Before we get to the meat of this week’s column–I just want to point out to all my readers that if you search "Turkish drug money" on Google.com today–my last article is in the top five results.
Thank you. Thank you. No really–I couldn’t have done it without you–my loyal readers.
Anyway–time to get the Sinikian show on the road. If you thought last week’s column was the stuff Hollywood summer blockbusters are made of–drug money bribing politicians–international espionage–intrigue–attractive FBI agents–and the mean bosses who double cross them–then you’ll love this week. The plot? A one armed man of such prestige and power is revealed to everyone.
Never have heroes.
They’ll only let you down. Remember that because it will save you a whole lot of grief in life. It’s a lesson I was reminded of last week when I read about the most recent scandal to rock the world of Armenian academia. I know that most of my readers spend as much time reading Armenian news as they spend probably debating various interpretations of the evolution of the market economy in the early American colonies prior to the Revolutionary War. Did I lose you? I thought so. I promise not to do that again. Fine. I’ll cut to the chase. But first–a little background. Remember Bob Dole? You might remember him as the famous Senator from that state named after the legendary seventies rock ‘n’ roll band Kansas. He was a great war hero–having been wounded in the Second World War. He ran for President a few times. But his real claim to fame amongst Armenia’s was that he was their bestest friend in the whooole WIDE world.
It was the perfect relationship. It was a love story worthy of a Hollywood movie. A young war hero comes back home with a horrible injury that will cause him to lose his arm. A young doctor tells the boy that he can save his arm from amputation–and through multiple surgeries and therapy sessions helps the kid keep his arm–but not fully useable. The kid and his hometown rally to scrap and save pennies to pay the doctor who refuses to accept a dime. The only thing this guy asks of the young soldier is to be a kind human being and remember the stories he’d heard during the long therapy sessions about the doctor’s homeland and his people–Armenia. The young soldier gets involved in politics attaining the highest position in the Senate and running for President–not just once but twice. He’s a national figure and a well respected politician and leader. He keeps the promise to the Armenian doctor and fights for the rights of Armenia’s while in the Senate ’til the day he retires. He leaves office with a heavy heart because as hard as he tries–he’s unable to achieve the one thing he had wanted to do so badly: to pass a bill setting the historical record straight about the Armenian Genocide.
Now flash forward to 2005. A young Turkish-Kurd scholar by the name of Yektan Turkyilmaz is arrested in Armenia on suspicion of smuggling rare books out of the country. This incident gets more complicated by the fact that Turkyilmaz is a "pro-Genocide" scholar. WOW! Can you imagine someone who actually accepts the historical facts as they actually happened? Someone give this guy a medal… not! Anyway–what really gets my blood boiling is the fact that Senator Bob Dole–the same young man who rose to national prominence and defended the Armenian Cause in Senate–writes a scathing letter to the Armenian Government lambasting them over a number of issues related to human rights violations. The distinguished gentleman from Kansas has sunk even lower than when he was hawking the little blue pill (Viagra) in magazine–newspaper and television advertisemen’s. I’m going to refrain at this point from making any jokes related to erectile dysfunction–partly because it’s a serious issue not to be joked about (snickering) and partly out of a fear that if I did make any jokes about it–then karma would come back to bite me in the voreeg.
Here’s a quote from the Senator’s letter which can be viewed at http://www.yektan.org/yektan_dole.pdf:
"Yekten’s detention seems to highlight problems sighted in numerous human rights reports about Armenia–including those of Freedom House and the US State Department. Your detention of Yektan for seven weeks on any grounds would draw attention to failings in Armenia’s democratic evolution."
If you’re still confused–this is what happened: Yekten tried to smuggle some books out of the country and was arrested. Sen. Dole–whose wife is now the Senator from North Carolina and a graduate of Duke University–wrote a letter to Armenia calling the government a bunch of idiots for enforcing such ridiculous laws like not allowing books out of Armenia.
Let’s just say that those were the kindest of words in Senator Dole’s letter. The rest of it sounded like an angry diatribe that a controlling ex-boyfriend would write to their former girlfriend-almost-fiancee. This is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to dragging Dr. Vartan Gregorian into this mess–somehow Raffi Hovanissian has gotten involved as well–going so far as to appear in front of the court to criticize the government for arresting Yekten.
The average person–after reading all of this and the A-list of people lining up in support of Yekten–may quickly assume that not only is Yekten an innocent Turkish scholar who is being railroaded by corrupt Armenian officials–but that the Armenian government is on rung above a dictatorship run by the Three Stooges on the ladder of fair and democratic governmen’s.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Does Armenia have problems? Yes. Is it a prefect country? No. Is Yekten being railroaded by corrupt Armenian officials? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! This Skeptik has–from very reliable sources who wish to remain unnamed–learned that our friend Yekten is involved in the smuggling of rare and antique books for personal profit. The Armenian government has known this and has been keeping an eye on this man who uses his credentials as a well-known scholar to travel into Armenia–purchase books illegally and some legally from unsuspecting desperate salespeople trying to make a living–and turns around to sell them to private collectors abroad. And I’m not just talking about 1987 copies of Brezhnev’s memoirs translated to Armenian but really rare volumes of which only few copies remain around the world. In fact–this is a growing problem in Armenia. While Armenia’s economy continues to struggle–many crooks have resorted to selling off national treasures for a fist full of dollars–they don’t even have the dignity to deal in Drams. It’s very similar to Egyptians selling off rare artifacts to tourists just to make a few bucks. For anyone wondering–this is absolutely illegal and tourists are usually informed of these rules before they enter into a country. Armenia–with its rich literary history–is no exception. Our books are as precious as the churches and castles we’ve built.
I doubt Senator Bob Dole knows about any of this. He’s too busy to get involved in the nitty-gritty details of such a case. I doubt Dr. Vartan Grigorian or Raffi Hovanissian knew either. But that is all the more reason for them to have given the benefit of doubt to the folks in Armenia who are trying to do their job instead of jumping on the bandwagon to kiss up to a Turkish scholar who has finally "seen the light" and come around to acknowledging the validity of the Armenian Genocide.
This is becoming an epidemic in our community–where Armenian scholars who have been doing legitimate research on the Genocide are treated with less respect than a placemat at Denny’s–while Turkish scholars who accept the Genocide are hailed as the greatest thing since pocket pita bread.
I’m not picking sides here. I–personally–am guilty of checking out a few books from my own public library and never returning them. (The difference is that I didn’t turn around and sell those books at the used bookstore). But what I am saying is that everyone should just chill out. Put the bottle of blue pills down and chill out!
Skeptik Sinikian’s library card was revoked due to excessive late fees. He is currently working off his penalties by reading his past columns to children at the local library as part of his community service. If you would like to email him or read his past articles–contact him at [email protected] or visit www.sinikian.blogspot.com.