Thursday, February 23, 2017

AYF to Host ‘Armenian Women: Resisting, Rising, and Reframing’

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.—A community celebration of International Women’s Day featuring panelists, performances, and art titled “Armenian Women: Resisting, Rising, and Reframing,” will take place on Sunday, March 5 at the Hollywood Armenian Center (1559 N Kenmore Ave, Los Angeles, California) hosted by Armenian Youth Federation’s United Human Rights Council (AYF-UHRC) and AYF Hollywood “Musa Ler” Chapter.
“We aim to empower our community, especially the youth, by reminding us all about the powerful legacy we inherit from Armenian women and highlighting the leaders we have in this community today,” said the AYF in a written statement.
“We celebrate the diversity of Armenian women and the very diversity that makes our community of women so strong and unique,” the statement continued.
The event will feature thought talks with community members, activists, and thinkers who will each discuss what being an “Armenian Woman” means to them, what barriers they have faced, and how they have created their identity while facing various social norms and struggles.
The program will also feature dance and spoken word performances by local Armenian youth. The event will also feature an art exhibit, spotlighting Armenian women throughout history.
Special edition “Women’s Day” t-shirts will be available for sale at the event. Proceeds will support the Armenian Relief Society’s Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center in order to raise awareness about and proactively prevent domestic violence in the Armenian community locally and abroad.
The event is a part of the AYF-UHRC’s “Project Ser” campaign (in Armenian, ‘Ser’ means both love and gender), which strives to make gender equality and inclusivity a reality and a practice in communities and organizing spaces.
The United Human Rights Council (UHRC) is a committee of the Armenian Youth Federation. By means of action on a grassroots level, the UHRC works towards exposing and correcting human rights violations of governments worldwide, and aims to foster dialogue and collaboration between peoples who share this common vision.
Founded in 1933 with organizational structures in over 17 regions around the world and a legacy of over eighty years of community involvement, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the world, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian youth.

Turkey’s ‘Destructive’ Policies Isolate Ankara, says Armenia’s Defense Chief

Serviceman raising Turkish flag (Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
Serviceman raising Turkish flag (Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
YEREVAN (Sputnik)—Armenia’s Defense Minister on Wednesday accused Ankara of pursuing “extremely destructive” policies in the South Caucasus region.
Turkey’s “extremely destructive’ policies in the South Caucasus continue to isolate it from regional processes and normalizing ties with Armenia, Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan told Sputnik during an interview.
“Turkey behaves extremely destructively in the South Caucasus: it continues the blockade of Armenia, it continues to deny the obvious — the fact of Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire,” Sargsyan said.
The minister accused Ankara of “retreating” from the 2009-2010 Zurich Protocols, a scrapped agreement aiming to normalize diplomatic relations and opening borders.
“And with its biased attitude toward the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey continues to effectively isolate itself from the regional processes,” Sargsyan pointed out.
Iskander missile systems supplied by Russia in 2016 are owned and managed by the Armenian Armed Forces, said Sargsyan.
“The fact that Iskanders were delivered to Armenia I think is obvious, because everyone clearly saw them. The fact that they belong to the Armenian Armed Forces I can confirm with absolute certainty,” Sargsyan said.
The minister said other questions are classified as “top secret,” including “when, how much, what payment terms and others.”
“We do manage them, we are own them. This is where I can open the veil of secrecy for you,” Sargsyan said.
Armenia’s decision whether to deploy Russia’s Iskander missile systems in the country will be tied to “developments,” Sargsyan said.
“I can present the algorithm. The function and characteristics of this weapon enable to cause irreparable damage to the infrastructure of the country against which it is used. So, the decision to use Iskanders will be closely linked to the development of the situation,” Sargsyan said.
The defense minister noted that although the Iskander systems were considered to be a deterrent weapon, they could be used as “a guaranteed strike weapon if the necessity arises.”
“It is obvious that the situation may dictate revision of such approaches,” he added.
Iskanders were first demonstrated on September 21 at a military parade in Yerevan marking the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.
The 102nd Russian military base in the Armenian city of Gyumri is as vital component of national security, Sargsyan.
“We consider its [military base’s] presence as a very important component of our country’s security system,” Sargsyan said.
He also characterized the Gyumri base as the significant element within the military and political spheres of the Armenian-Russian cooperation as well as an important factor of deterrence.
Sargsyan pointed out that after extension of the agreement on its location, the base became responsible not only for the security “within the perimeter of the former USSR external border,” but also for the security of Armenia as a whole.
The official added that the increase of the base’s staff numbers is not relevant at the present moment.
“Increase in the number of staff can never be a goal in and of itself, it should respond to the specific challenges of a specific situation,” Sargsyan said.
The Russian 102nd Military Base is located in the Armenian city of Gyumri, and is part of the Joint CIS Air Defense System. On August 20, 2010, Russia and Armenia prolonged the agreement on the base location until 2044. The treaty also stipulates the expansion of the base’s geographical and strategic responsibility.
Sargsyan said that the current level of cooperation between Yerevan and Moscow was very high.
The Armenian Defense Ministry expressed contentment with cooperation with Russia as its strategic partner in the military and industrial sphere.
“Russia is a strategic ally. This is the way we regard cooperation with Russia,” Sargsyan said. “The current level of the relations is very high.”
Sargsyan expressed Armenia’s openness for the further intensification of the military and political dialogue and noted that consultations between the ministries of defense of both countries were being held on a regular basis.
Apart from this, the high-level visits are carried out regularly, he said.
Sargsyan noted that he was glad to welcome Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Yerevan as part of his participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in August 2016 as well as to have visited Russia in November 2016. Besides, Armenia received the Russian delegation headed by Deputy Minister of Defense Ruslan Tsalikov during the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Armenian army formation in January.
“In my point of view the more visits the better, because our cooperation is aimed at the comprehensive examination of the system of challenges and threats in our region, understanding of mutual interests and formation of the policy of foreign affairs and military and political bloc with regard to these interests,” Sargsyan pointed out.
The Armenian Defense Minister told Sputnik that Yerevan’s cooperation with NATO does not threaten its relations with Russia.
Armenia’s cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is not directed against its strategic alliance with Russia, Sargsyan told Sputnik.
“Our relations with NATO were always built completely openly for our allied countries and partners. We have never made a secret of this, and this cooperation could never and never will be directed against the interests of our strategic alliance with Russia,” Sargsyan said.
Armenia takes part in the NATO Resolute Support mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces launched on January 1, 2015 as a follow-up on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) combat mission, which completed at the end of 2014. Armenia also participated in ISAF mission sending up to 131 soldiers to Afghanistan.
Armenia will continue arms procurement dialogue with Russia, Sargsyan said.
“Contracts have been implemented in advance on a range of [orders], which is also pleasing. We will continue dialogue with Russia about the possibility of acquiring weapons on the Russian market,” Sargsyan added.
He expressed “deep respect and a desire to increasingly develop this cooperation,” lauding Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) membership allowing Yerevan to buy weapons at the same price as the Russian Armed Forces.Serviceman raising Turkish flag (Photo: AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Paylan: Let’s Correct This Historic Mistake Before It’s Too Late

Armenian Member of Turkish Parliament Garo Paylan of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) recently wrote the following op-ed for Istanbul-based biweekly Agos newspaper. Below is the English translation.
MP Garo Paylan at the HDP Parliamentary office in Ankara (Photo: Rupen Janbazian)
Last week, I was in Berlin for attending the conference organized in memory of Hrant Dink. The day after the conference, I had a meeting with a group of deputies in the Bundestag (Parliament). When I entered Reichstag building where Bundestag is located, I heard a very nice piano melody. I asked the people who welcomed me where the melody was coming from. “From the hall of general assembly,” they answered.
I couldn’t help to peek inside the hall. They said that there was an event for commemorating the Holocaust. The hall was full. All deputies, Chancellor Merkel, and ministers were present at the hall of the General Assembly. All of the parliament warmly applauded this piano recital and speeches in memory of the Holocaust.
I must admit my envy. The German Parliament was commemorating the victims of the great crime that was committed by Nazi government. I was coming from an entirely different atmosphere; from my country, where the atrocities of yesterday haven’t been acknowledged and the atrocities of today go on with impunity… I felt sorry for my country and went to the meeting with teary eyes…
Just a week before this meeting, I was banned from Turkish Parliament because I mentioned what happened to my people at the end of Ottoman period. While I, as an Armenian deputy, wasn’t allowed to speak about 102-years-old sins, all German deputies, leftists, rightists, members of the ruling and opposing parties, were sitting side by side with great self-confidence in confronting their mistakes. And none of them were thinking that they were defaming German identity as a result.

The Constitution That Odyan Wrote
In Turkey, looking at the pages of the history is getting more and more difficult. Let me tell you how I experienced it. One week before the commemoration event in Berlin, I began to talk about the proposed constitutional amendments by saying, “We are about to make a historic mistake.” I said, “We long for a social contract, which everyone living in our common homeland can call ‘my constitution’.”
My purpose was to take the deputies back to the days when the constitution was discussed in the Ottoman period. I wanted to remind them of the mistakes that were made then. In fact, few people know that our first constitution was written in 1876 by a committee consisting of various identities. [Member of Ottoman Parliament] Krikor Odyan was the one who wrote it. The constitution was suspended by Sultan Abdulhamid and a period of autocracy started, which continued until 1908. And you know the rest… Seeking democracy, the coup by Talat and Enver, and the great disaster…
Today, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) defines the proposed amendments that had been discussed in the parliament as “the constitution of the Turkish nation.” It frightens me, because Talat and Enver had a similar mentality when they tried to implement the constitution of the Turkish nation. They regarded some people as acceptable citizens, while they ignored others. In fact, they even exterminated some of the people. During 1913-1923, great massacres, genocides, population exchanges, and pogroms took place. We lost majority of Armenian, Syriac, Greek, and Jewish people.
However, when I told about these facts in the parliament, all hell broke loose. An unprecedented punishment was imposed on me because I said “genocide.” I was banned from the discussions for three sessions. My speech was deleted from the parliamentary minutes.
Many of my friends who read about the incident on internet said, “Garo, you are right, but is this the right time to speak about the genocide? We are heading towards a dictatorial regime.” This was understandable, because media was making a fuss about the word “genocide.” My two cognates made statements to the press and said that they found my speech “irrelevant and untimely.” I wasn’t surprised. Some people just bow down in times like these. Fear and worry are understandable feelings.

“Well Then, You Name It”
My purpose was not to say “genocide” at all costs, in the midst of the uproar caused by the discussion on the amendments. In fact, I have said “genocide” and “Armenian Genocide” many times in parliament. There was no trouble before. This time again, I called what happened to my people “genocide” just like I always do.
However, something different happen: insults and crisis. I said, “Well then, you name it,” to the ones who objected me. That night, the MHP threatened the [ruling] Justice and Development Party (AKP) not to support the proposed amendments if I was not punished. Thus, I was banned from the parliament with the votes of the AKP, MHP, and the Republican People’s Party (CHP). I was subjected to the lynching campaign of the nationalist front.
I didn’t intend to cause controversy; my purpose was to make people learn from the past and prevent them from making the same mistakes. I wanted to talk about how the process of writing a constitution at the end of the Ottoman period led a pluralist society to a mentality of homogeneity, about the abuses and disasters caused by one-man-regimes, and about what all of this mean to us, who are trying to write a constitution in 2017.
I know very well that what happened to my grandfather and the great disasters took place in Anatolia were caused by the mistakes that politicians like us made. A system that abolishes the parliament would recreate the dreadful atmosphere created by Talat and Enver who abolished the same parliament. The proposed constitution makes the government dependent on one person; it imposes ideology of homogeneity. This is nothing but the repetition of the disasters that took place in the past.
I am aware of it and not talking about it would make me feel like I am betraying this country, these lands, and the people that I live with.

We Can Win Together
I am worried. The parliament that took action for “writing the constitution of the Turkish nation,” imprisoned Kurdish deputies with great enthusiasm and doesn’t have enough confidence to let its members vote secretly; no good can come of this.
Think about it. The Christian and Jewish peoples, who constituted 40% in the past, are just one out of 1,000 now, because of a mentality seeking for homogeneity. We suffered gravely. However, it is not only us; everyone is missing something. Everyone is tainted because of the mistakes of a couple of men.
For me, the problem is not only about the violation of my freedom of expression in the parliament, disrespect to the elected will, or whether I cannot use that word. These are important, of course, but what really matters is this: Turkey is determined to take the path about which its own history warns, is heading at full speed towards intolerance and an authoritarian regime that lacks a mechanism of balance and control.
The ones who will be ignored by the new period will either lapse into silence or revolt, or they will simply leave the country. Just like 100 years ago, the country will be damaged and impaired. We might live in a period during which we all lose.
However, we can win together.
On these tormented lands, in which we buried Hrant Dink 10 years ago, everyone lives in the restlessness of a dove. This restlessness is not groundless. We Armenians know it too well. That is why I am addressing you, the majority.
Let’s correct this historic mistake before it’s too late.

Zoryan Institute Responds to Çavuşoğlu’s Call for ‘Joint Commission’ to Study Armenian Genocide

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
TORONTO, Canada—In response to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu calling on Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915, the Zoryan Institute has the following response: As they say, “This is déjà vu all over again.”
Calls for Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915 have become the modus operandi for the Turkish government for years. Çavuşoğlu’s recent statement merely echoes that of his predecessors, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2014 when he was the Prime Minister. Every year, a few months before April 24th, when resolutions appear before government bodies around the world, especially the US Congress, the high-ranking officials of Turkey make the same call. They claim to want to study those events to find out what really happened.
This is nothing but a public relations stratagem to make it appear that Turkey is open-minded and willing to normalize relations with Armenia.
Such calls ignore the fact that in 2003, the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (“TARC”) at the time requested The International Center for Transitional Justice to examine the events of 1915 as a case of genocide. The ICTJ issued its finding that “the Events, viewed collectively, can thus be said to include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them.” The Turkish members of the Commission rejected this finding and broke TARC apart. In 2010, the United States, Switzerland, and other countries tried to broker the signing of protocols between Turkey and Armenia, whose border between them is closed, and who do not have diplomatic relations with one another. Despite the signing with much fanfare in Switzerland, the Turkish government has refused to ratify the agreement to this day.
Renowned Turkish scholar, Prof. Taner Akçam of Clark University, published in the preface to his awardwinning book, The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, after years of studying official documents from the German, Ottoman, and other archives, the following statement: Far from conflicting with one another, the sources are in fact complementary: they tell the same story but from different points of view…. Taken in their entirety, Ottoman and Western archives jointly confirm that the ruling party CUP did deliberately implement a policy of ethnoreligious homogenization of Anatolia that aimed to destroy the Armenian population.
On June 2, 2016, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, voted to declare the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide. The resolution was introduced by Cem Özdemir, a German parliamentarian of Turkish origin. There were at least one dozen other German deputies of Turkish origin who co-signed the Resolution with all parliamentarians voting in favor except one. The Turkish president, Erdogan, quickly denounced the resolution and recalled his Ambassador from Berlin. Part of the resolution reads as follows: By order of the Young Turk regime, the planned expulsion and extermination of over a million ethnic Armenians began in the Ottoman city of Constantinople on April 24, 1915. Their fate exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsions, and yes, of genocides, which marked the 20th century in such a horrific way. We are aware of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility.
The Bundestag regrets the inglorious role of the German Empire, which, as a principal ally of the Ottoman Empire, did not try to stop these crimes against humanity, despite explicit information regarding the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians, including also from German diplomats and missionaries…. The German Empire bears partial complicity in the events. Turkey has already rejected the finding of the ICTJ, an internationally respected organization headed by the renowned Elie Wiesel. It has harassed and persecuted Prof. Taner Akçam. Now, given Germany’s acceptance and admission of its own complicity in the Armenian Genocide in collaboration with its political and military ally, the Ottoman Empire, why propose another joint commission? President Erdogan, himself, has publicly stated that he will never accept that Turkey committed genocide. Under the circumstances, it is hard to believe Çavuşoğlu’s claim that “…we will accept any revelation.”
Rather than go through the sham of a joint commission, it would be more practical and constructive for Turkey to open its border with Armenia, establish normal diplomatic relations with its neighbor, stop harassing its scholars and writers and jailing its journalists, and accept the very well established historical record, and admit its guilt in the Armenian Genocide, as its own ally, Germany, has done.