What Should Armenians Learn From Prime Minister Erdogan?

Harut Sassounian


The purpose of this column is to draw lessons from the recent attacks on the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took two bold actions: 1) he blocked Twitter, a social media site with 12 million users in Turkey, to cover up revelations of corruption about himself and his inner circle; and 2) he aided and abetted the Jihadist fighters’ invasion of Kessab, located in the Northwest corner of Syria, bordering Turkey!

What do these two seemingly unrelated events have in common?

Erdogan himself indirectly answered this question, during a campaign rally on March 20: “we will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care at all what the international community says. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic.”

Clearly, the Prime Minister does not care that he would be criticized for violating the democratic principle of freedom of expression and acting as an autocratic thug. He says and does whatever he thinks is in Turkey’s or his own best interest!

US officials reacted by paying mere lip service to Erdogan’s internet crackdown. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted the following message: “Deeply troubling that Turkey blocked Twitter. Shutting down free access to info inconsistent with democracy; support citizens’ call to unblock.” Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, who was forced to resign after blocking publication of an article on the Armenian Genocide, described Erdogan’s anti-Twitter action as: “21st century book burning.” Similar benign criticisms were voiced by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, and European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Did Erdogan care about these verbal lashings? Absolutely not! He didn’t give a damn! He had already blocked YouTube for two years, because the website carried videos deemed insulting to Kemal Ataturk. The Turkish Prime Minister now threatens to ban both Facebook and YouTube after the March 30 elections.

Why don’t Armenian leaders — in Armenia and Diaspora — act more boldly, similar to Erdogan, especially when the survival of Armenians is at stake? It is most appropriate to raise such a question after the invasion of Kessab by Jihadists, taking Armenian hostages, pillaging their homes, and desecrating their churches.

Regrettably, repeated pleas by Armenian-American organizations to US officials, to help protect Armenians and other Syrian Christians, have fallen on deaf ears. On March 24, the ANCA sent another strongly-worded letter to Pres. Obama, demanding immediate White House and congressional intervention to stop the attacks on Kessab. The US government does not seem interested in the tragic fate of Syrian-Armenians and other minorities, since Washington is hell-bent on toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime, ignoring the loss of innocent lives.

Armenians should not be content by merely shaking their heads and complaining to each other about the tragic news emanating from Syria. They must wake up from their collective coma and take bold action. Daily demonstrations must be held in major U.S. cities and in front of American, British, French, Saudi, and Turkish embassies and consulates around the world to protest their arming of so-called rebels who are kidnapping and murdering Syrian Armenians, among many others.

Urgent meetings should be held with top US, British and French officials, demanding that they immediately halt deliveries of all weapons and financial assistance to ‘rebels’ in Syria, until they cease attacks on civilians!

I wrote a column back in 2002 with the following headline: “The Armenian ‘Mouse’ Needs to Roar More Often.” Basically, it was a call for bolder action. I had referred to the short story written by William Saroyan, titled: “The Armenian Mouse,” in which a brave mouse, by its aggressive behavior, manages to defend itself from more ferocious beasts.

Remaining silent and inactive are no longer viable options, while our compatriots are getting slaughtered in Syria. Sheepish behavior only serves to embolden the enemies of the Armenian nation.

Armenians need to be proactive rather than reactive. On the eve of the Genocide Centennial, they cannot be silent bystanders while the Turkish government and its allies are directly or indirectly embarking on a new campaign of exterminating Armenians in Syria.

Armenians must speak up, protest, and take effective action to defend their countrymen in all corners of the world. They need to become the ‘mouse’ that ROARS!

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  1. Zareh said:

    Simply put if they can kill Armenians in foreign lands we can kill Turks in Foreign lands.
    If they can burn churches in foreign lands we can burn mosques in foreign lands.
    If they have armies we have armies too.
    Yes we can.

    • Hratch said:

      What a sill response. How do we know they were Turks? How do we know they targeted us intentionally? Why do you want the whole Islamic world to turn against us?

      • Zareh said:

        They provided safe passage of foreign mercenaries into a sovereign country with the clear intention of harming the Armenian population. If it was not intentional then why the looting and burning of homes and desecrating Armenian churches.

  2. Gurgen said:

    Great point. And it certainly shuts up those fools who keep insisting that Armenians should always stay “neutral”, as if this has served us for the last 120 years. I would like to add however that the diaspora is and will always remain a mouse and a mouse can and will be easily squashed even if it learns to put out an artificial roar. The ONLY real representatives of the Armenians must be the Armenian Government which has to pick sides and not only be vocal but also be active covertly and overtly regarding these matters. This requires a strong and confident state, based on strong military and political alliances with the right parties. Thankfully this is happening, although slower than we would like, nevertheless, it requires constant support from the diaspora and less criticism and bashing which is popular amongst our ignorant masses and fueled by our politically motivated diasporan newspapers. Thank you Mr. Sassounian for bringing this to the forefront.

  3. Hratch said:

    Apparently, Putin has the same attitude. Clearly, the president does not care that he would be criticized for violating international law and acting as an autocratic thug. He says and does whatever he thinks is in Russia’s or his own best interest!

  4. Hratch said:

    “…..after the invasion of Kessab by Jihadists, taking Armenian hostages, pillaging their homes, and desecrating their churches.”

    1. It’s not clear whether any Armenians were injured in the attack?

    2. It’s not clear whether we were specifically targeted or just in the way between two fighting forces?

    3. It would be a great Assad propaganda if it’s portrayed as an attack on the Armenians because of their Christian faith, but is this the reason behind the attack?

    I would hate to have the Armenians being used as tools to advance the agenda of one side or the other. If we were attacked solely on our religious beliefs, then yes the world should come to our aide. In fact, we should join the fight. However, if we were in the way of the fighting and were not the intended target, then we should be careful who we choose to side with and start the long awaited relocation plan towards the motherland.

    And yes Mr. Sassounian, I am Armenian and if you were to cut me I will bleed Garmir, Gaboud, Narinchakoun….so much for your conspiracy theory again.

      • Hratch said:

        The question should be “what is your last name”? Of course I have a last name/surname/family name and it does not end with Oglu if that’s what you’re insinuating…..it’s Boghossian.

    • Hagop D said:

      Whether you are Armenian or not is not clear, but what is clear is that you have no clue about Armenians or Armenian culture. You also claim “Harut does not speak for all Armenians”. Well here is a clue for you: he speaks for Armenians THAT COUNT.

      Stop wasting your effort, you and your ideas have zero support amongst us, at least 99.9% of us.

    • Michael said:

      I’m so disappointed from wise guys as Hratch, searching needle in the stack in this critical moments.
      Even if one Armenian injured in Kessab by the Jihadists or else monsters, as soon as that group controlled by Turkish government, Turkish government is liable for that tragic.
      Cooperate with any government who give us hand to protect other Armenians in Kessab, that is generosity from Arab leaders which we experienced since 1915, when they hugged us, they protect us, they feed us and since than, we been loyal to them not ignoring our sad history,
      You call that “been used or else terms“, that called hypocrisy.
      Any tragedy event anywhere in the world against any Armenian, we should take advantage from that governments political point, and let our voice heard by the world media, or respond eye for eye.
      By any reason when an Armenian injured or died because of cross fire or intentionally orchestrated by Turkish government, in 21st century we should demand our human rights to be punished by the world society.

    • GeorgeMardig said:

      …..It’s not clear whether any Armenians were injured in the attack?….. NO one dares touching a Synagogue doesnt’t matter with any one injured or not, the whole Jewish community would condemn the act, Armenians are sticking together and doing the same like the Jews, BRAVO,

  5. GeorgeMardig said:

    President Obama should worry for aligning himself with a blood thirsty autocratic thug like Erdogan

  6. Edward Demian said:

    Is there not any Turkish targets that the Armenians could retaliate against? An eye for an eye. We need to get medieval, like Israel.

    • Hratch said:

      Get the facts first before accusing anyone. We’ll look sill in the international community if our accusations are false….just like the “Misha” conspiracy theory.

      • Michael said:

        Հրաչ անուան տակ, ձեր Մեկնաբանութիւնները չի տարբերիր դիմակաւոր թուրք աղուէսներու անմարդկային լոզունգներէն,

  7. Setrak Melkonian said:

    We pay the price of political consequences, if we don’t think before we speak.
    In Asbarez:
    Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
    Senator McCain Offends Visiting Syrian Church Leaders
    In Asbarez:
    Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
    What Should Armenians Learn From Prime Minister Erdogan?
    Dear Mr. Sassounian, how about an article that says WHAT SHOULD ARMENIAN LEADERS LEARN FROM HISTORY? I mean who are we to tell the United States of America what they need to do with Bashar Al ASSAD or about the civil war that is going on in Syria for more than Three years. In any case we have nothing to do with conflicts that is happening in Syria, except being victims of violent war. There is no time to explain ourselves either to Syrian government or to rebels we have nothing to do with this civil war and we are neither on the side of Bashar Al Assad nor on the side of rebels; but because of fear, confusion and not knowing about the future we preferred to be on the side of Bashar Al Assad and for that we are paying the price heavily by getting massacred in the hands of rebels, having almost no protection from government; we simply got trapped in cross fire and now our leaders must think how could we possibly manage to escape from these crisis. Of course there are too many ways to deal with, one of them a journalist like you must call to Armenian politicians, to both VEHAPARS and to “Medzabadiv” azkayin chocher to cry out for help from United States and EU to open their doors and let remaining Armenians in Syria 30,000 to 50,000 to find refuge in their countries and if you ask me how could that be possible? Well if they can dismantle chemical weapon plants in this very harsh times they can also evacuate Armenians from Syria, let Armenians to register their possession in Arachnortaran in order to be able to ask for war indemnity from Syrian government later on, but first let them find refuge and to save their life instead of waiting in darkness and get killed for no reason. Mr. Sassounian enough of living in virtual world let’s be realistic and more practical by starting to criticize ourselves instead of protesting in front of foreign country’s embassy, we need to start protesting in front of Armenian embassies all around the world to show our anger and to make United States and EU to hear our leaders voice through people, we should organize a protest in Antelias and Echmiadzin let both VEHAPARS to do something, most importantly we need to protest our president in Armenia, political parties in Armenia must be one they should gather people in front of presidential palace and demand from Serzh Sargsyan to do something about their brothers and sisters in Syria. One hundred years ago we have been massacred one hundred years later still we are facing the same things, WHY? Let me tell you something there is a fine line between expressing your SUPPORT and taking an ACTION, and our leaders must know this and they must take an action now before it’s too late. History repeats itself everyone knows this, therefore no need to wait another three years to figure out what will happen in Syria, nowadays the situation is bad even ten times worse than Lebanese war and it’s getting worse day by day.

    • Hratch said:

      Although you’re rambling in this article, I still understand your position. The only problem is that our leaders are too corrupt and stubborn to know what to say, when to say it and whom to say it to.

      If you try to point out an issue, they will attack you and say you must not be Armenian. The fact is that we have lost our national compass by following corrupt leaders. There is absolutely no reason to take side in this conflict. We don’t have a dog in this race. It is not our land, it is not our country and it is none of our business!

      Same goes for the Crimea, it is not our place and time to make noise about it. We are weak and need to play our cards right. But of course, being know-it-alls, we must always express our views. Enough with betting our future in places we don’t belong.

      • Setrak Melkonian said:

        I am not trying to be smart-ass like you, or playing Shakespeare. I am Armenian as much as any living Armenians on this planet including you whether you like it or not that won’t stop me to express myself or how to express it, and I am trying to express my sorrow that has been accumulated for one hundred years, therefor there is no RAMBLING in my expression regarding matters that concerns me for my people. Next time my dear brother come up with your full name (SURNAME) there is nothing to be FEARED or ASHAMED of showing your identification, while trying to fight for the justice of your own people and mankind in general. Do you agree or disagree with my opinion? If yes, then you should start your sentence by saying I agree with you Setrak Melkonian or disagree, there is no need to repeat my opinion or criticize the way of my expression, but you can always focus your mind by coming up with new opinion that might lead us to brighter future other than criticizing by playing smart-ass. Have a good day “Baron” Hratch, or should I say “3nger” Hratch.

      • Alex Postallian said:

        Makes some sense,about the politics,like the jerky turks putting up with the psycho..errodoggie.

  8. Masis said:

    I wholeheartedly agree with taking on a more aggressive role. The Armenian Government should

    1. Terminate the “Protocols” for good, affirming that they will never be considered an official document.

    2. Cite the safety of the people of Artsakh from dangers of “Al Queda” and officially recognize Artsakh.

    3. Encourage Putin to recognize Artsakh since we recognized Crimean secession.

    4. Get Putin to send secret troops to Syria to help Assad and beef up the Turkish border.

    5. Encourage a meeting between the Kurds and Iran, where Iran would transport weapons and aid to Assad through Kurds in southern Turkey and Northern Iraq. The Kurds could keep some weapons and also move into Syria to attack Turkey from the southwest.

    The people should

    1. Demonstrate. But their demonstrations should be less peaceful. Take note of the blacks rioting during the Rodney King incident. That was a very successful riot. The decision was overturned. Why? Because it scared the daylights out of the whites. I’d say for April 24, we throw bottles and rocks at the Turkish embassy; at least, the media coverage will be greater.

    2. Get the organizations such as AYF to loosely work with groups such as “Armenian Power,” in order to bring mayhem to the Turkish Consulate and Embassy.

    • Hratch said:

      So let me get this straight, you want Russia, Iran and the Kurds to do what for who?… to help the few thousand remaining Armenians in Syria?…sounds to me your agenda is more for using the Armenian issue as an excuse to help the dictatorial regime.

      By the way, suggesting to use “Armenian Power” for mayhem is the most irresponsible, imbecilic and criminal idea I’ve ever heard. It sounds like you got your inspiration from a Shabiha training manual.

      It would be better if AP stuck to fighting other gangs for turf, girls and respect. Otherwise, they would all be languishing in Guantanamo.

      • Masis said:

        I think I have figured you out! You respond to everyone’s comment every time. My guess is you fall into one of 4 categories:

        1. As you claim, you are an Armenian. An asinine one indeed. As an entire Armenian community is being demolished, you want to wait and gather information. You disregard the violent, ruthless nature of the Mid East. By the time your calculations and conclusions are done, the game is over. April 23, 1915: Numerous Armenian intellectuals were residing in Turkey. April 25,1915: They had been rounded up and existed no more. When the citizens of Kessab tell us who is pillaging their city, I am inclined to believe them and not you. They are physically there and have issued a report–read the rest of Asbarez and see yourself; then read what isolated letters from ordinary citizens are on the web and on facebook. Then ask some Syrian Armenians you know what their relatives are going through. Finally weigh this against all the doubts you have raised above.

        2. You are masochistic. Your ancestors were slaughtered by the Turks and you are playing the victim’s role: content with being abused and being subdued. That’s why you offer to be “cut” and to show what you “bleed.”

        3. You are an attention-seeking individual who disagrees with the mainstream Armenians just for the sake of disagreeing. That way you get lots of responses and feel important. I have come across a good number of Armenians who are like that.

        4. You are an imposter. You use the name Boghossian to encrypt the word “Bogus.” The Turkish government pays a sum to people to get on Armenian sites and screw with the people. Like you, these people are well-read and know a good deal about national issues; however, they misconstrue them to the Armenians’ disadvantage, raise doubts in Armenians’ mind to curtail their momentum, and contradict with the people to throw them off. Having said that, I did find one “Hratch Boghossian” with that exact spelling; if you are him, then tell us what musical instrument you like to play.

        You call the regime dictatorial. You probably buy in the this “Arab Spring” idea as well. Whenever the West wants to get rid of someone, they become a dictator. These dictators, like in Saudi Arabia now, Turkey (who ban you tube and twitter), Azerbaijan (who climbed up the leg of his father’s pants to sit on the throne), Shah of Iran in 1953, and Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, are or were people the West supported when needed. I’ll tell you what! The cultures in the Mideast function better in a powerful dictatorship–there is order in that setting. Whoever topples the dictator either becomes strong and a dictator himself, or becomes weak and the countries go into anarchy. Despite the fact that this country was founded on genuine democracy, the term is currently used in the same way as an evangelist uses the Bible and God–to plunder people of their money for his/her own gain. What there has been under Assad was stability. Now they are trying to topple it and people are dying. The people you claim are championing democracy there are cutting out people’s hearts and eating them, or piling them all up in a group and executing them. Finally to me, a “few thousand remaining Armenians” is very important to me. I don’t know what quantity matters to you.

        Lastly, no one goes to Guantanamo now, especially for throwing rocks or bottles. It simply puts these people to do what they do for an objective. For your information, the Turkish embassy gathers a bunch of young hoodlums on their property in Washington DC on April 24th to chant “Long Live Turkey” and “Long Live Azerbaijan,” as if their Genocide, or in their term–inevitable losses of life–is something that should be celebrated. Perhaps I shouldn’t tell you about that event–you may have joined them in their embassy then. Newtonian physics says any action results in an equal and opposite reaction.

      • Kira said:

        What I and everyone else would really like is if you would get lost, you turkish troll. You will probably comment with one of your “witty come backs”. That IS what an internet troll does. I bet you are drooling at the mouth while formulating your comeback, you silly little troll.

  9. hye said:

    Hratch, I’m not asking you whether you are Armenian or not, but my question is why are you anti-armenian, and why do you choose Asbarez for your comments, and why not create your own website and write an article and have peoples discuss(it seems you know a lot about Armenian issues)?

    • Hratch said:

      To the contrary my friend, I’m Armenian 100% and beyond that too! It hurts me to see our nation and people suffer because of our so-called inept, crass and corrupt leaders. People like Mr. Sassounian are old school. It’s his ilk that has betrayed our nation time and time again. It is time to raise our voice and go above and beyond the old and tired rhetoric. We must first question why the Turks or any other group is against us. It is not as simple as us being Christians. That is absolute nonsense. If it were true, than the opposite would be true also. So let’s completely but that aside. Is it because their jealous of us? I don’t think so. Is it because we occupy their lands and resources? Nope! Is it because the Turks are so smooth and conniving, try again. Then it must be something bigger, something that we ignore to acknowledge. Yes, Mr. Sassounian like to portray things and events in simple black and white terms, but the world is much more complex than that. The world is about profit and survival of the fittest. There is o time for losers as the song goes. So I leave it up to you to ponder the question as to why we are ignored by the international community and the so-called Christian West? When you clear your head from all the noise and conspiracy theories, the answer will become clear as day.

      • hye said:

        hratch I’m not your friend, and I still suggest you design/open/create your own website (since you know so much about Armenian issues(I’m being sarcastic(I think you did not get it first time, or ignored it))) for your propaganda, instead of using Asbarez.com