Vicar General of the Istanbul Patriarchate: Shameful Tool of Turkish Propaganda

Harut Sassounian
Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian


Archbishop Aram Ateshyan, General Vicar of the Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, sent a highly controversial letter last week to President Recep Erdogan, criticizing the German Parliament’s decision to recognize the Armenian Genocide.

The Acting Patriarch’s letter created a major controversy among Armenians worldwide, including the Armenian community of Turkey. Some called for his resignation; others, including a member of the Armenian Parliament, demanded that he be defrocked!

While successive Turkish governments have attempted to pressure Abp. Ateshyan’s predecessors to serve as propaganda tool for Ankara, no previous Patriarch has written such an offensive letter regarding the Armenian Genocide.

It is not clear whether the Acting Patriarch wrote last week’s letter on his own initiative or it was drafted for him by Turkish officials. Those who personally know Abp. Ateshyan insist that the letter could not have been written by him because he is not too proficient in the Turkish language. Whatever the case, he did sign and disseminate the letter to the media, which was published by several Turkish newspapers.

Regrettably, this is not the first time that the Acting Patriarch has displayed such a boot-licking attitude vis-à-vis the Turkish authorities, intending to secure the support of the government for his hoped for election as Patriarch. During a public meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Istanbul last year, Abp. Ateshyan dared to insult her for criticizing Pres. Erdogan’s violations of human rights!

Describing the Armenian Genocide merely as “events that happened during the tragic times of World War I,” Abp. Ateshyan stated in his letter that the Armenian community of Turkey shared the Turkish nation’s regret for the German Bundestag’s decision. The Acting Patriarch, speaking on behalf of the Armenian community of Turkey, claimed that the German Parliament “has no right” to pronounce judgment “on behalf of the entire German nation.” He further added: “it is also questionable to what extent this decision expresses the feelings of German citizens.” It is nonsensical for Abp. Ateshyan to insist that the Parliament does not speak for the German people, since it adopted the resolution on the Armenian Genocide with a near unanimous vote!

Also, the Acting Patriarch blamed the German Parliament for “sidestepping the negative role of the Third Reich in a few sentences and pointing to the Ottoman Empire as the sole perpetrator.” It is shocking that Abp. Ateshyan is covering up Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide and belittling Germany’s honest admission of complicity!

Those who try to justify the Acting Patriarch’s anti-Armenian statements, by claiming that one has to live in Turkey to fully appreciate the oppressive nature of Erdogan’s regime, should know that many Armenians in Turkey are outraged by Abp. Ateshyan’s letter. They wrote dozens of messages on his Facebook page, expressing their disagreement.

The harshest criticism of the Acting Patriarch came from the editor of Agos, an Armenian newspaper published in Istanbul: “We read your letter … with sorrow, anger and shame…. Your presentation of the systematic annihilation, by state decision, of its own citizens living on its own lands, using the government’s description as ‘events that happened during the tragic times of World War I,’ is an affront to the ancestors, victims, and survivors in the eyes of the society to which you also belong.”

Contrary to the Acting Patriarch’s claim that Armenians are treated as equals with Turks, Agos asserted that “Armenians have been subjected to discrimination, fascism and public threats.” The newspaper also countered Abp. Ateshyan’s statement that the German Parliament’s decision had caused “sorrow and pain,” by affirming: “The pressure that forced you to pen this letter is a source of pain and sorrow for us…. The Armenian community’s identity is harmed by your words, not as you say, by the Bundestag’s decision.”

Agos also told the Acting Patriarch that his letter represented “a specific statement of denialism against your own people. We will shortly see who will ‘enthusiastically welcome’ your words…. We pray that God bestows upon you good sense, sound judgment and thoughtfulness.”

In order not to cause further damage to his people and their sacred cause, I humbly advise Abp. Ateshyan to refrain from any future political and propagandistic statements. Otherwise, he should seriously consider resigning from his post, since Armenians of Turkey will never accept him as their chosen Patriarch, even if Erdogan supports his election!

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  1. Masis said:

    I agree that he should be removed from office. He must realize that, without Armenians, there would be no Armenian Church and his greasy portions would come to an end. He can go conduct services in a Turkish mosque. A true Vassak!

    The illegitimate has the audacity to criticize Germany. Amot!!!!!!! Of Etchmiadzin doesn’t do anything, they are not going to look good.

  2. Hamik C Gregory said:

    I think the Armenian Patriarch in Istanbul was trying to avoid violent Turkish backlash against the his Armenian community in Turkey! Nothing more! I am positive, deep inside, he knows what happened to Armenians one hundred years ago! We need to look at his precarious position in Turkey and give him some credit!

  3. Raffi said:

    ……Acting Patriarch has displayed such a boot-licking attitude vis-à-vis the Turkish authorities,….. During history always have axisted traitors, however Armenians should have the tools to neutralize ass holes like him and others who try to capitalize on the Genocide for their own interest. 1.5 million, Hrant Dink and others did not die, so scum bags can make profit from their sacrifice.

  4. heratch abdalian said:

    Abp.? Ateshyan must resign immediately from his post since has noting to with any Armenian cases.I am curiouse to know what was his position or declaration(if any) for the murder of Hrant Dink.
    He and other armenians like him in Turky (if anyone that support him), should leave Turkey or defend their rigths.
    I trust that for Diaspora’s armenians, the existance of armenians? like him is not important (for me 100% is not).
    I expect also a official critizism to this clarical gay, from Ejmiatzin that unfortunatley seems does not exist.

  5. David said:

    For many years the role of our power hungry Clergymen has been questionable, and sometimes outright shameful, both internally and externally, these type of statements will continue, as long as our religious leaders serve their earthly God ($$$).

  6. Jacque said:

    One word TAVAJAN.
    Who needs enemies when you have priests like that. He should be disrobed emediatley, no if and or buts.
    He brings shame to all Armenians and priests, who fought side by side with soldiers from Avarayr to Artsakh.

  7. Khatchig said:

    Even if Abp. Ateshian’s comment were made under duress, they are not acceptable.1.5 million of our grand parents died and did not bow to the Turkish murderers. He should learn from the example of the Agos publishers and he likes of MP Garo Paylan to stand up for the Armenian Cause if he believes in it. Shame on him.
    I can’t understand why he has not been demoted yet.

  8. Aldude said:

    I believe that he is lying to protect his congregation, but who am I to judge. We will all get our day of judgment, may the Lord be merciful.

  9. Satenik said:

    Who knows what he has been threatened with? I am not talking about his personal safety but maybe he was threatened that if he does not toe the official government’s line, the community would get punished in some severe way. Anyone living in Turkey should know that what people say or print in papers, is not what really goes on or what they really think or believe. We should know what actually happened before we start judging (because this happened in Turkey and Turkey really is a special case). I give you another scenario to consider for one second. What if he really said what he thought and there was a backlash and a spate of murder against Armenians , would the same people who are condemning him now , not condemn him that he should have been diplomatic and save his community from the rages of Turkish far right tugs? Just a though……….

  10. Onjig said:

    He acted out of a type of fear. Yes, he said what was politically and safely correct. He shouldn’t be in a position where he feels he must act and speak in a way that will please his captors.

  11. Serop said:

    His actions are not forgivable and are the actions and words of a WEAK leader, he has no right to make such statements on behalf of the Armenian community, it was leaders like him who willingly drove their flocks to mass conversions because of their weakness

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