Egemen Bagish: Turkey's Minister of Genocide Denial

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By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Feb. 23, 2012

Even though all Turkish government officials routinely deny the Armenian Genocide, one particular minister has turned denial into a full-time job. Ironically, as Minister for European Union Affairs, Egemen Bagish has harmed Turkey’s prospects for EU membership more than any of its critics!

Although Bagish has been making zany statements ever since his ministerial appointment two years ago, his recent blunder in Zurich made headlines around the world. The Turkish Minister arrogantly dared Swiss authorities to arrest him after boasting that "the events of 1915 were not genocide!" Switzerland has a law that penalizes genocide denial, similar to the law now pending in France. A Swiss prosecutor is investigating Bagish’s words and his diplomatic status to see if charges could be filed against him for genocide denial.

Of course, it does not take much courage to hide behind the cover of diplomatic immunity and make Don Quixotic statements, challenging the laws of other countries. If Minister Bagish were truly a macho man, he would waive his immunity, go to Switzerland, and publicly deny the Armenian Genocide. However, it appears that the feisty Minister has chickened out! After boasting that he would gladly return to Switzerland to deny the Armenian Genocide again, he facetiously declared that he would not go to Switzerland, since he has no money in Swiss banks! The real reason for the Minister’s abrupt change of heart is his fear of getting arrested should the Swiss prosecutor rule that his diplomatic immunity does not protect him from the crime of genocide denial.

How much longer can Prime Minister Erdogan tolerate Mr. Bagish’s clownish antics that make Turkey look like a rogue state in the eyes of the world? Admiring his fluency in English, the Prime Minister had offered this 41-year-old former New York college student a top ministerial post, not realizing what a liability his loose tongue would prove to be!

Just as Pres. George W. Bush’s nonsensical statements became known as "Bushisms," the world now has a rich collection of "Bagishisms!" Here is a sampling of his preposterous remarks:

-- "What happened in 1915 can’t be classified as genocide as far as I’m concerned, but I was not around in 1915!"

-- "I’m a politician. My job is to determine the future, not the past!"

-- "In recent years, every one has seen that more Europeans are moving to Turkey than vice versa."

-- During a recent conference in Qatar, Minister Bagish became the laughing stock of the audience, when he proudly announced that "Europe" is a Turkish word! The Greek Ambassador to Qatar angrily responded: "Europa was one of the lovers of Zeus in Greek mythology, everyone knows that!"

-- Minister Bagish does not seem to realize that he is contradicting himself by asking other countries to open their archives to see if there was an Armenian genocide, while concluding that there was no genocide! The least he could do is have the decency to keep his mouth shut until the Ottoman archives are fully open. Meanwhile, the archives of other countries have been open for decades.

-- Rattling off the witty Americanisms he picked up in the streets of New York, such as "a day late and a dollar short," Bagish told Euronews: "This is execution without trial. Calling the 1915 events a genocide based solely on information we have right now comes from a lobby that nurtures malicious hatred."

-- "Germany was a strong ally of the Armenians in 1915, so the Germans should open their archives and give documents to historians for examination," Bagish told EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule, according to Hurriyet newspaper. Bagis made two factual errors in one sentence: Germany was the ally of the Ottoman Empire, not Armenians; and the German archives have been open for years!

-- "There’s no force that could bring about the arrest of any Turkish Minister," Bagish bragged to journalists. Why is he then afraid to waive his diplomatic immunity and then deny the Armenian Genocide in Switzerland?

-- Bagish keeps on repeating the falsehood that the Armenian government "did not have the courage to respond to Prime Minister Erdogan’s letter requesting the formation of a commission of historians to study the Armenian Genocide." In fact, the then Pres. Kocharian did answer, suggesting that all outstanding issues between the two countries be resolved in the larger context of government to government relations. It was the Turkish Prime Minister that did not respond to Armenia’s President.

While Minister Bagish has diplomatic immunity, the rest of Turkey’s population does not enjoy such a privilege. It may be a good idea to accord immunity to all 72 million Turks in order to shield them from prosecution, when they utter the words "Armenian Genocide" in Turkey!