Wednesday, August 31, 2016

After Coup Attempt, Turkish Scholar Boldly Speaks on Armenian Genocide

On July 13, two days before the coup attempt in Turkey, Professor Halil Berktay of Istanbul’s Sabanci University answered six written questions on the Armenian Genocide posed by El Pais, Spain’s largest newspaper. But when El Pais did not publish his answers, Dr. Berktay decided on August 15 to post his interview on a Turkish website, Serbestiyet, under the title: “With or without the coup, genocide was and is genocide.”
Berktay, a liberal Turkish scholar, told El Pais that he has repeatedly recognized the Armenian Genocide ever since 2002. He described the genocide as “the near-complete extermination and annihilation of Ottoman Armenians.” acknowledged that for his honest views on the Armenian Genocide, “especially before 2002, and even afterwards (though no longer by the government), there has been a huge amount  of informal, extra-legal pressure, blackmail, threats or other forms of psychological terror brought to bear on people like me, which I and others have all had to face.”
Answering a question from El Pais: “why does Turkey refuse to review the past?” Dr. Berktay responded: “Back in the 1980’s and 90’s… the denialism of the past was based on ancestor worship or ideological allegiance to Unionism and Ataturkism. What had happened to the Armenians in 1915 was seen as a black blot for Turkish nationalism. Also, while it was not committed by or under the Kemalist Republic, because the Republic had ended up inheriting the mantle of a territory ethnically cleansed of the Armenians, it was in the nature of an inadmissible impurity for the desired lily-white legitimacy of the Kemalist Revolution. So a taboo was placed on it; it became part of the unmentionable and undiscussable. Here and there a few academics, mostly living and working abroad, did speak up. They were lonely voices in the wilderness.” Berktay then added: beginning in 2000, “things began to change,” with an increasing number of Turkish scholars speaking out on the Armenian Genocide.
The most interesting part of Bertkay’s interview is his stated reason for the Turkish government’s reluctance to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide: “It may be that the Turkish government does not know what might happen if it were to go ahead and say yes, it was genocide. What would Armenia likely do or demand? Is it going to ask for material compensation, or even land? That is what the Dashnaks as radical Armenian nationalists have been saying all along: Three R’s, as they put it, Recognition, Reparation, Restitution (of land). Certainly the last is something that no Turkish government can possibly ever concede. It is very likely, therefore, that before they take any further step, they would like Armenia to show its hand. Conversely, as long as Armenia keeps its cards close to its chest, recognizing the genocide as genocide will have to wait.”
A careful reading of the Professor’s above statement indicates that he finds the return of lands to Armenia by Turkey not possible, but does not rule out reparations. In my view, while Armenians rightly claim their historic lands, they are willing to accept reparations as an initial step.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Berktay’s answers is his explanation of Turkey’s reasons for refusal to face its sordid past: “Faced with the peculiar challenge of recognizing the Armenian genocide, large sections of the Turkish public as well as the AKP keep asking, and will keep asking: Why us? And why only us? Are all nations being asked to atone for their past equally stringently? Or is it just Turkey? Meanwhile, what about what ‘they’ did to ‘us’ in the first place? If we recognize the Armenian genocide, will they, too, ever so slightly recognize the tragic plight of the Muslim Turks of Crete, mainland Greece, Bulgaria or Serbia? Who speaks for the Turk? Do we have any friends in the world?”
While I do not agree with some of Berktay’s explanations, I cannot expect him to have the same position on Armenian issues as I do. After all, he is a Turk, but a righteous Turk, which is not what one can say about Turkish leaders and large segments of Turkish society that still deny the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide!
Berktay has taken a great risk by posting his answers on the Armenian Genocide on the internet, particularly in the current brutal atmosphere since the July coup attempt when tens of thousands of innocent Turkish citizens have been summarily arrested and thrown into jail!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Yerevan, Rojava, Drones

The long-awaited Invasion of Syria by Turkey has commenced. What has Turkey to gain?
1. It stops Kurdish advances westward;
2. It regains some credibility with the U.S. by “fighting” ISIS/Daesh;
3. It reinforces and consolidates its relationships and connections with Syrian opposition groups;
4. It allows Turkey to attack PYD (Kurdish forces), which is already happening with Turkish artillery hitting Kurdish positions inside Syria;
5. It provides a miniscule smidgen of credibility for Turkey in Iran’s and Russia’s eyes, that despite Turkey’s commitment to toppling Syria’s President Assad, their ally, it is also giving lip service to “fighting” the region’s and Syria’s current greatest nemesis (ISIS/Daesh);
6. It creates a physical, actual, Turkish military presence inside Syria’s borders, feeding into Erdoğan’s ever-present Ottoman fantasies and Turkish expansionism;
7. It may even be a way to start rebuilding the Turkish military after the significant blows and weakening it experienced thanks to Erdoğan’s post-coup purges (some 40% of the upper echelons) of the military leadership who are allegedly Gulenists.
Why does this matter to Armenians? Anything that can strengthen Turkey is inimical to the Diaspora’s and homeland’s interests, pure and simple, until such time as Turkey fesses up to the Genocide, makes reparations, and terminates its occupation of Wilsonian Armenia. Plus, with the Kessab and Haleb/Aleppo Armenian communities so close, coupled with the damage already caused to our compatriots by the Turkish-supported Syrian opposition, there is a very real risk of further and even more serious harm if Turkish supported forces are strengthened.
What can we do? Aside from the obvious public relations and governmental advocacy work, perhaps it’s time to take military, albeit covert, action.
You might recall reading, since 2011, that in recent months the Republics of Armenia and Karabakh have UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, built “in house” and not purchased from other countries. You might also recall that Artzakh has had some success in downing Azerbaijan’s purchased drones. These two areas of experience/expertise – the building and combatting of drones – could be valuable to Kurdish forces. I suggest that some of these drones be shipped to the Syrian-Kurdish area known as Rojava, along with Armenian advisers to fly them and combat opposing drones, to fight ISIS/Daesh.
What have Armenians to gain from this?
1. Our experts/technicians will gain valuable experience which can be used on the Azeri front and to improve the technology in the drones;
2. It is an opportunity to build up a technology/industry in which the RoA has had success;
3. Armenians would be making a contribution to fighting ISIS/Daesh, thus benefitting not just the region, but also the Armenian communities there. Remember, how the church in Der Zor was desecrated and destroyed by those murderous forces?
4. It quietly conveys to Turkey that harming Armenian interests will not be ignored;
5. It would build trust and cooperation between Armenians and Kurds;
6. It is an unusual, out-of-the-box thinking, potentially highly effective step that makes Armenians stronger actors in the region. This is the region where our deported ancestors were walked to death. The place names in the news now read like a tour of Genocide era death zones. Reasserting our presence there is not only a measure of restorative justice, but also another tiny step on our long journey back home…
What do you think? Do you have any other clever ideas that can further empower us in and near the Armenian highlands? Please throw them out for discussion.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Serj Tankian Finishes Song for Armenian Genocide Film ‘The Promise’

TORNOTO (ArmRadio)—System of A Down’s Serj Tankian has finished a song for the Armenian Genocide-themed movie The Promise produced by Kirk Kerkorian’s Survival Pictures.
“I am really excited to have finished a beautiful song I did with my friends the Authentic Light Orchestra for “The Promise” soundtrack. The film produced by Survival Pictures and Eric Esrailian and directed by Terry George stars Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale along with my friend Angela Sarafyan in a powerful love story during the last, genocidal days of the Ottoman Empire,” Tankian said in a Facebook post.
The Promise, will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The festival also announced on Tuesday that the picture will be featured as one of the event’s coveted opening weekend galas on September 11.
“Michael, a humble Armenian apothecary, leaves his village to study medicine in cosmopolitan Constantinople. Chris, an American photojournalist who has come to the country to partly cover the geopolitics, is in a relationship with the talented Ana, a Paris-educated, Armenian artist. When Michael meets Ana, their shared heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men. After the Turks join the war on the German side, the Ottoman Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities. Despite their conflicts, everyone must find a way to survive — even as monumental events envelope their lives,” reads the film synopsis on the TIIF website.

Armenian Translation of Taner Akcam’s Book on Forced Armenian Islamization Released

YEREVAN (ArmRadio)— The Armenian translation of Turkish historian Taner Akcam’s book titled “Forced Islamization of Armenians: Silence, Denial and Assimilation” has been published in Yerevan, reports.
The book consists of three parts wherein the first part, the author speaks about the impossibility of an unbiased study of the Armenian Genocide issue in Turkey and difficulties and persecutions he has encountered.
The second part presents the story of discriminatory and biased discussions on the Turkish edition of Armenian Officer Sarkis Torossian’s Memoires, which raised a second wave of criticism against Akcam, who tracked down Torossian’s family in America.
In the third part, the author presents the policy of forces Islamization and assimilation of Armenians between 1915 and 1918. Akcam describes this as a structural element of the Armenian Genocide.
The book has been translated and prepared for publication at the Research Center on Western Armenian Studies. Translator Meline Anumyan has translated the book from Turkish, while Editor Haykazun Alvrtyan led the editing.
The book published under the sponsorship of the Jerair Nishanian Foundation is dedicated to the memory of the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Artsakh to Declare Amnesty on 25th Anniversary of the Republic

STEPANAKERT (ArmRadio)—The Nagorno-Karabakh’s National Assembly voted 28 to 0 at an extraordinary session today to approve the proposal on amnesty on the occasion of Artsakh’s 25th anniversary.
This will be the 6th general pardon to be announced on the occasion of remarkable jubilees.
The decision shall come into force upon the official publication.
“The 25th anniversary of independence is the best summary of the path we have passed. We have faced a number of difficulties and hardships along the way and have reached the current reality at the cost of great sacrifices. The citizen of Artsakh is the main hero of all of this,” Speaker of the National Assembly Ashot Ghulyan said at the end of the session.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Alex and Ani: An Armenian Jewel

We’re living in an Alex and Ani world.
No matter where you may go, there seems to be a vision of their business genius before your very eyes.  Americans tend to gloat over their jewelry products.  Armenians explode with pride over their accomplishments, pointing to a strong ethnic backbone.
Cross over the Zakim Bridge in Boston by the TD Center and there’s a sign.  Go inside for a Celtics or Bruins game and you’ll see another reminder in its prominent place.
Take your place at Fenway Park for a Red Sox game and there it is again.  Batters who are being filmed at the plate will also share the screen with Alex and Ani.
I’m inclined to believe that some of the most prominent athletes who visit Boston may come to terms with this conglomerate.  Either they’ll join the thousands who make a purchase every year or else be reminded of it the next time they come.
During a recent treatment at Dana Farber Institute in Boston, right there in the cafeteria were tables replete with Alex and Ani products.  If you could make your way past the crowd, you would be able to peruse the merchandise for sale.
Or else, wait your turn.  There were nurses, doctors, patients being treated with cancer, and even men looking for an item to give a loved one.
My own church has an Alex and Ani table during its October fair with a portion of the proceeds going our way.  We make sure they own a prominent spot and people do make sales.  The teenagers especially adore their products, including my 14-year-old granddaughter.
She wears the pieces to school and could take orders.  I could buy her an outfit, but give her Alex and Ani and it becomes sheer bliss.
As a conscientious Armenian, this is the greatest success story of my generation.  And maybe yours as well.  An e-mail came my way with a photo carrying the headline, “Carolyn Rafaelian joins Forbes’ list of richest self-made women.” It was posted June 10.
The story goes on to say that Carolyn Rafaelian founded this fashion jewelry company in 2004 taking over what had been her father’s Rhode Island jewelry factory to manufacture the new age, celestial-chic bangles that have become the brand’s staple.
To say growth has been explosive would be an understatement.  In 2010, Alex and Ani—named after two of Rafaelian’s daughters—did an estimated $4.5 million in revenues.
By 2015, sales had hit $500 million, catapulting the 49-year-old CEO/founder onto Forbes second annual list of America’s richest self-made women, thanks to her major ownership.
Rafaelian joins the ranks at number 22 with an estimated net worth of $700 million, making her the second richest newcomer to the list after Gail Miller, billionaire owner of basketball’s Utah Jazz.
She’s the richest self-made woman in the nation to derive her wealth from jewelry and joins an impressive group of fashion and retail moguls on Forbes’ ranking that includes Spanx founder Sara Blakely, preppie-chic designer Tory Burch, and bridal tycoon Vera Wang.
What Armenian would not want to applaud another successful Armenian? It’s a story that makes you want to stand up and cheer—one that would inspire another to reap the dividends in this great land of opportunity.
Described as an innovative thinker, spiritual enthusiast, and person of integrity, Rafaelian is undeniably making her mark by building a company with a conscience.
For most of us, we knew Alex and Ani was a success story but never imagined such wealth.  It’s never flaunted and has remained subtle in demeanor. Much has been done on the charity side, too.
The company did fashion a Camp Haiastan bracelet which wound up as a sellout.  All proceeds were donated to the Franklin, Mass., camp for the welfare of our children.
Long-time camp affiliates recall the number of golden deeds performed by Rafaelian through the years, ever since her childhood days. Simply put, she has not forgotten her Armenian roots.
Empowering consumers to enter the charitable world through their purchases, a portion of proceeds from all “Charity by Design” products are donated directly to non-profit organizations.
To date, that amount has reached more than $30 million in an attempt to enhance the quality of life everywhere. The company operates in 10 countries and 11 Caribbean islands.
This week, Alex and Ani committed to raising $2 million globally over the next two years to help UNICEF give children around the world brighter futures. The money will be used to aid children in the aftermath of an emergency or during conflict.
“We share the commitment to build a better future for our children by providing the tools needed to overcome hardships and promote peace,” said Rafaelian.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Attorney Richard Hartunian to Lead U.S. Justice Department Group

ALBANY, New York (Times Union)—United States Attorney Richard Hartunian, the Albany-based federal prosecutor for the Northern District of New York, was appointed Monday to lead an advisory committee on policy for U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
It is the first time a prosecutor in charge of the 32-county district, which includes the Capital Region, has been named to head the panel.
Hartunian, 55, of Delmar, who graduated Georgetown University in 1983 and Albany Law School in 1986, became vice chair of the panel in January 2015. Now he will head a panel that is tasked with establishing policies for the U.S. Department of Justice, fostering cooperation with state attorneys general and promoting consistency in the application of legal standards.
The panel dates to 1973. Hartunian succeeds former U.S. Attorney John Walsh of Colorado. Hartunian will be joined by a new vice chair, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade, who heads the Eastern District of Michigan.
“The attorney general’s Advisory Committee plays an essential role in shaping the Justice Department’s policies, implementing its programs, and ensuring that equal justice and the rule of law are upheld throughout the United States,” Lynch said in a statement. “As a former chair of the AGAC, I know firsthand the significant duties required of the committee’s leaders, and I am certain that U.S. Attorneys Richard Hartunian and Barbara McQuade are ready to assume the responsibility of chairing such an important and distinguished body. They are both seasoned prosecutors, exemplary law enforcement officers, and devoted public servants, and I look forward to benefiting from their long experience and wise counsel as we advance the department’s vital work in the months ahead.”
Hartunian, a one-time Albany County prosecutor and a frederal prosecutor in Albany since 1997, served as coordinator of his office’s Organized Crime Drug Task Force from 2006 until his appointment to U.S. attorney in 2010.
Hartunian has been on the committee since 2013 when he was appointed by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
He has co-chaired the panel’s Border and Immigration Subcommittee and has sat on subcommittees focused on Native American issues, health care fraud and environmental crimes.