Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Israel asks US Jews to lobby for Azerbaijan against Armenia

By Harut Sassounian Publisher, The California Courier It is common knowledge that Azerbaijan, following Turkey's footsteps, tries to use the political clout of Israel and American-Jewish organizations in Washington, D.C. to counter Armenian interests. Israel obliges the Azeri demands out of an interest in importing oil and gas from Azerbaijan and exporting various products, possibly including weapons. Israel also needs access to Azerbaijan in order to collect intelligence on neighboring Iran. The details of this close cooperation, more aptly described as "mutual exploitation," are not usually made public. The July 10, 2006 issue of The Jerusalem Report, however, published a 13-page article by Netty C. Gross disclosing some of the ties between Azerbaijan, Israel and American Jewish organizations. The Report covered the visit to Baku of "a delegation of Israeli dignitaries and Russian Jewish functionaries" in mid-May. The article titled, "The Azeri Triangle," started with a straightforward statement: "Israel and Diaspora Jewry are deepening their own links with oil-rich Muslim Azerbaijan and helping the Azeri regime win friends in Washington." Describing "a strong Azerbaijani-American-Israel-Jewish connection [that] benefits everyone," Gross wrote that Israel "is deeply interested in consolidating its relations" with Azerbaijan. "Israel has seen it in its interest to encourage U.S. Jews to take up the Azeri cause in the Washington corridors of power, at the same time reinforcing the notion held by many Azeris and others inthe Third World that the way to Washington leads through Jerusalem." It is noteworthy that Gross implicated " U.S. Jews" in carrying out the instructions of Israel -- a foreign power -- in the United States to serve the interests of Azerbaijan. In addition to its connections in Washington, Gross reported that Israel is using the services of "rich and influential Russian Jewish businessmen, some of whom have powerful contacts from the old Soviet days -- and who proudly point out to me that [Pres.] Ilham [Aliyev]'s son-in-law has a Jewish mother and a Muslim father." Gross provided the list of visits made to Azerbaijan earlier this year by various Jewish individuals and groups: "In recent months, a parade of several high-level Israeli and Jewish delegations, who have been mobilized to help Azerbaijani interests in the U.S., passed through Baku. In early February, a 50-strong delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Organizations was received by Aliyev. In April, the Azeri president welcomed Israeli tycoon Lev Leviev. And in early June, Israeli National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer arrived in Baku, to explore the idea of purchasing Azeri oil or gas at some time in the future.Underscoring the close ties between the Russian Jewish machers and the locals, EAJC [Euro-Asian Jewish Congress operatives move about Baku's corridors of power like kings, freely initiating press conferences and government meetings." Gross gave the details of some of the links between the two countries as relayed to him by Israel's ambassador to Azerbaijan, Arthur Lenk, a native of New Jersey: "The weekly Azerbaijani Airlines flights between Tel Aviv and Baku are packed, and there are Jewish studies programs, with local and Israeli students and some Israeli faculty, at Baku State University. Israeli agro-businesses recently visited Baku for a bilateral trade forum and Israeli technology in telecommunications and waste management is being used in Azerbaijan. (In the past, Israelis have had financial interests in, among other things, Azerbaijan's second-largest cell phone firm, a hospital project and a turkey farm)." Gross then disclosed the political connections between Azerbaijan, Israel and American Jews regarding Armenian issues: "Israel's main selling point with Azerbaijan is not Israeli. Rather, it's the American Jewish lobby, which, encouraged by Israel, has helped Azerbaijan in Congress. The background to the story is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. A particularly painful sore point is Section 907, a U.S. congressional amendment to the 1992 Soviet [sic] Freedom Support Act, aimed at boosting economic and humanitarian aid to all of the 15 emerging former Soviet republics except Azerbaijan. Passed at the urging of the Armenian-American lobby in 1993, when the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was flaring, 907 barred the U.S. from military or other cooperation with Azerbaijan.Encouraged by Israel, influential American Jewish groups have since acted on behalf of Baku as a bulwark against the powerful American-Armenian lobby in Congress and have tried to get 907 repealed. Since 2002, when the U.S. needed Azeri airspace to reach Afghanistan, the U.S. has agreed to annual presidential waivers of 907, which lift restrictions." Gross then specifically cited Mark Levin, the executive director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, a Washington-based organization that is "a member of the coalition of Jewish groups that have worked on behalf of Azerbaijan's interests on Capitol Hill." Levin, who traveled to Baku with the Conference of Presidents in February, told Gross that the organized Jewish community has "worked closely with the administration to implement the presidential waiver of 907 in 2002," and that the coalition "continues to express support on a regular basis for the waiver." Gross quoted Levin as stating that the American-Armenian lobby in Washington "is very strong and organized, and speaks in a unified voice. On other political issues, we have partnered with [the Armenians], but when it comesto Azerbaijan, we are on different sides of the fence." Levin acknowledged that, on the whole, American Jewish policymakers feel comfortable in their strong support of Azerbaijan on the Hill and take their cue from the U.S. and Israel. Various Azeri officials confirm the value of the Jewish lobby in countering Armenians: "American Jews have helped us lobby in Washington against the Armenians and their help is very important. We are very appreciative," Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov told Gross. Sheikh Alla Shukur Pasha Zade, the Spiritual leader of Azerbaijan, is also quoted telling the gathered Jewish delegation in Baku: "I know that Jewish groups have played a role against the Armenian lobby in trying to find a positive alternative to the conflict. I would like to express my gratitude to these groups for lobbying on Azerbaijan's behalf." Regrettably, Gross misleads his readers by not pointing out that not all Jews sell out their souls to Azerbaijan or Turkey. As it has been repeatedly documented in previous columns, many Jewish individuals and organizations in both Israel and the United States are strong supporters of Armenian issues, despite the pressures from the government of Israel! Gross balanced the effusive pro-Azeri comments in his article by including statements that accuse Azerbaijan's leaders of "corruption and political repression." He referred to critics who said that the cozy relationship between Israel and Azerbaijan "will unravel just as Israel's romance with Iran did." He quoted Dr. Asim Mollazade, the chairman of an Azeri opposition party, as saying that the United States, Israel and Jewish Americans would someday be "deeply disappointed" for supporting the undemocratic and corrupt regime in Azerbaijan. Gross also pointed out the double standards practiced by Azeri leaders who present themselves to Jews as being pro-Israeli while distancing themselves from Israel in front of the Muslim world. He mentioned, for example, the fact that Israel opened its Embassy in Baku in 1993, and yet Azerbaijan has not opened its Embassy in Israel in order to appease fellow Muslims. Last month, Azerbaijan assumed the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Countries which held its annual conference in Baku.Furthermore, Gross reported that the Jewish community in Azerbaijan has dwindled from 80,000 to around 10,000 during the past decade. He also pointed out another telltale sign of potential trouble in "paradise" when he revealed that "all the Jewish institutions in Baku appear to be protected by armed guards." Obviously, Israel is free to establish economic and political ties with any country, including Turkey and Azerbaijan. American Jewish organizations are likewise free to send delegations to various countries. But when they agreeto place their considerable political clout at the services of Azerbaijan or Turkey against Armenia's interests, Armenians worldwide then have the perfect right to expose their sinister arrangements and counter their every move.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Letter Regarding Uranium Mining at Nor Getik

By The Greens Union of Armenia May, 2006 With this letter, we would like to express our deep concern regarding Global Gold Corporation’s plan (see website http://www.globalgoldcorp.com/) to mine uranium, copper and other metals at Nor Getik, 18 km away from Lake Sevan (within the watershed of the lake), and to transport the raw material to the City of Hrazdan for the extraction of the uranium and other metals. Among the consequences of the proposed plan will be that Yerevan city will be squeezed between two threats of possible environmental catastrophes – from the west there is the Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) together with its storage of radioactive waste and from the north-east, there will be Hrazdan city with its storage of the uranium processing waste (although classified as “low level radioactive” waste, nevertheless it represents a grave environmental health hazard). The processing of uranium, in particular, will produce radioactive dust and wastewater. The later will be dumped into the River Hrazdan, which provides large amounts of irrigation water. Thus, through dust and water, the fields and inhabited lands along the River Hrazdan will become contaminated with radioactive elements. In addition, during disasters, which occur frequently in this region, such as earthquakes, landslides, flooding, possible bombardment during wartime, the waste materials stored in both Hrazdan and at NPP present a significant threat to the survival of the people of Armenia, and also may become targets of terrorist attacks. The mining of uranium will begin its destruction at Nor Getik by contaminating the waters and the beautiful valley of the River Getik - a paradise, where many refugees from Azerbaijan have found shelter. The River Getik flows into the River Aghestev, which means that all the contaminants will also flow into the River Aghestev, which passes through the center of the town of Ijevan. It is obvious that all the villages in the valley of the River Getik will be abandoned (no one wants to breath radioactive dust or irrigate their fields with radioactive water). Then follows the contamination of the River Hrazdan and the destruction of the town of Hrazdan, known as a resort town – many sanatoriums and health spas, children’s and students’ homes are located there. The Soviets had paid a special attention to this area allocating funding to limit industrial pollution in Hrazdan. Note that the River Hrazdan flows out of Lake Sevan, then passes through many towns, such as Hrazdan, Charentsavan, Abovian, Yerevan, Masis, Ararat, and through many villages, and finally flows into the River Arax. The water of Hrazdan River feeds the irrigation networks of Ararat valley and of all the lands along the river. Thus, contamination of the water of Hrazdan river is unacceptable. Before the raw material reaches Hrazdan city via rail transport, it will be stored in a storage area, right on the shore of Lake Sevan, because the rail line is built along the shoreline, just as the main road. This means that even if the raw material is transported via trucks, and not stored on the shore, the trucks still have to drive on a road, which runs along the shore. This represents a direct threat of contamination for the water of Lake Sevan in case of a rail or a truck accident. Finally, we would like to demand from the Government of Armenia not only public transparency and accounting regarding the activities of various mining companies in Armenia, but also a way, a mechanism, by which the Armenian public can participate in the decision-making process regarding the ownership and the exploitation of Armenia’s natural resources. At the moment, our government seems to be buckling under great external pressures, however, we believe that if the public (the population) is allowed to be informed and to participate in important decisions (for example, regarding the issue of ownership of strategic objects, such as Armenia’s hydropower stations), then the general will of the public will resist these external pressures and save our nation’s treasures (i.e., water and land) from usurpation and excessive exploitation. Also, without any doubt, if given a choice, the public will chose development of alternative sources of energy, such as wind, hydropower and solar (all of which are abundant in Armenia), instead of promoting the interests of the nuclear industry by proposing a new expensive nuclear power plant for a small earthquake-prone impoverished country. Information on contamination caused by uranium mining and extraction: Waste rock is produced during open pit mining when overburden is removed, and during underground mining when driving tunnels through non-ore zones. Piles of so-called waste rock often contain elevated concentrations of radioisotopes compared to normal rock. Other waste piles consist of ore with too low a grade for processing. All these piles threaten people and the environment due to their release of radon gas and seepage water containing radioactive and toxic materials. In addition, to keep water out of the mine during operation, large amounts of contaminated water are pumped out and released to rivers and lakes. When the pumps are shut down after closure of the mine, there is a risk of groundwater contamination from the rising water level. Ore mined in open pit or underground mines is crushed and leached in a uranium mill. A uranium mill is a chemical plant designed to extract uranium from ore. In most cases, sulfuric acid is used as the leaching agent, but alkaline leaching is also used. The leaching agent not only extracts uranium from the ore, but also several other constituents like molybdenum, vanadium, selenium, iron, lead and arsenic, thus, the uranium must be separated out of the leaching solution. The final product produced from the mill, commonly referred to as "yellow cake" (U3O8 with impurities), is packed and shipped in casks. In the end, large amounts of radioactively contaminated scrap are produced, which have to be disposed in a safe manner. Uranium mill tailings are normally disposed of (dumped) as a sludge in special ponds or piles, where they are abandoned. The amount of sludge produced is nearly the same as that of the ore milled. At a grade of 0.1% uranium, 99.9% of the material is left over as scrap/tailing. Apart from the portion of the uranium removed, the sludge contains all the constituents of the ore. Because long lived decay products such as thorium-230 and radium-226 are not removed, the sludge contains 85% of the initial radioactivity of the ore. Due to technical limitations, all of the uranium present in the ore cannot be extracted. Therefore, the sludge also contains 5% to 10% of the uranium initially present in the ore.In addition, the sludge contains heavy metals and other contaminants such as arsenic, as well as chemical reagents used during the milling process. Moreover, the constituents inside the tailings pile are in a geochemical disequilibrium that results in various reactions causing additional hazards to the environment. For example, in dry areas, salts containing contaminants can migrate to the surface of the pile, where they are subject to erosion. If the ore contains the mineral pyrite (FeS2), then sulfuric acid forms inside the deposit when accessed by precipitation and oxygen. This acid causes a continuous automatic leaching of contaminants. After hundreds of thousands of years, the radioactivity of the tailings and thus its radon emanation will have decreased so that it is only limited by the residual uranium contents. (end) The Greens Union of Armenia Dr. Hagop Sanasarian, president Mamikoniants St. 47-13, Yerevan, Armenia E-mail: armgreen@ipia.sci.am Telephone: (374-10) 257-634 US contact: Dr. Anne Shirinian, 732-462-9089

Monday, May 08, 2006

Proeducatio pre-election ALERT

Communiqué 2006 / 05 / 04 – Proeducatio@aol.com A L E R T May 21, 2006 Election of an Armenian Representative in the Parliament of Cyprus will affect also the destiny of the Melkonian Educational Institute and the future of the Western Armenian Culture along with the defence of Human Rights Who's Who & Win-Win Strategies in the MEI Crisis Responsibilities of Cyprus Citizens of Armenian Descent and C r u c i a l Q u e s t i o n s We, the members of the Pro Edvcatio International Independents Worldwide bring to your attention the following facts and questions concerning the crisis involving the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI). The Central Board of Directors (CBD) of the Armenian general Benevolent Union (AGBU) is moving to dismantle MEI – a very important and strategically placed cultural base serving the Armenian Diaspora. AGBU does not own MEI. Therefore, AGBU is not empowered to close MEI with the ultimate aim of liquidating its assets. As for the legality of its CBD, it is questionable since 1990s. Yet its legitimacy is already reduced and limited to a very small circle of CBD members, few friends and relatives. How irony it is that AGBU, who had spearheaded Armenian education in the Diaspora by opening Armenian schools everywhere in order to keep alive the Western Armenian culture, now its CBD wishes to dismantle MEI, one of the best disseminators of the said culture. While the spiritual tie to Armenia is strong, nevertheless, the Armenian Communities Worldwide, as citizens of different countries, have acquired a cultural heritage and life that is separate from the laws and regulations of the Republic of Armenia. These Armenian communities are integrated in the life of their adopted countries of which they are residents and/or citizens. The Republic of Armenia, whose culture is in parallel, could help to promote the Armenian Culture of the Diaspora just using its stately levers. This, according to the conveniences that the Armenians abroad do know better than others and above all they are politically only responsible of their fate. Therefore the officials of Armenia have always to remember this balance, instead of undermining it by claiming a jurisdictional supremacy and by colluding with a CBD to strike a blow to the dissemination of the Western Armenian Education & Culture. The silence of the government officials of the Republic of Armenia in this matter can only mean agreement with that CBD and their plan of dismantling MEI. The prominent leaders of the Armenian Church (in Etchmiadzin, Antelias and Jerusalem), the political bodies in Diaspora and even some people, especially Melkonian Alumni representatives in Cyprus, who until recently were loudly defending MEI's existence, have all joined in this silent chorus. What did happen ? Do they all hope to benefit from the dismantling of MEI since the power of the AGBU's present CBD purse appears to trump everything ? In these circumstances the defence of the cultural entities falls upon individuals and upon groups with no conflict of interest. In fact this is a duty for everyone who holds culture to be an essential part of the system of human values – similar to the ecosystem of our Planet Earth. This is why non-Armenians defenders of human rights joined from everywhere in the defence MEI and its possessions. However, at the present time the defence of the MEI is incumbent on the Armenians of Cyprus, where MEI is based. Consequently, the Armenians of Cyprus should mobilise their cultural, political and social forces for the May 21 election in support of candidates to the legislature who favour the continued operation of MEI on the integrity of its own campus. Interested no-citizens, Armenian and non-Armenian alike, can help in field operation's logistics. WHO'S – WHO and WHO IS DOING WHAT FOR MEI There is an official seat for an Armenian representative in the Parliament of the Republic of Cyprus. The present holder of the position is a candidate for office in the upcoming elections of May 21. He was elected last October in an interim election to fill a vacancy. During his tenure he visited many places and spoke with many people. In an interview published in Azg, a daily newspaper in Yerevan, this Member of the Parliament, stated that "The MEI has to be reopened and part of MEI's real estate not actually used might be sold". Superficially this looks like a Win-Win scenario, in that MEI opens its doors. However it also leaves the door open for the evisceration of MEI by funding its operations through liquidating its assets. This is certainly a Lose scenario for the future of MEI. Who is selling whose property ? By which international public tender ? Where is the transparency of this operation ? Did the Honourable Representative study the provisions of the Melkonian Will, where it is clear that the trustees of the Will, present or future, are only entrusted with the management of the MEI not for the sale of its Assets ? Simply stated, MEI belongs to the Armenian Diaspora. The current trustee, AGBU and its CBD, have been poor stewards of the MEI. Lacking a vision for its continued success, they have run it down. Is the present or future Member of the Parliament, as well as any other person in and out of Cyprus aware that CBD have even leased the MEI campus to an academic institution of foreign origin ? In what capacity ? The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, the original trustee of Melkonian Will, has filed suit in Cyprus Courts to prevent the disposal of the MEI assets. The judge has issued a stop order to AGBU pending the adjudication of the case. The Patriarchate is represented in the suit by the Melkonian Alumni Association of Cyprus and three Cypriot lawyers. The cost of the suit is underwritten mostly by the Melkonian Alumni & Friends Organisation registered in California, U.S.A. Gordon Anderson, the former resident representative of AGBU-CBD in Cyprus had violated the above mentioned order of the Court. At first the representatives of the Istanbul Patriarchate had objected to this violation, then they have compromised and allowed Mr Anderson to continue his infringement of the rights of MEI. Could somebody explain this state of affairs ? No doubt a pivotal role was played in that strange compromise by a relative-in-law (khnamy) of Mr Berdj Setrakian (President of CBD), who was rushed from Toronto to Nicosia via Paris as a mediator to formulate this so-called Win-Win policy. According to its authors, the policy would allow everyone in litigation to save face (a clear Win for CBD), avoid humiliation (another Win for CBD). Too bad that the policy will continue dismembering MEI and compromise its future integrity – unfortunately for MEI and the Western Armenian Culture (a clear Lose). After second decision of the Court on December 20th, 2005 in favour of the MEI, the lawyers of CBD presented their objections to the judge's decision. The objection amounted to nothing more, than a delaying tactic to bring about a settlement out of Court. With regard to this, the scheduled visit of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, to Istanbul in mid June of 2006 is pregnant with meaning, given his unconditional friendship to that CBD members and to the Chairwoman of the General Assembly of AGBU. Will it be a surprise if yet another so called Win-Win outcome is borne from the meeting of the H.H. Karekin II and H.B. Mesrob II ? This, despite the latter's statement in a December 16th, 2005 communiqué that he is "legally responsible to respect and to make others respect the Melkonian Will". W A R N I N G Cypriot Armenians will cast their votes to elect their representative to the Parliament of Cyprus on May 21, 2006 at the same time of the general election of Cyprus. The Armenian Representative will have the right and the responsibility of the representing the Armenian Communal interests in Cyprus. Although MEI is based in Cyprus, nevertheless it belongs to and serves Western Armenian communities worldwide, therefore the approaches of the Armenian Representative as well as the initiatives of the electors extends beyond the borders of Cyprus. Consequently, the Cypriot Armenians have an awesome responsibility to all Armenians in Diaspora regarding the survival of MEI when they chose their representative. They should closely examine each candidate's position in the MEI Crisis. Any candidate, affiliated with AGBU, who has not severed his ties from CBD and has not taken steps to ascertain the limits of its authority regarding MEI, is in conflict of interest and is ignorant of the facts. Such a candidate should be viewed with extreme suspicion as to his ultimate position in the Crisis and should be rejected by all Cypriot Armenians who believe in the MEI and its mission for the dissemination and worldwide propagation of Western Armenian Culture and values. On Behalf of Pro Edvcatio* Spokesman Dr Vartan Ozinian NB: the names, qualifications and addresses of Pro Edvcatio members are attached to our letters submitted to the President of Republic of Cyprus, to the Members of the Government and the Parliament; as well as to the officials of the European Union. * * The P R O E D V C A T I O is a Worldwide International F O R V M which deals with educational matters – taking into consideration social, economic and political dimensions of the cultural dynamics – together with geopolitical realities and related strategies for the development of human resources, respectful to legitimacy and legal conditions. The P R O E D V C A T I O ‘s G R T A S S E R E is a p a n e l – constituted by ad hoc Armenians of Diaspora and non-Armenians – which deals with Armenian educational issues.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Turks and Armenians: Is reconciliation possible? - Reflections

Turks and Armenians: Is reconciliation possible? - Reflections Reflections on the Los Angeles World Affairs Council Round Table Luncheon. ***Los Angeles World Affairs Council Members of our Board of Directors and International Circle are cordially invited to a Round Table Luncheon with His Excellency GÜNDÜZ S. AKTAN, Former Turkish Ambassador to Japan and Greece His Excellency ÖMER ENGIN LÜTEM, Former Turkish Ambassador to the Vatican Director, Armenian Research Institute Monday, March 27, 2006, 11:45 a.m. The California Club TURKS AND ARMENIANS: IS RECONCILIATION POSSIBLE? Turkey’s entry into the European Union, for which talks began last October, may be eased by support from an unlikely source: Armenia, where the Turkish bid has met with a cautious welcome. In fact, over the past few years, a number of moves on both sides have indicated a melting in the long diplomatic freeze between Turkey and Armenia. Yet both countries retain echoes of the Ottoman dynasty that survived for 600 years and whose dominions extended from the Danube through the Levant to Algiers. And they share a mutual history, including Armenian claims of Genocide at the hands of the Ottomans in 1915 and continuing up through the present time, to the sealed Turkish-Armenian border and the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. To discuss the future of Turkish-Armenian relations, we are pleased to present the views of two Turkish diplomats and scholars: Gündüz Aktan and Ömer Engin Lütem. Gündüz Aktan, a career diplomat, served as Turkey’s ambassador to Japan and Greece, after spending his early career in Paris, Nairobi, and New York. From 1985 to 1988 he was an advisor to late Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Özal, and later assisted in the writing of Mr. Özal’s book, The Turks in Europe. He has been a member of the Turco-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), and has written on Armenian issues and international law. Ambassador Ömer Engin Lütem began his diplomatic career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1957, serving in Turkish missions in France, Germany, Italy and Libya. He served as General Director of Intelligence and Research and was later appointed Turkish Ambassador to Bulgaria. He went on to serve as Turkish Ambassador to the Vatican, and as the Turkish Permanent Representative to UNESCO. He is now the Director of the Armenian Research Institute.Please join us for a unique opportunity to hear Turkish perspectives on one of the most persistent of Europe’s dilemmas, the relationship between Turkey and Armenia.The above luncheon was an event scheduled during a two-week tour in the United States of the two ambassadors. Quoting directly from April 8, 2006 Turkish Daily News.com (TDN.com), the purpose of the tour was described by ambassador Aktan as:“In order to take part in a series of meetings on the Armenian question I took a two-week trip to the United States together with Ambassador Ömer Lütem, director of the Research Institute for Crimes against Humanity (İKSAREN). Our aim was to meet with small groups of Turks living in the United States who are well educated, fluent in English and interested in the Armenian question. We wanted to give them seminars on the 1915-1916 incidents, distribute CDs to them containing documented information on the issue and try to ensure that they would be able to defend their views on their own. We had already made similar trips to a number of European countries.”“Whenever they have failed in their attempts to block these meetings, the Armenians have tried to prevent Americans and fellow Armenians from attending. When these efforts did not work they took the path of ensuring that handpicked Armenians who could argue with us would attend the lecture at the University of Chicago and take part in a luncheon meeting at the World Affairs Council.”As the invitation reads, these luncheons are for members of Board of Directors and the International Circle (IC) and their guests, and contrary to the claim/implication of the ambassador Aktan in the same TDN.com, I was not “handpicked” by any one. I have been associated with the LAWAC for almost three decades and on this particular day, I was a guest of a non-Armenian IC member.At the luncheon, twenty five were in attendance, including the two ambassadors as well as the Los Angeles Consul General of Turkey, A. Engin Ansay and his deputy. The luncheon was chaired by the President of the Council, Mr. Curtis Mack.President Mack welcomed the Excellencies to the LAWAC and invited the attendees around the table to introduce themselves. Before inviting the guest speakers to make their presentation, he briefly introduced the guests and the day’s topic for discussion.Ambassador Aktan started with his thanks and gratitude for the invitation and the opportunity to address the distinguished forum on a very important subject/issue for Turkey.Speaking from bullet point notes, the thrust of his presentation is reflected in the following direct quote from the same TDN.com,‘On these occasions it became clear why the Armenians avoid meeting with us, calling us “denyers”: The Armenian theses are even weaker than they are sometimes believed to be. They become greatly upset when they are confronted with documented evidence of the population figures attesting to the size of the Armenian population in 1914 and at the end of the war. Under the circumstances, they cannot insist that 1.5 million Armenians were killed. Similarly, they can hardly deny that they had been a “political group” that aimed to ethnically cleanse the Turks in a sizable part of eastern Anatolia and waged a war with the aim of setting up their own independent state there. It is no secret that “political groups” are not among the groups protected under the U.N. Convention on Genocide. They cannot object when we point out that the transfer of population in 1915 was not the only reason or the most important reason for the deaths, that there were other factors that took a far greater toll: inter-ethnic clashes, regular warfare, epidemics and the way the civilians kept fleeing from one place to another as the armies advanced in the battle zone. They find it hard to respond, especially when it is pointed out that the Armenians massacred half a million Anatolian and Azeri Turks in the insurgencies and as they retreated with the Russian army.’‘The only thing they do is to refer to the archives of foreign countries, claiming that missionaries and people like Morgenthau cannot have lied. We asked them then why they were wary of taking their cause to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. In what seemed to be a pre-arranged way of behaving, they all acted as if they did not hear the question. This issue, which we have kept referring to in our articles in Turkey, is the Achilles heel of the Armenian cause. Those Americans who had been convinced that an Armenian genocide had occurred were appalled to see the way the Armenians were afraid of taking this issue to court.’‘The main problem seems to be those Armenian youths who have been convinced by others that during the transfer of population the Armenians had been subjected to the kind of cruel behavior one could only “see” during fits of hallucination.’At the table, the Ambassador concluded his remarks by saying that Genocide is a clearly defined legal term; it should be applied and handled accordingly. Governments and Parliaments are not the forums to decide Genocide. The only competent forum is the International Court of Justice (I C of J). He emphasized that Turkey is willing and ready to go to I C of J to settle the Genocide issue, but the Armenians are afraid to do so.The meeting opened for discussion. President Mack thanked the Ambassador for his remarks and followed with the question, “What is the solution, where do we go from here?”In his answer, ambassador Aktan repeated that the I C of J in The Hague is the proper venue to settle this issue, and that the Armenians should stop influencing governments and parliaments around the world with Genocide Resolutions.Discussions from around the table followed. One individual (non-Armenian) challenged the interpretation of the facts by the ambassador. He stated that what transpired in 1915-1916 with the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire is Genocide and Turkey should accept that.“Your Excellencies, if this luncheon was sixty years ago, your colleagues sitting in your chairs would have denied that there ever were Armenians in Asia Minor. Now today’s presentation should be considered a major progress, where Armenian existence was not denied. But Turkey still has a long way to go” was the opening line of an exchange that followed.“Today’s Turkey faces some major self inflicted problems. Borrowing from the Koran and the Bible, where it is stated that ‘in the beginning there was GOD’, today Turkey declares that ‘in the beginning there was ATATURK’. That places the beginning of Turkey in 1920. Generations of Turks, Mr. Ambassador, your generation and the ones that followed, over seventy million Turks are misled by their governments with the education of their own history. This arbitrary choice of ‘beginning’ has put Turkey in a dilemma; that is, how does a Turk face and explain events in his history that predates 1920, such as the Armenian Genocide that started in 1915.”“Mr. Ambassador, today’s discussion was labeled ‘Turkish-Armenian reconciliation’. In my opinion, if there is any reconciling to be done, first and foremost, is for Turkey and seventy million Turks to reconcile with their own true and full history. I realize that this is a monumental task. And therefore, I suggest that instead of wasting your very precious and valuable time on touring with the kind of presentation that you made earlier, the Turkish government should mobilize all intellectual assets that is at her disposal and available both in and outside Turkey, to devise a strategy in how to re-educate seventy million Turks. The Armenian Genocide that started in 1915 is not the only major hole in your history. You do know them and should address all of them.”“Last October Turkey formally applied to join the European Union and was granted a window of fifteen years to achieve that task. At the end of this process it is understood that Turkey will be joining Europe and not the other way around. I personally hope that Turkey will succeed to join EU with the required clean slate. I believe that it is within the means of Turkey to reconcile with herself and justly resolve the very sad chapters in her history, such as the Armenian Genocide and Cyprus. Beyond that, Turkey has great challenges in the economic field. That’s where her energies should be spent in that fifteen year window.”The ambassador replied with an agreement that it is true and essential for Turkey to reconcile with her history and he added that he realizes the challenge. He repeated that he was essentially in agreement with what was said, except for the fact that the above statement did not address the I C of Justice demanded by Turkey and the avoiding of the Armenian side.“Mr. Ambassador, as was stated earlier, Turkey has come a long way, from absolute denial that there were Armenians in Asia Minor to today’s discussion. You know very well how over the years, both on strategic and tactical basis, the Turkish arguments have evolved and changed. From no Armenians ever existed; to Armenians left by themselves for better lands; to deportation for military necessity; to disease and wartime hardship; to unauthorized random murders; to killings as wartime propaganda; to mass killings; to massacres; to population exchange of Armenians and Muslims; to the provocation and treachery thesis; to civil war; to empire-wide revolution; to Turkish Genocide perpetrated by Armenians; and the line goes on and on… All this to ‘muddy the water’ for non-expert observers and avoid the admittance of the fact that the events started in 1915 by the Ottoman Turkish government WAS GENICIDE!”The ambassador did not agree with the above characterization. In an attempt to conveniently dilute the asymmetry of and vastly unequal Ottoman Turkish government machinery on one hand and episodes of Armenian resistance and self defense on the other, he mentioned the uprisings in Van, Sassoun, Zeitun; the war activities on the Russian front as prime examples of ‘ongoing civil war’ that prompted the Ottomans to ‘save themselves with deporting and massacring the Armenians.’“Mr. Ambassador, what I just heard from you reminds me of a Turkish word ‘bazarlik’, translated as bargaining in the bazaar. Not to repeat myself, all these overloads of excuses and ever-changing arguments tantamount to a ‘bazarlik’, with the single-minded aim of Turkey to fight against the label of Genocide to the Armenian experience, where Genocide is defined as ‘… acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a nation, ethnic, racial or religious group…’, and settle with labels like massacres and atrocities with no such implications.”“All this ‘bazarlik’ would not have been necessary except for the fact that the UN framed Genocide in International Law with special determination to punish the crime with justice and restitution. In the Holocaust case, the crime was executed in Europe, and therefore punishment and restitution could have been in funds. In the Armenian Genocide case, it was perpetrated in occupied Armenian lands. And therefore the punishment and the restitution have to be in funds and land. This specter of some form of compensation including territorial loss is the core of Turkish denial, hence the ‘bazarlik’.”“Mr. Ambassador, there are two fundamental laws of nature, physics, that apply. One is the law of gravity and the other the law of irreversibility. The law of gravity will pull the Turkish side to the truth, truth in history. As was mentioned earlier, you have come a long way. Eventually, you will get to the truth. It is the law of nature. And in this process, through the second law of nature, the law of irreversibility, you are already discovering that history cannot be reversed, or re-written.”“Until very recently the Turkish line of argument went like, ‘the so called Armenian Genocide belongs to history and it is for the historians to decide.’ Well you personally know very well that on your own initiative, a forum of neutral legal scholars examined the Armenian experience in the Ottoman Empire starting in 1915 and concluded that it was Genocide**. Now you are out on a tour, through ‘bazarlik’, trying to bargain for something less than Genocide.”“The Armenian side understands why all this ‘bazarlik’ is for. The 1948 UN convention clearly defines Genocide as a STATE CRIME. The author of the term and the inspiration behind the convention, the Jewish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, used the Armenian experience starting in 1915 in Ottoman Turkey to define the State Crime of Genocide. Mr. Ambassador, how can one dissociate the term Genocide from its definition? So please give up this exercise in futility. If I were a consultant to the government of Turkey, I would advise, for the next fifteen years, to redirect all assets and energies towards meeting the requirements for European membership, that is meeting the economic standards with a ‘clean slate’. This clean slate includes recognition of the Armenian Genocide.At this point, the Consul General of Turkey in Los Angeles, A. Engin Ansay came in the discussion. He stated that Turkey’s membership to Europe is not the standard by which Turkish policy is conducted. He added that Turkey recognizes her important role in the region and the importance of friendly relationship with her neighbors. He described Armenia as a poor country with her economy, and how friendly relationship with Turkey can improve that situation, implying that the resolution of the Genocide issue, meaning the Armenian side dropping the insistence on the word Genocide, will open the Turkish doors to Armenia and help the country’s economy.“Mr. Consul General, what you just did was to “dangle a carrot” to the Armenian side implying economic benefits, another ‘bazarlik’. If Turkey is genuinely interested in the welfare of Armenia, then her membership in Europe is very helpful for the region, including Armenia. Armenia herself is destined to Europe. She can achieve that through the short route, the southern shores of the Black Sea that is through Turkey, or the long route, the northern shores of the Black Sea. So Armenia has a vested interest to see Turkey join Europe. The economic prerequisites and the ‘clean slate’ mentioned earlier will accelerate the benefits to the region.”“As you know, the European concept is based on no internal borders. In that window of fifteen years on the way to Europe, while Turkish leadership re-educate the seventy million plus population, the territorial compensation should be put in the European context. In other words, with the eventual Armenian membership into Europe, the new borders between Armenia and Turkey will become internal borders in the European Theatre.”Ambassador Lutem stated that taking the case to I C of J is the way to accelerate the resolution and repeated that the Armenian side is afraid and avoiding The Hague.“Mr. Ambassador, I am not aware that Turkey has officially taken the Armenian Genocide case to I C of J and I am also unaware that the Armenian side has not agreed. It is interesting to learn which official entity on the Armenian side was officially contacted by the government of Turkey on this issue?”“You correctly claim that Genocide is a criminal law concept. I am not a lawyer, but I know that discovery phases precede trials. As I mentioned earlier, Turkey reconciling with her own history will be the most important component of that discovery phase. Through that discovery phase I am confident that with the help of the laws of nature mentioned earlier, the Turkish side will end up with the truth. And when Turkey does so, they will find out that the Armenian side, for the last ninety-one years have been ‘waiting for them on the steps of the Court’. And therefore, by definition, when both parties, on the steps of the court agree on the truth, then there will be nothing left to argue inside the chambers.”“Parallel to criminal judicial system, where the committed crime is against society/the people and by proxy the government takes the criminal to court, Genocide is a State Crime against Humanity, and Humanity as a Whole take the Perpetrator State to court. I am not sure if it is up to the Armenian and Turkish sides to ‘settle the case’ by themselves. Humanity as a whole has a vested interest in the application of justice and the punishment that follows.”At this point, a Turkish American stepped in the conversation. He had earlier introduced himself as a naturalized citizen and lived in the States for about twenty-five years. He claimed that he represented the Turkish Diaspora, and objected to any reconciliation between Turkey and Armenians. He went on to state that two and a half million Turks were killed, and the Turkish Diaspora had a say at the table and will not accept any deals. He reminded the table that several colleagues of the Consul General were gunned down by Armenian terrorists several years ago.“Sir, first, I am observing a typical Diaspora behavior. Emigrants, when they leave their homeland, freeze in their minds the country the way they left. Sir, what you just describing is no more the state of affairs and thinking in Turkey today. I am sure the Ambassadors do not accept your twenty-five year old discredited characterization. Today’s Turkey has moved forward from where you left the country.”“Second, I am not sure where you got your facts and numbers. This is the LAWAC. Where the two Ambassadors are sitting today, world leaders and history makers sat before them. That kind of irresponsible and unfounded declaration is not acceptable in the bazaar, let alone in this distinguished forum.”“And third, you claim the two and a half million Turkish deaths. Can you elaborate when they died, where they died, how they died, who killed them and how they were killed? When you answer these questions to yourself, you will find out that, Armenians have nothing to do with that.”“Again, you remind me of a lesson that every first year law school student learns, namely, ‘when the law is on your side, you argue the law; when the facts are on your side, you argue the facts; and when neither the law nor the facts are on your side you try to create a confusion, very much like ‘scrambled eggs’. Sir, nobody is buying your scrambled eggs.”Soon after, President Mack thanked the Excellencies and the participants. The luncheon was adjourned.Before departing I had a chance to have a short chat with ambassador Aktan. He asked me if I believed that the Armenian Genocide issue could ever be resolved. I replied that as a person I was an optimist and I believed in what I said at the table, that it will be resolved in the way I described. He did not believe that it will ever happen. In reply, I reminded him that just a couple of decades ago no one believed that the Soviet Union will be dissolved…The next morning in the LAX American Airlines terminal, on my way to Detroit through Chicago, I saw in the distance the ambassadors with their entourage checking in on their way to the next conference in Chicago. I hoped that they would be on my flight. Unfortunately they must have been on a later flight. Mark Chenian Los Angeles, April 24, 2006. *** Based on notes taken soon after the luncheon and on the way to Detroit. ** International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) Report Prepared for TARC, dated February 10, 2003.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Centenial of AGBU in Egypt and the Armenian Cemetery in Cairo

C O M M U N I Q U E Proeducatio@aol.com /2006.III.30 In accordance with the wishes of its Central Board of Directors, the centennial celebration of the founding of AGBU will take place in Egypt, where AGBU, the largest Armenian philanthropic foundation, was born. In the ensuing one hundred years much has changed in the demographic and political map of the Armenian Diaspora, as well as in its outlook, opinions and needs. In response to these changes, various approaches have been proposed to insure the continuation of the Armenian entity in changing times. Incredibly, the present Central Board of Directors (CBD) of AGBU has chosen the closing of Armenian schools as a strategy for preserving the Armenian entity. Even a school such as the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI), which belongs neither to AGBU nor to its CBD, is subject to this ill-conceived strategy. It should not matter how much money is donated by the members, the directors and their families to AGBU; their generosity does not bestow on them ownership rights to MEI. Does the biggest tax payer or donor to the treasury of New York become the owner of the State or the City to dictate laws and regulations to the inhabitants of the State ??! There is no precedent to the AGBU's action in the laws and regulations of the countries where Western Armenians live. The AGBU was founded on the initiative of progressive individuals, whose creed was transparency and accountability in all transactions of the organization. In contrast the present administration of AGBU has been anything but transparent in its management responsibilities regarding MEI. Financial disclosures in and by themselves are not sufficient to discharge the responsibility they assumed regarding MEI. The CBD and its followers have the amazing belief that closing the Armenian schools of a region, and forcing the students against their and their parents will, to attend non-Armenian schools, promotes the preservation of the Armenian identity. Pursuing such bizarre theories may satisfy their ego for the moment, but if implemented it will sooner or later doom them to failure with the tragic consequence of the disappearance of the the Armenian Diaspora. Furthermore, the action of CBD constitutes a violation of Human Rights making AGBU liable for punitive fines. It is ironic that AGBU meets in Egypt to celebrate the centennial of its founding, the country where the Melkonian brothers lived and donated the funds to establish and endow MEI, which AGBU is now intent on liquidating. What do the members of the Egyptian branch of AGBU think of the CBD whose legitimacy is questionable? Will they financially contribute to this event? Will they be a party to the celebrations and share in the guilt of CBD in the destruction of Armenian schools? It would have been more proper to celebrate the centennial of AGBU worldwide by all Armenians without any distinction of religious, social and political affiliation…but without the participation of a CBD and its followers who dare to undertake the destruction of the Armenian Diaspora by eradicating its Armenian schools. For the Egyptian branch of AGBU it is preferable by far that its monetary contributions be directed to the essential and laudable operations of AGBU as in the saving of the comprehensive collection from the Egyptian-Armenian Press in the recent past with their timely intervention, safeguarding a cultural landmark for the benefit of future Armenians. Unfortunately, the situation of the Armenian Cemetery in Cairo does not permit similar praise. The condition of the graves in which the bones of benefactors and intellectuals are buried is deplorable. On the occasion of the centennial the representatives of the Egyptian branch of AGBU will do well to visit that cemetery in order to correct a reprehensible situation. Of course there are bound to be some people in Cairo who will say "they do not deal with the dead". Such people and the leaders of AGBU should be reminded that the magnificent civilization of Egypt finds its expression in part in the graves of the Pharaohs. Is it not the case that Yervant Odian is a Pharaoh of the mind for the Armenians, who having lived "Cursed Years", went to Cairo to die? His partially ruined grave and those of others lead one to believe that the bones of many illustrious people lie in that cemetery. How can one celebrate a 100th, a 1600th or 1700th anniversary when to these dates inevitably and irrevocably are attached names of those whose neglected and ruined graves lie in an Armenian cemetery? In contrast, the Armenian cemetery in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, represents a worthy example to emulate. Where, at places which have become impossible to care for a grave properly, the remains have been moved to the Armenian cemetery at the end of Niferilor Street. If the Egyptian Branch of AGBU, despite its financial strength, is unable to maintain graves in a dignified manner, then at least it should arrange to have the remains of Yervant Odian transported to Istanbul, the place of his birth, where it can take its honored place in one of the many well maintained Armenian cemeteries. Similarly, on appropriate occasions, it is fit to be mindful of the remains and graves of others such as Arpiarian and Tekeyan, and do for them what is necessary and proper. Another type of transfer is called for in the case of the Melkonian Educational Institute and the Melkonian Will of which AGBU is solely its administrator. If AGBU does not wish to continue its management function, then it should transfer its responsibility to another legal caretaker in order that the vital mission of MEI to the Armenian Diaspora can continue on its present land and campus. In celebrating the centennial of AGBU it is important that the fundamental principles of its founding are kept in mind. Otherwise this venerable Union instead of being General becomes the Private Partnership of a group of people regardless of what name this group uses in Cairo or elsewhere. Vartan Ozinian, Spokesman of Pro Edvacatio * English version from Armenian by North American Secretariat * The P R O E D V C A T I O is a Worldwide International F O R V M which deals with educational matters – taking into consideration social, economic and political dimensions of the cultural dynamics – together with geopolitical realities and related strategies for the development of human resources, respectful to legitimacy and legal conditions. The P R O E D V C A T I O ‘s G R T A S S E R E is a p a n e l – constituted by ad hoc Armenians of Diaspora and non-Armenians – which deals with Armenian educational issues.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Forty Years After A Milestone - Vartkes Sinanian

The year 1965 will go down in our history as a turning- point in the struggle for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. It was the start of a passionate movement to make the horrors and suffering of our people publicized. It was also the year when a delegation comprising Dr.Papken Papazian and Berge Missirlian, both members of the ARF Bureau and Anania Mahdesian and Vartkes Sinanian, representing the Armenian National Committee, handed a memorandum to the Foreign Minister of Cyprus Spyros Kyprianou urging his country's support in raising the Armenian Genocide at the United Nations. Spyros Kyprianou was a powerful voice against Turkish intransigence and denial. He was a defender of international human rights and an ardent supporter of our cause. He was the first diplomat internationally who brought up the issue of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide before the UN General Assembly. After his statement in the United Nations , Spyros Kyprianou granted me an interview where he spoke about his conviction and his close ties with our people. The text of this interview follows. VS : Your Excellency, your statement in the United Nations regarding the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by t heTurks against our people has been received with gratitude by the millions of Armenians all over the world. On behalf of the Armenian press that I represent I once again express my admiration and gratefulness for your courageous intervention. SK: I only did my duty as representative of a people who have long- standing and brotherly ties with the Armenian people. VS: How did our compatriots in the US impress you ? SK: The Armenians in the United States are very active and generally patriotic. They are constantly working for the just Armenian cause and for the enlightenment of world opinion about the injustice and cruelty perpetrated by Turkey against the Armenians. They spare no effort or material means to expose the truth about the Armenian massacres which is one of the greatest mass crimes in the history of the world. VS: ; It has been reported in our press that you have been reading about our people for the last year. Of the several publications covering the last 50 years of our history which ones were interesting to you(Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, US Ambassador Morgenthau, Greek Orthodox Metropolitan of Trebizond)? SK: Cyprus has lived the tragedy of the Armenian people very closely. Cyprus has accepted some thousands of refugees from Turkey as brothers. I personally am well acquainted with the drama of the Armenian massacres and have wanted the opportunity to bring it before the world forum. It is true thatt I have read many accounts of the tragic events and I can say that the more one becomes acquainted with the details of the crime, the more he becomes abhorred by the enormity. VS: Did you have the opportunity of discussing our case at all with any of the UN delegates and if so what wer e their reactions ? SK: I have had the opportunity to discuss the Armenian case with many delegates at the United Nations and explain to them in detail the question . Many of them were very impressed and showed keen interest and sympathy. VS: Have you had any contact with any of our compatriots after your historic statement ? Are you aware of their reaction ? SK: I have been in touch with many Armenian leaders in the United States who have impressed me as men fully conscious of their responsibilities and resolved to work hard for the just cause of the Armenian people. VS: What is your opinion on the merits of the Armenian problem ? SK: The Armenian problem is very clear and simple one. But it is none the less tragic. A people who have suffered the cruelty a nd the murderous action of a country reputed for its criminal methods in dealing with minorities, has faced extermination and genocide in its worst form. The Armenian people are asking for justice. They expect the world to stigmatize the culprits of one of the most uncanny crimes in history. They have a right to be heard. They have a right to a place under the sun. I am certain that all those who believe in the high principles of justice and freedom will support wholeheartedly the struggle of the Armenian people.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Interview with Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek

"It would certainly be wiser for the Turkish government to come to terms with its history. " Turkish Scholars and the Armenian Question An Interview with Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek By Aris Babikian In the last few months many righteous Turks have began to challenge the Turkish Government policy of denial on the Armenian Genocide. The Istanbul Conference, in Bilgi University, was a turning point in breaking the taboo of discussion on the Armenian Genocide in Turkey. By challenging their government, these Turkish historians and intellectuals have provided an opportunity for the Turkish people to hear a more balanced version of their history, very different from what successive Turkish Governments have maintained. Those courageous and honourable Turkish intellectuals have been vilified, threatened, blackmailed, intimidated and labelled traitors by some nationalists, paramilitary and governments circles. Among the pioneering intellectuals are Elif Shafak, Taner Akcam, Halil Berktay, Orhan Pamuk, Ragip Zarakolu and others. Dr. Fatma Muge Gocek is another one of these honest and righteous Turks who have stood up to the might of the Turkish Government and establishment. We had the opportunity to meet her and provide our readers some of her thoughts, feelings, and insights on the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian-Turkish dialogue and how to bring reconciliation to our nations. Aris Babikian - Can you tell us about your background? Fatma Muge Gocek - I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. After receiving my B.A. and M.A. at Bogazici University and spending some time at the Sorbonne learning French, I came to the United States for my Ph.D. I received another M.A. and a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University and then started to teach at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; I received tenure some time ago. I specialize on social change in the Middle East in general and historical sociology of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic in particular. AB - What motivated you to get involved in the Armenian Genocide issue? To be such an outspoken person and to take a stand against the Turkish Government’s policies? FMG - There are two trajectories that led me to focus on the Armenian question, one intellectual and the other personal. Intellectually, my initial academic work was on the history of Westernization in the Ottoman Empire. My dissertation analyzed the inheritance registers in the Ottoman archives with the intent to trace the eighteenth and nineteenth century diffusion into the empire of Western goods, ideas and institutions. That analysis alerted me to the significance of the Ottoman minorities (Greeks, Jews and Armenians) in the empire in negotiating relations with the West; it also emerged that these minorities formed the first Ottoman bourgeoisie. Yet because they were structurally separated from the Muslims in such a way that it was difficult for them to cooperate in forming this news social class: my subsequent work on the dynamics of nationalism revealed how those minorities were then tragically replaced by a Turkish Muslim bourgeoisie. Personally, I was most struck by how, when I was in Turkey, I had not even been aware there was an Armenian question; we were not taught anything about it in school. When I came to the United States for my dissertation work, the opposite held true: I was constantly confronted by Armenians who were often hostile to me for having killed their ancestors. The sociologist in me wondered why there was so much silence on this issue in one country and so much voice in the other. Then this question combined with another, namely why there existed in Turkey so much prejudice against the minorities (that I had personally witnessed throughout my life there) and so much state rhetoric that this was not the case as all Turkish citizens were equal regardless of religion.. All these factors combined and led me to the study of the Armenian question. Historical sociology enabled me to study how past events played themselves out in the present, so I decided to focus on the Armenian question both as it transpired in the past -- especially in 1915 – as well as how it played itself out in the present. As I studied the available archival documents and memoirs, I realized that the official Turkish stand had many problems and discrepancies all of which suggested that the work done had not been academic but rather political. Hence I did not set out to take an explicit stand against the Turkish state; such a stand emerged as my research findings contradicted those reached by the state. My outspokenness in the context of the Armenian question thus emerged gradually as I attempted to communicate what I had found; I think what I did was to merely take an ethical and scientific approach to the Armenian question as opposed to a political one. AB - Can you tell us about the recent developments in the aftermath of the Istanbul Conference? What effect did it have on the Turkish society and intellectuals? FMG - The Istanbul Conference was symbolically very significant because it challenged the official stand of the Turkish state on the Armenian question for the first time in Turkish Republican history. It did so by bringing together a group of like-minded scholars and intellectuals of Turkey who had formulated an alternate reading and interpretation of the Armenian question. The immediate effect of the conference was its ability to demonstrate that there had developed in Turkey a significant civil society, one able and willing to challenge the hegemonic interpretation of the state. AB - Did the organizers achieve what they were aiming at? FMG - The main aim of the organizers was to demonstrate that they could indeed hold such a conference in Turkey and that they could bring together an adequate number of scholars to develop an alternative narrative on the Armenian problem. The organizers were indeed able to create such an academic space and create a community of like-minded people of Turkish origin. I think they succeeded in both of these endeavors, but it took a lot of political struggle to get the conference off the ground: it was postponed the first time and it was almost not held the second time due to pressures from nationalist segments of the state and the government. AB - During the last year we have witnessed an unprecedented activism by a number of Turkish intellectuals, writers and journalist who have challenged successive Turkish governments’ line on the Armenian Genocide. What drove these people to stand up to the establishment within Turkish Government, the military, and the intelligence apparatus? FMG - The increased level of education in Turkey, the growth of civil society especially after the 1980s as well as the visions of the generations of the 1960s all coalesced around the aspiration to make Turkey a more democratic country, one where human rights superseded the concerns of the state. Even though there had always been such intellectuals throughout Turkish Republican history, the intellectuals who led this movement finally reached a critical mass that the state could not suppress -- the end of the Cold War and the subsequent shift of focus from national security and stability to democracy also supported their stand. As a result of all these developments, the stronghold of the state over society started to fracture. AB - We have noticed that even though righteous Turks are speaking against the Government line they still refuse to use the term “Genocide” to describe what happened to the Armenians in 1915. How do you explain this contradiction? FMG - The term genocide has become an increasingly politicized term; it is so politicized at this point that I think it does not foster research and analysis but instead hinders it. The sides polarize their positions as they either employ or refuse to employ the term. The Armenians rightfully insist on its usage as they believe this term that best reflects the tragedy they experienced in the Ottoman Empire especially around 1915. Yet the Turks not only refuse to use the term, but they have also suppressed the dissemination of the tragic events of 1915 as a consequence of which there formed generations of Turkish youth whose experiences and knowledge were totally devoid of 1915. Given this dramatic epistemological discrepancy in relation to what happened in 1915, even though what happened in 1915 certainly fits the definition of genocide as defined by the 1948 United Nations convention, I find it more heuristic and strategically more prescient to employ instead the term kital (large scale massacres) that the Ottomans themselves employed when referring to this tragedy. I personally think that both Turkish society and the state would be more willing to listen and engage in constructive dialogue that would eventually lead to recognition if what happened in 1915 was discussed at first in and of itself. AB - I have noticed that the Turkish Diaspora is more hardline on the issue of the Armenian Genocide than Turks in Turkey. This phenomenon is puzzling since Turks outside of Turkey in contrast with their compatriots in Turkey are free of intimidation and pressure to pursue the truth and speak their mind. Do you have any thoughts on this puzzling situation? FMG - The more conservative stand of the diaspora in relation to those in the country of origin has puzzled scholars for some time. The explanation in the literature is that those who migrate to a new country bring with them the political framework of their country of origin at that particular juncture: hence time in their country of origin freezes for them at the moment of their departure. Unless the immigrants are scholars who have the chance to update their political standpoint, they get stuck at that particular time in the past. Even though these immigrants may indeed experience no intimidation and pressure to pursue the truth and speak their mind, they are incapable to apply these principles of their host society to their society of origin. Another factor that fosters this conservative stand of the diaspora is positively correlated to the degree of anxiety and insecurity they feel in the host society: the diaspora tries to compensate for this insecurity and lack of self confidence by adhering to the norms and values with which they have arrived. In the case of the Turkish diaspora, these norms and values are often nationalist ones that they had been socialized into by the state. Starting at their point of arrival, the members of the Turkish diaspora reproduce these norms and values of the Turkish state at a level of intensity that is directly related to the degree of their unsuccessful social and cultural adaptation to the host country. In my personal interaction with the Turkish diaspora, I have often been struck by two things: (i) how their image of Turkey is totally out of date in that they think Turkey is socially still like when they had left it, and (ii) how unaware they are of the social conditions of the host country, in this case the United States, that they live in. Let me give you an example: When my colleague Ron Suny then at the University of Chicago and I organized in the year 2000 the second Armenian-Turkish workshop at the University of Michigan where I teach, a few organizations of the Turkish diaspora came together and wrote a letter to the president of my university protesting our workshop because they had heard that the term ‘genocide’ was employed by some of the workshop participants. It turns out the Turkish Consulate in Chicago had contacted them and asked that they protest; they enthusiastically did as they were told without even bothering to contact me first, a Turkish citizen living in the diaspora like themselves, to find out what was going on. One could argue that by writing the letter of protest, they were exercising their right to freely express their views; they indeed were, but the content of the letter also demonstrated how out of touch with the U.S. academia they really were. In the letter, they went on to instruct the president of the University of Michigan as to who should have been invited to the workshop instead. Anyone who knows anything about universities in the United States is aware that the faculty has total intellectual independence in organizing workshops -- they invite whoever they wish to talk on whatever topics they want to discuss – and that this intellectual independence from social and political pressure is held sacred by all, especially the university administration. Why did the conservative Turkish diaspora engage in such self-destructive behavior? The universities in Turkey often function as extensions of the state apparatus; faculty is often treated like civil servants of a state that finds in itself the right to control the thoughts and actions of faculty. The Turkish diaspora organizations took this Turkish reality and assumed that is how things worked in the United States as well: this shows how out of touch with American society and educational institutions they really are. Needless to say, not only were they totally ineffectual, but I as a Turk was embarrassed by what they had done because the university administration rightfully formed a very negative impression of them. I know that many of their efforts to promote the Turkish state view in the United States are just as ineffectual. Interestingly enough, rather than blaming their own actions for this failure, they keep blaming others, namely either the Armenian diaspora which they claim is so strong that it renders the Turkish one ineffectual or, in a very nationalistic move that reifies their rigid stands even more, that American society and/or the West is out to get Turkey and is therefore unwilling to understand what Turkey is all about. I have been trying to get them to be self critical but have had no luck whatsoever, especially with the older generations. AB - In a follow-up to my earlier question, we have witnessed that outspoken Turks like Elif Shafak, Taner Akcam, Halil Berktay, yourself and many others have been threatened and labeled traitors. Do you think this attitude is widespread in Turkish society? FMG - The threats and stigma we all experience is a natural consequence of the nationalist rhetoric that dominates and hegemonizes Turkish society and state. The media, public opinion as well as popular culture in Turkey have all been very successfully controlled by the state up until now. It is hard to know how many individuals and groups go along with this control because of their personal beliefs along the same lines; my hunch is that many do so because they do not know otherwise and they have often not had the option to think otherwise. Yet the internet is a very significant mode of communication that enables such conditions to alter dramatically, and it has indeed started to do so among especially the Turkish youth. It is hard to know how widespread this critical stand against the hegemony of the Turkish state is, but I can tell you that it is definitely on the rise. AB - Some Europeans have been using the Armenian Genocide to undermine Turkey’s image and thus scuttle Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union. Wouldn’t be it wiser for the Turkish government to come to terms with its history and thus remove the Armenian Genocide from the accession negotiations? FMG - I agree with you that it would certainly be wiser for the Turkish government to come to terms with its history and thus remove the Armenian question from the accession negotiations. Yet coming to terms with history will be a long, arduous process for Turkey because the Turks have, in addition to the Armenian problem, many other silences in their history that they would need to confront. Also, the continuities between the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish nation-state especially in relation to the treatment of the minorities needs to be further studied. Added to this is the necessity to make Turkish state and society aware of how the lack of accountability for past injustices in history has actually sanctioned the use of violence by the state against society: only when this dimension is further developed can the people in Turkey understand why the resolution of the Armenian question is so crucial not only for the Armenians, but also for the well-being of all the citizens of Turkey as well as for the health of Turkish democracy. AB - Do you think the Turkish government’s strategy to leave the issue of the Armenian genocide to historians and forming a historians’ commission to investigate the issue, especially after the International Association of Genocide Scholars open letter to Prime Minister Erdogan, is a failed strategy…trying to avoid the unavoidable? FMG - Even though I fully support the opening of the archives in Turkey, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora so as to enable the historians to fully study the events surrounding 1915 in detail, I concur on this point with the Ottoman historian ήόkrό Hanioπlu that such a move in and of itself would not solve the problem. This is so because all documents are socially constructed so historians can therefore come up with many varied interpretations of the same document -- debates surrounding varying interpretations could take decades to settle. This is so because the principles of academic research are not political in nature; scholars do not approach documents with the intent to settle international disputes or to formulate policies, but rather to get closer to understanding historical events: the former falls into the field of other experts. Also, such a strategy totally overlooks the human dimension; what is most important for me as a human being, for instance, is the emotional relief that the recognition of the tragedy of 1915 shall bring to both the Armenians as well as the Turks. The Armenians can then finally start, with the support of the Turks, the much needed grieving process. The Turks in turn can assume responsibility for their past injustices and commence to live, as a consequence of such recognition, in a much kinder, gentler society where they tolerate those who are different from them. AB – Why do you think that despite over whelming historical evidence the Turkish state remains so intransigent in its recognition of the Armenian Genocide? FMG - Why the Turkish state remains so intransigent in its recognition of the Armenian tragedy in spite of the overwhelming historical evidence is actually the topic of my next book I am working on at the moment. What I have observed in my analysis is a ‘layering of denial’ that spans from the last decades of the Ottoman Empire into the Turkish nation-state to the present, so at first this layering has to be deconstructed. Then the Turkish state needs to recognize the continuity between the empire and the republic, both in terms of social actors as well as their actions. Such a reorientation would in turn lead to a rewriting of the official nationalist history to include the narratives of all its minorities, past and present. The emerging portrait from this endeavor will end up discrediting many individuals and institutions to destabilize the existing power structure in Turkey. So the end result would be much less glorious than the Turkish nationalism that exists today to legitimate the status quo; even though the ensuing Turkish state and society would be much more healthy and democratic, I think the reservations I discussed explain why the Turkish state is so intransigent. AB - We have seen conflicting messages from the AKP government on the Armenian Genocide. What is your evaluation of the Islamist government’s position on this issue? FMG - The position of the AK Party government on this issue – as on many issues other than the economic ones that they seem to handle most ably – is not at all fixed but rather in flux depending on the vagaries of political events. Yet I should start off by noting that I am actually delighted that it is not fixed, for all previous Turkish governments had very fixed nationalist stands on the Armenian issue and such stands are much harder to engage in negotiations than a fluctuating one. Probably the most significant interconnected foreign policy matter that has put the Armenian issue on the agenda of AK party is Turkey’s accession talks with the European Union. AK Party very much advocates such membership because the political survival of the party itself is predicated on it. This interconnection had not yet become clear when AK Party initially joined the Republican People’s Party in signing the letter sent from the Turkish parliament to the British one asking that the contents of the Blue Book regarding the Armenian massacres of 1915 be dismissed as mere propaganda. This embarrassing move was followed by the postponement of the Istanbul conference in May 2005 when the Turkish Minister of Justice Cemil Ηiηek made in the parliament the unfortunate remark that the participants of the Istanbul Conference were ‘stabbing the nation in the back.’ Though the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoπan and the foreign minister Abdullah Gόl, both out of the country at the time, immediately stated that Ηiηek’s remarks were personal and did not at all reflect the stand of the government, it was evident at that juncture that there was no set party policy regarding the Armenian issue. Still, they went ahead and stated the conference ought to take place because Turkey was a country where all such issues could be freely talked about. Such a stand in and of itself was distinct and more progressive from the nationalist stands of all other political parties in that AK Party agreed the conference ought to take place and also did not insist that the official state position be represented at the conference. When September 2005 came around , AK Party expressed its desire that the postponed conference ought to actualize before the EU accession talks on October 3rd. Foreign minister Gόl stated to the conference organizers that he would have personally attended the conference himself had he not been at the UN right around that time. Such tacit approval was not sufficient to actualize the conference, however, since some ultra-nationalists filed a lawsuit to stop it once again. The initial tacit approval then became public as all of the social actors of AK party including Cemil Ηiηek came out and expressed their support of the conference. AB - When do you think the Turkish state will finally come to term with the historical facts and recognize the Armenian Genocide? FMG - I personally wish they would do so by 2015 because that year would be the centennial of 1915. Getting there is going to require a long and difficult journey, however, because there is so much that the Turkish state has to come to terms with before reaching that stage. In this context, I should note that a lot of responsibility is going to fall upon the Armenian diaspora due to the conditions of the other two political actors, namely the Turkish and Armenian states. Turks never learned about the historical facts of 1915 because of the suppression of the Turkish state in the name of nationalism; ironically, the Armenians in the Armenian Republic likewise have not had a chance until very recently to research and generate scholarship on 1915 because of the Soviet influence that discouraged such research for fear that it would generate nationalism. As a consequence, the only community that was able to remember and research 1915 was the Armenian diaspora. Most of the Armenian diaspora also reside in the lands of two major world powers, namely the United States and the European Union that are both very interested in the resolution of this conflict in a way that satisfies all parties, including the West. The Armenian diaspora will need to work with both the Turkish and Armenian states and societies and hopefully help both sides shed their nationalistic stands on this issue to eventually reach reconciliation. Yet the current situation is not yet at this point of development: the foreign policy of the Turkish Republic is still staunchly nationalistic with some glimmers of hope for a more reconciliatory stand as there is some informal discussion as to what recognition, compensation and the like ought to entail – the possibility of Turkey’s accession to the European Union also very much accelerates such constructive discussions. The foreign policy of the Armenian Republic used to be much less nationalistic in relation to 1915 under Ter Petrossian, but seems to be becoming increasingly so, especially after the Karabagh standoff. The political stand of the Armenian diaspora is likewise unclear; while there are many progressive elements that I am most in touch with, I am also told that there are some very nationalistic segments that might resist and therefore hinder the negotiations as much as, of not more than those elements in the two republics. And an additional factor that is going to complicate matters is that the diaspora is scattered throughout the world with many organizations that claim to represent it; this situation makes its dynamics much more politically volatile and harder to comprehend. Yet I believe that we can work through all these obstacles altogether once we develop a clear vision of what we want to see accomplished. AB - During the UCLA conference you mentioned that around 2 million Turkish citizens might be of Armenian origin. Can you elaborate on this topic? What were the circumstances which forced them to become Turks? What do they feel about their dual identities? What role can they play in bringing our two peoples together...etc? FMG - The large number of Turks of Armenian ancestry was for me the most interesting discovery of the Istanbul conference. We did know that there had been in 1915 many Armenians who were forcibly converted, daughters forcibly married off, and many babies and children taken in by Turkish Muslim families, but there were no public accounts provided by such people (this is understandable given the silencing that went on for so long in Turkey regarding these matters). We do not know how many Turks there are of Armenian descent, but I can tell you that Hrant Dink of Agos newspaper is especially interested in this matter; the 1-2 million figure I mentioned is based on my conversations with him. I just learned that it was Etyen Mahcupyan, the prominent Turkish Armenian intellectual, who estimated that there are probably 1.5 million such families. Ayώe Gόl Altύnay of Sabancύ University just informed me that she, along with some other colleagues, has started to interview such families and has conducted 16 in-depth interviews so far. She noted that each and every one case reveals very stunning insights; you can reach her through her-email address posted on the Sabancύ University website. The other information I have on this matter is anecdotal. I met at the Istanbul conference with Fethiye Ηetin whose very moving account about discovering in her late twenties the Armenian identity of her maternal grandmother was recently published in Turkey under the title Anneannem (My Maternal Grandmother). I asked her as to whether she knew of any other people of similar ancestry and she told me she is contacted by at least 100 such people a month; she is also working with Ayώe Gόl Altύnay on the research project I mentioned above… At the conference, Halil Berktay also remarked that there were quite a number of people attending who had recently discovered their Armenian ancestry and who therefore wanted to attend to learn more about their silenced past. I personally met two of them there who contacted me because they wanted me to help them trace their relatives; they stated they felt enriched by the knowledge especially since they were now able to trace relatives they did not know they had and, as a consequence, had very moving reunions. As you can imagine, they are particularly upset by the stubborn stand of the Turkish state on this issue. I told them that they, as individuals who concomitantly belong to two communities and who are therefore able to move beyond the restricting nationalisms that exist in both, could play a very significant role in spearheading recognition and reconciliation. Aris Babikian is a journalist, lecturer, Human Rights activist and member of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada. He is also on the Board of Presidents of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council of Canada The above interview appeared in the year end (2005) edition of the tri-lingual Horizon Weekly. Horizon is the largest Canadian-Armenian paper. It is published in Montrιal and distributed Canada wide. http://gibrahayer.cyprusnewsletter.com/