EAFJD Executive Director’s Interview With Turkish ARTI TV

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 11.22.40 AM
EAFJD Executive Director Heghine Eviyan (left) with ARTI TV host Lilit Gasparyan

EAFJD Executive Director Heghine Eviyan (left) with ARTI TV host Lilit Gasparyan

The Executive Director of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Heghine Evinyan gave an interview to the Turkish ARTI TV on May 29, for its journal “European Agenda,” prepared and presented by Lilit Gasparyan. Evinyan primarily commented on Erdogan’s recent statement where he called Armenian and Greek lobbies “evil forces that Turkey will continue to fight against.” A number of other questions concerning the Armenian Genocide and Turkish-Armenian relations were discussed.

Below is the transcript of the interview.

ARTI TV: The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Armenian and Greek lobbies “evil forces” that Turkey will continue its fight against. How do you interpret Erdogan’s statement?

Heghine Evinyan: First of all, of course such statements are anything but helpful. Let us understand what the Armenian lobby is and who it actually consists of because there is a lot of mystification around it. As a matter of fact, the Armenian lobby is nothing more and nothing less than a number of grassroots organizations consisting of active citizens of various counties across the globe. In our case these are European citizens with Armenian heritage, the overwhelming majority of who are volunteers and simply people who are involved in the democratic processes in their home countries. So, the Armenian lobby consists of citizens, who are actively involved in civic activism and are legitimately and openly using the instruments that a democracy provides in order to make their voice heard and thus influence the political agenda in their countries. In this sense there is absolutely no difference between Greenpeace activists and the activists of the Armenian cause, in other words the Armenian lobby.

Therefore, by demonizing the Armenian lobby, Erdoğan in fact attacks democracy, civic activism and freedom of expression as such. And in the case of the European-Armenians it simply means attacking the value system that many European democracies pride themselves in.

It is interesting to pay attention to the wording he uses. He calls the Armenian and the Greek lobbies “evil powers.” So, as I already mentioned, by demonizing, President Erdoğan plays with primal human instincts, notably with fear. He simply seeds fear in the Turkish society and in a way also propagates hate speech towards these groups of people. Unfortunately, this cannot lead anywhere meaningful or constructive.

I think it is important that the Turkish society knows who the Armenian lobby actually consists of. As I already mentioned, its overwhelming majority are activists who are successors of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. These are simply active citizens who demand justice for what happened to their families, to the Ottoman Armenians and who are there to say: “Turkey cannot deny the Armenian Genocide because I am the living proof of the consequences of the Genocide.” They are there to tell the story of their family and say that Turkey cannot deny the fact that their grandparents were forced to leave their homeland and end up thousands of kilometers away from their home, often as orphans and the soul survivors of their families. They are there to say that Turkey cannot deny the fact that their whole family was uprooted. And so they demand that after the devastating consequences of the Armenian Genocide at least things are called with their names.

ARTI TV: Can you be more specific? What are the main activities and goals of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy ? – in order to understand what the Armenian lobby is doing.

H.E.: The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) is a Pan-European grassroots umbrella organization with chapters in thirteen European countries that represents a significant part of the Armenian diaspora in Europe. Throughout the years the European Armenian Federation has established itself as the main diaspora organization in Europe advocating for key Armenian issues in the European Union, its institutions, member states and international fora, such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

The EAFJD’s work is focused on the EU foreign policy in the Eastern Partnership countries (in particular in the South Caucasus) and in Turkey.

Using various tools of transparent grassroots advocacy, parliamentary and cultural diplomacy, the EAFJD advocates for stronger and more dynamic ties between the European Union, its Member states and the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Artsakh (or Nagorno Karabakh). We also advocate for the safety and the fundamental right of the people of Artsakh to determine their own present and future and to live in peace and dignity. And of course, we advocate for the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and as just reparations.

Being a grassroots organization, the EAFJD also fosters the vitality as well as the political and civic activism of the Armenian communities across Europe. The EAFJD also carries out independent international short-term election observations missions based on OSCE/ODHIR methodology.

ARTI TV: You mentioned cultural and parliamentary diplomacy. Based on your experience, how do you think the problems between the Armenian Diaspora and Ankara can be resolved?
I think that an open and honest discourse, dialogue are the way. No reconciliation can take place without acknowledging the truth and speaking it out. The truth, however ugly it is, is the remedy and the bridge to any kind of reconciliation. It is the in fact the path to liberation. There must a genuine willingness to listen to each other.

H.E.: The Turkish state must stop its state policy or propaganda of denialism of the Armenian Genocide. This should start with schools, for instance. The way history has been taught in Turkey for about a century and is still being taught leads to general indoctrination, so that the majority of the Turkish people either do not know that not so long ago there was a significant indigenous Armenian population in Turkey or they actually believe that the Armenians all of a sudden decided to leave their homes. But how often do they actually ask the question: how come a nation who has been living somewhere for millennia all of a sudden disappears or decides to leave one day.

The Turkish society has the right to know the truth about the foundations of the modern Turkish state, however painful this may be. They should be able to openly ask questions about that period of Turkish history and challenge the dogma expressed in the state propaganda without being called traitors or without being persecuted. The Turkish state must finally stop instrumentalizing fear.

ARTI TV: Tomorrow, if you had the opportunity to meet with a high-ranking Turkish official, what would you say and ask first?

H.E.: I would ask what their vision of Turkey actually is. How interested are they really in having Turkish citizens who are aware of their rights , who are not afraid of thinking freely and expressing themselves freely?

What we have been witnessing in the past years, what is going on nowadays and the way the backbone of the Turkish intelligentsia, civil society that had taken decades to develop, has been brutally broken by Erdogan’s government, unfortunately does not leave much space for optimism. I would also ask, how helpful is it to constantly challenge the right to existence of a neighboring country, in this case Armenia.

ARTI TV: For some time now, an important part of intellectuals and society in Turkey is commemorating the Armenian Genocide. What is your relationship with that segment of the society?

H.E.: We are on excellent terms with all the representatives of the Turkish society who have not chosen the path of blind denialism, among them there are many representatives of academia, journalists, activists. In fact we are grateful to these brave people, who very often putting in danger their lives, have been advocating for the truth, have been raising awareness in the Turkish society and advocating for thee recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish state. These people are democrats at heart. They are people who genuinely believe in human rights and true reconciliation. And they have been doing this because they know that the Turkish society needs the recognition of the Armenian Genocide at least as much as the Armenians need it. They know that it would function as some kind of deep surgery which is painful but which ultimately leads to a healthier and stronger Turkish society. Besides, this would certainly contribute to raising Turkey’s reputation in the world. This goes without saying.

Unfortunately, many of these people have been forced to leave Turkey and are in exile nowadays. For instance, such bright individuals as Professor Taner Akçam, Ragip Zarakolu cannot live in Turkey any more, otherwise their lives would clearly be in danger. The Erdogan government continues harassing them even when they are abroad. For example, the persecution against Ragip Zarakolu continues.

The EAFJD has also been in touch with political organizations. For example, upon the invitation of HDP, our organization has twice carried out election observation missions in Turkey, during the general elections in 2015 because the EAFJD has the know-how to carry out such election observation missions.

But of course, with the crackdown of the Turkish authorities on democracy in the country and all those standing up for it, the situation has become much more complex for us.

ARTI TV: Hrant Dink thought that the Armenian issue could be resolved only between Turkey and the Armenians and was not in favor of third party diplomatic and parliamentary interventions. What do you think about this?

H.E.: Hrant Dink was an extraordinary person and intellectual who was able to reach peoples’ hearts, make them reflect on history, who had the wisdom and the charisma to make a change. He was a person who was capable of breaking stereotypes and building bridges of trust while speaking out the truth. And unfortunately, we saw what happened to him. This was the reason why he was perceived as a danger by the Turkish authorities and Turkish nationalists. And was finally tragically assassinated.

Indeed, nothing can replace a direct and honest communication between the peoples. But the conditions for this communication have to be there. The Turkish authorities have been and are pursuing a denialist policy and seeding fear, punishing the handful of Turkish people who still dare to speak out. And we all know that denialism is the last stage of a Genocide.

The Turkish authorities should know that as long as they pursue this policy of covering things up, not allowing a genuine and open discourse, threatening the Republic of Armenia or Armenians and questioning the right of Armenia to exist, the Armenians have no choice but continue to raise awareness and seek justice elsewhere.

Besides, the Armenian Genocide is a crime against humanity, so it concerns also the rest of the world. And the world also still has lessons to learn from. We do absolutely need to raise awareness about what happened – about the Armenian Genocide. And the international community must be aware of it and draw consequences, since any crime that is not punished, is doomed to repeat.

ARTI TV: According to you, will the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border be a positive development?

H.E.: Indeed, opening of the borders without any preconditions would be a very positive step. It would enable to have a more dynamic people-to-people contact, break the stereotypes which is crucial to overcome deep-seated fear and simply have favorable and normal neighborly relations. It would certainly have economic benefits both for Armenia and the Eastern part of Turkey.

But of course, it is clear that Turkey has to openly deal with its past, recognize the Armenian Genocide and being the legal successor of the Ottoman Empire, also undertake responsibility for what happened. It is also clear that acknowledging the historic truth or demanding justice should never be a bargaining chip for anything, because it would simply mean sweeping things under the carpet, which is neither a sustainable solution nor it is a healthy way of dealing with the this painful part of our history

Authors

Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.

4 Comments

  1. Berge said:

    Weak position. It is not the job of Armenians to reform Turkey; we are not their nannies or psychiatrists. We are also not looking for a paycheck as you put it “reparations.” Opening the borders is not the answer. The lives of two million people brutally taken away from us are not washed away with a simple opening of a border which can be closed again at anytime. If Turkey wants to open the border they can do it now. There is no need to ask for the border to open so that we can “reconcile”. To reconcile is to bring to estranged parties as in family relations. Armenians had/have nothing in common and were never the same family with Turks – so there is nothing to “reconcile.” Genocide acknowledgment without accountability is hollow and meaningless. For acknowledgment without accountability is worse than denial. Accountability is for lands acquired-by-way-of-genocide, accountability for reparations of the wealth of the Armenians and properties acquired-by-way-of-genocide; accountability for restoring destroyed, erased, renamed cities, monuments, names and culture of the Armenians. Genocide is the worst crime humanity has given a name. Genocide denial is not simply the negation of truth, for denial is the subsequent continuation of genocide. Accountability is for land, reparation and restitution. Artsakh, Nakhichevan, Ararat are examples of land.

    • Barséghian Ardachèce said:

      Who could dare say the opposite of your analye. Not a single Armenian and better not a Man with a sense of justice and culture after a nation has suffered the worst of humanity unfortunately with the consent of the states we have served for more than 100 years with loyalty, by blood pours for values and hard work.

  2. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    What every Armenian in the world, on the side of all Turks, intellectuals and courageous citizens, would have wanted to say to the Turkish rulers of common sense rather than persevere in the path of oppression, repression, tyranny, threat, discourse and teaching of hatred against productive and ultimately crime. Thank you 10,000 times

  3. Barséghian Ardachèce said:

    I would not stop repetering, pensions having served loyally your adopted countries, these same countries that received 2 dollars offered by Attaturk have delivered us to the sword and the filthy deportation of the Turk, if you hold a political discourse from your countries VENEZ to hold it in YOUR COUNTRY in danger so the reforms to be undertaken are crucial vital to the revolutionary character. Our compatriots who have endured 80 years of Soviet totalism followed by 30 years of a mafia regime or the dollar was king come, after visiting Etchmiadzine go directly to visit the resident quarters of billionaires in dollars, never denounced by the famous smoky Catholicos who takes advantage of it, far from the betting people). Without your daily political contribution in the noble sense of the word, the new rulers have the sense of revolutionary change but will NEVER succeed without your political expertise. It is a call for help to the competences of our Parties in diaspora and for my part I implore our Party (as a simple sympathizer to the ideaux and history – 1st Republic – Artsakh – 1985 UN Geneve division Human rights – 1987 Europe – the 30, 40, 50 states of the World …) Then? I wait with the people in my country, Nakhitchevan, Van, Mouch, Sassoon, Cilicia … will certainly come because it is Justice to be done to our nation.

*

Top