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Archive for the 'Denial' Category

Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Erdogan Criticizes Petition

December 29th, 2008 by hyeoctane

By Daren Djirikian

“I haven’t committed any crime. Why should I apologize?” asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan in response to an online petition in which thousands of Turks apologized for the brutal killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I. Erdogan rejected the petition, stating further that an apology would actually have to come from the Ottoman perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide, who in truth are responsible for killing 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, and several thousands of Armenians before and after the war. Former Turkish ambassadors support rejecting the petition by declaring it against Turkey’s national interests.

Calling the killings the “Great Catastrophe,” more than 22,000 Turks, including journalists and academics have signed the petition on the Website www.ozurdiliyoruz.com. The petition states “I cannot accept the denial of the great catastrophe of 1915
that Ottoman Armenians were subjected to. I condemn this injustice and acting on my own behalf I share the feelings of pain of my Armenian brothers.” The petition flies in the face of official Turkish policy that denies the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire as genocide. The Turkish state continues to assert that the murders were the result of civil uprisings during World War I, which continues to add to Turkey’s identity crisis as it moved from an empire to a republic. An ongoing impact of Turkish denial is that Turkey and Armenia do not have a diplomatic relationship. However, in order for justice to be served in the long run, Armenians and Turkish citizens alike must continue to speak out against Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide.

Theodore Bagosora, a former army official during the Rwandan genocide was sentenced to life imprisonment on Thursday, January 18 by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Such a conviction can give hope to Armenians worldwide that Turkey may be held responsible for apologizing for the Armenian genocide and perhaps offering reparations to descendants of Armenians killed during the genocide.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey, Uncategorized | No Comments »

‘I Apologize’ Website Silenced; Will the International Community Speak Up?

December 20th, 2008 by hyeoctane

Cynics would have argued that it was only a matter of time until the Turkish Government or hackers (or Turkish Government supported hackers) would take down a website where over 13,000 Turkish scholars, journalists and citizens issued an apology for the “great catastrophe” committed against the Armenian people from 1915-1923.

And they were right.

On Thursday, www.ozerdiliyoruz.com — initiated by three scholars — Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar — and journalist, Ali Bayramoglu, went off-line, first to return with the listing of signatories removed and then – not to return at all.

Sadly, given Turkey’s history of repression of free speech (just look at any of the annual reports issued by the U.S. State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, etc. to read about the sad state of affairs) this was not a surprise.

Even before the “I Apologize” petition was placed online, reports of the effort sent some members of Turkey’s Parliament into a rampage. Today’s Zaman reported that Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy for Erzurum Zeki Ertugay accused the signatories of being in “a state of hysteria,” while Behiç Çelik, a MHP deputy from Mersin, stated, “It is impossible to refer to these people as intellectuals. The so-called intellectuals trying to apologize to Armenians do not know the past. They don’t know history.”

Once the petition went online to allow Turkish citizenry of good conscience to sign, higher officials in Turkey went public slamming the effort – including Turkey’s PM Recep Tayip Erdogan and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan.

Alone in defending the free speech right of the petitioners was Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul – who considered the petition a public relations coup – to show the world that Turkey’s freedom of speech record has improved. Gul was immediately chastised for not denouncing the effort, with opponents accusing his mother of being of Armenian heritage and the Gul family threatening to sue the accusers of slander!

And what of the courageous folks who started the petition in the first place? And the 13,000 who added their names to the website? Who is going to stand up for them?

Now, to be clear, the petition was not perfect. The authors stopped short of properly characterizing the centrally planned and systematically executed campaign of deportations, starvation and murder of 1.5 million Armenians as ‘genocide.’ Nor did they give the full scope of the campaign, which ranged from 1915-1923.

But these intellectuals spoke out in an atmosphere where a website gets hacked and a journalist is shot dead in broad daylight for speaking about the Armenian Genocide.

This is where the United States and the international community need to be vocal – to speak the truth about the Armenian Genocide and give Turkey’s civil society some breathing room to help their country confront their genocidal past.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey | No Comments »

www.ozurdiliyoruz.com vs. www.ozurdilemiyorum.net

December 16th, 2008 by hyeoctane

Signatories on a petition initiated by Turkish academics and journalists apologizing for the “Great Catastrophe” committed against the Armenians in 1915 passed the 8000 mark today and continues to grow. The petition, titled simply, “I Apologize” (www.ozurdiliyoruz.com) states:

“My conscience does not attempt that (we) remain insensitive toward and deny the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected in 1915. I reject this injustice, share in the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, and apologize to them.”

The statement, while falling short of properly characterizing the brutal slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turkish authorities from 1915-1923, shows progress in Turkey’s civil society efforts to encourage Turkish authorities to deal honestly and truthfully with its genocidal past.

So leave it to the blind-followers of Turkey’s multi-million dollar, international genocide denial campaign to launch the rival site – you guessed it – the “I Do Not Apologize” campaign (http://www.ozurdilemiyorum.net/).

Yes, these brave souls (just over 600 to date) have taken the bold step to refute the Armenian Genocide, using the same old tired refrains (“Allegations of Armenian genocide are racist and dishonest history. . .,” you get the idea.)  It is posted prominently on an Armenian Genocide denial page — Armenian Genocide Resource Center — the name twisted and coopted for the purposes of misleading innocent internet researchers and bloggers with genocide denial propoganda.

But just a few paragraphs in you realize that they have drunk the kool-aid. The Turkish Government kool-aid – a poison dispensed by mandate to schools throughout Turkey, by edict of the Education Ministry. They echo the calls by the 60 former diplomats, including many current Turkish parliamentary leaders, who reject Turkey’s civil society efforts to take on the taboo of the Armenian Genocide head on.

And so the speakers of truth and deniers of genocide go head to head. But, where will the U.S. and the international community come down? In support of academics risking their lives to eventually face the truth of the Armenian Genocide head on? Or in support of Turkish government hardliners hoping to quash even a mention of the atrocities.

Over 200 House members cosponsored Genocide legislation last year, adopted but House Foreign Affairs Committee, but blocked by a Bush Administration eager to kowtow to Turkey’s threats. President-elect Obama, on numerous occasions, pledged to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide. In support of an evolving genocide affirmation movement in Turkey, President-elect Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi have a rare opportunity to speak out - in clear and unequivocal terms.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Civil Society is Speaking, but is the Turkish Government Listening?

December 15th, 2008 by hyeoctane

by Aleek Kahramanian

The definition of an apology is straightforward:

“A written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another.”

Everyone has apologized for a wrong doing to someone at one point or another in their lives. But an apology issued on December 15th by members of Turkey’s civil society, caused a lot of controversy.

According to the Associated Press, the apology, issued as an Internet petition which has gathered as many as 2,500 signatories, states :

“My conscience does not attempt that (we) remain insensitive toward and deny the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected in 1915. I reject this injustice, share in the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, and apologize to them.”

For the record, it should be noted that the statement falls short from properly characterizing the centrally planned and systematically executed annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians from 1915-1923 as genocide. In fact, according to Hetq Online “Aytekin Yıldız, the coordinator of the Confrontation Association (Yüzleşme Derneği), pointed out that the Armenian community was already aware of the fact that there are many people in Turkey of conscience, and the important thing was not to declare what is already known. “It is a good starting point, but not enough. Firstly, what do they mean by ‘great disaster’? Let us name it; it is genocide. Secondly, the state has to apologize,” Yıldız stressed.”

Nevertheless, the effort, spearheaded by scholars Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar and journalist Ali Bayramoglu, marks significant progress in Turkish civil society discussion of this issue. Not surprisingly we see similar calls from Armenia, with 300 intellectuals cosigning a public letter to President Gul, which noted that “modern Turkey bears ‘hereditary responsibility’ for what they consider a ‘monumental crime against humanity’ and calls on the Turkish President to finally recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

So, civil society appears to be making great strides in Turkey. But is the Turkish Government listening?

Early indications say no.

Hurriyet Daily News reported, today, that 60 retired ambassadors and diplomats condemned the Turkish scholars’ apology, noting.

“Such an incorrect and one-sided attempt would mean disrespecting our history and betraying our people who lost heir lives in the violent attacks of the terror organizations in the final days of the Ottoman Empire, as well as after, during, the formation of the Republic.”

Top Turkish Parliamentarians are also condemning the statement, calling it an insult to Turkish history. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party said: “No one has the right to insult our ancestors, to present them as criminals and to ask for an apology.”
Turkey’s civil society is finally catching up to what the international community has been saying all along. The Armenian Genocide, and in fact all genocides, must be recognized to prevent future such atrocities. Some 20 countries have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Forty-one of the fifty U.S. States have issued proclamations or passed resolutions recognizing the Armenian Genocide. President Reagan recognized the Armenian Genocide, only to have subsequent U.S. presidents succumb to Turkish government threats pending proper U.S. reaffirmation.

And now it is time for the U.S. and rest of the international community to make a decision. Stand with Turkish Government officials continuing a 93-year campaign of Genocide denial? Or support the voices of truth in Turkey, as they struggle toward Armenian Genocide recognition.

The right answer is obvious.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey | No Comments »

Change we can believe in?

December 12th, 2008 by hyeoctane

by Aleek Kahramanian

Gul-Sarkisyan: real change or just another Turkish ruse?With 2008 coming to an end, it is only natural to look back and remember noteworthy events – Obama’s victory, eight Olympic gold medals for Michael Phelps in Beijing, a warming of Turkey - Armenia relations. Yes indeed, times are a-changing.

Or, are they?

Take the Turkey-Armenia case, for instance. This past September, Turkey’s president Abdullah Gul accepted an invitation from his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan to watch a soccer match between the two countries. It was a bold move for Armenia – a victim of genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkish authorities from 1915-1923 and a Turkish government imposed blockade since 1993. Sargsyan’s invitation could bring about greater regional stability and peace – if the Turkish Government emerged as an honest negotiating partner.

And that’s a big if.

Immediately after Pres. Gul returned to Ankara, his Foreign Ministry team was fast at work issuing statements that, with this new “soccer diplomacy” in progress, countries worldwide should refrain from speaking about the Armenian Genocide – threatening that speaking the truth about this crime against humanity would somehow upset the delicate negotiations.

Just today, the Turkish Parliament “urged the parliaments of third party countries not to disrupt the process of rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia with efforts to recognize the 1915-dated events as “genocide”. “Politicians and parliaments cannot judge history, ” said Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan.

And what about the vicious media attacks against a handful of Turkish scholars who issued an apology for the “great catastrophe” committed against the Armenians? And, Pres. Gul’s announced plans to pressure Israeli President Shimon Peres to enlist the support of U.S. Jewish groups against Armenian Genocide legislation – forcing the victims of Holocaust to become complicit in genocide denial?

So what’s really going?

Could it be that Team Turkey is simply concerned that real change in the United States – the election of a President committed to ending genocide in Darfur and calling for Armenian Genocide recognition - would further isolate Turkey in its genocide denial?

Or, perhaps Team Turkey, through the pretense of warmer ties with Armenia, seeks simply to cover up the fact that its European Union accession efforts are floundering due to an unwillingness to bring about real human rights reform, stop the cultural and economic repression of the Kurds, or end their occupation of Cyprus.

One thing is certain. After 93 years of Turkey’s genocide denial, it’s tough for international observers not to be cynical about Turkey’s commitment to truth and human rights.

And the Gul Administration’s actions since his much-hyped visit to Armenia just reinforces the point.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey | No Comments »

The Palin Syndrome at the Rumi Forum

December 11th, 2008 by hyeoctane

by Aleek Kahramanian

Maverick, Maverick, Maverick, Maverick. . . . Did you get that?If we learned anything from the Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin’s big book of campaigning, it’s this. If you script yourself and repeat the same message over and over again, however ridiculous – some percentage of people are bound to believe you.

Today’s speaker at Washington DC’s pseudo-think tank, the Rumi Forum – Dr. Soner Cagaptay – clearly subscribed to the Palin doctrine. Call Turkey a “liberal democracy” often enough and the 40 or so attendees at the lecture titled “What Should President-elect Obama’s Priorities be for Turkey?” would buy in.

According to Cagaptay, who directs the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute,

“Turkey functions and behaves like a European country. Let’s elaborate on that, liberal European democracy that respects the traditions of liberal democracy which includes the idea of a secular government and a fully liberal society.”“This would mean that Obama would be 100% supportive of the idea of Turkey functioning as a democracy and 100% of Turkey functioning as a liberal democracy. By liberal, I mean, to use an analogy of full manual liberal in the sense of a country which promotes liberal values for all of its citizens and inhabitants and perhaps goes through a period of further democratic liberalization as with the EU reforms we saw from 1990-2004.”

Dr. Soner CagaptayGet it folks? Let’s say it together.

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

“Turkey is a liberal democracy.”

Convinced yet?

Well, the vast majority of European Parliament members don’t seem to be. They’ve been following Turkey’s political reform record as part of that country’s ongoing bid to join the E.U. and the accounts are dismal.

The draft report considered this week by the EP Foreign Affairs Committee, presented by Ria Oomen-Ruijten (European Popular Party, Conservative, Netherlands), expresses “concern to see in Turkey, for the third consecutive year, a continuous slowdown of the reform process” despite the strong mandate of the AKP government.

Oomen-Ruijten goes on to note that “freedom of expression and freedom of the press are still not fully protected in Turkey”, that the amendment to Article 301 of the Penal Code was not sufficient, as people continue to be prosecuted” and it is now calling for the repeal of this article. It regrets also “the frequent website bans, the extent of which draws Turkey away from standards of a democratic, pluralistic society”.

But maybe that’s just European bias.

What about human rights groups in the U.S. – surely they will back Cagaptay’s assertion that Turkey is a “liberal democracy”.

Not according to U.S.-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch, which has published a report critical of Turkey, documenting a rise in police violence that has gone unpunished. Following meetings with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek, who is in charge of improving his country’s human rights record, HRW’s Director Kenneth Roth stated “it was not clear to me whether he [Cicek] was responsible for protecting human rights or violating them, because he brought an attitude that was utterly contemptuous of the concerns we are raising.”

All of this makes for a very nervous European Union, concerned about admitting a country that denies genocide, represses fundamental human rights and is taking little or no action to reform.

Perhaps the Rumi Forum should put Dr. Cagaptay’s message on YouTube and, with repetition, convince the Turkish nation of the benefits of actually becoming a “liberal democracy.”

Of course, that’s only if the Turkish authorities actually lift the ban on YouTube.

Category: Denial, Turkey | No Comments »

Turkey marks 60th anniversary of U.N. Genocide Convention – in its own special way

December 9th, 2008 by hyeoctane

Raphael LemkinOn December 9, 1948, after years of lobbying, haggling (and some serious arm-twisting), the U.N. adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It was the brainchild and lifelong dream of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew whose family was wiped out by the Nazis during WWII, but whose passion to stop genocide began with his study of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. There are 41 signatories to the Convention, including the United States and the Republic of Turkey, which, ironically, for the past 93 years, has spent millions around the world to deny its role in the centrally planned and systematically executed annihilation of over 1.5 million Armenian citizens.

So how is Turkey marking the U.N. Genocide Convention’s 60th anniversary?

Leaders of several major Turkish political parties have been busy lambasting a group of their fellow scholars and journalists for issuing an apology last week for the “great catastrophe” that befell the Armenian people in 1915. “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the ‘Great Catastrophe’ that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathise with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologise to them,” said three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a journalist, Ali Bayramoglu. And, even though these scholars still did not properly characterize the killings as genocide, their statements were met with derision from a wide range of Turkey’s political elite. Insel, Oran, Aktar and Bayramoglu were labeled as bafoons and traitors – and may be brought up on trial for “insulting Turkishness” under Turkey’s infamous Article 301 laws.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul is planning a visit to Israel next month, where, in meetings with President Shimon Peres, he is “expected to ask Israel to use its influence in Washington” to try to prevent passage of Armenian Genocide legislation. This is in addition to the $25,000 a month Turkey already pays former Bush and Clinton Adminstration staff members Noam Neusner and Jay Footlik to persuade Jewish American organizations to be party to their genocide denial agenda.

President Gul is cashing in all his chips with his allies – scared that President Obama will finally end U.S. complicity in genocide denial by properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide. As Senator, Obama has a long record of speaking the truth on the Armenian Genocide. In the months and days leading up to his election, Obama stated, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.”

So on this 60th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment, Turkey’s President has reason to be worried, and the world may have reason to hope, that Turkey’s genocide denial days are numbered. Time will tell.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Scratching the Surface of Genocide Hyprocrisy

December 8th, 2008 by hyeoctane

Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. PolicymakersIt is a little disturbing to see former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen teaming up to unveil a 109-page report offering U.S. policymakers advice on how to prevent future genocides. After all, just last October, this “dynamic duo” was busy encouraging Congress to perpetuate U.S. complicity in Armenian Genocide denial – cosigning letters to Speaker Nancy Pelosi arguing that it’s not the right time to honor the memory of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children. And William Cohen’s “The Cohen Group” continues to have a strategic partnership with top lobby firm DLA/Piper – hired by Turkey to spread genocide denial in the Halls of Congress for a cool $1.8 million a year.

And yet, 14 months later, they claim to have written the blueprint to end genocide once and for all. I haven’t had a chance to read through the whole thing yet, but no doubt there are some sound ideas in the Genocide Prevention Task Force report. The question remains, however, how do you take a report seriously when the folks who wrote it pick and choose which genocides to speak truthfully about?

Look, even little Timmy can prevent genocide - and has more credibility doing it.It’s a slippery slope, as The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart alluded to last year. Once you start misrepresenting one genocide, what’s to stop you from misrepresenting other genocides for political expediency? As Senior Armeniologist Aasif Mandvi told Stewart, given the right circumstances, the Holocaust could be downgraded to a “half-a-caust”.

Cohen and Albright’s genocide prevention schtick involves fuzzy logic – kind of like the weird scribble they have for a logo on the report presented today (my boss’ 3 year old daughter could have come up with something better). Frankly, the report would have more credibility if they scratched out Cohen and Albright as its authors.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Keeping the Eye on the Ball, not Emanuel

November 7th, 2008 by hyeoctane

By Khatchig Mouradian

Rahm EmanuelThe selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—the first major appointment by President-elect Barack Obama—did not fare well with many Armenian-Americans who supported the Illinois Senator’s bid for presidency. While the Armenian-Americans who overwhelmingly voted for Obama showed signs of unease, those who supported the McCain-Palin ticket were quick to exclaim, I told you so!

The concerns of Armenian-Americans are understandable. Beginning with his days in the Clinton Administration through his years in Congress, Emanuel’s support has been mixed. It appears—if we are to take Robert Novak’s word for it—Emanuel opposed Clinton Administration affirmation of the Armenian Genocide. And yet, in his first term in Congress in 2003, he cosponsored Armenian Genocide legislation (H.Res.193) and urged President Bush in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to properly characterize the events from 1915-1923 as genocide.

Back then, Emanuel wasn’t afraid to question U.S. assistance to Turkey. In fact, in February 2003, when Congress was considering a $24 billion aid package to Turkey in return for allowing U.S. troops to open up a northern front to battle Iraqi insurgents, Emanuel was positively poetic in listing the myriad of domestic uses for those funds—from “no child left behind programs,” to college tuition assistance. Turkey eventually blocked U.S. troops from setting up the northern front.

Since 2006, it appears Emanuel has gone back to his Clinton-Administration days, counseling Speaker Pelosi not to place the Armenian Genocide resolution on the House agenda—advice that Pelosi and the House leadership did not heed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial, Turkey, US Elections | No Comments »

Defeating Foreign Influence

May 5th, 2008 by hyeoctane

k_street.jpgIn the 1930s, it was revealed that the Nazi government had hired the Ivy Lee public relations firm to do its bidding within the United States.  This revelation led to the adoption of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA), which required firms lobbying for foreign governments to register their activities with the Justice Department.

By making such activities public, FARA was expected to result in the reduction and near elimination of such foreign lobbying on U.S. soil.  However, the practice has only expanded and further developed over time.

Today, virtually any country willing to pay the right price can hire the infamous K Street lobby firms to push their agenda in the American political arena.  These firms are often comprised of former lawmakers, executive branch officials, academics and top public relations specialists.

Oppressive regimes and dictators ranging from Mobutu in Zaire, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the military junta in Burma, and the apartheid regime in South Africa, at one-time or another, have all employed such firms to curry favor in Washington and candy-coat their image.

Of course, Turkey is one of the most notorious foreign employers of Washington lobbyists.  For years, it has paid millions of dollars to such firms as International Advisors Inc., The Livingston Group, Fleishman-Hillard, and DLA Piper to suppress recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the U.S., just as it stifles discussion of the issue within its own borders.

This point highlights the fact that ending Turkey’s gag rule on the United States and passing H.Res.106 (the Armenian Genocide Resolution) is about more than reaffirming a historical truth; it’s about taking democracy out of the hands of K Street lobbyists and their foreign backers and putting it back in the hands of the citizenry.

There is an undeniable democratic deficit in the U.S. when the media and elected officials are pressured and persuaded to accept certain policies at the behest of foreign agents.  We must work to eliminate foreign influence over what happens in our country.

Recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an inseparable part of this larger struggle for democracy and ending lobbyist control over our government.

Category: Armenian Genocide, Denial | No Comments »