BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Ever since Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi was removed from office, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been harshly critical of the new government, strongly advocating his fellow Islamist Morsi’s return to power.
Given Erdogan’s unwelcome meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs, millions of Egyptians have expressed anger and resentment against Turkey and its prime minister. Egyptian newspapers have been replete with anti-Turkish reports and commentaries. Dozens of articles have been published condemning Turkish denials of the Armenian Genocide and urging Egypt’s new leaders to recognize it. There have also been calls for erecting a monument for the Armenian Genocide in Cairo and demands that Turkey pay restitution for the Armenian victims. In an unprecedented move, attorney Muhammad Saad Khairallah, head of the Institute of the Popular Front in Egypt, filed a lawsuit accusing Turkey of committing genocide against Armenians.
On Sept. 4, Khairallah and Dr. Ayman Salama, Professor of International Law at Cairo University, appeared on Lilian Daoud’s highly popular talk show, Al-Soura al-Kamila (The Complete Picture) on ONtv, watched by millions in Egypt and throughout the Arab world. Participating in the show by phone were Resul Tosun, former Turkish Parliament member from Erdogan’s Islamist AK Party, and Harut Sassounian, Publisher of The California Courier. The 36-minute TV program was conducted in Arabic, a language I have rarely used since childhood.
Prof. Salama informed the audience that the Turkish Military Tribunal in 1919 indicted the criminals responsible for the Armenian Genocide. Seventeen Turkish officials were found guilty, and three were hanged. Dr. Salama indicated that France, Great Britain and Russia had issued a joint Declaration in 1915, warning that they would hold Turkish leaders responsible for massacring Armenians and committing “crimes against humanity and civilization.”
Attorney Khairallah insisted that raising the Armenian Genocide issue in Egypt is long overdue and does not have any political undertones. He hoped that his lawsuit will force Egypt, “the largest Sunni country in the Middle East,” to serve as an example for other Arab countries to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Khairallah announced that his lawsuit will be considered by the Egyptian Court on November 5. He hoped that the Court would make a historic decision regarding this critical “human rights issue.”
When the hostess of the TV show asked for my opinion on the Egyptian lawsuit, I expressed my great satisfaction, hoping for a positive verdict on the eve of the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, and looking forward to its recognition by the Egyptian government.
I also commented that Erdogan had anointed himself as the new Sultan of the Middle East, and sole defender of all Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians. However, Erdogan’s misrepresentation was finally exposed when the Arab world realized that he was simply trying to dominate the region, pursuing Turkey’s self-interest rather than that of Arabs and Muslims.
Former Turkish parliament member Resul Tosun, joining the show by phone, quickly antagonized the viewers by claiming that “the current Egyptian government that came to power after the military coup is not legitimate, therefore, the filed lawsuit cannot be considered legitimate.” Tosun then went on to parrot his Turkish bosses’ baseless denials of the Armenian Genocide.
Prof. Salama, incensed by Tosun’s remarks, called Erdogan “the successor of the Ottoman butchers who committed the Armenian Genocide.”
The TV hostess then asked for my reaction to Tosun’s perverted views on the Armenian Genocide. I reminded the viewers that Kemal Ataturk, in an interview published in the ‘Los Angeles Examiner’ on August 1, 1926, had demanded that the Young Turks be “made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse and massacred.” I also recalled that the Sheikh of Al-Azhar, leader of the globally preeminent center of Islamic studies in Cairo, had issued a Fatwa (religious decree) in 1909 chastising Turkish officials for massacring 30,000 Armenians in Adana, Cilicia.
At the end of the show, attorney Khairallah announced that public rallies will be held shortly to demonstrate that his group’s lawsuit emanates from a popular demand – Egyptians asking their government “to recognize that Armenians were massacred at the hands of Turkish criminals.”
So far, Lebanon is the only Arab country to have recognized the Armenian Genocide. If Egypt follows suit, can Syria and the rest of the Arab world be far behind?
You can see the talk show here.