Archive for the 'Turkish' Category

Amberin Zaman in A1Plus

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.

Canada: Genocide Book Pulled, Replaced by Denialist Literature

Globe and Mail from Canada reports that a nationalist Turkish group has succeeded in banning a recommended High School book on Genocide. The banned book, which included a chapter on the WWI extermination of Ottoman Armenians, has been replaced by works of two genocide deniers.

A book about genocide has been pulled from the recommended reading list of a new Toronto public school course because of objections from the Turkish-Canadian community, the author says.

Barbara Coloroso’s Extraordinary Evil: A Brief History of Genocide was originally part of a resource list for the Grade 11 history course, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, set to launch across the Toronto District School Board this fall.

The book examines the Holocaust, which exterminated six million Jews in the Second World War; the Rwandan slaughter of nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994, and the massacres of more than a million Armenians in 1895, 1909 and 1915.


Ms. Coloroso, a best-selling author of parenting books, said she wasn’t surprised her work was removed, given that “ever since the book came out, the Turks have mounted a worldwide campaign objecting to it, which is not surprising because of the denial of the genocide.”

She said what upset her was not so much that her book had been pulled, but that it was replaced by works by Bernard Lewis and Guenter Lewy, whom she refers to as deniers of the Armenian genocide.

“I knew when I wrote Extraordinary Evil that I would anger some genocide deniers,” she wrote to Ms. Connelly. “I am disappointed that a small group of people can bully an entire committee. …”


Turkey: Sole Turkish-Armenian NGO Banned

Turkey has apparently banned an 11-year-old organization that has been promoting Turkish-Armenian reconciliation through business. 

The Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council (TABDC), according to its website, “is the first and only official link between the public and private sectors in each of the two countries’ communities.”

A TABDC press release, received in e-mail, states:


Brussels, Belgium

May 9, 2008

TABDC-EU calls for Turkish government to reconsider ban On February 26, 2008, the Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council – EU was ordered by the Turkish Ministry of Interior to cease its activities in Turkey.

The TABDC is a unique organization seeking to establish links between Turkey and Armenia. As one of the rare links between the two countries and one working for the common good, TABDC-EU asks the Turkish government to reconsider its unfortunate decision.

Some media organizations have begun to cover this story and expressed an interest which the TABDC welcomes. In apparent contradiction to the recent diplomatic overture by Foreign Minister Babacan to his Armenian colleague, the banning of TABDC-EU is sending mixed signals regarding the Turkish government’s intentions. This is particularly unfortunate at this stage of Turkey’s accession process and on the eve of another European Parliament report on Turkey’s accession.

“The rejection letter by the Ministry of the Interior in Ankara is all the more surprising as this same [AKP] government had sought help from the TABDC a few years ago to establish contact with Armenians in Armenia and the Diaspora”, said TABDC Co-President Kaan Soyak.

The ability of civil society organizations such as TABDC to build contacts and confidence over time and to promote a common understanding in Armenia, in Turkey and in the EU is beyond question. Particularly in such tense relationships as that between the Turkish and Armenian governments, civil society initiatives are indispensible and must be allowed to operate freely.

Kaan Soyak wishes to correct some press misstatements however. TABDC, since its foundation, has never lobbied one way or the other on the genocide issue. Although the organization recognizes the significance of the issue, it has not included it within its remit. This decision came after careful consideration, and we continue to believe that that it is the most appropriate. We call upon all involved to respect this decision.

While TABDC-EU asks the Turkish Government to re-consider its decision, it will continue to act at its level to promote understanding between the two societies and to help reestablish relations between the two countries.

As the press release alludes, the ban might have to do with the group’s de facto recognition of the Armenian genocide, a crime official Turkish and many nationalists vehemently deny. Soyak himself, for instance, refers to the Armenian genocide as such. TABDC, nonetheless, repeatedly makes clear that their work does not deal with the issue of the genocide.

Armenia: April Fools Day Joke Spreads as Real News

The April 1, 2008 news by a newsletter from Cyprus informing about the return of an occupied Armenian quarter in Nicosia by the Turks was an April Fools Day joke. But before the newsletter confessed the joke, several online Armenian websites used the information.

On April 1 Gibrahayer sent the following e-mail to its subscribers:

Nicosia April 1, 2008 – Gibrahayer – The opening of Ledra street as agreed by President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat has brought about prospects for fresh restructuring of the Paphos Gate, that extends a hundred meters from the Ledra street check point.

To that end the Armenian quarter at Paphos Gate – now under Turkish occupation – is being returned to the rightful owners, the Armenian community of Cyprus.

As announced a few years ago the Armenian quarter on Victoria street, comprising of The Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church, The Armenian Prelature, The Armenian Genocide Memorial, the Melikian-Ouzounian elementary school and The Armenian Kindergarten started going through major renovations, funded by the UNOPS which have taken place on quarters on both side of Nicosia.

It is expected that the Armenian quarter on Victoria street will return to our community in a better condition than before the invasion and inter-community troubles.

The following day, the newsletter sent the following e-mail:

April 2, Nicosia, 2008

Dear subscribers,
Instead of our weekly dispatch on Wednesday, we sent out Gibrahayer e-magazine yesterday, because it was April 1, and we wanted to be part of the April Fools Day “celebrations” by sharing these stories with you.

* The Ledra street may be opening today, but Victoria street is not. Nor is the Turkish occupation regime returning the Armenian quarter.

* Recently, we have all been hearing Turkish voices accepting the Armenian Genocide, but Turkish Cypriots will not be commemorating the 1915 Armenian Genocide at Buyuk Khan on April 24…. well at least this year !

These were the stories that were included in the April Fool’s Day issue and we hope you enjoyed them.

Happy April Fools Day

Gibrahayer e-magazine.

Nice joke. But…, based in Armenia, has just issued the following breaking news:

/PanARMENIAN.Net/The opening of Ledra street in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia, as agreed by President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, has brought about prospects for fresh restructuring of the Paphos Gate, that extends a hundred meters from the Ledra street check point. To that end the Armenian quarterat Paphos Gate – now under Turkish occupation – is being returned to the rightful owners, the Armenian community of Cyprus.

As announced a few years ago the Armenian quarter on Victoria street, comprising of The Sourp Asdvadzadzin Church, The Armenian Prelature, The Armenian Genocide Memorial, the Melikian-Ouzounian elementary school and The Armenian Kindergarten started going through major renovations, funded by the UNOPS which have taken place on quarters on both side of Nicosia.

It is expected that the Armenian quarter on Victoria street will return to our community in a better condition than before the invasion and inter-community troubles, Gibrahayer Magazine reports.

And HyeTert, based in Turkey, has copy-pasted’s above report.

Nationalist Turk ‘No Longer Raising Money’ for Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has reportedly stopped taking contributions raised by a nationalist Turkish filmmaker. Mehmet Celebi, nonetheless, is still listed on Clinton’s website as a “hillraiser” and there is no talk from the Clinton campaign of donating the $100,000 Celebi raised to a charity organization.

A charity organization that empowers Turkey’s minorities would be a perfect recipient for the $100,000. The movie is not only anti-Kurdish and anti-Semitic but also spreads a universal message of hate against all minorities in Turkey. A Turkish columnist suggested two months ago that Celebi’s “Valley of the Wolves” ultra-nationalist TV series had influenced the killings of Christians in Turkey, including the assassination of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in January of 2007.

So the $100,000 money that Celebi has already raised for the Clinton campaign should be given to an organization that helps Jewish, Kurdish, Armenian and other minorities in Turkey. One possibility could be putting the money into erecting a statue for Hrant Dink in Istanbul.

Although Clinton’s Celebi link is not a new discovery, it gained national attention after the content of a video, that I was first to post, was republished by several Kurdish websites, then noticed by other blogs and was soon picked up by the New York Post.

California Church Vandalism: A Turkish-American and an Armenian Priest Disagree (You Won’t Guess on What)

I have received two e-mails in regards to the article I reposted about vandalism at an Armenian Church in California. A painting of what appeared to be Turkey’s flag was deemed as a ‘hate crime’ by the local police. And while a Turkish-American who had nothing to do with the vandalism says he regrets the crime, the Armenian priest of the church says there was no vandalism and, thus, no need to apologize for it.

The first e-mail to me – the subject of which read, “i regret that your church was vandalized………..from a Turkish-American” – stated:


I regret what happened and I hope the culprit in the church vandalism is found soon.


Another e-mail, from a member of the church that was vandalised, informed me of a blog post by the church’s priest who sees no hate in the church vandalism. Fr. Vazken writes:

They did it to us again. After going through what we did after Christmas, the Glendale Newspress, showing its best side as a little town paper that’s trying to make it big, came out with a “Hate Crime” story:

It started Sunday – we noticed a child’s drawing on the wall. It was a moon and a star. I received a call later in the afternoon from an officer at the Glendale Police Department. The graffiti-art had been reported as a hate crime to the department.

Monday morning, a reporter from the Glendale Newspress came by the church looking for the evidence. Horizon (Armenian TV) sent a camera man. The Diocese (one of the priests) called and asked “What happened? Did someone paint a Swastika on your church?”  By midday, a non-story was taking form and shape.

And so… this morning, it didn’t surprise me when the Daily News headlined, “Vandal spray-paints Turkish flag on Armenian church wall”

Wow! A moon and a star had now been transformed into a Turkish hate crime against the Armenians!  What is it about hatred and evil that makes good copy? I guess it sells newspapers. 


Although it is amazingly kind of an Armenian priest not to see hate in the drawing, it is interesting that he refuses to call it a vandalism either.

Showing off? Perhaps, not. I have personally met Fr. Vazken and he is a very good person. This is the guy who organizes “Blood for Blood” event in April asking Armenians to donate blood in commemorating the Armenian genocide by the Turks.

California: Armenian Church Vandalised in ‘Hate Crime’

From Glendale News Press:

Church graffiti deemed hateful

Painting of a star and crescent at Armenian place of worship is being called a hate crime.

By Ryan Vaillancourt

NORTHWEST GLENDALE — Police say vandals who spray-painted a crescent and star design on a wall at St. Peter Armenian Church on Sunday committed a hate crime by meaning to intimidate Armenians by invoking the Turkish flag.

Church congregants discovered what they described as a red crescent and star spray-painted on the wall outside the church, along Kenilworth Road. The graffiti has since been painted over.

Many Armenians harbor deep enmity for the modern Republic of Turkey for its refusal to recognize the genocide committed against Armenians between 1915 and 1918 by the former Ottoman Empire.

Depicting a Turkish flag on the side of an Armenian church would be similar to putting a swastika on a synagogue, Glendale Police Officer John Balian said.

“It’s the same significance,” he said. “This is obviously considered vandalism, but it’s also considered a hate crime if you can prove the perpetrator did it for hatred reasons.”

Police have not identified any suspects and are not pursuing any leads, he said.

“That’s why it’s imperative to get community involvement in identifying the perpetrators,” he said. “Any time you vandalize a church or a synagogue, any type of church, we won’t tolerate it, and we’ll do everything we can to find the people.”

Anoush Dekmejian, a church trustee who believes the vandalism took place during a Sunday morning service, said she immediately recognized the crescent and star shapes as those on the Turkish flag.

“My impression, immediately, was that it was a hate crime,” said Dekmejian, who reported the incident to police at about 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

But St. Peter’s pastor, Father Vazken Movsesian, who is well-known for his advocacy on behalf of genocide recognition — not only of the Armenian Genocide but the ongoing genocidal conflict in Darfur — downplayed the incident, saying the graffiti was more reminiscent of a child’s depiction of a star and a moon.

He compared the symbols to stationery in his office that shows golden moons and shining stars in the margins.

“You’d be hard-pressed to say it was the Turkish flag,” Movsesian said. “Really, honestly, it seems sensationalized . . . . I really saw a kid’s drawing.”

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said he believed the vandalism was tied to racial tensions surrounding a controversial absentee ballot application ordinance.

“I really don’t think that it’s an isolated incident,” Najarian said.

“I think it’s directly related to the attention that the absentee application issue has garnered . . . . Bottom line is, it’s just sad that it has occurred.”

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Crime Stoppers line, which allows anonymous calls, at (818) 507-7867.

A Descendant of ‘Turkish Father’ Ataturk’s Milk Mother

A Seattle-based young Turkish lady who, as I have reported, courageously writes about the Armenian Genocide has been compelled to tell her family story after a fellow Turk indirectly but publicly questioned her “Turkishness.” The blogger’s response, as summarized in a comment, was direct:

My education, upbringing and cultural exposure has always been in Turkey and amongst Turks. My name is Turkish. My religion is Islam. My mother tongue was and still is Turkish. My beginning years and life began in Turkey. I have had little elementary exposure to much else, regarding my own ethnicity, save for my experience in the university. My parents always saw the Turkish girl in me and it was always very clear I was Turkish, it is what I feel and where I feel most comfortable defining myself. There has been no argument in regards to this. There is still none, so I am not entirely sure how else I should answer your question.

And in the actual post talking about her roots – that date back to 1345 – the Turkish blogger gives details of her ancestors. One of them, she says, was the first milk mother of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

My great great grandmother, Aziz Haydar Hanim, was a ferocious figure to be reckoned with! In Pars Tuglaci’s book, Tarih Boyunca Istanbul Adalari (found in Robinson Crusoe bookstores in Istanbul), he writes of her fiery speeches alongside Ataturk. She championed the causes of women’s rights and immigration rights for those coming into the new Republic from the Balkans and even her hometown of Selanik, that of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

On the night of Ataturk’s birth, a ragged and tired Zubeyde Hanim, came to my great great grandmother. She came because she had no way to nourish her new born. Because Aziz Haydar Hanim was not only a school teacher/professor but a nurse by trade, she was the first milk mother of Ataturk. Ataturk always treated her like a second mother and until her final days, the albums my family has preserved show a smiley faced Ataturk hugging and embracing her, like one does a dear old aunt. Those old, dusty, torn photographs always brought a smile to my face.

Wow, a descendant of Ataturk’s ‘second mother’ challenging the ‘sacred’ establishment defended in the very name of Ataturk.

The story of the Turkish lady from Seattle is almost surreal. And her story is just another example of hope for lasting Armenian-Turkish friendship. Hrant Dink didn’t die for no reason; I can feel him smiling. 

Deliberate Distortion in the Name of Romantic Reconcilliation?

According to Today’s Zaman, a moderate newspaper from Turkey:

Renowned pianist and composer Fazıl Say will compose a ballet piece for the romantic and tragic love story referenced in legends of Akhtamar Island in the eastern Anatolian province of Van. Say, with this piece, intends to create an international project in which 100 Turkish and 100 Armenian dancers will take to the stage together in the performance of the work.

With an intent to bring Armenians and Turks closer to reconciliation, the project at its face needs to be applauded. 

 Moreover, the fact that Today’s Zaman now consistently uses the historically correct name for the Armenian island – Akhtamar – as opposed to the distorted Turkish “Akdamar” is a sign of progress.  

But what makes me uncomfortable is the following:

The Akhtamar legend, which is considered the origin of the name of the island, is about Tamara, the beautiful daughter of the clergyman residing on the island. According to the legend, Tamara fell in love with a Muslim shepherd from a nearby village. Every night, the shepherd would swim to the island in order to meet Tamara. To show her location to him, Tamara would light a candle at night. Having learned of his daughter’s love affair, the clergyman lit a candle on a stormy night and went down to the coast, but he frequently changed his location to exhaust the shepherd. Finally, the young boy drowned, but he shouted in his last breath, “Oh Tamara.” The girl heard his last shout, and she, too, committed suicide, throwing herself in the lake. The island’s name is said to come from the boy’s last words, “Oh Tamara.”

I am not uncomfortable about a Muslim and Christian getting married, but the tradition about the name “Akhtamar” doesn’t scientifically explain the epitology of the term which many scholars rightly argue should be written as Aghtamar. 

Whatever the case, the island of Akhtamar was mentioned in Armenian history in the 4th century A.D., centuries before Islam was established.  So this romantic legend about Armenian-Turkish marriage and its name for the island, although poetic, is historically unjust.  I am not sure whether historic distortion is the price for peace.  

The ballet project overall sounds a good one – IF the place of Akhtamar in Armenian history is presented without deliberate distortions for a romantic reconcilliation.

Ottoman Sources on Genocide Translated to Modern Turkish

A research on the WWI Armenian Genocide based solely on official Ottoman sources that Turkish historian Taner Akcam alluded to in a recent interview will first appear in Turkish and then in English.

The winter 2007 newsletter of the Zoryan Institute, received in an e-mail, informs:

Vahakn Dadrian, Zoryan’s Director of Genocide Research, and Taner Akçam, renowned Turkish Sociologist and Historian, are collaborating to present the results of their archival research on the Takvim-i Vekâyi.

The Takvim-i Vekâyi, the official gazette of the Ottoman government, provides the only official record of the military tribunals prosecuting the Armenian Genocide. It documents the indictments, court sittings and verdictsn for thirteen trials, which took place 1919-1922 in Istanbul, of individuals accused of crimes against the Armenians in 1915. These military tribunals were extensive and represent one of the period’s most important political undertakings. The Takvim-i Vekâyi is a prime source of legal and eyewitness testimony for the Genocide.

The gazette was printed in Arabic script and is currently dispersed in different libraries throughout the world. It is very difficult to get a complete collection owing to the attempts of the Turkish state to systematically remove as many of the existing issues from circulation as possible. However, working with the Institute for the last five years, the authors have been able to compile a complete collection of these gazettes, have transliterated them into modern Turkish, and translated them into English.

The Key Indictment focused on the Cabinet Ministers and top leaders of the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP). The main feature of the Key Indictment is the set of forty-one documents contained within it. Most of these documents consist of decoded telegrams sent to and from the Interior Minister (Talât), the IIIrd and IVth Army Cdr., the Deputy Cdr. of the Vth Army Corps and the XVth Division from Ankara province, the Directors of the Special Organization, two Military Governors of Istanbul, and a host of governors and district commissioners.

The authors provide readers with an authoritative English translation, accompanied by an extensive historical and legal introduction. Against the ongoing industry of denial undertaken by the Turkish state and the contemporary political background of independent Armenia in its relation to Turkey, this record assumes critical relevance.

The Turkish edition will appear soon and the English edition will follow shortly thereafter.

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