Friday, August 29, 2014

California Senate Recognizes Artsakh’s Independence

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SACRAMENTO—The California State Senate, led by incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, by an overwhelming majority of votes on Wednesday passed Assembly member Mike Gatto’s resolution, AJR 32, encouraging Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabakh) continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation and formally calling upon the upon the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, reported the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region. Though the resolution has officially passed, the finally tally will not be available until early tomorrow morning as Senators absent from the floor during the vote have until the end of the day to cast their vote.
From Left: ANCA WR Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian, ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan, incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, author of AJR 32 Assemblymember Mike Gatto, Senator Ricardo Lara, ANCA WR Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan
From Left: ANCA WR Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian, ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan, incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, author of AJR 32 Assemblymember Mike Gatto, Senator Ricardo Lara, ANCA WR Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan
In his opening remarks, Senator De Leon recognized the presence of ANCA WR and ACA in support of the resolution, provided background information on the resolution and the region, and continued on to state, “The ethnic Armenian people in this region have suffered tremendously and deserve a free and independent homeland where they won’t be in danger of persecution. California can be a front line leader that seeks to motivate change in the world…With that in mind, I ask you to support democracy, freedom, a people’s resolution to conflicts and international recognition and recognition of Artsakh,”
His remarks and sentiments were echoed by fellow colleagues Senators Tom Berryhill and Ricardo Lara.
“As Americans, we should understand the desire to be an independent nation, free of tyranny and free to form a government that best reflects our values. It is our own history. Many times on this floor we address the plight of the oppressed and express our desire, as a state legislature, for people to be free and to be able to determine their own destinies. AJR 32 is no different. The peoples of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic did not elect to become part of Azerbaijan in 1921; they were forced into it by the Soviets. It is now their understandable desire to be free. Since declaring its independence Nagorno-Karabakh has held free, transparent and democratic elections. It is fitting that the United States stands behind regions seeking democracy. I urge your Aye vote,” stated Senator Berryhill.
“I rise today to speak in strong support of this important resolution, which encourages and supports the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s continuing efforts to develop as a free and independent nation. The resolution states that this region has historically been Armenian territory, populated by an overwhelming majority of Armenians, and yet was illegally severed from Armenia by the Soviet Union in 1921. Senate District 33 is home to a thriving and vibrant Armenian community – people who have embraced important American values of freedom, democracy, and justice. This resolution asks the President and Congress to extend those fundamental values to the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, and encourages their continued development as a free and independent nation. I ask for your support of this important resolution,” stated Senator Lara.
AJR 32 was adopted by the CA State Assembly in May 2014 by a sweeping vote of 70 to 2 under the leadership of Speaker Emeritus John Perez.
“Today, under the great leadership of incoming Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon and Assemblymember Mike Gatto, the State of California stood strong on our nation’s core values of liberty, freedom and independence for the people of Artsakh. We are extremely grateful to the CA Senate for their resounding support of this resolution and Artsakh’s need to develop as a free and independent nation,” stated ANCA WR Chair, Nora Hovsepian. “ We, along with our grassroots, are proud to have worked alongside Senator De Leon and Assembly members Mike Gatto, Katcho Achadjian, Adrin Nazarian, John Perez, and Scott Wilk in making today’s victory possible and thank them profoundly for their unwavering leadership towards advancing a cause that is so dear to all of us,” added Hovsepian.
California is home to tens of thousands of Armenian-Americans who are refugees of pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), and Baku (1990), and the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenian population of Azerbaijan. Dozens of refugees from the region, many from the Shahumian district of Artsakh, were present for the historic vote along with representatives from the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region and the Armenian Council of America.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) worked closely with Senator De Leon’s office as well as the author, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, Co-Author Katcho Achadjian, and Assembly members Adrin Nazarian and Scott Wilk to garner support for the resolution. In weeks and days leading up to the vote, aside from having their Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan and Legislative Affairs Director Haig Baghdassarian work day-in and day-out with local activists to educate officials about the resolution and the issues in the region, the ANCA WR also activated its grassroots in sending letters and making calls to elected officials, urging them to support AJR 32.
“The passage of this important resolution was a long and challenging journey that started with the introduction of this resolution back in January. We worked so hard to make it move forward, and we are so proud today that the California State Senate stood with me in support of the people of Artsakh in their ongoing quest for freedom, democracy, and independence,” stated lead author of AJR 32, Assemblymember Mike Gatto.
“This resolution couldn’t have come at a better time, given the recent escalated level of violence along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border, and as our freedom fighters continue to defend their right to live under a government of their own choosing. The people of Artsakh deserve nothing less and need this support now, more than ever before,” stated ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan.
The State of California now joins Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Louisiana in adopting legislation which supports the independence of Artsakh.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

Sassounian: Justice Dept. Files Reveal Activities of Firms Lobbying for Turkey

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Last week, I described the terms of the $1.4 million contract signed by the Gephardt Group, the lobbying firm of former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt, to promote Turkey’s interests in Washington.
Realizing that its relationship with the United States has seriously deteriorated, the Turkish government has been pouring millions of dollars into the coffers of several U.S. firms, hoping to improve its image by whitewashing the dark stains of its dictatorial regime. For that purpose, Ankara on May 12 signed a contract with former Turkish national swimming champion Huma Gruaz and her Chicago-based public relations firm Alpaytac, Inc., for $1,420,000 a year. Oddly enough, instead of making monthly payments, the Turkish government gave Alpaytac $1 million up front upon signing the agreement, and paid the balance of $420,000 in the first three months. Alpaytac thus replaced the public relations firm of Fleishman-Hillard, which had received $779,805 from the Turkish Embassy for the 6-month period from Nov. 1, 2013 to April 30, 2014, at which time its contract was terminated.
In addition, Ankara benefits from the activities of the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA), which spent over $1 million to sponsor 170 congressional trips to Turkey since 2000. The TCA was founded in 2007 by Massachusetts microchip millionaire Yalcin Ayasli, who has donated close to $140,000 in the past 18 months to several pro-Turkish members of Congress, according to Al-Monitor.
Most people are unaware that pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, American firms representing foreign clients are required to report to the U.S. Justice Department their day-to-day activities every six months.
Alpaytac’s six-month report is not yet due. However, we would like to present excerpts from the detailed files the Gephardt Group and its subcontractors—Greenberg Traurig LLP, Lydia Borland, Brian Forni, and Dickstein Shapiro LLP—submitted to the Justice Department regarding their specific activities on behalf of Turkey from Aug. 1, 2013 to Jan. 31, 2014:
– On Sept. 19, 2013, forwarded a letter from Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Cicek to Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Patrick Leahy.
– Sent emails to Reps. Castro, Cohen, Connolly, Deutch, Esty, Foxx, Frankel, Gabbard, Kennedy, Schneider, Wagner, and Whitfield and Sen. Murphy regarding the upcoming visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu; contacts were also established with several other members of Congress to discuss Syria, Iran sanctions, Hamas, and missile defense.
– Dick Gephardt reported making campaign contributions from Sept. 24 to Dec. 12, 2013 to: Reps. Alcee Hastings ($1,000), Barbara Lee ($1,000), Marjorie Margolies ($1,000), Richard Neal ($1,250), Brad Schneider ($500), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ($1,500), Marc Veasey ($1,000), and Henry Waxman ($1,000); and Sens. Dick Durbin ($2,500), Mary Landrieu ($1,000), Claire McCaskill ($1,000), Mark Pryor ($1,500), and Ron Wyden ($2,500).
– Gephardt Group employees contributed to Sens. Dick Durbin ($500) and Jeanne Shaheen ($1,500); and Reps. Steve Cohen ($500), Colleen Hanabusa ($1,250), Jim Moran ($500), Brad Schneider ($500), and Henry Waxman ($500).
– Employees of Gephardt Group subcontractor Dickstein Shapiro LLC contacted Ben Branch, legislative director to Cong. Gregory Meeks, “regarding legislation focused on Turkish regional issues.” On behalf of Dickstein Shapiro, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert met with Turkish Ambassador Namik Tan and Sen. Ron Johnson “regarding U.S.-Turkey relations.”
– Other Dickstein Shapiro employees contacted the offices of Reps. George Holding, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Gregory Meeks, Chellie Pingree, Robert Pittenger, Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce, and Ed Whitfield; and Sens. John Boozman, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, and Roger Wicker to discuss Turkish regional issues, Cyprus, Travel to Turkey, and U.S.-Turkey relations.
– Dickstein Shapiro employees contributed over $60,000 to the political campaigns of congressional candidates from July 20 to Dec. 19, 2013, including Sens. Lamar Alexander ($2,500), Kay Hagan ($9,000), Amy Klobuchar ($2,000), Mitch McConnell ($2,500), Mark Pryor ($2,500), and Tim Scott ($1,000); and Reps. Sanford Bishop ($2,500), Emanuel Cleaver ($1,500), Rick Crawford ($2,500), Steve Daines ($2,500), John Dingell ($1,000), Bill Huizenga ($2,500), Eddie Bernice Johnson ($1,000), Adam Kinzinger ($2,500), Mike McIntyre ($5,000), Buck McKeon ($1,500), Dutch Ruppersberger ($2,500), and Ed Whitfield ($2,500).
Since the lobbying firms hired by Turkey are obligated by law to report their detailed activities, it is important to regularly check their Justice Department filings to find out who they are contacting in Congress, for what purpose, and how much are they contributing to their political campaigns.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pope Francis to Hold Mass for Armenian Genocide Centennial

BUENOS AIRES—Pope Francis will hold Mass for the Armenian Genocide Centennial in the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, on April 12, 2015. The Announcement was made by the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires Mario Poli during a mass in the Armenian Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Narek on Sunday, Aug. 17, reported Presna Armenia.
Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Pablo Hakimian, the pastor of the Armenian Catholic Parish of Our Lady of Narek, said that the announcement of a Mass for the Armenian Genocide centennial is in response to an invitation by the Armenian Catholic Church.
“The Pope replied to the invitation from the Armenian Catholic Church a year ago through Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX to hold a mass for the recognition of the Genocide,” Father Hakimian told Prensa Armenia.
On June 3, 2013, Pope Francis held a meeting with a delegation led by Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, during which he also met a descendant of Armenian Genocide survivors and stated, “It was the first genocide of the twentieth century.” The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded with a statement of its own: “The expressions of Pope Francis are absolutely unacceptable.”
This is not the first time Pope Francis has publicly recognize the Armenian Genocide. In 2006, when he was still known as Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, he called the Genocide “The gravest crime of Ottoman Turkey against the Armenian people and the entire humanity.”
More recently, in May 2014, Pope Francis received His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians. During the meeting, he said that we should never forget the blood poured by the Armenians in the last century. In June 2014, Pope Francis also received His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia.
Pope Francis is not the first Pope calling on Turkey to admit its crimes. John Paul II also recognized the Armenian Genocide. In September 2001, during his farewell ceremony at the Zvartnotz International Airport in Yerevan, he said “The Armenian people have paid dearly for their frontier existence, so much so that the words ‘holiness’ and ‘martyrdom’ have become almost identical in your vocabulary. The terrible events at the beginning of the last century, which brought your people to the brink of annihilation, the long years of totalitarian oppression:none of these has been able to prevent the Armenian soul from regaining courage and recovering its great dignity.” Pope John Paul II also said a prayer at the Tzitzernakaberd Memorial, during which he said: “Wipe away every tear from their eyes and grant that their agony in the twentieth century will yield a harvest of life that endures forever. We are appalled by the terrible violence done to the Armenian people, and dismayed that the world still knows such inhumanity.”
The scheduled Mass on April 12, 2015, may be one of the largest events organized around the Genocide Centennial.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Islamic State Commander Says Turkey Instrumental in ‘Success’


Islamic State Commander Says Turkey Instrumental in ‘Success’

Islamic State fighters ride through streets as part of a military parade after gaining significant victories in Iraq. (Photo: Reuters)

REYHANLI, Turkey—A senior commander of the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) has told the Washington Post that Turkey’s support was instrumental in the success of his organization, which now controls great swathes of Syria and Iraq. In an interview with the Washington Post on Aug. 12, the 27-year-old commander identifying himself as Abu Yusef explained that the Islamic State received most of its supplies from Turkey and had many of its fighters from Syria treated at Turkish hospitals. Abu Yusef, speaking to the Washington Post in the southeaster Turkish town of Reyhanli near the Syrian border, says much of that has changed as the Turkish government has begun cracking down on IS operations.
“It is not as easy to come into Turkey anymore,” Yusuf says. “I myself had to go through smugglers to get here, but as you see, there are still ways and methods.”
“We used to have some fighters — even high-level members of the Islamic State — getting treated in Turkish hospitals. And also, most of the fighters who joined us in the beginning of the war came via Turkey, and so did our equipment and supplies,” Yusef told the Washington Post.
Turkey closed its doors on the Islamic State when the extremists took their war into Iraq, capturing 80 Turkish citizens in the process, 40 of whom are still in captivity. But now, Yusef says, the Islamic State has enough resources in Syria and Iraq that it no longer needs Turkey’s support.
The piece, authored by Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet, gives an exhaustive account of Turkey’s relationship with the Islamic State. It can be read on the Washington Post’s website.

Gulen-Linked Schools in Calif. to be Investigated by State

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Asbarez)—The Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Aug. 14 approved a statewide audit of the Magnolia Science Academies of California, which runs 12 tax payer-funded charter schools in the state that have ties to the Gulen Institute, affiliated to the Turkish cleric Fethulah Gulen.
Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms is one of the schools cited for financial mismanagement.
Magnolia Science Academy 6 in Palms is one of the schools cited for financial mismanagement.
The audit, requested by State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, brings forth major concerns of misappropriation of tax payer funds of the 12 Magnolia charter schools and their parent company, the Magnolia Education and Research Foundation (MERF).
In August of 2012, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) audit on Magnolia Science Academies revealed major irregularities and misappropriation of funds for two of eight Magnolia Charter Schools in their jurisdiction: Magnolia Charter Schools number 6 and 7. In March of 2014, the LAUSD granted a conditional renewal of the Charter agreements, with reauthorization pending the results of the OIG’s findings.
“Charter Schools play an important role in the public education system by delivering a high quality education to our students. I am deeply troubled that public education funds are being abused by the Magnolia Academies. It was important to bring this request forward to ensure that our tax payer dollars aren’t being misspent at the expense of the students and the taxpayers who support public education,” said Nazarian.
The audit, which doesn’t have an official start date, will take 7-10 months to complete.
On June 27, the Los Angeles Unified School District issued findings indicating that Magnolia Charter School Academy 6 and 7’s conditional renewal were rescinded based on material fiscal and operational findings and fiscal mismanagement based on a forensic review of the schools and Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation. Magnolia sought a preliminary injunction to block the District from implementing the nonrenewal of the two schools.
During a July 25 hearing, Judge Luis A. Lavin granted the injunction in order to not disrupt the student community, but ordered a strict investigation into the finances of the MERF and the Magnolia schools.
The LAUSD said it viewed Judge Lavin’s protective orders as affirmation of the serious conditions the District faced with Magnolia. “Our primary concern has always been the students who attend Magnolia,” Superintendent John E. Deasy said. “While it is never an easy decision to disrupt a school community, Magnolia’s fiscal mismanagement and serious fiscal issues gave the District no choice. Now that Judge Lavin has provided these additional protective measures, the schools can remain intact while the administrative appeals process reaches its inevitable conclusion.”
Throughout the hearing on the preliminary injunction, Judge Lavin repeatedly indicated that the preliminary injunction is in no way a ruling on the merits of whether Magnolia should continue to operate. A trial setting conference will be held on October 14, 2014, and a hearing on the merits will be set sometime in January 2015.
If Magnolia fails to comply with any of the conditions outlined above, LAUSD can petition the court on an ex parte motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction.
On the national level, Gulen-affiliated schools have come under investigation for questionable financial practices, to filling teacher positions with often unqualified people brought in from Turkey.
Gulen-affiliated charter schools in ArizonaLouisianaPennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey have been under investigation by the FBI since 2011

Thursday, August 7, 2014

APP Conference Participants Announced

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Plenary will feature Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.” With discussions on Turkish politics, the media, Turkish-Armenian relations, and reparations, the conference will be held on Fri., Sept. 26, and Sat., Sept. 27, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge.
The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.”
The Armenians and Progressive Politics (APP) conference returns to the Boston area this year with the theme, “The Road to Justice.”
Friday night’s plenary session will feature intellectual and activist Noam Chomsky in conversation with Alternative Radio’s David Barsamian. Topics to be discussed include Turkish politics and social movements, the Gezi Park protests, and imperialism. Turkey’s failure to come to terms with its history and human rights record, particularly with regard to the Armenian Genocide and the Kurdish question, will also be examined. The plenary will take place in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium (Building W16) from 7:30-10:30 p.m.
Levon Chorbajian, Carla Garapedian, and Aris Nalci will explore aspects of the media, including public relations, propaganda, and ownership, in the first of three panels on Saturday.
Turkey has been highly successful in distributing its narrative, often through professional public relations firms; despite having the advantage of historical truth, Armenians have not. The media often fails to present the Armenian Genocide as fact. Why? Does the U.S. mainstream media frame the issue as a controversy due solely to Turkish pressure, or are American foreign policy and corporate interests responsible?
Turkish-Armenian relations have myriad aspects, including “reconciliation groups” and other civil society exchanges promoted by the U.S. State Department. Are these initiatives in the interests of Armenia and Armenians?
Additionally, progressive Turkish academics, writers, and activists have been instrumental in initiating discussion of the Armenian Genocide within Turkey, especially following the murder of Hrant Dink. Have any gone beyond calls for recognition of the Armenian Genocide; that is, have any demanded justice in the form of restitution and reparations? What can and should Armenians expect from them?
The Turkish-Armenian relations panel will also consider denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state and others. Denial is becoming more sophisticated, as evidenced by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s statement this past April about “shared pain.” The panel will include Peter Balakian, Bilgin Ayata, and Marc Mamigonian.
The reparations panel will examine the possible legal channels and strategies Armenians might pursue to reclaim land and property stolen during the Armenian Genocide, looking at other cases in which reparations were paid. Panelists will discuss what was taken, its value today, pertinent international treaties and laws, and appropriate forums such as the International Court of Justice.
In addition to demanding reparations and restitution from Turkey, panelists will also consider whether Armenians should pursue reparations from all those nations and corporations who benefitted from the Armenian Genocide. If one believes that the Armenian Genocide did not end in 1923, but continues to this day, are those nations who ally themselves with Turkey colluding in the perpetration of the genocide?
With the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaching, panelists Umit Kurt, Edvin Minassian, and Thomas Samuelian will highlight these timely questions.
A discussion entitled “Where do we go from here” will conclude the 2014 conference. Saturday’s panels will be held in MIT Building 6, Lecture Room 120, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Conference sponsors include the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region USA, Alternative Radio, and the MIT Armenian Society.
For an MIT campus map, visit For more information on the APP conference, visit

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sassounian: Turkish Vice Prime Minister Ridiculed for Telling Women not to Laugh in Public

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc is the latest government official to put his foot in his mouth.
In a speech last week, this high-ranking official preached his perverted version of morality to Turkish women by telling them not to laugh in public! “A woman will know what is haram [forbidden] and not haram,” Arinc warned. “She will not laugh out loud in public. She will not be inviting in her attitudes and will protect her chasteness.”
Arinc, a co-founder of the ruling AK Party, continued his chauvinist sermonizing: “Where are our girls who slightly blush, lower their heads, and turn their eyes away when we look at their faces, becoming the symbol of chastity?” He ridiculed women for discussing cooking recipes and other “frivolous things” on cell phones. Imitating a female voice, he squeaked: “What happened to Ayse’s daughter? When is the wedding?” He told the women to talk about such insignificant matters “face to face,” not on the phone!
The Deputy Prime Minister’s demeaning remarks spread like wildfire. In defiance, tens of thousands of Turkish women went on social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) posting “selfies,” pictures of themselves, laughing out loud. Rather than stopping their laughter, women started laughing … at him!
Arinc’s ridiculous comments were picked up by the international media, including Hurriyet, the guardian, ABC News, The Daily Star, National Post, Washington Post, Time magazine, Newsweek, The Australian, and hundreds of newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, blogs and websites. The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister has become the laughing stock of the world!
The next day, instead of apologizing for his sexist remarks, Arinc made matters worse by insisting that he stood by his words, and attacked his critics. He wondered why everyone was focusing on a small segment of his hour-and-a-half speech. He proceeded to mock female celebrities: “There are some artists who laugh artificially and send me their photos. Real laughs relieve a person, but these are artificial ones. You all had your moment of fame, but when that eluded, you tried to attract attention with alcohol and such fake laughter. Despite being married with kids, women go on vacation with their boyfriends, while leaving their husbands behind, and never miss a chance to wrap themselves around a dancing pole.”
This is not the first time that Turkish officials have made such asinine statements. In the past, Arinc was quoted saying that a rape victim must have “wanted it.” He also stated that it is perfectly fine if parents give permission to their 15-year-old daughter to marry a 45-year-old man. Ankara’s Mayor Melih Gokcek, while condemning abortion, shamefully declared: “Why should the child die if the mother is raped? The mother should die instead.” Meanwhile, the Forestry Minister told women who were seeking employment, “Isn’t your housework enough?” Former Minister for European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagish, an AKP official who frequently made nonsensical statements, was quoted: “What happened in 1915 can’t be classified as genocide as far as I am concerned, but I was not around in 1915.”
Rather than being worried about women’s laughter, Arinc and Erdogan should be more concerned about their government’s increasing slide into authoritarian rule by jailing journalists, killing Christian priests, violating minority rights, supporting Jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and engaging in corruption, theft and embezzlement. This is the real immorality that Arinc should denounce.
By preaching totalitarian morality for women, the conservative Turkish leader is appealing to Islamist voters to support Prime Minister Erdogan who is running for President on August 10. Arinc’s stone-age strategy has backfired as nearly half of Turkey’s deeply divided society does not consider itself Islamist and was offended by his remarks. Erdogan’s rival in the presidential race, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, blasted Arinc’s statement, saying that “more than anything else, our country needs women to smile and hear everyone’s laughter!”
After Erdogan’s meteoric rise to power, his government has pursued brutal policies at home and abroad, bringing worldwide condemnation to the country. As the probable next President, Erdogan and his clique are most likely to continue undermining Turkey’s international standing, turning it into a rogue state. After the presidential election, Turkey’s Islamist women would only laugh in private, while the secularists would laugh in public and risk getting 100 lashes!