Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Archive for February, 2008

US Embassy Fails to Link PKK to Armenia

February 28th, 2008 by

In September of 2007, Dr. Mark Yoffe, a Slavic Languages specialist at George Washington University (GWU), arrived in Armenia with an IREX fellowship to do research on the Yezidi Kurdish community there. His assumption was that his fieldwork would focus on Yezidi culture and folklore but, after visiting the US Embassy in Yerevan and being taken aside by the Political Affairs Officer there, he was told that what they really wanted him to look at was Yezidi political activism and any traces of PKK activity among Kurds living in Armenia.

After spending a month in Armenia doing what the Embassy asked him to, Yoffe returned to the US and, on February 19, gave a presentation of his findings to an audience of about fifty at The Gelman Library of GWU. The title of his talk was “Yezidis, Kurds and the PKK in Armenia: Notes of an Accidental Undercover Operative.”

Not only did Yoffe reveal that the PKK has no significant presence in Armenia but that, in his words, “there is not even any anecdotal evidence” of PKK activity in the country. When Yoffe went back to the Embassy with this information, the officials there were not the least bit interested in his findings. Obviously, some in the State Department and US Foreign Service have nothing better to do than try to concoct negative stories about Armenia out of thin air.

The timing of all this should also not be overlooked—it was at the same time that the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res. 106) was advancing its way in the US House and eventually passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October.

Interestingly enough, since he quickly found that there was absolutely no basis for saying the PKK exists in Armenia, Yoffe spent the rest of his presentation emphatically describing how Armenia is the most hospitable place for Kurds in the entire region. He repeats the same points in his report with such passages as, “Both groups, Yezidi and Kurds, stated on numerous occasions that they are happy and comfortable in Armenia, that it is the best country for people of Yezidi faith where they are not persecuted.”

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Yet Another Turkish Invasion

February 26th, 2008 by

As the US continues to seek ways to stabilize Iraq, Turkey has launched yet another offensive aimed at destabilizing northern Iraq. In what is the largest Turkish incursion of Iraq since the 2003 US-led removal of Saddam Hussein, over 10,000 troops moved across the border under the pretext of combating PKK rebels.

Although the US was aware of the incursion, it has had clear reservations about the operation and has signaled to Turkey that such military attacks will not solve the situation. Indeed, similar invasions in the past have done little to stop the PKK, an organization spawned out of Turkey’s years of oppression and ethnic cleansing of its Kurdish citizenry.

For its part, the Iraqi government has vociferously condemned Turkey’s actions and demanded an immediate withdrawal, citing the destruction of five bridges “contrary to the promises made by the Americans or other sides that the Turkish forces won’t target the infrastructure or population.”

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been even more outspoken in its opposition to Turkey’s latest illegal violation of Iraqi sovereignty. “This is against international protocols, and it is a violation of international laws,” spokesman Fouad Hussein said.

With local Kurdish residents fearing for their lives, KRG forces have reportedly taken up positions and warned Turkey not to target innocent people or cross deeper into their territory. Iraqi Kurdish forces have already warned that forays into civilian areas and further Turkish advances will be met by Kurdish counter-attacks.

With the local government and Kurdish population convinced that Turkey’s real intent is to destroy the autonomy of the KRG, Ankara’s invasion is greatly endangering one of the most peaceful and stable parts of Iraq.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Baku’s Belligerent Rhetoric

February 13th, 2008 by

Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, is no longer reserving his threats of war against Armenia only for his domestic population. Now he is openly threatening the use of force to EU officials as well.

On February 4, it is reported that Aliyev declared to representatives of the EU that he is ready to attack Armenia and take over Nagorno-Kharabakh. Such statements are not new but they further clarify Baku’s disingenuousness toward the OSCE mediated peace talks.

Azerbaijan’s authoritarian leaders have consistently demonstrated a refusal to engage in peaceful negotiations and have, instead, flaunted their utter disregard for the rights of the people of Nagorno-Kharabakh.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Clinton Praises Turkish Ties

February 11th, 2008 by

Some may have thought that Hillary Clinton’s backpedaling on the Genocide resolution back in October or appointment of Turkish ultra-nationalist fundraiser Mehmet Celebi as one of her delegates to the Democratic Convention wasn’t quite enough to make her suspect in the eyes of Armenians and anti-genocide activists. After all, she is still a co-sponsor of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the U.S. Senate, right?

Well, now it seems that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, is seeking to end all doubt on where Mrs. Clinton actually stands. In a recent interview with the Turkish daily Sabah, Bill said the following: “Turkey is a very significant country for us. We need to have good relations with Turkey. The biggest contribution to this will come from Hillary. There will be great progress in relations if Hillary is elected.”

He went on to thank the many Turks who “contribute a lot to Hillary’s election campaign” and assured readers that relations with Turkey will prosper under a Hillary administration.

Category: Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Hollow Promises of Turkish Reform

February 5th, 2008 by

Last week, it was reported that Turkey has further delayed reform of Article 301 of its Penal Code, which punishes those the state deems to be “insulting Turkishness.” This was the notorious article Hrant Dink was persecuted and convicted under before being murdered in front of the headquarters of his Agos newspaper last year.As always, the main motivation for the Turkish state to even pretend that it seeks to change its ways is pressure from the EU, which has made it clear that Article 301 is an unacceptable obstacle to free speech. Sadly, this same pattern of Turkey promising reforms in the face of European pressure, only to have the changes never materialize, has been repeated over and over again since the early 1990s, to the point of absurdity.

For instance, before Article 301, it was Article 8 of the “Anti-Terror” law and then Prime Minister Tansu Ciller promising change in the face of a European Parliament vote on a customs union with Turkey. Now it is Tayyip Erdogan giving the false promises in order to pacify demands for change and dupe Europe into coalescence. Each time, the changes that are made are simply cosmetic and rendered insignificant by a host of other laws the state uses at its discretion to punish its critics.

Even the government’s talk of reforming Article 301 has to do not with removing the shameful Article completely, but merely making a few cosmetic word changes and having the Justice Ministry be responsible for permitting prosecutions. Thus, instead of being persecuted for “insulting Turkishness,” dissidents will now be hunted down for “insulting the Turkish nation.”

The fact remains that even if reforms of 301 meant something or were not delayed, the problem of Turkish repression would still remain. It must be realized that the problems of democracy in Turkey are much deeper than one article. They have to do with a whole regime and society built on a culture of oppression, authoritarianism, denial and injustice. Until this culture is defeated, democracy and rule of law will remain hollow promises meant simply for Western consumption.

Category: Uncategorized | No Comments »