Reflecting widespread lack of objectivity and often uninformed journalism in Armenia, A1Plus has a story in which Amberin Zaman, Turkey’s and the region’s reporter for The Economist, is wrongly depicted as an apologist for the Turkish state. Describing a discussion between Zaman, who is of Turkish and Bangladeshi descent, and Turkish politician Cem Toker in Armenia’s capital Yerevan, A1Plus reports:


“Turkey proudly states that 99.9% of its population are Muslims. And where are the Armenians, Jews, Greeks? Why are they gone? Doesn’t it mean that something is definitely wrong? You can see the investments of the Armenian people while walking in Istambul. I am greatly displeased with Turkey’s attitude towards Armenians”, declares Toker.

Amber Zaman, a Turkish journalist, contradicted him in the description of the current situation in Turkey. Zaman, who introduced herself as a free journalist, is the wife of Joseph Penington, the US temporary Chargé d’Affaires in Armenia. Mrs. Zaman stated that Turkey’s steps towards Democracy are quite evident.

“Turkey still has much to do but it has made a great progress towards democracy lately. Ten years ago the Kurds were imprisoned simply for calling themselves Kurds. Whereas, today they are even allowed to have broadcasts in their mother tongue. Besides, the capital punishment has been abolished in my country. You give a tough assessment of the situation, Mr. Toker”, noticed Amber Zaman.


A1Plus only describes part of the conversation (and consistently misspells the journalist’s first name). Zaman, who is a good friend as I have mentioned before, has sent me and other pen pals the following e-mail. In Amberin Zaman’s words:

This article misrepresents the discussion that took place at the conference on Turkish-Armenian relations held in Yerevan last week.. It makes it sound as if I were defending the treatment of Armenians in Turkey.

Not in the least, I was merely responding to Cem Ozer’s portrayal of Turkey as a banana republic where elections are a total sham and there has been zero progress towards democracy.

Amazingly, he was in the same breath able to defend the closure case [by nationalist groups] against the [ruling Islamic party] AK on the grounds that it was a  way of restoring democracy!!!

This gentleman is the chairman of a party that stood up for Dogu Perincek, the ultra nationalist politician who made a point of publicly denying the genocide in Switzerland so that he could be prosecuted and draw attention to the Turkish “cause.”

Moreover, I  reminded the Turkish participants who chided Armenia for not embracing Turkey’s proposal for a historic commission that the proposal presupposed the  outcome of the research that would be undertaken that “there was no genocide”.

I also expressed my revulsion at [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan’s comments before the National Press Club in Washington that “we even gave the deportees pocket money.”

Finally, I noted that if the Turks thought that in establishing formal ties with Armenia, the diaspora would somehow disappear they were quite wrong,  that the past would not simply disappear and that it was wrong to view the diaspora as some monolithic bloc, that there was a plurality of views  within it.

I deplored the Turkish official efforts to portray the diaspora as  some “malevolent wedge” between Turkey and Armenia and reminded the Turkish participants that some 60 percent of Armenian citizens came from Anatolia too.

While I am not a believer in conspiracies, I suspect one reason behind A1Plus’ inaccurate and selective depiction of the conversion to be sexism. Firstly, Amberin Zaman is a young beautiful woman, and the stereotype in Armenia states that women (especially young and beautiful) are not as intelligent and capable as (especially older) men. Secondly, being the wife of the acting U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, she is expected to be obedient and, thus, behave and say things the way that her own husband is supposed to do (as any United States State Department employee who wants to keep their job under the Bush administration, her husband cannot afford to publicly talk about the Armenian Genocide).

A1Plus’ particular report also resonates with blind anti-Turkish sentiment in Armenia which sees any criticism of the Turkish state as “good.” While Turkey’s current Islamic establishment is not in any way pro-Armenian, nationalist “secular” forces who want to overthrow the current party in charge are far more radically anti-Armenian. Being “secular” in Turkey doesn’t mean believing in freedom of religion (and also in freedom not to be religious); “secular” in Turkey more than often means being fascist ultra-nationalist for whom believing in the greatness of “Turkishness” is more important than believing in any idea including God and spirituality.

A1Plus should write another, more objective and more informed story about the discussion. Amberin Zaman, with her articles in The Economist, has been telling stories of ignored parts of the Armenian Genocide. She is a courageous woman with an objective outlook and needs recognition for her efforts to bring Turkish and Armenian people together through writing.