Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Armenian Genocide Reparations: An Absolute Must

I found the article “Before We Talk about Genocide Reparations, There Is Another Accounting Due”by Henry Theriault an intellectually challenging read that raised several questions in my mind.
His philosophy background, vast experience, and involvement in issues related to genocide, and unique thought process and reasoning have resulted in a distinct approach and conclusions. I had to read the article several times to comprehend his argument. And even though I felt I agreed with some of the points he made, I cannot agree with his conclusion (or what I understood it to be).
Mount Ararat (Photo: Aaron Spagnolo)
Dr. Theriault says he believes and clearly states that reparations are just. But he strongly expresses his opinion that it is not the right time for action to be pursued because any compensation would be misused: “Political elites will enrich themselves instead of using it for what is desperately needed by the general population.”
His main argument is that the system and government in Armenia are full of rampant corruption and so they cannot be trusted. He makes a strong indictment by his statement that “the large-scale theft of assets through corruption, privatization and commu-capitalist exploitation of labor is a significant factor in the economic vulnerability and desperation of the Republic today.”
His analysis suggests that the situation is desperate. Admittedly, the points he makes are valid. My intent is not to argue against or question his analysis. However, I still hope and pray that the untenable current situation will change for the better. It has to. What is the alternative? The new government has announced major reforms and changes to governance. Hopefully, they will be implemented. Change is never easy, and it takes time.
Those thoughts led me to think about the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights (ALC), announced in Sept. 2016. I feel, as many Armenians do, that reparations are an absolute must. And even though we have a very late start compared with the Jews and Israel (regarding Holocaust reparations from Germany), our cause is equally and clearly as just. Whatever the Turks do or say, the historical facts cannot be erased, altered, or denied.
Therefore, I contacted Kate Nahapetian, Executive Director of the ALC, to get some feedback on questions I had about developments since the ALC’s formation.
I sent Kate the following questions, which she kindly and most graciously answered. Her answers are reproduced verbatim.
V.A.: What was the response to requests for contributions/funding? Is the funding adequate to start the work needed?
K.N.: The initial funding for the creation of the Armenian Center for Justice and Human Rights came from the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Endowment Fund, which continues to support the ALC. Following the initial grant, we have received additional donations from individuals. Like so many nonprofits, funding is tight, so we welcome any donations big or small. Seeking reparations in the face of a powerful and intransigent foe such as the Turkish Government is a monumental task. It is not inconceivable, however. There are many examples of previous historical atrocities which were addressed decades later and after previous failed attempts. We currently have one staff member, but rely on many volunteers.

V.A.: Have we started to put together a legal team?
K.N.: The ALC has an international board with attorneys and experts on the Armenian Genocide in the US, Armenia, Canada, Austria, Australia, and Lebanon. We have collaborated with and have partnerships with law schools. We have partnered with some of the best law schools in the United States, including the University of Southern California Human Rights Clinic, which is drafting a report on the legal basis for Armenian Genocide reparations, and the George Washington University Law School, with which we cosponsored a talk by Harvard Post-Doctoral Fellow Umit Kurt, highlighting the injustice of Turkish laws used to plunder Armenian wealth during the genocide. We are in continuing communications with international lawyers from Argentina to Germany, in addition to lawyers with successful track records pursuing property claims against Turkey in both Turkish and European courts.
In addition, we have a team of lawyers and law students who have been examining issues surrounding the Treaty of Sevres, the Kars Treaty, and Turkish property laws.

V.A.: Is progress being made on legal actions to be taken?
K.N.: We have developed some potential cases and continue to work with international lawyers and clinics to develop innovative strategies for redress.
In addition to the mass murder and destruction of Armenian lives and cultural heritage on lands the Armenians inhabited for thousands of years, the Armenian Genocide was an evil enterprise of industrial, government-sponsored property theft.
The ALC seeks to catalogue the [property] deeds that still exist today. The records exist in Turkey’s land registry, which are virtually impossible to access. When Turkey considered allowing public access to these records as part of its bid to join the European Union, the military quickly intervened and stated that maintaining the secrecy of these records was a matter of national interest. Reports continue that even parties with deeds in hand are prevented from accessing Turkish land records, which would confirm family ownership.
Many individuals across the globe have deeds of family properties in their possession. By collecting all these individual records in one place, the ALC hopes to both learn of potential claims, which can be pursued for reparations, in addition to being a clearinghouse for this information for potential future negotiations.
The ALC’s website ( has a link where people can provide documentation of their properties (, whether it is a deed, sales contract, photograph, or family testimony. The key information we need are the names of the property owners, the town where the property is located, a description of the property, and, if possible, its exact location.
The more documentation we have collected in one place, the stronger our chances of recovery will become. As a community, we are empowered when we collect this information in one place.
I am most thankful to Kate for her responses and updates on the work accomplished by the ALC.
This needs to be pursued vigorously, with no hesitation. For it to be successful, and it must be successful, it needs the full active support of all Armenians worldwide, morally and financially. It is a formidable task, but it can be accomplished. We have to make it happen.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Nişanyan to the Armenian Weekly: ‘This Regime Is Going to Go, and We Will Return!’

WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)— In a recent interview with Armenian Weekly correspondent Gulisor Akkum, Sevan Nişanyan, who escaped prison and fled Turkey on July 14, said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime’s days are numbered and that he will eventually return to his home country.
Sevan Nişanyan (Photo: Sevan Nişanyan/Facebook)
“I am sad that I will be away from my village and my home for a period of time. But I do not believe this political insanity in Turkey will continue for too long. This regime is going to go, and we will return!” the Turkish-Armenian intellectual, travel writer, entrepreneur, and researcher told Akkum.
Nişanyan was jailed on Dec. 2, 2014, for “construction infractions.” The charges that had him locked up stemmed from the renovations and additions to his hotels in Sirince, an old Greek village in Izmir that has become a tourist destination thanks to Nişanyan and his rustic hotel business.
“The bird has flown. Wish the same for 80 million left behind,” Nişanyan said in a Tweet on July 14 upon fleeing the country. He also changed his profile photo on Twitter in the evening hours of July 14 and replaced it with a photo of a flying bird.
Nişanyan posted this photo on social media a day after his escape from prison (Photo: Sevan Nişanyan/Facebook)
Nişanyan has since posted three new photos on his Facebook page, without specifying his location. The caption of one of the photos, which has since been removed but continues to be shared among several media outlets, simply reads “fugitive” in Turkish.
Nişanyan confirmed the reports of his escape to Turkish Habertürk daily newspaper by phone, but declined to give details of when and how he managed to flee.
“I do not want to comment on that topic. It is a bit too early to talk about methods and procedures. I will tell all the details when the time comes, let no one have a doubt. But, it is not yet the time,” Nişanyan told the Turkish daily. “I thought the 3.5 years [I served in prison] was enough. Therefore, I thought it was now time to take a bit of a breath. This is what happened. Utilizing some unique circumstances or deficiencies of Turkey, in this situation, I have decided to go out of our state’s control,” he added.
According to some reports, Nişanyan was allowed to leave prison for one day every three months and simply did not return after his latest sanctioned leave. Nişanyan was sentenced to a total of 17 years in a number of cases.
“If Nişanyan really has escaped from prison, I would like to congratulate him,” said Turkish-Armenian journalist Hayko Bağdat, who has been living in exile in Germany, in a tweet.
Nişanyan came to public attention in Turkey in January, when he announced that Turkey’s Justice Ministry had banned all newspapers and books from prisons except for the Quran as of Jan. 9.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Op-ed: It’s About Time the U.S. Tells Erdogan That Turkey is Not Above the Law

Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) Pens Op-ed for the Armenian Weekly: ‘We have let Turkey off the hook for too long…’

Special for the Armenian Weekly
In May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s henchmen waged a brutal attack on peaceful protesters outside of the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence in Washington, D.C.  While this incident is reflective of the Turkish government’s broad suppression of democracy, this is the United States, and these overt acts of violence against those expressing their First Amendment right cannot be tolerated.
Rep. Dave Trott (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)
Even more disturbing is this outrageous behavior was not an isolated incident. The Turkish government has a rich history of violence, brutality, and, of course, denial. From the Ottoman Empire’s campaign to exterminate the Armenian people to Erdogan’s thugs kicking peaceful protesters in the head in Washington, Erdogan and his high-priced lobbyists have continually shut down free speech and press in an effort to rewrite history.
In response to the latest attack by Erdogan’s henchmen, I was proud to strongly support a resolution passed by the U.S. House of Representatives denouncing the attacks and demanding the perpetrators be brought to justice. Of course, this resolution was met with a ridiculous response on the part of the Turkish government. Erdogan’s regime even went so far as to blame D.C.’s own local police force for their violent behavior, but their continued attempts to rewrite history will not hinder my efforts.
The Department of State recently informed Congress it is considering an application to sell arms to the Turkish government—arms that will be made available to the same bodyguards that beat up these protesters. I immediately led a bipartisan effort in Congress to stop this sale. The United States cannot be complicit in Turkey’s efforts to compromise our democratic values, and this proposed arms sale is nothing short of an endorsement of the actions of President Erdogan’s security force.
Just last week, Germany, our fellow NATO ally, took the extraordinary step of beginning to withdraw troops from Incirlik Air Base. German officials additionally made clear to Erdogan that any members of his security detail involved in the brawl outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington were not welcome to attend the G20 Summit and banned from visiting Germany for the foreseeable future.
We have let Turkey off the hook for too long. Thankfully, my amendment to stop this arms sale to Turkey passed the House of Representatives unanimously.
Furthermore, I worked across the aisle to introduce an amendment that would block any of Erdogan’s guards involved in the Washington brawl from receiving visas to return to the United States. Slowly, but surely, we’re holding the Turkish government accountable, and Erdogan’s PR team in Washington won’t be able to whitewash his actions for much longer. In just the past month, two measures to hold the Turkish government accountable have passed the House of Representatives unanimously—an unthinkable feat a year ago.
I have the honor of representing a strong and vibrant Armenian community in Southeast Michigan, and, in representing them, I have always worked to ensure they have a seat at the table in our nation’s capital.
Whether it’s fighting to ensure the U.S. finally recognizes the Armenian Genocide, standing up for the Armenian people, right here, in the United States, or ensuring our nation stands firm against President Erdogan’s violent henchmen, my goal is to always be a staunch defender of the Armenian community at home and abroad.
It’s about time the United States tells Erdogan that Turkey’s strategic location does not place it above the law.