Brief Comments on Many Farcical Turkish Missteps
by Harut Sassounian
The dilemma of writing one column a week is that sometimes there are so many developments on Armenian issues that one would need to write several columns in the same week to comment on all of them. This being one such week, I will make brief comments on 13 different topics:
-- The French Press Agency (AFP) reported that Turkish State Television (TRT) started airing on Oct. 9 its "first documentary on surviving members of the exiled Ottoman dynasty. The 10-part series, called "The Exile of the Ottoman House," is the fruit of three years of research. Several members of the dynasty met recently in Istanbul for the interviews that form the bulk of the documentary."
In case of any future lawsuits to recover looted Armenian assets from the Genocide era, this documentary would be very useful in locating the heirs of those who organized the Genocide.
-- The Washington Post reported on Oct. 3 that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after his meeting with Pres. Bush in the White House: "In the same way as we consider anti-Semitism a crime against humanity, Islamo-phobia is also a crime against humanity." Who would know what a crime against humanity is better than Turkey's leaders?
-- The Turkish Prime Minister also told journalists in Ankara last month: "Certain forces will do everything possible to dishonor the glorious history of the Turkish people. Turkey has nothing to be ashamed of in its past."
Why is he then calling for a joint commission to study the Armenian Genocide, when he claims to know the outcome in advance?
-- The US Senate adopted a resolution on Sept. 30, recognizing the Ukrainian Genocide of 1932-33 and authorizing the Government of Ukraine to establish a memorial on Federal land in Washington, DC, to honor its victims.
Is the Armenian Genocide next in line?
-- Following Azeri protests against the Turkish Company "Akdash Group" for selling its "Crispino" products in Armenia, the company announced that it will no longer do any business in Armenia. Little did the Azeris realize that they did a big favor to Armenians by eliminating a Turkish product from the Armenian market!
-- Turkish newspaper Vatan reported on Sept. 18 that the Ministry of Education was revising the way Turkish history textbooks referred to the Armenian Genocide. A ministry official said: "The Armenian question until now has been covered under the heading "World War I," with 1915 -- the year of forced deportation of Armenians - being the year the problem started. However, this is not true. The Armenian question was placed before us after World War II. We arenot saying that the forced deportations of 1915 never occurred, however, there is a 50-year gap between the event's occurrence and its emergence as a problem for Turkey. The narrative should match this reality." The Turkish official also said that with this change, "the Armenian question would be covered under "external threats" against Turkey after World War II."
It is immensely satisfying that almost 100 years after the Genocide, the mass murders committed by their ancestors are still haunting today's Turkish leaders!
-- The farcical website, The Onion, recently ridiculed the ultra-nationalist Turkish lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, who is infamous for filing lawsuits against Turkish journalists and writers who have made statements on the Armenian Genocide. The Onion reported, tongue in cheek, that Kerincsiz was now suing himself after he was voted "the winner of the Glendale Courier Award for the Most Influential Propagator of information about the Armenian Genocide." The Onion also reported, always sarcastically, that outside the courtroom, the confounded Grey Wolf extremists "squashed tomatoes over their own heads!"
Seriously, Kerincsiz has indeed helped propagate the Armenian Genocide inadvertently by his many frivolous, but noisy lawsuits.
-- The Washington Post reported that last year Matthew Bryza, the US negotiator for Karabagh, and his Turkish partner, anti-Armenian political analyst Zeyno Baran, bought a house jointly in Washington, DC on 1339 Vermont Ave.,for $651,000.
No comment is necessary!
-- Two major political parties dumped from their list of candidates three Turks for next month's Parliamentary elections in Netherlands, for not acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. Talip Demirhan, a long-time Turkish board member of one of the Dutch parties, was quoted by the "Playfuls.com's website as saying: "We are being asked whether our great-grandfather was a mass murderer. If he was, then as far as I'm concerned, he can go to hell!"
Demirhan's comment speaks for itself!
-- During his visit to Armenia last week, Romanian President Traian Basescu declared, "keep history in the history books," when he was being asked during a question and answer session at Yerevan State University if his country was prepared to officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. He said that he did not want to spoil his country's friendly relations with Turkey!
More amazing than the Romanian president's unacceptable comments was the fact that officials of Yerevan State University still went ahead and presented to him an honorary doctorate and a gold medal!
-- The Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher must have been rather overwhelmed by the hospitality of his Turkish counterpart during his visit to Ankara last week, when he criticized Swiss laws banning the denial of genocide. He came under severe criticism in Switzerland for making such disparaging remarks about Swiss laws while overseas.
The most outrageous part of his statement was telling his Turkish counterpart that if he were arrested in Switzerland for denying the Armenian Genocide, he would go to jail with him! They would both be lucky to be serving time in a Swiss, rather than a Turkish jail!
-- On the eve of the French National Assembly's October 12 vote to make the denial of the Armenian Genocide a crime, Turkish economic and political threats against France have been flying fast and furious. Sukru Elekdag, a member of the Turkish Parliament, during his trip to Paris last week to lobby against this bill, said that if it became law, Turkey would not hesitate to deport the 70,000 Armenian refugees now living in Turkey!
Besides proving once again that Turkey is still capable of carrying out large-scale deportations, Turkish officials would be doing Armenia a big favor by sending these Armenian refugees back to Armenia. It is noteworthy that Prime Minister Erdogan contradicted Elekdag's highly inflated figure of 70,000 Armenian refugees, by saying that "the number of Armenians who illegally work in Turkey is not big." According to most estimates, the correct figure is closer to a few thousand!
--Hrant Dink, the editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos, was quoted by Hurriyet newspaper as saying that he opposes the proposed French bill to criminalize the denial of the Armenian Genocide. He was reportedly said that if the bill became law, he would be "among the first to head to France and break the law." He dared the French government to throw him in jail.
Mr. Dink's misguided words are providing support for genocide denialists in Turkey. Why did he and others like Prof. Muge Gocek, who had written an open letter in May protesting the first time that this bill was presented to the French Parliament, not object to a similar French law banning the denial of the Holocaust? Why do Dink and Gocek consider the penalty for denying the Armenian Genocide an infringement on free speech, but not so in the case ofthe Holocaust? Why do they feel that the Armenian victims of genocide are not entitled to equal protection under French laws as the Jewish ones?
Furthermore, Mr. Dink and his Turkish companions are making a serious error in equating Turkish law 301 -- which effectively criminalizes free speech in Turkey -- with that of the proposed French law banning the denial of genocide. Here is the difference: The Turkish law makes it a crime to tell the truth about genocide, while the French law makes it a crime to lie about genocide! I hope Mr. Dink does not go through with his foolish plan of going to Paris and daring the French to arrest him for denying the Armenian Genocide. If he does, he would have no one but himself to blame for his arrest!