Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Republic of Turkey is little more than an “extension of” the Islamic State group (ISIS).

Selahettin Demirtas, co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party. (Source: AFP)
Selahettin Demirtas, co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party. (Source: AFP)
ERBIL (Rudaw) – Selahettin Demirtas, co-chair of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), bitterly denounced the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday, alleging it is little more than an “extension of” the Islamic State group (ISIS).
Demirtas was deflecting claims by the Turkish government that the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is affiliated to Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had attacked Turkey.
“What kind of an enmity against Kurds is this that they (AKP) await a bombing in some part of the country just to accuse the PYD?” he asked, while addressing his party’s deputies, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
“Did the PYD throw a single stone at you from (Syria)?” he asked rhetorically. “I am not talking about bullets, but stones.”
Referring to AKP accusations that HDP is an extension of PKK, Demirtas said that the ruling party itself was a terrorist extension.
“Is there any better terror extension than you (AKP)? You are the extension of ISIS. And this is your hypocrisy. Our party keeps calling for peace as yours is doing all this and you expect us to remain silent,” he argued.
Turkey has been bombing the armed wing of the PYD, the Peoples Protection Units (YPG), in Syria in a bid to halt its offensive against armed groups in northwestern Syria.
Following the Ankara bombing which left 28 people dead last Wednesday, the Turks stepped up those cross-border artillery attacks.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is firmly backed by the AKP, has in the past dubbed both the HDP and the PYD as mere extensions of the PKK, which is banned in Turkey and is once again fighting a war against the Turkish state.
Demirtas condemned the government’s crackdown on the PKK in Cizre and the wider Kurdish-majority southeast and claimed their repressive actions have seen another 500 young people join the PKK.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Connections between American politics and the Armenian condition in the middle east/caucasus

Special for the Armenian Weekly
Billions of dollars grease the machinery of American electoral politics as the 2016 election season heats up. Promises will be made and broken. Hope will flutter and flounder. Voters will feel valuable in a courtship constructed by the 1%. And for the first time, our next president could be female, Latino, or thick with braggadocio.

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton at the first Democratic debate in October 2015. (Photo: CNN video screen shot)
As a modest but influential voting bloc, particularly in densely populated states and districts, Armenian Americans and their supporters pride themselves on embracing positions of nuance and principle despite the harsh tendrils of realpolitik.

Armenian-Americans demand Armenian Genocide recognition during a protest.
To echo Harout Sassounian’s June 2015 piecein the Armenian Weekly, the promise of Armenian Genocide recognition should no longer serve as a litmus test for presidential endorsements. For decades aplenty, American politicians have wooed Armenian voters and financiers with empty promises to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Sassounian presents seven core “issues of significance” to evaluate as alternative barometers for directing support. He also suggests another strategy: Sit this election out “to avoid being misled by false promises” and later favor elected officials who promote these core Armenian issues.
Sitting out the 2016 presidential election would disempower voters in America and stakeholders the world over who are Armenian or care about core Armenian issues. Instead, the following points on corruption, human rights, and international affairs offer a fresh perspective on how to consider the impact of American left-leaning progressivism upon Armenian issues and how that impact should galvanize support from our community during the 2016 presidential election and beyond.

Reigning in Corruption: Oligarchs in Armenia and America
One of the primary distinguishing philosophies between Democratic and Republican politics is the matter of government regulation at the federal level.
Democrats espouse regulation to limit private sector corruption that withers the middle class. Remember the subprime mortgage crisis? Republicans seek to reduce federal governmental regulations and gut government spending (not the military, but entitlement programs like Medicare), arguing instead that America’s robust private sector will garner economic prosperity for Americans. Though America’s inception emerged from a revolutionary spirit opposing bureaucratic heavy-handedness, one must recognize the private sector’s ultimate interest in profit juxtaposed against the public sector’s ultimate interest in social welfare. The two interests may not necessarily be mutually exclusive, but the overlap is nominal. An honest assessment of Wall Street, K Street, and Main Street leaves one facing the stark reality of corporate America’s sheer power and the government’s limited capacity to tame that strength. Nevertheless, America has and can set an example to the rest of the world of what a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” should look like.
In this case, no example for just governance is more critical than the one that must be set for Armenia. The Armenian government’s culture of corruption has produced fraudulent elections, environmental catastrophes, the destruction of the middle class, bureaucratic largesse, and racist and sexist ideologies permeating society. One parallel in modern America involves Republican Governor Rick Snyder (R) of Michigan who looked the other way as citizens in Flint drank lead-contaminated water for months despite a $575 million budgetary surplus and ample warnings that something was awry in the city’s piping.
With a new administration forthcoming, America must encourage Armenia’s government towards a “better way” that loosens the shackles of regional governing practices. From big bank bailouts to Citizens United to the NRA’s destructive stranglehold on America’s public health, the United States teeters on the edge of oligarchy, if it has not fallen into the abyss already, and no amount of deregulation will promulgate the reforms necessary to reignite America’s middle class and the spirit of representative government. The United States must set an example by restoring integrity in the rule of law before a new wave of criminal millionaires and billionaires produce the next global financial crisis.

Human Rights: Minorities in Armenia and Turkey, and the American Left’s Civil Rights Record
America’s left has advocated domestic and international human rights causes from women’s suffrage to the civil rights movement to healthcare reform and beyond. Armenia’s need for leadership and support in human rights causes are manifold.

Thousands gathered in Taksim Square on April 24, 2015, to commemorate the Armenian Genocide (Photo: Nanore Barsoumian)
First, the state of minority groups within Turkey demands attention. This includes Armenians, Kurds, and others contending against an authoritarianism that permeates the region and heightens the palpable legacy and continuation of genocide. Indeed, it is in the political left of Turkey where Armenian activists and their sympathizers have found a voice to achieve unprecedented gains in confronting the deep and profound discrimination codified by the Turkish state.
Second, Armenia’s government must address the suffering of its own minority groups. Activists fighting to protect diversity in religion, political belief, economic policy, and sexual orientation in Armenia must not exist in a vacuum. Their cause correlates with a universal pan-progressivism present in all societies that promotes rule of law, environmental sustainability, and middle class development.
The (American) Republican Party’s rhetoric has underscored a troubling ideology: America for the Americans. This simplistic identity formulation, coupled with anti-immigration sentiments, promotes intolerance and erodes the tendencies that helped Armenians prosper in multicultural societies.
We must reject discrimination and recognize that the fight for civil rights around the world directly overlaps with left-leaning, progressive politics in the United States.

Hawks or Doves: The Republican Party’s Propensity for War and the Further Destabilization of the Middle East, Armenia
War and diplomacy offer tools to address the same issue: existential threats.
War harnesses military resources to kill enemies, destroy their infrastructure, and demoralize their will to fight. The military also employs humanitarian and coalition development strategies, though these do not represent its raison d’ĂȘtre.

Donald Trump at the South Carolina Tea Party Convention on Jan. 16. (Photo:
Diplomacy functions to manage international relations around the world by working with friends and foes alike to resolve conflicts, strike deals, and promote values without force.
Though Democrats and Republicans utilize both of these tools, Republicans trumpet America’s military might and threaten devastating military incursions against enemies. Leading candidates for the GOP’s nomination have already showcased this trademark posture. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) threatened to “carpet bomb” Islamic militants to see if “sand can glow in the dark,” while Donald Trump said he would “quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.”
Democrats emphasize diplomatic resolutions to conflict before resorting to military force. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton led the charge in restoring America’s standing in the world after George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency, while Bernie Sanders has voted against most American foreign military interventions during his 26 years in Congress.
Increased American military engagement in today’s fragile world will destabilize the Middle East, its Armenian communities, and the Republic of Armenia itself. Since the 1970’s, wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria have forced hundreds of thousands of Armenians to dismantle their homes and communities and start anew elsewhere. Today, the Armenians of Aleppo, Syria, are facing some of the harshest consequences of the Syrian Civil War. Should the United States engage Syria with the same heavy-handed approach with which it engaged Iraq, the consequences would be devastating. No amount of carpet bombing or Rumsfeldian conquests will solve the Rubik’s cube of Syria. Instead, look no further than the historic developments with Cuba and Iran to appreciate the seismic shifts possible through diplomacy.

An Aleppo street in ruins
It is hard to conceive of a true and lasting peace in the Middle East, but we cannot hope for better days with the specter of further American military intervention. The Syrian Civil War has brought tens of thousands of Syrian Armenians to an Armenia that has welcomed the new population with open arms and limited economic opportunity—a stark reminder of the nation’s fragile economy and virtually non-existent middle class. Armenia’s corrupt, oligarchical system offers a difficult environment for Syrian Armenians to grow their businesses. Instead, Armenia must focus on resolving the corrosive culture that has stymied its economy and society to reduce brain drain and recruit businesses, students, expats, repats, and new immigrants. Moreover, enhanced American military intervention in the Middle East will stoke Russian aggression, further destabilizing the Middle East, South Caucasus, and Eastern Europe.
Democratic tendencies to put comprehensive diplomacy before war will ultimately serve the best interest of Armenians in the Middle East, the Armenian Republic, and stakeholders throughout the global diaspora.
Reigning in corruption, protecting human rights, and emphasizing diplomacy over war represent three major touchstones in the American left that will benefit the sustainability of Armenia’s nationhood and diasporan communities. As a small but influential bloc of voters and stakeholders, Armenians in America and stakeholders the world over should lean left and help ensure America’s next president champions core values of progressivism.

Talaat’s Personal Account of The Armenian Massacres

In my last week’s column, I reported that Talaat Pasha, the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, had told British intelligence officer Aubrey Herbert in 1921 that he had written “a memorandum on the Armenian massacres.”
I would like now to present brief excerpts from Talaat’s lengthy account published in the November 1921 issue of Current History, the monthly magazine of The New York Times, titled: “Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat Pasha,” and subtitled: “The former Grand Vizier’s own account, written shortly before his assassination, of why and how Turkey entered the war — Secret alliance that preceded the conflict — Causes of the Armenian massacres as stated by the man who ordered them.”
In an introductory note, Current History editors explain how they obtained a copy of this revealing report: “…After Talaat’s death, the manuscript passed into the possession of his wife, who remained in Germany; she has not yet published the whole of it, but after the acquittal of her husband’s assassin she permitted the Paris correspondent of Vakit, a liberal Turkish newspaper published in Constantinople, to reproduce the most interesting portions of it. These have been translated from Turkish for Current History by M. Zekeria, a native of Constantinople. They represent about fifty pages of the original manuscript, the opening sentence of which, ‘I do not tell all the truth, but all I tell is truth,’ aroused a great sensation in Turkey.”
In his memoirs, as in his interview with Aubrey Herbert, Talaat tries to exonerate himself by blaming everyone else — Armenians, Russians, even Turks — for the Armenian massacres. He does not deny “the deportations of the Armenians, in some localities of the Greeks, and in Syria of some of the Arabs,” but claims that such reports “were exceedingly exaggerated.” Talaat then adds: “in saying this, I do not mean to deny the facts. I desire only to eliminate the exaggerations and to relate the facts as they occurred.”
The former Grand Vizier confesses: “I admit that we deported many Armenians from our eastern provinces, but we never acted in this matter upon a previously prepared scheme. The responsibility for these acts falls first of all upon the deported people themselves. Russia, in order to lay hand on our eastern provinces, had armed and equipped the Armenian inhabitants of this district, and had organized strong Armenian bandit forces in the said area.”
Attempting to repair his tarnished image, Talaat acknowledges the Turkish brutalities against Armenians: “I admit also that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. In some places unlawful acts were committed…. Some of the officials abused their authority, and in many places people took preventive measures into their own hands and innocent people were molested. I confess it.”
Continuing his face-saving rhetoric, Talaat concedes: “I confess, also, that the duty of the Government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities or at least to hunt down and punish their perpetrators severely. In many places, where the property and goods of the deported people were looted, and the Armenians molested, we did arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law. I confess, however, that we ought to have acted more sternly, opened up a general investigation for the purpose of finding out all the promoters and looters and punished them severely. But we could not do that. Although we punished many of the guilty, most of them were untouched.”
Talaat proceeds to provide excuses for not pursuing perpetrators of the Armenian massacres who “were short-sighted, fanatic, and yet sincere in their belief. The public encouraged them, and they had general approval behind them. They were numerous and strong. Their open and immediate punishment would have aroused great discontent among the people, who favored their acts. An endeavor to arrest and to punish all these promoters would have created anarchy in Anatolia at a time when we greatly needed unity.”
To set the record straight, Talaat’s claims that Armenians stabbed Turkey in the back during WWI are completely false. Minister of War Enver Pasha, Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Armed Forces, in a letter to the Bishop of Konya, praised the bravery of Turkish-Armenian soldiers fighting against the Russian Army in the winter of 1914-1915.
Ironically, Talaat’s assertion that his government would have taken brutal actions against Armenians even at “a time of peace,” reconfirms long-standing Turkish genocidal practices as previously demonstrated by the Hamidian and Adana massacres of Armenians which were carried out when there were no wars.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Turkish Academic Supports Probes, Urges for Moderation

Turkish novelist and academic, Orhan Pamuk. (Source: AA Photo)
Turkish novelist and academic, Orhan Pamuk. (Source: AA Photo)
ISTANBUL (Hurriyet Daily News) — Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has said that recent investigations and detentions of academics who signed a petition calling for an end to security operations in southeast Turkey did not suit Turkey.
“Twisting their arms, calling them traitors and pledging payback does not suit Turkey and the wealth that Turkey comes from,” Pamuk said during a TV program on CNN Turk on February 2, adding no one would benefit from those incidents.
Pamuk called the petition “faulty” but said its general philosophy was “peace and goodness.”
“I am against those austerities. Let us soften a little bit. There is an austerity coming from the top of the state,” Pamuk said, calling for moderation.
Recently, an academic from Ataturk University in the eastern province of Erzurum who was released with an international ban after detainment, was dismissed from his post on February 3.
Academic Ramazan Kurt, who worked in the department of philosophy and history of philosophy, was detained at his house on January 14 and accused of “terror propaganda,” “incitement to hatred or defaming people” and “defaming the state’s judicial bodies.”
After the court’s decision of rejection of venue, the investigation file was sent to Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“Many other academics despite me have abandoned all their academic works and had to struggle with their own problems. I had no idea that I was dismissed on January 11; I have still been teaching at the faculty. I found out that I was dismissed when I couldn’t log in to my university e-mail account and university automation system” Kurt said.
Universities and prosecutor’s offices across Turkey have launched investigations into many of the 1,128 local and international academics and intellectuals who signed the petition titled “We Will not be a Party to this Crime,” arguing that the petition went beyond the limit of academic freedom.
Many national and international organizations have reacted to the detentions and investigations in strong statements.
All those detained in the probe have since been released but they still face investigation and an eventual trial, while some academics were removed from their posts or suspended with administrative decisions.

Turkey Falsifies Historical Facts Around Tigran Honents Church of Ani

Tigran Honents Church of Ani. (Source: Massis Post)
Tigran Honents Church of Ani. (Source: Massis Post)
YEREVAN (Armenpress) — Gyumri’s National Park-Museum of Sculpture expressed concern over Tigran Honents Church of Ani stating that the policy of Turkey about the falsification of historical facts and incomplete reconstruction of the mentioned church thrusts a wedge into the culture and friendship of neighboring countries. In order to combat distortion of history website started a petition.
The organization called on the Turkish Ministry of Culture, UNESCO, UN and the European Heritage Convention Committee to get focused on such policy of Turkey.
In its call the organization writes:
“Being historically Armenian capital and residence for various nations, Ani remains an Armenian landscape, which is documented in historical information and our present lithography. The 17 frescoes of the church contain images that depict the torments of the first patriarch and the founder of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Gregory the Illuminator, that are the vivid proves of the church’s national and religious belonging. Announcing that Ani is a historic area of cultural diversity, Turkey deviates the international community from our main demands; and thus creates an environment of cancelling them. But we are particularly concerned by the fact, that while being reconstructed, the church has been proclaimed as Chalcedonic and thus this is escalating disputes and conflicts in Georgian – Armenian age-old friendship. We demand from the Turkish responsible institutions of the sector that they:
-avoid proclamations about the historical belongings of the church
-add “Armenian Christian church” name into the sign put nearby the church
-finish and not to abridge the church dome construction and announce the process and objectives for further work.
-avoid escalating cultural conflicts between Armenia and Georgia. The issue has received wide public attention because of the sign installed nearby the church that presents the church as Georgian Chalcedonic.
We are confident that our Georgian brothers have a friendly approach to this issue and are ready for reinstating historic justice that can be reached through professional and public debate and dialogue. We live in a region where any problem can be solved through dialogue if we just face them.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Genocidaire Talaat’s Last Interview Shortly Before his Assassination

Aubrey Herbert, British diplomat, adventurer, intelligence officer, and Member of Parliament, conducted a rare interview with Talaat Pasha, in February 1921, just days before his assassination in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian.
As all-powerful Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, its despotic ruler and mastermind of the Armenian Genocide, Talaat had fled Turkey in November 1918 to avoid prosecution by the new regime. The 23-page interview with Talaat was published in 1924 (London) and 1925 (New York) in Herbert’s memoirs titled, “Ben Kendim: A Record of Eastern Travel.”
Herbert first met Talaat in 1908 while stationed at the British Embassy in Constantinople (Istanbul). Eleven years later, Herbert received an unexpected letter from Talaat seeking a meeting with him “in any neutral country.” Desperately seeking to rehabilitate his diabolical image in the West, Talaat claimed that “he was not responsible for the Armenian massacres, that he could prove it, and that he was anxious to do so.” Herbert turned down Talaat’s request telling him: “I was very glad to hear that it was not he who was responsible for the Armenian massacres, but that I did not think any useful purpose could be served by our meeting at that time.”
However, Herbert reversed his decision in February 1921, after Sir Basil Thomson, Director of British Intelligence, ordered him to leave immediately for Germany and meet Talaat. The secret rendezvous took place on February 26, in the small German town of Hamm.
Talaat told Herbert again that “he himself had always been against the attempted extermination of the Armenians.” More incredibly, Talaat claimed that “he had twice protested against this policy, but had been overruled, he said, by the Germans.”
Forgetting his own claims of innocence in the massacres, Talaat justified the mass killings by accusing Armenians of stabbing his country in the back during the war. Contradicting himself again, Talaat declared his support for Armenians by claiming that “he was in favor of granting autonomy to minorities in the most extended form, and would gladly consider any proposition that was made to him.”
Talaat then switched the blame to the British for the Armenian killings: “You English cannot divest yourselves of responsibility in this matter. We Young Turks practically offered Turkey to you, and you refused us. One undoubted consequence has been the ruin of Christian minorities, whom your Prime Minister has insisted on treating as your allies. If the Greeks and Armenians are your allies when we are at war with you, you cannot expect our Turkish Government to treat them as friends.”
Herbert and Talaat then decided to move to Dusseldorf, Germany, where they continued their discreet conversation for two more days. Herbert reported Talaat’s paradoxical attempt to cover up his role in the Armenian Genocide, while justifying this heinous crime. Talaat stated that “he had written a memorandum on the Armenian massacres which he was very anxious that British statesmen should read. Early in the war, in 1915, the Armenians had organized an army, and had attacked the Turks, who were then fighting the Russians. Three Armenian deputies had taken an active part; the alleged massacres of Moslems had taken place, accompanied by atrocities on women and children. He had twice opposed enforced migration, and he had been the author of an inquiry which resulted in the execution of a number of guilty Kurds and Turks.”
Ironically, Talaat boldly told Herbert that he was not afraid of being assassinated. “He said that he never thought of it. Why should anyone dislike him? I said that Armenians might very well desire vengeance, after all that had been written about him in the papers. He brushed this aside.” Two weeks later, Talaat was assassinated in Berlin by Soghomon Tehlirian!
Concluding his interview of Talaat, Herbert observed: “He died hated, indeed execrated, as few men have been in their generation. He may have been all that he was painted — I cannot say. I know that he had rare power and attraction. I do not know whether he was responsible or not for the Armenian massacres.”
Only experts of that time period can verify the authenticity and accuracy of this lengthy interview. If true, what exactly were Talaat’s aims in proposing “an Anglo-Turkish alliance” and why was the British government so anxious to talk to him?