Archive for February, 2009
Turkey may be in denial when it comes to human rights and particularly when it comes to the Armenian Genocide. But there are some prominent Turkish dissidents who are sick and tired of nationalist propaganda. In an unprecedented move, a Turkish father is suing the Education Ministry of his country for showing a DVD in class denying the Armenian Genocide.
In the words of The Times, London:
A father is suing the Turkish Education Ministry for forcing his 11-year-old daughter to watch a “racist” and “disturbing” film countering claims that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenians in 1915 with graphic allegations of Armenian atrocities against Turks.
The landmark case takes on what human rights activists have called the State’s militarist policy of brainwashing Turkey’s schoolchildren to the point of racist paranoia, aiming to preserve a nationalist status quo criticised by the European Union, which Turkey is keen to join.
“My daughter was very disturbed and frightened by the documentary and kept asking me if the Armenians had cut us up,” said Serdar Kaya, an ethnic Turkish doctor, who is suing the ministry and the child’s school for inciting racial hatred.
“There are many mass graves, bones and skulls in the DVD. They have interviewed old grandads who inspire confidence and compassion. When they say things like ‘They cut off his head’ and ‘They used it instead of firewood’, that is bound to stay with the children,” Serdar Degirmencioglu, a psychologist, told the Armenian newspaper Agos when news first broke that the documentary was being shown to primary school children – including ethnic Armenian Turks.
Today marks the anniversary of the Armenian takeover of the city of Khojalu in 1992, as a result of which several hundred Azerbaijani civilians were killed.
Caught in the war of words between Armenia and Azerbaijan (one side blaming the other for the massacre), the memory of the killed Azeris in Khojalu has been reduced to a political tool.
Everyone is writing about the “truth about the Khojalu,” whether Armenian or Azeri bloggers.
I don’t know what other’s “truth” is, but innocent people were killed in Khojalu – and whether Azerbaijan’s army had a role in it is not important when it comes to commemorating children who died in a war.
So on the anniversary of Khojalu, I commemorate the victims of all massacres and pogroms during the Nagorno-Karabak war – whether Armenian or Azeri.
May the killed in Sumgayit, Baku, Maraga, Khojalu and many others that we may never hear about, rest in peace. These massacres are not the shame of the “enemy.” These massacres are the shame and loss of all us. May dead Azeris and Armenians rest in peace.
And in commemorating Khojalu, I also would like to remember Azerbaijan’s most famous journalist, Eynulla Fatullayev, who is in prison in Azerbaijan for having visited the town of Khojalu (after the war) and suggesting that Azerbaijan’s army, along with Armenian militias, also had a role in the massacre.
Fatullayev is also a victim of Khojalu – one caught in the war of words and one who has tried to bring Armenians and Azeris together. He is the true hero in the unholy propaganda between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Khojalu and other pogroms/massacres during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.
Azerbaijan: US State Department 2008 Human Rights Report on Azerbaijan states, in part, the following:
The government’s human rights record remained poor and worsened in some areas. The public’s right to peacefully change the government was restricted in the October presidential election. Torture and beating of persons in police and military custody resulted in three deaths, and law enforcement officials acted with impunity. Prison conditions were generally harsh and life threatening. Arbitrary arrest and detention, particularly of individuals considered by the government to be political opponents, and lengthy pretrial detention continued. The government continued to imprison persons for politically motivated reasons. Pervasive corruption, including in the judiciary and law enforcement, continued. Restrictions on freedom of assembly continued, particularly in terms of political organizing, peaceful protests, and religious activity. Restrictions and pressure on the media and restrictions on political participation worsened. The government imposed restrictions on the activities of some unregistered Muslim and Christian groups. Cases of violence against women were also reported. Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation and forced labor remained a problem.
The US State Department has released the 2008 Human Rights Report.
The report on Armenia harshly – if not unprecedentedly – criticizes the government for human rights abuses, with the March 1 post-election clashes as the pinnacle of oppression.
The summary, in part, states:
The government’s human rights record deteriorated significantly during the year, with authorities and their agents committing numerous human rights abuses, particularly in connection with the presidential elections and the government’s suppression of demonstrations that followed. Authorities denied citizens the right to change their government freely and citizens were subject to arrest, detention, and imprisonment for their political activities. Authorities used force, at times lethal, to disperse political demonstrations. Authorities used harassment and intrusive application of bureaucratic measures to intimidate and retaliate against government opponents. Police beat pretrial detainees and failed to provide due process in some cases. The National Security Service (NSS) and the national police force acted with impunity for alleged human rights abuses. Authorities engaged in arbitrary arrest and detention.
Prison conditions remained cramped and unhealthy. Authorities imposed arbitrary restrictions on freedom of assembly and the press, particularly through harsh measures imposed during the state of emergency. Journalists continued to practice self-censorship. The government and laws restricted religious freedom. Violence against women and spousal abuse, trafficking in persons, and discrimination against persons with disabilities and homosexuals was also reported.
The full report on Armenia is at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eur/119066.htm.
An interactive map of endangered languages, showing 2,500 out of 6,000 tongues at risk, has been released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Among 18 languages at risk in the Republic of Turkey are Western Armenian, the language of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenians who were almost entirely eliminated during WWI, and Homshetsma, the language of some Islamized Armenians, considered a distinct dialest of Western Armenian, yet has classical and medieval Armenian at its roots but also has heavy Turkish and Arabic influence. Many of the Homshetsma speakers survived the Armenian Genocide unlike those who spoke Western Armenian. Homshetsma is also listed as at risk in the Republic of Georgia.
The full list of languages at risk in Turkey are:
Cappadocian Greek (Turkey)
Gagauz (South Balkans)
Western Armenian (Turkey)
The full list of languages at risk in the Armenian Republic are:
Suret (otherwise known as Suryaya Swadaya, Lishana Aturaya, Lishana Kaldaya, Suryani, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Christian Northeastern Neo-Aramaic)
The full list of languages at risk in Azerbaijan are:
The full list of languages at risk in Georgia are:
With just three million population and an alarming emigration, Armenia ranks number four in the world with increase of murder rate, according to the newly-released UN Survey of Crime Trends and Operation of Criminal Justice Systems covering the period 2005 to 2006.
At 37%, Armenia comes behind Bahrain (73%), Jordan (45%), Tajikistan (43%) and is followed by Mauritius, Scotland, Portugal, and others.
UPDATE: The actual number of murders, nonetheless, is not reported in my source. As one reader of this blog explains, if the murder in 2004-2005 was two, for instance, then a murder of three people in 2005-2006 would mean 50% increase.
Armenia may be the smallest of all ex-Soviet countries, but when it comes to damaging the environment it shows little modesty.
Writing in Armenian, Hetq.am posts a photo of resident and economic trash being dumped into the River Debed in the northern city of Alaverdi.
Most ironically, the contractor that dumps the waste three times a week is named “Bettering Alaverdi.”
Weeks after an angry exchange between Turkey’s and Israel’s leaders over the attack on Gaza, things are not getting better between the two Middle East allies. In CNN’s words:
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israel’s ambassador to the Turkish capital of Ankara on Saturday to issue a formal complaint over a top Israeli commander’s reported remarks criticizing Turkey.
The complaint is part of the escalating war of words between the two regional allies, stemming from Turkey’s outspoken criticism of the recent conflict in Gaza.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it had requested an “urgent explanation” from Ambassador Gabby Levy for recent remarks reportedly made by a top Israeli military commander.
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi told an international conference that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should “look in the mirror” before criticizing Israel.
The “mirror” indeed, is the oppression of Kurds and genocide of Armenians that Turkey refuses to accept. It is also Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s relationship with Sudan’s criminal president, Omar al-Bashir, who hopes his Turkish friend will get him off the hook from being arrested over the genocide in Darfur.
But the “mirror” also shows – at least until recently – Israel with its eyes covered standing next to Turkey, closing its eyes on the Armenian genocide and other violations by the Turkish government so long as the latter doesn’t bring up the issue of Palestinians.
Unfortunately, it is the flash from CNN that is blurring the mirror for its readers. A flash so simplifying everything that it’s hard to tell what Israel and Turkey are talking about.
Assyrians around the world are protesting what they consider to be Turkey’s attempt to oppress and eventually close the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox church on Earth.
Mor Gabriel Monastery, founded in 397, has survived centuries of oppression, including the World War I genocide against indigenous Assyrians and Armenians by Ottoman Turkey. Its remote location, perhaps, is one reason.
But with rising Turkish nationalism – and increasing Assyrian demands for recognition of their genocide – Mor Gabriel Monastery is facing challenges. In the words of a Turkish newspaper:
A local prosecutor in August 2008 initiated a separate court case against the monastery after mayors of three villages complained the monks were engaged in “anti-Turkish activities” and alleged they were illegally converting children to the Christian faith. Monks say the mayors are instigating anti-Christian feelings by accusing Mor Gabriel of being against Islam. Villagers in neighboring Çandarlı, a settlement of 12 humble houses with no paved roads, said they had nothing against Christians and accused the monastery of taking land they need for cattle.
“There is a continued campaign to destroy the backbone of the Syriac people and close down the monastery,” said Daniel Gabriel, director of the human rights division of the Syriac Universal Alliance, a leading Syriac group based in Sweden. “These proceedings cannot take place without the sanction of the Turkish government. If the government wanted to protect the Syriac Christian community, it would stop this case,” he said.
Many churches and monasteries in southeast Turkey — known to Syriac Christians as Turabdin or “the mountain of worshippers” — are now abandoned and in ruins. “You need people to have a church. Without the community, the church is only a building,” said Saliba Özmen, the metropolitan, or bishop, of the nearby city of Mardin.
Photos from a recent demonstration in Europe are available at a Germany-based website.
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