Ankara’s Meddling in Our Community Must be Rejected

Genocide denial

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

Months before the Turkish Prime Minister’s now infamous and patronizing April 23 “condolence message” to Armenians, the wheels were in motion here in Southern California to organize another “dialogue” between Turks and Armenians to promote “understanding” between the two societies.

The common denominator of these efforts is to circumvent the fact of the Armenian Genocide and to create an atmosphere of pseudo cooperation in an effort to water down the importance of Genocide recognition and its immediate consequences. This credo, advanced by Ankara and the US State Department, reared its ugly head in the dangerous Turkey-Armenia Protocols, as well as in the failed Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission—TARC.

These esoteric efforts to bring Armenians and Turks together around a table to “dialogue” are futile and those Armenians participating in these efforts are playing into the hands of a dangerous policy that is being advanced by official Ankara to demonstrate that Turks are a peace-loving people who just want to get along.

Erdogan’s April 23 message—a rebranding of Ankara’s denialism—should have raised red flags for all Armenians who have circled this and other such “dialogue” initiatives and prompted them to immediately distance themselves from these efforts.

These well-meaning and sometime-active members of the Armenian community believe that by participating in such efforts and articulating anti-denialism sentiments they will send a decisive message to organizers and Turks. Instead they are playing right into the hands of the orchestrators of this policy who use these events as talking points to derail any and all decisive efforts vis-à-vis the Genocide, such as advancing recognition resolutions in Congress and the discussion of the Genocide in legitimate international arenas. Unwittingly, these individuals are engaging in a debate on the veracity of the Genocide—a guiding tenet of Turkey’s policy.

The latest of such “dialogue” effort is slated to take place this weekend at the University of California in Irvine where the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at UCI and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, known as TESEV, are hosting public forums and closed-door “dialogue” meetings with Turkish and Armenian individuals who somehow have been picked as spokespeople or experts on the matter. The individuals on the Armenian side who have been duped to take part in this initiative in no way or form represent the collective interests of the community or the national aspirations of the Armenian people.

Let’s begin with Ankara’s attempt to insert itself in our community as a stakeholder. This policy, which has been in effect for several years, was articulated in 2012 by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in an interview with the Turkish Milliyet newspaper, the details of which were outlined in a July 13, 2012 article in Asbarez.

Davutoglu’s “simple” plan is to redefine what he calls the “Turkish diaspora” to include all people who were “Ottoman subjects” and by waving his magic wand empower Turkish representations and Ankara agents to stage “dialogues” with, in this case, Armenians and Turks.

“We consider all those who emigrated from those lands, and not only the Turks, to be the diaspora—the Armenians, Jews, Greeks, the people called El Turco in Latin America, and the Arabs in Argentina… Those are our people… Those are people whose culture and language resemble ours,” Davutoglu outlined in the Millyet article.

Based on these “redefined criteria,” Turkish representations around the world “will now open their doors to those people who were once Ottoman subjects, they will contact them, and they will even invite them to national days. The contacts with the Armenian diaspora are said to have already started,” according to the Milliyet article.

On April 3, 2012, via an article in Asbarez, community members were warned of this strategy because the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles was making active strides to engage so-called Armenian community representative in “friendship-building dialogue.”

The recent and rabid engagement by UCI in advancing this issue is troubling for an academic institution, which is funded and run by the State of California. It seems the recent uptick in Turkish and Azeri population in Irvine and Orange County is dictating that institution’s academic modus operandi and turning this venerable institution into a special interest group.

These “dialogue” initiatives are framed as apolitical. This misses the entire point of the Turkish-Armenian conflict, which by its definition is political since at the center of it is the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s subsequent and ingrained denial. Turning a blind eye to this reality is to become complicit in Turkey’s ongoing efforts at denial and perpetuation of the crime of Genocide.

By the same token, the sole schism within the Armenian and Turkish societies stems from Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. So, those who believe that by holding hands and singing Kumbaya the issue of recognition, reparations and restitution for the Genocide will come to a just resolution, are only doing a disservice to the Armenian Cause, their immediate community and not to mention themselves as Armenians.

It would be so much less complicated—if not easy—if we could ignore the realities of the Armenian Genocide and build dialogue channels between Armenian and Turkish societies, but that would be a dangerous short-cut that would only serve Turkey to advance its interests and cut short the aspirations of the Armenian Nation.

Without the proper recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the willingness to address the issue of reparations, there can be no dialogue, whether that is between the states or societies. Let us not fall prey to Turkey’s blatant efforts to silence the reality, or those who are shepherding that cause on behalf of Ankara.

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13 Comments

  1. Vahe said:

    I don’t know the University of California in Irvine’s “Center for Citizen Peacebuilding” program, but I suspect that it may want to sweep our genocide under the rug.

  2. Janine said:

    You can’t base negotiations on a lie. At heart has to be a recognition of the fact of the genocide, otherwise it’s going to be a house of cards, a house of lies.

  3. Garo Yeghichian said:

    If Armnians fall (a very well organised Turkish trap again) in again they will be responsible.Any Armenian before taking any action has to notify the Armenian qualified authority.

  4. Leon said:

    The full names and affiliations of the Armenian participants (and if possible, other participants) at this UCI event must be published, so that everyone knows who they are and what they represent. Otherwise, the good information provided in this good article would be useless and ineffective. We need to put these Armenians on the hot seat, and force them to confront the Armenian public.

  5. Areg said:

    Fruitless efforts in the part of the Genocidal Turkey. This is also destined to failure.

  6. GeorgeMardig said:

    Turkey will try the devide and conquer policy, Armenians should stay together, Dialogue should start only after Turkey recognizes the Genocide. Anything else will be treason to all Armenians

  7. Fredrick Fuller said:

    Very well written and to the point. I wish our brethren would wake up and learn from history. The Turkish government is just simply carrying out the same policies as the Ottomans. the only difference is that they are adjusting their methods to the new era and learning from the US government and US media how to hide their real intentions. Ultimately both the US government and their Turkish ally are interested in getting rid of this small thorn in their side called Armenia and ultimately bring Russia to her knees.

  8. Armenian said:

    And for the record, it’s not just the Turks, the Russians have made it clear that they want to remove Armenian NGO’s that are “alien to their hearts and minds”; Russia’s paranoia is making them almost as bad as the Turks in terms of driving a wedge between Armenia and the Armenian diaspora, many of whom are in Armenia now, trying to make it a better place.

  9. Julie Barsoumian said:

    This article was confusing; yet enlightening.
    99 years post Genocide must we face
    A large lobby directed at our community
    To ease contemporary and ancient history to
    A convenient version? It seems that the
    Skewing of history is now being sold to us
    Wholesale. Does anyone ask the members of
    Our community what right they have to
    Engage in these discussions? The Turkish
    Government has a responsibility to recognize
    And make reparations for their actions; not
    To send their lobbyists to discuss anything
    With us. There would not be a diaspora
    If the Turkish government had not sent our
    Ancestors on death marches punctuated by
    Starvation, mass killings, etc. it seems
    our community members who engage in such
    Discussion seem to think they are “above it all.”
    In reality they are collaborators to the current
    Psychological warfare the Turks are now
    Engaging in ;to show they are sorry for our victims
    But cannot use the “G” word.
    Perhaps they should remember their roots.
    History repeats itself again. And has again, with
    Our own people brokering some sort of agreement,
    With Satan himself. The problem is they have
    Sold their own souls at the expense of our
    Ancestors and ourselves. Shame…. shame… Shame

  10. helen takessian said:

    no one in the diaspora has has the legal and binding right to negotiate genocide issues .BY international law the diaspora must come to terms that is to be done between governments Accept and strengthen president Serge Sargisian Stop the sour grapes bickering and act like unified Armenians or losr everything again.

  11. jda said:

    If the participants have a family or business member in Turkey, it’s a sure thing that the intelligence and police services know all about it, and are ready to apply pressure to them. These people, our very own “remnants of the sword” are our perma-hostages. They do not represent anyone, and may very well be under duress.

  12. jda said:

    We’ll know they are a bit more serious when they stop arming and advising Baku, muzzle their Turkish Diaspora Hitlers, promote only fair or good images of Armenians in their media, scrub their texts and education system of Nazi like propaganda, stop using Az. as an excuse to keep the border closed, demolish their “memorials” to Turks allegedly killed by Armenians, promote the lives and works of Armenians in their museums, allow our Schools to be free of interference, restore the assets of our Churches and Foundations, close the Talaat Pasha Memorial and strike his name from their Boulevards, send their Ambassadors to lay wreaths at our memorials, prosecute hate crimes, and stop celebrating theft, rape and murder every April 24 outside their Embassies and at our Memorial services.

    These are real confidence building steps short of acknowledging the Genocide – not sharing recipes for yalancis or talking vaguely of shared pain.

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