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Archive for February, 2007

Turkish prosecutors interrogate 2 new suspects in killing of ethnic Armenian journalist

February 26th, 2007 by

Turkish prosecutors on Monday interrogated two new suspects in the killing of an ethnic Armenian journalist, who were detained over the weekend.

Police detained the two on Saturday in Trabzon, the Black Sea port city where all eight other suspects, including the alleged teenage triggerman, lived. Police, meanwhile, released another suspect in Istanbul following his interrogation over the weekend, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported Monday.

Last month’s killing of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul prompted international condemnation as well as debate within Turkey about free speech, and whether state institutions were tolerant of militant nationalists.

On Friday, a group of activists invited prosecutors to press charges against them in a protest against a law that restricts free speech and has been used to prosecute intellectuals.

Five members of the small Powerful Turkey Party stood in front of a prosecutor at a courthouse and repeated statements by Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk, slain journalist Dink and other intellectuals that were used as evidence to prosecute them under Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, which bans insults to Turkish identity. [Read More]

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Wrong on Armenian genocide resolution

February 23rd, 2007 by

Letter to the Editor

The editorial “Pelosi’s pandering against Turkey,” (Tuesday) makes the incorrect assumption that Congress’ consideration of the Armenian genocide resolution (H. Res. 106) focuses on events of the past. If the genocide in Darfur is any indication, ending genocide and crimes against humanity is the key battle of the 21st century.

Over the past 100 years, we have seen the Armenian genocide, Ukrainian famine, the Holocaust and genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and now Darfur. How can the United States truly speak with moral authority in its efforts to promote peace and democracy around the world if we can’t speak truthfully about the Armenian genocide? What example are we setting through the State Department’s blatant submission to Turkey’s pressure as it lobbies our own Congress to deny this crime?

In considering H. Res. 106, the United States has a historic opportunity to honor human rights and take a step toward the reconciliation of two peoples still divided by this genocide and the state policy of denial instigated by the Turkish government since 1915. Far from focusing on the past, passage of this resolution would be an investment in our future — a future without genocide.

Executive DirectorArmenian National Committee of America

Eastern Region

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Armenian genocide

February 22nd, 2007 by

Letter to the Editor
In the Tuesday editorial “Pelosi’s pandering against Turkey,” you argue that Congress shouldn’t adopt the Armenian genocide resolution (H. Res.106) because it could lead to “serious damage” in relations between the United States and Turkey. Turkey’s threats are simply the continuation of its 90-year campaign of denying Armenian genocide. Why sell the United States short? Why must Congress capitulate to Turkish government threats while France, Argentina and other countries remain steadfast against similar pressures?
There is more at stake here than economic issues and geopolitics. There is the fundamental question of morality. Every time the Armenian genocide is recognized, mankind reaffirms its commitment to reconciling truth with humanity. By passing this resolution, the United States will include itself among those great countries that hold justice as a supreme value.
We cannot let realpolitik dictate truth. Renowned philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy said it best, in the French Newspaper Le Monde: “This Armenian genocide, this first genocide, it was — “first” — in the true sense of the word: an exemplary and almost the seminal genocide; a genocidal test case; considered a laboratory for genocide by the Nazis.”
Armenian Youth Federation France
Valence, France

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Report: Armenian president offers to set up joint committee with Turkey to discuss sensitive issues

February 20th, 2007 by

Armenian President Robert Kocharian renewed his offer to establish diplomatic ties with Turkey and proposed setting up a joint government commission to discuss sensitive issues, a French newspaper said Monday.

Kocharian, interviewed by Le Figaro newspaper during a visit to France, was asked why his country had refused Turkey’s offer to form a joint research committee to discuss the World War I-era killings of Armenians, which Armenia considers genocide.

“Normalization of bilateral relations is up to governments, not historians,” Kocharian was quoted as saying.

“That’s why we are ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without conditions, and to create an intergovernmental commission and to discuss all questions, even the most sensitive,” he said.

Armenia accuses Turkey of genocide in the killings of up to 1.5 million Armenians during World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as part of a campaign to force them out of eastern Turkey. Turkey denies this. [Read More]

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Turk foresees revisions to controversial law

February 16th, 2007 by

Turkey plans to revise a controversial law that makes insulting Turkishness a crime by the end of this year, Ankara’s chief European Union negotiator said Thursday.

The law — Article 301 of the Turkish penal code — has resulted in prosecutions against leading Turkish intellectuals, including the Nobel author Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink, an Armenian- Turkish journalist killed last month in Istanbul.

Ali Babacan, a leading member of the governing Justice and Development Party and a minister in the cabinet, said the law was causing harm to Turkey.

Asked if Ankara would abandon the law, he said: “That is not going to happen. Article 301 will stay.” But he said the government was looking at ways to change the way the law was being implemented and said his hope was that it could be altered before elections in November.
Turkish analysts said such a change would most likely entail narrowing the legal definition of what constitutes an insult to Turkishness and amending the law to make it compatible with the European Court of Human Rights. [Read More]

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Berlin Film Festival Fails to Reel in the Critics

February 16th, 2007 by

You know it has not been a vintage Berlin film festival when the leading contender for top prizes falls somewhere between “average” and “good” in the critics’ ratings

As the 10-day film odyssey draws to a close with the awards on Saturday, and with four competition entries still to be screened, crews and critics from around the world are packing their bags and scratching their heads to pick the highlights.

“The 57th Berlinale…might best be thought of as an average festival,” wrote A.O. Scott in the New York Times.

He goes on to say that Berlin, once a bastion of serious cinema, has become “something bigger, more varied and perhaps less distinctive.” The festival has grown rapidly in recent years and attracts Hollywood glamour as well as art-house films.

Critics argue that some of the best films in Berlin this year were outside the main lineup, and wondered whether festival director Dieter Kosslick had shied away from incendiary topics that robbed the competition of its “Michael Moore moment.”

Cannes had it in 2004 with Moore’s controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which went on to win the competition, while Berlin had it last year with Michael Winterbottom’s “The Road to Guantanamo,” about the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

This year the same buzz may have been created by “The Lark Farm,” a drama depicting the tragedy of a family almost wiped out in the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

Turkey denies allegations by Armenia and others that 1.5 million Armenians died in systematic genocide at Turkish hands. [Read More]

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Turkey’s parliament rejects censure motion against interior minister

February 14th, 2007 by

International Herald Tribune
Turkey’s parliament on Tuesday rejected an opposition motion to censure the interior minister over accusations that he failed to take effective measures to curb crime.

Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu’s Justice and Development Party easily defeated the censure-motion filed by the opposition center-right Motherland Party.

The motion was submitted following the Jan. 19 killing of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink outside his office in Istanbul over allegations that police were informed of plans to kill him but failed to act. It also comes at a time of increasing crime rates in the country.

Aksu, who is in charge of police and security in the country, rejected the accusations as baseless before the lawmakers rejected the motion in a vote of show of hands.

The opposition center-right Motherland party, which tabled the motion, accuses Aksu of failure to take “measures against the increase in the number of terrorist attacks and events violating public order and security and extensive moral decline.” [Read More]

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Rockers focus on more than sex, drugs

February 12th, 2007 by

What are the roots of genocide?

“Screamers,” a documentary/concert film that begins by focusing on the Armenian genocide of 1915 and broadens to include mass exterminations from the Holocaust on, tries to both give witness and provide an answer. Mixing concert footage of the Armenian-American rock group System of a Down–whose hypnotic protest ballads supply the “screamers” of the title–with interviews and archive footage detailing genocides throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries, director Carla Garapedian makes us face again the appalling consequences of untrammeled political dictatorship and of murder as a public policy.

The movie’s theme is simple. Genocides happen because of the mass political pathologies and conditions that trigger them–but also because the rest of the world chooses to look the other way. Garapedian begins with the massacre in Armenia–when the Ottoman Turkish government systematically slaughtered the Armenian population during a time of forced deportations in 1915. (Death toll estimates range from the Turkish government estimate of 300,000 to some Armenian sources that cite up to two million fatalities.) [Read More]

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Novelist Endangered by Her Book

February 12th, 2007 by

It is rarely a simple thing to be a novelist in Turkey. For Elif Shafak, it has never been more complicated.

Her sixth novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul,” was a runaway best seller in Turkey, with more than 120,000 copies purchased. Ms. Shafak had planned a six-city American book tour to promote it, including stops in Chicago and Los Angeles, but sharply curtailed the tour after the murder of Hrant Dink in January. Mr. Dink was a prominent Turkish newspaper editor of Armenian ancestry and a close friend of Ms. Shafak.

Sipping tea at the Warwick Hotel in Midtown Manhattan this week, Ms. Shafak politely declined to discuss her safety concerns, worried that the already dangerous situation could escalate. She travels with a bodyguard now and has been placed under official police protection in Turkey.

But as she prepared to leave this country for Istanbul, her book tour cut short, she reflected on what it means to be a writer in the United States and in Turkey, where literature and politics are seldom separated, and where her novels have transformed her into a controversial public figure. [Read More]

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Turkey misses its chance with Armenia

February 7th, 2007 by

By Vartan Oskanian minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Armenia.
Ankara has let a rare moment pass. Three weeks after the assassination of acclaimed Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, it appears the Turkish authorities have grasped neither the message of Hrant’s life nor the significance of his death.

In the days immediately following Dink’s shocking death, allegedly at the hands of a fanatic Turkish nationalist, we in Armenia and others around the world wanted to believe that the outpouring of public grief would create a crack in the Turkish wall of denial and rejection, and that efforts would be made to chip away at the conditions that made the assassination possible. We all hoped that the gravity of this slaying and the breadth of the reaction would have compelled Turkey’s leaders to seize the moment and make a radical shift in the policies that sustain today’s dead-end situation.

However, after those initial hints at conciliation, the message out of Ankara has already changed. Last week, according to the Turkish media, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there can be no rapprochement with Armenians because Armenians still insist on talking about the genocide. [Read More]

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