Activists protest planned Wilson Center award to Turkish FM; Ask for congressional inquiry

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Activists Ask Congress to Investigate Wilson Center Award to Davutoglu

May 20, 2010

The Armenian Weekly


WASHINGTON—Citizens from across the United States are asking their Members of Congress to look into the controversial decision by the Woodrow Wilson Center to award Armenian Genocide denier, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with their public service award, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Through an ANCA Action Alert, Armenian American and other anti-genocide activists are expressing “profound anger and disappointment” over the Woodrow Wilson Center’s plans to travel to Turkey to bestow the award on Davutoglu, who recently openly threatened the United States against speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide.

“This award dishonors President Wilson’s vision of justice for the Armenian nation,” explains the letter to Senate and House members. “Mr. Davutoglu represents a government that, in its aggressive denial of the Armenian Genocide and ongoing obstruction of justice for the Armenian nation, makes a mockery of the Wilson Center and its founding commitment to fostering scholarship commemorating ‘the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson.’”

The letter makes special mention that “Mr. Davutoglu leads a foreign ministry that reflects and actively reinforces the anti-Armenian hatreds and intolerance that fueled the Armenian Genocide in the first place,” noting that the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. hosted a group of demonstrators who insulted and mocked Armenians gathered on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, to mark the murder of 1.5 million men, women, and children, and the exile of a people from their ancient homeland.” Video from the Turkish protest can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNfpYNeSyfE.

The Woodrow Wilson Center receives one-third of its annual funding from Congress. Senators and Representatives are being encouraged to “formally investigate this matter and to share [their] concerns on this deeply troubling development directly with the leadership of the Woodrow Wilson Center.”

The ANCA Action Alert can be viewed at http://www.capwiz.com/anca/issues/alert/?alertid=15045776.

The complete text of the letter is provided below.

Dear Senator / Representative:

I am writing to share with you three reasons behind my profound anger and disappointment over the recently announced decision of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a U.S. government-supported institution, to honor the foreign minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu, who, only weeks ago, openly threatened the United States against speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide.

1) This award dishonors President Wilson’s vision of justice for the Armenian nation

Mr. Davutoglu represents a government that, in its aggressive denial of the Armenian Genocide and ongoing obstruction of justice for the Armenian nation, makes a mockery of the Wilson Center and its founding commitment to fostering scholarship commemorating “the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson.” President Wilson, throughout his time in public office, was a tireless champion of Armenian rights and security. He sharply condemned the Armenian Genocide, provided extensive relief to its survivors, and pressed, both domestically and internationally, for a viable Wilsonian Armenia as a means of restoring to the Armenian people their rightful place at the table of nation’s following this horrific crime. Mr. Davutoglu, whose government blockades the very Armenia that Woodrow Wilson sought to protect, flagrantly and in the most offensive terms rejects our great president’s vision of a truthful, just and lasting resolution of the Armenian Genocide.

2) This award makes a mockery of President Wilson’s belief in free and open inquiry

Mr. Davutolgu represents a government that aggressively suppresses free speech and open historical inquiry, particularly on issues dealing with the Armenian Genocide. His government, including the leaders of his political party, continue to enforce laws, such as Article 301, that criminalize the discussion of the Armenian Genocide and demonize scholars, journalists and others who dare to speak honestly about this crime against humanity. His record runs directly counter to the center’s policy that the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service should be reserved for those who share Woodrow Wilson’s steadfast belief in “the free and open exchange of ideas” and his commitment to “examin[ing] the historical background and long-term implications of issues confronting society.” Far from supporting open inquiry, Mr. Davutoglu has devoted his own personal energies and the resources of his ministry to silencing discourse within Turkey and the United States on the Armenian Genocide, one of the most prominent human rights issues that Woodrow Wilson himself actively pursued. Three weeks before the award was announced, Mr. Davutoglu openly condemned President Obama’s administration for not doing enough to prevent the March 4, 2010 vote on the Armenian Genocide Resolution in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Not even two months later, Davutoglu condemned President Obama himself for making a statement express empathy towards Armenian Americans on the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a statement which did not even use the term “genocide.” While Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan expressed appreciation that President Obama’s statement considered “Turkish sensitivities” and did not use the term genocide, Foreign Minister Davutoglu called the statement “unacceptable” and protested that “No nation has the right to impose its memory records on another nation.”

3) This award provides an undeserved U.S. endorsement for Turkey’s anti-Armenian policies

Mr. Davutoglu leads a foreign ministry that reflects and actively reinforces the anti-Armenian hatreds and intolerance that fueled the Armenian Genocide in the first place. On April 24th of this year, a day of solemn remembrance for Armenians worldwide, the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. hosted a group of demonstrators who, as this video link shows, had, only moments before, insulted and mocked Armenians gathered on this day to mark the murder of 1.5 million men, women, and children, and the exile of a people from their ancient homeland. Please take a moment to watch this video on YouTube (which is banned in Turkey) as you consider whether Mr. Davutoglu, whose staff hosted the protesters celebrating genocide, is worthy of this great honor in the name of our late President Woodrow Wilson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNfpYNeSyfE

I bring this matter to your attention because, as a Member of Congress, you appreciate the public policy implications of the Wilson Center receiving approximately one third of its budget from our tax dollars and of it having been granted its location in a wing of the Ronald Reagan Building by the federal government. The leaders of the center are, of course, answerable to the American people and their elected representatives, to act in accord with both their own official mandate, as well as with the values and interests of the American people. In proposing to honor Mr. Davutoglu with this award, the center acts counter to its own mandate, disgraces President Wilson’s proud legacy and diminishes the good name of the world-renowned institution named in his sacred memory.

It is in this spirit that I call upon your office to formally investigate this matter and to share your concerns on this deeply troubling development directly with the leadership of the Woodrow Wilson Center. I look forward to hearing from you regarding any action that you take or feedback you receive on this subject of immediate and pressing concern to my family, friends, and community.