicizing the Genocide Centennial, and thereby disgracing themselves in the eyes of the world!
While Armenians are unable to make their voices heard loudly in the international arena, in an ironic twist Turkey’s influential public relations firms in Washington would be of tremendous assistance! Equally helpful are the public pronouncements of Turkish leaders, such as the one by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 23, 2014, despite their denialist content. As an unintended consequence, ATAA’s anti-Centennial efforts will prompt the international media to pay ever greater attention to the continuing injustice suffered by Armenians, by providing more coverage to the planned commemorations.
Although Turkish counter-strategies should receive adequate scrutiny, Armenians should pay more critical attention to whether they are preparing themselves appropriately to observe the Centennial in the global arena, given the immense loss of the 1.5 million martyrs of the Armenian Genocide. By being overly obsessed with the sinister actions of Turkish denialists, Armenians may not be focusing sufficiently on their own obligation to honor the sacred memory of the victims and to demand justice!

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