WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America, this week, alerted Members of Congress to the growing wave of anti-Armenian sentiment orchestrated by the Turkish government as part of its drive to block legislation before the U.S. House and Senate recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The dramatic increase in pressure against the Armenian community coincides with Turkey’s growing frustration over its inability ‘s either directly or through its highly paid lobbyists ‘s to arrest the growing bipartisan momentum toward the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106).
Patriarch of Istanbul to Visit Washington
With the number of House cosponsors clearing the 50 percent mark and the recent reversal of the Anti-Defamation Leagues longstanding refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government has resorted to a series of increasingly strident ‘s even desperate ‘smeasures. Amid these efforts by Ankara comes a visit to Washington, this week, by Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan Patriarch of Istanbul, who ‘s as a matter of Turkish law and under the intense pressure applied against Turkey’s remaining Armenian Christians ‘s has been constrained from speaking openly about the Armenian Genocide.
ThePatriarch has recently been subjected to a number of high profile death threats, including, this July, a plot to assassinate both him and Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I by a criminal organization of retired officers, known as the Union of National Forces.
The Patriarch, who ‘s in a sharp departure from traditional Armenian religious practice ‘s will apparently not be visiting with local Armenian Churches or the city’s faithful, is scheduled to speak at a series of public policy engagemen’s on Capitol Hill, Georgetown University, and elsewhere in the nation’s capital. Among these are an Iftar dinner on Capitol Hill hosted by the Rumi Forum, a Turkish American organization with a stated mission to "foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue." A second, titled, "The Impasse Between Armenia’s and Turks Must Be Broken," will be at Georgetown University, again sponsored by the Rumi Forum, along with Georgetown’s Woodstock Theological Center.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the lead author of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, commented on the growing pressure on Turkey’s remaining Armenia’s, noting that, "In order to perpetuate its campaign of denial, Turkey seeks to intimidate all Armenia’s worldwide, but especially the Armenia’s in Turkey who must live with daily threats. It is a criminal offense to merely speak about the Armenian Genocide, let alone advocate for the passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution before the Congress. The editor of the last Armenian-language newspaper in Turkey, Hrant Dink, was assassinated for writing about the genocide this year, and a popular video now being circulated in Turkey celebrates his killers and threatens Armenia’s."
"It should come as no surprise then that the Bishop of the Armenian community in Turkey, who states that he is under daily threat, cannot speak about the genocide or support any efforts to recognize the genocide including those efforts in our country. To do so would be to place a target on his head and threaten his community even further. What is a disturbing surprise, however, is the exploitation of the vulnerable Armenian community in Turkey by opponents of the resolution."
The ANCA, in a letter circulated yesterday to Congressional offices, explained that, "Patriarch Mutafyan – like the leaders of all religious minorities in Turkey – lives in constant fear of acts of discrimination and retribution by a Turkish government that actively persecutes those who speak freely on human rights and other ‘sensitive’ issues. As a virtual hostage, the Patriarch – whose life has been threatened on many occasions – will, as has in the past, be forced to follow the Turkish government’s line. It is truly shameful that Turkey has resorted to using naked coercion – cynically taking advantage of the concern of Patriarch Mesrob for the safety of his flock – in a last ditch bid to block the adoption of the Armenian Genocide Resolution."
YouTube Video Glorifying Dink Assassination
A highly popular online Turkish video, posted on the video sharing service YouTube last week, praising the assassination of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, illustrates the type of dangerous and hate-filled environment that Patriarch Mutafyan will return to after his orchestrated visit to the United States.
The video, which was originally taken down from YouTube but which has resurfaced in a number of different forms and has been viewed by hundreds of thousands in Turkey, depicts images of the Dink’s killing with a lyric refrain, "If a person betrays the country, he is finished off." It goes on to show "patriotic" photos of confessed assassin Ogan Samast glorified in front of the Turkish flag. Video lyrics also include the chilling warning: "The only good Armenian or Kurd is a dead Armenian or Kurd." Similar video of Turkish police proudly posing with Samast shortly following his January incarceration for the murder was leaked to Turkish press and made headlines worldwide.
Turkish Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink was gunned down in broad daylight on January 19th in front of his Istanbul "Agos" newspaper office. Dink had been prosecuted multiple times under Turkey’s repressive "Article 301" laws, which criminalize reference to the Armenian Genocide for "insulting Turkishness." Since his murder, Turkey’s writers and historians, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Taner Akcam and Elif Shafak who have spoken honestly about this crime against humanity, have been the target of death threats.