Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Armenians See Increased Corruption, Shows New Survey

Wednesday 31, January 2007

By Emil Danielyan and Shakeh Avoyan

Almost two in three Armenians believe that corruption in their country has increased in recent years despite declared government efforts to combat it, according to new research made public on Wednesday.

A nationwide opinion poll conducted by the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based Transparency International last August also suggests that Armenia’s leaders and state institutions are perceived to be corrupt by the vast majority of citizens.

Its findings are a damning indictment of a three-year plan of anti-corruption actions that was launched by the Armenian government with the blessing of Western donors in late 2003. The plan was supposed to reduce the scale of bribery, nepotism and other corrupt practices.

However, 64 percent of 1,500 families randomly interviewed across the country said those practices have become even more widespread in the past three years. Many respondents said corruption has engulfed new areas of life such as enterprise registration, enforcement of judicial acts, and conduct of elections increasingly characterized by vote buying. Graft is still perceived to be widespread in law-enforcement, tax collection, education and healthcare, the survey shows.

According to the pollsters, 62.5 percent of Armenians consider President Robert Kocharian to be corrupt. Public perception of other senior officials is even more negative, with almost two thirds of those polled describing the Armenian government ministers as “very corrupt.”

That might explain why Armenia continues to fare poorly in Transparency International’s annual surveys of corruption perceptions around the world. Armenia ranked 93rd out of 161 countries covered by the anti-graft watchdog’s most recent Corruption Perception Index released last November.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also made a critical assessment of the results of the Armenian government’s stated anti-corruption drive. An OECD report released on December 18 noted in particular that "the number of convictions for corruption is low, especially for high-ranking officials.”

In a late December interview with RFE/RL, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian admitted that his government’s anti-corruption measures, mainly involving changes to various Armenian laws, “have not been as effective as we hoped.” He said Yerevan will soon ask Western donors to help it draw up a new strategy that will “ascertain mechanisms for putting the [anti-graft] legislative framework into practice.”

Tigran Sarkisian, chairman of the Armenian Central Bank and the only high-ranking official present at the survey’s publication, admitted that corruption is “one of the most serious obstacles to the development of our country.” “That is not a secret to anyone,” he told RFE/RL. Sarkisian insisted that the Armenian authorities are committed to tackling the problem but lack civil society support.

That commitment is strongly questioned by Armenian representatives of Transparency International and local civic groups. “Corruption is a government ideology in Armenia,” said Avetik Ishkhanian of the Armenian Helsinki Committee. “What is more, the authorities themselves foster corruption. They do so because officials mired in corruption are much more manageable.”

Respondents were also asked to suggest effective solutions to corruption. The most frequent answer, given by 22.5 percent of them, was free and fair elections.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian genocide resolution renewed

Fresno Bee
By Michael Doyle / Bee Washington Bureau

Supporters hope reshaped Congress can vault over White House opposition.

WASHINGTON — Armenian-Americans are putting their hopes in a new Democratic Congress.

So are some Republicans.

On Tuesday, lawmakers and their politically active Armenian-American allies introduced the latest version of an Armenian genocide resolution. After years of trying, they now think they can prevail over the Bush administration's strong opposition.

"I'm very hopeful that this time we'll be able to do this," said Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa.

Under the aged and watchful eyes of two genocide survivors — one of them said to be 100 years old — Radanovich helped reintroduce a resolution that will incite controversy even though it lacks the force of law.

Joined by three other House members, one Republican and two Democrats, Radanovich is sponsoring what's being called the "affirmation of the United States record on the Armenian Genocide." Essentially, the 10-page resolution puts the House on the side of Armenians and many historians who have studied the period between 1915 and 1923.

Some 1.5 million Armenians were killed as part of a policy of extermination conducted during the final days of the Ottoman Empire, the resolution asserts. The nonbinding resolution further calls upon President Bush to use the word "genocide" in his annual April message commemorating the horrific events.

Bush and preceding presidents, attentive to the concerns of Turkey and the State Department, have delicately avoided using the term genocide when referring to Armenia. Diplomatically, it's a sensitive issue. The last U.S. ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, appears to have been forced from his post after he gave a public speech affirming there was a genocide.

"Armenian Americans have attempted to extricate and isolate their history from the complex circumstances in which their ancestors were embroiled," the Turkish Embassy declared in a statement. "In so doing, they describe a world populated only by white-hatted heroes and black-hatted villains."

Turkey dismisses as "grossly erroneous" the claim that 1.5 million Armenians were killed. A member of NATO now hoping to join the European Union, Turkey enjoys its own Capitol Hill clout with the assistance of well-placed lobbyists, including one-time Congress member Bob Livingston.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, is the Armenian genocide resolution's chief sponsor since his party took control of the House.

"I do think we have the best opportunity in a decade to succeed," Schiff said, "but no one should be under the illusion that this will be easy."

Radanovich was the chief sponsor under Republican control, but had the rug pulled out from underneath him by GOP leaders. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert first promised to let Radanovich bring an earlier Armenian genocide resolution to the House floor, then reversed himself at the last minute after receiving a call from the White House.

Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as a rank-and-file member in previous years, was a supporter of the genocide resolution.

"We've got a speaker now who we think is receptive," said Paul Jamushian, an activist who splits his time between Fresno and the East Coast. "We've always had the votes."

Lawmakers acknowledged Tuesday that they had not yet received a commitment from Pelosi, although they predicted she will face White House pressure before April.

"Make no mistake," Radanovich said. "The speaker will get a call from the president."

Resolution authors say they expect to rally at least 140 House co-sponsors.

The new chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, voted for a genocide resolution the last time it appeared, although in previous years he opposed it.

The reporter can be reached at or (202) 383-0006.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


A real hero for our time

31 January 2007
Metro Times
Jack Lessenberry

Here's a name you likely never heard of: Hrant Dink. Frankly, I am ashamed to say I had never heard of him before he was murdered less than two weeks ago. He wasn't American, and as far as I know he never visited this country. Matter of fact, I'm not sure he ever left his native Turkey. Yet he symbolized what our First Amendment is supposed to be about far more than nearly anyone who ever practiced the profession of journalism.

He believed in telling the truth. And, more than that, he believed anybody has the right to say whatever they believe — and that no government has the right to shut any free citizen up. Though you can't tell by his name, Dink was of Armenian blood. Ninety years ago, the Ottoman Turks tried to carry out the first mass genocide, murdering something like a million and a half Armenians.

To this day they haven't admitted it. Worse, it is essentially illegal in Turkey, a country that is supposedly a democracy, to say that this happened!

Dink made a point of telling the truth, not in spite of the law that makes it a crime to utter "insults to Turkishness," but because of it. He did so though he knew it meant risking his life. But here's something more incredible that my friend George Costaris, the distinguished Canadian diplomat, brought to my attention: France has been discussing making it against the law to deny that the Armenian holocaust occurred. Last fall, Dink declared that if France did so, he would rush to that country — and openly deny that the Armenian holocaust happened!

"Then we can watch both the Turkish Republic and the French government race against each other to condemn me. We can watch to see which will throw me into jail first," Dink said, adding, "What the peoples of these two countries [Turkey and Armenia] need is dialogue, and all these laws do is harm such dialogue."

Then on Jan. 19, Dink, who was 52, was shot in the back of the head by a 17-year-old dropout who, police said, was told to do it by an ultra-nationalist.

Dink's wife and two children and 100,000 others showed up at his funeral. Many wore buttons saying, "We are all Hrant Dink." They aren't, of course. Nor am I worthy of such a button. But think of what a better world this would be if it had just a few more journalists who were as truly American as was he.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian Jews applaud genocide bill

31 January 2007
JTA - Global Jewish News

The Jewish community of Armenia applauded the Armenian genocide resolution introduced by U.S. lawmakers.

U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), George Radanovich (R-Calif.) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) announced Tuesday the introduction of legislation calling on President Bush and his administration to recognize the Armenian genocide.

Leaders of Armenia’s small Jewish community praised the resolution and expressed solidarity with the approximately 1.5 million ethnic Armenians killed between 1915-17, “because the histories of our people are similar and we too have gone through discrimination, tragedy and a genocide.”

The bill was brought to the House in 2006, but was tabled by then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) The statement of support from Armenia’s Jewish community comes at a time of increased tensions between Turkey and Armenia, after the recent murder of a prominent Turkish journalist of Armenian descent, Hrant Dink.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



YEREVAN, January 30. /ARKA/. On the initiative of the Turkish side, RA Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosyan held a meeting in Istanbul with Director General, Directorate of Bilateral Relations, Turkish Foreign Office, Ambassador Reshed Uman, the Press and Information Department, RA Foreign Office, reports, referring to Acting Press Secretary of the RA Foreign Office Vladimir Karapetyan.

"During the meeting, which was held in a positive atmosphere, the sides discussed the two countries' positions and the possibilities of positive changes in Armenian-Turkish relations," he said.

"It should be noted that the sides still have disagreements over the issues under discussion," Karapetyan said.

According to him, Armenia remains ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey without any preconditions.

"We hope that Turkey will take steps to overcome the existing disagreements," he said.

Arman Kirakosyan was in Istanbul to take part in the funeral of the Editor-in-Chief of the Armenian-language weekly "Agos" Hrant Dink, who was killed on January 19, 2007. P.T. -0--

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


On Hrant Dink’s assassination case two more suspects detained


On ‘Agos’ editor-in-chief Hrant Dink’s assassination case two more suspects have been detained. Orhan O. was arrested in Istanbul, and Hadji S. in Trabzon, where the other 6 suspects descent. They have already confessed to the murder of Hrant Dink. Police supposes Orhan O. and Hadji S. are not members of any illegal organization and personally wanted to “deliver Turkey from the threat to unity”, Turkish Media reports.

! Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to «PanARMENIAN.Net».

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Taviani brothers’ film to be screened at Berlin festival


YEREVAN (YERKIR) - Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s film "Masseria delle Allodole" (Skylark’s Farm) shot on the basis of Antonia Arslan’s novel will be screened at the 57th festival film in Berlin (Germany) on February 8, 2007, independent journalist Jean Eckian told PanARMENIAN.Net.

This film tells about the Armenians Genocide through the story of a family which lives in Western Armenia and awaits the arrival of their parents from Italy.

Alas, the First World War prevents this family from joining and the family members fall victims to the genocide perpetrated by the Turks. This film with total budget of 9,7M € ($9M) is a co-product by Italy, Spain, Belgium, France and Eurimages

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Historic day for Catholics in Iraq

January 30, 2007

For the first time in more than five years, the tiny Armenian Catholic community in Iraq has its own archbishop.

The Vatican announced on January 26 that Pope Benedict XVI had given his assent to the Armenian Catholic bishops’ election of Father Emmanuel Dabbaghian, 73, as the Armenian Catholic archbishop of Baghdad.

The post had been vacant since the October 2001 retirement of Archbishop Paul Coussa at the age of 84.

The Armenian Catholic Archdiocese of Baghdad covers all of Iraq, and since 2001 Vatican statistics have given the Armenian Catholic population of the country as 2,000 faithful.

But Deacon Michel Jeangey, head of the Armenian program at Vatican Radio, said “probably more than half” the Armenian Catholics have moved, at least temporarily, to Armenia or Syria.

“They will return if there is peace,” he said.

Still, Deacon Jeangey said, one Armenian Catholic priest and a group of Armenian Catholic nuns continue ministering at the church’s parishes in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as well as running a social center and two schools in Baghdad.
Archbishop-elect Dabbaghian was born Dec. 26, 1933, in Aleppo, Syria. After studying philosophy and theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1967.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

United Javakhk against construction Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway

January 30, 2007
The Messenger

By M. Alkhazashvili
(Translated by Diana Dundua)

Javakheti Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti in southern Georgia live in severe poverty. Construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway holds the promise of helping solve many economic and social problems in the area, but, as the railway does not serve the interests of Armenia, many locals are protesting its construction.

According to the Russian news agency Regnum the local Armenian organization the United Javakhk Democratic Alliance is against construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway. Chair of the organization Shirak Torosian does not deny that this project will be economically profitable for Armenians living in the Javakheti region. But because the railway is against Armenia's interests he says they must protest its construction.

"Armenians living in Javakheti want Armenia to be powerful," explains Torosian, as quoted in the newspaper Rezonansi.

Minister of Economic Development Giorgi Arveladze commented on Torosian's statement, highlighting the profits the region would benefit from after the project's implementation.
If Georgia is conspiring with Turkey and Azerbaijan to isolate Armenia economically from the Caucasus region, how does it expect Armenians of Georgia to support them? This is more telling of Georgia's attitude than the Armenians who do not wish prosperity at the expense of impoverishing Armenia.
According to him, more than USD 300 million in investments will be put into the area, creating many new economic opportunities for the region, new jobs and closer cooperation with Tbilisi.

"Thus the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway construction is very significant for Akhalkalaki [Javakheti's main town] and for all of southern Georgia's development. It will provide the area with a better economic future and help it integrate into Georgia's economic life," Arveladze said.

Some argue that fighting against the project will perpetuate the Javakheti Armenians isolation from the rest of Georgia, deepening tensions and snubbing real opportunities to improve their economic livelihoods.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Monday, January 29, 2007

A family confronts a time of madness

January 30, 2007
Christian Science Monitor
By Yvonne Zipp

An Armenian author re-creates memories of the ordeal of her people.

Say the word "genocide," and anybody not currently running Iran will immediately think of the Jewish Holocaust. Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia might also come to mind. But say Armenia and in the United States even highly educated people may draw a blank.

Antonia Arslan has taken steps to rectify that situation. Those who read her unsparing debut novel, Skylark Farm, will never forget the events of 1914-1918, when more than 1 million Armenians living in what is now Turkey were massacred in what is widely regarded by the international community as a genocide.

Arslan's family was among that number. Her book is classified as fiction because she uses the structure of a novel to re-create events that occurred before she was born, but not because she is inventing them. In "Skylark," the Italian professor of literature has woven her family's "obscure memories" together with research, including interviews with survivors and her own imagination to tell the story of how three young nieces and one nephew escaped the genocide and made it safely to their uncle in Italy.

The Arslans were a prosperous family living in the hills of Anatolia. In 1914, family patriarch Sempad awaits the return of his older brother, Yerwant, who had gone to Italy as a teenager to study. Both men engage in elaborate preparations: Yerwant buys a red Isotta Fraschinni with a silver monogram, so that he can travel in style, loading it with gold and silver trinkets for everyone in the family. Sempad, meanwhile, renovates Skylark Farm, the family's country house. He orders a stained-glass window from Great Britain, lawn furniture from Austria, and has the ground dug for a tennis lawn.

But instead of the long-cherished family reunion, World War I begins. A few weeks before Yerwant and his family are to leave for Anatolia, Italy closes its borders. Yerwant desperately tries to get information about his family, not knowing that a campaign to destroy the Armenian minority had begun in April, and that by May, Sempad's tennis lawn had become a mass grave.

In the first part of the novel, Arslan introduces all the members of the family, laying out who will survive and who will not. The language in Part 1 can, understandably enough, veer into the overwrought, and Arslan indulges in a few too many prophetic dreams. The human warnings that Sempad and his family ignore are heartbreaking enough, without throwing in green angels and deathbed prophecies. Also understandably, Arslan tends to have Turkish characters spout overripe dialogue rather than engage in a precise examination of the banality of evil. One exception: in a chilling scene, the Interior Minister Talat Pasha, in a secret meeting, orders the roundup of Armenian males and then goes off to play backgammon with Armenian poet Krikor Zohrab. "He's always right on time, a real gentleman," Pasha remarks to his aide.

But once the massacre at Skylark Farm occurs – in a powerfully unflinching scene – the narrative takes hold and Arslan's writing surges to meet her material. All the Armenian women, children, and the elderly are rounded up and forcibly evacuated from the city. They leave in loaded carriages, but are set on by Kurdish bandits operating on orders from the Turkish zeptiahs. Those who survive are forced to march, starving, all the way to Aleppo, where they will be deported to the desert. No one is allowed to give them food; there is a law that makes helping any Armenian punishable by death. (Arslan is careful to mention the brave people, such as the holy leader of Konya, who defied that order.)

At this point, the race to save the surviving Arslan children takes on an inexorable momentum. Their unlikely saviors include a Turkish beggar, a Greek wailer (a professional mourner) and the wife of a French consul. As they march, Shushanig, the mother, and Azniv, her second-oldest daughter, do everything to keep the children alive. (Shushanig only has one son left, her toddler, Nubar. All the men and boys in their city were murdered. Someone put little Nubar in a dress as a joke that saved his life.) Azniv's heroism is all the more poignant because she could have fled to Paris with a Turkish soldier who was in love with her.

The strength of the tale is striking: By page 23 readers know what the outcome will be and yet it's impossible to stop reading. "Skylark Farm" operates like "Schindler's List"; it's a story of hope that makes it easier for us to confront the horror of what happens when evil is allowed to run unchecked.

• Yvonne Zipp regularly reviews fiction for the Monitor.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


The Brave Armenian: Hrant Dink

January 29, 2007
Hetq Online
Tigran Paskevichyan

In Istanbul on January 19, 2006 at about 5 p.m., a sixteen-year-old Turkish boy named Ogun Samast gunned down the 52-year-old editor of the newspaper Agos and well-known Turkish-Armenian public figure, Hrant Dink.

One might have considered this crime by a teenager to be an accident or a mistake if Hrant Dink had not been at the center of attention of the international community over the last three years. He attained fame for a simple reason – he tried to oppose to Turkish laws and public opinion. He had the imprudence of criticizing the Turkish national anthem, supposed to be the anthem for all citizens of Turkey including national minorities, by objecting to a line in it that says “smile upon my heroic race,” saying the emphasis on race was a form of discrimination. He also criticized the oath that all children irrespective of their ethnicity are required to take in the Turkish schools: “ I am Turkish, I am righteous, I am industrious.” And lastly, he dared to talk about the Armenian Genocide, for which he was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code on the denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, the same Article renowned writer and 2006 Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk had been charged with for speaking about one million Armenian victims.

Dink wrote a series of articles in which he called on Diaspora Armenians to stop focusing on the Turks and focus instead on the welfare of Armenia, and he told Armenians that their enmity toward the Turks “has a poisoning effect in your blood.” The court took the phrase out of context, wrongly assuming it meant that Turkish blood is poison. And this turned the Armenian journalist into a target for the nationalistic segment of the Turkish state and society culminating in the January 19 th tragedy. “I have never insulted and will never insult any nation,” Dink would say. “An Armenian cannot do such a thing. We are not insulting; we are seeking our right. That's what I'm talking about – that I'm seeking my right, the right of my ancestors.”

Hrant Dink was held in great respect within the progressive and democratic circles of Turkey, for they realized that Turkey-Armenia relations and the recognition of the Genocide, in particular, was an issue for Armenians and Turks which should not become an object of speculations by the big powers.

In a speech in Frankfurt Dink said, “Europe played a very significant role in the 1915 tragedy by speculating on the Armenian question and is still using it for its own objectives.”

He began publishing the Turkish-Armenian weekly newspaper AGOS in 1996 to establish a bridge of communication and understanding between the larger Turkish population and the Turkish-Armenian community. In an interview with the television channel A1 Plus, he explained his weekly's purpose: “In the past we communicated with the Turkish government and state officials by means of letters and petitions, but we need to speak not only to them but to the Turkish people as well. And we can speak to them only through the press and in their language.”

The Turkish-Armenian journalist was convinced that the Genocide had to be recognized and that Turkey had to recognize it under the pressure of the Turkish society, and not through the political games of Europe or the United States. He believed that many people in the Diaspora were blinded with the hatred and guided by emotions alone. “They believe that Turkey is unable to undergo changes, but everything changes in the world. Problems are not solved by slamming the door. Just the opposite,” Hrant Dink said.

Unlike public figures in Armenia and in the Diaspora, he was a staunch supporter of Turkey's admission to the European Union, for he viewed the issue of the rights of the Armenians within the context of Turkey's democratization. “I have lived my life in Turkey, spent my childhood there. I don't believe in coercive solutions; I believe more in dialogue. Let the accession talks start. It is the best means for unrolling democracy in Turkey.”

He believed that a refusal to admit Turkey into the European Union would amount to a defeat for Turkish democrats and the end of democracy in the country. Dink was also concerned about such a scenario's negative consequences for Armenia: “What will happen if Turkey locks itself up?”

Outside pressure and coercion might one day lead to the recognition of the Genocide by Turkey but this, according to Dink, “would not change much in the mentality of Turks.” He believed that Turkey would not turn democratic by acknowledging the Genocide. In his opinion, the country had to become democratic and it should be the demand of Turkish democracy to recognize the Genocide of the Armenians and their rights. “The recognition of the events of 1915 by a non-democratic Turkey will not offer much to us, the Armenians.”

Hrant Dink was generally reserved about Armenian efforts to make the world recognize the Armenian Genocide, and the French law making it a crime to deny the Armenian Genocide was unacceptable to the man who had faced Turkish courts several times for using the word “genocide”. He believed that rather than imposing democratic values on Turkey, the French were appropriating its misguided laws. “If this draft becomes a law, I will be among the first who will travel to France to try to break it. And let Turkey and France compete over who's going to throw me in jail first.”

As a journalist and editor, he valued freedom of speech extremely highly, even if that freedom meant being considered an enemy by a sizable segment of the population and, ultimately, putting his life in danger.

Hrant Dink had said on many occasions that if the Turkish court didn't acquit him of the charges it would be honorable for him to leave the country but in his last article, published after his tragic murder, he refuted himself, saying, “It is not for me to escape to heaven by abandoning the fires of hell. I want to turn this Gehenna into heaven.”

Tigran Paskevichyan

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


It’s The Mass Media That Create Society

January 29, 2007
Hetq Online

Interview with cultural theorist Hrach Bayadyan

Is there freedom of speech in Armenia? And what role do the electronic media play in the realm of the mass media, Public Television in particular?

To some extent there is freedom of speech and to some extent there is not. In many respects the opposition press is freer, but the TV channels are thoroughly controlled… In each particular situation we can evaluate freedom of speech depending on what mass medium we are talking about... Indeed, the extent of freedom of speech may vary in some situations. If we compare Public Television and Public Radio from the standpoint of free expression we will find a clear difference between them – Public Radio is freer in articulating criticism. Especially since Public Radio broadcasts programs from Radio Liberty, which has no constraints and is not controlled by the government. The reason is clear – the extent of the impact made by radio is far smaller.

I remember that when they covered the demonstrations that followed the last presidential elections and the violence applied to the demonstrators, the as yet inexperienced reporters from Radiolur lied to such an extent that I, as a radio listener, felt uncomfortable. It was also ridiculous since their coverage was followed by Radio Liberty reports telling us exactly the opposite. Now they express themselves more freely at Radiolur, though limitations still exist. I do not rule out that in the case of a worsening of the political situation, government control will increase and freedom of speech will diminish.

Ever since A1+ TV was taken off the air the authorities have tried by all means to keep the electronic media - and Public Television, which has the largest audience, above all – under their control. Therefore, freedom of speech at Public TV is in a sorry plight. The Haylur news program is controlled with special punctiliousness and as a result it stands out for its deliberateness in commenting on the events. That deliberateness is manifested in the most diverse ways and is achieved by the most diverse means – from passing over certain things in silence and misrepresenting them to disinformation, from skilful editing to ridiculing. Sarcasm combined with obvious hints at various political and public figures and other tricks, for example, takes on certain interpretative, guiding and, eventually, evaluative significance for the audience.

Freedom of expression on the Public Television is also confined because of its saturation with inexcusable volumes of commercialized and light entertainment programs. Over the years this approach has shaped a “profile” or a picture that is called on to satisfy the demands of various segments of the society.

The only positive consequence of government's efforts to control the electronic mass media was the fact that in order to express themselves freely many mass media outlets have been established on the Internet. Of course, many electronic and print media have their Internet versions as well. Due to the lack of reliable statistical data we may assume that their social significance is negligible, and the main reason for this is limited access to the Internet. Perhaps paradoxically, journalists' lack of competence and awareness might be a factor limiting freedom of expression and getting reliable information. The simplisticness of journalists' language and evaluations may be reaching an extreme. A journal may have its “style” and stereotypes, and journalists might have “eyeglasses” that enable them to see some things and not to see others, in order to meet their deadlines.

Let's not forget, however, that the influence of the mass media depends not only on what and how they report, but also on how the audience perceives all that. In other words, one should not overestimate the perceiver's ingenuousness – that he or she allegedly perceives what is being reported. Nowadays, a great role is attached in media theories and studies to the factor of perception, to the forms of the consumption of information and cultural production. Depending on the audience's perception, education and social affiliation as well as other circumstances, numerous ambiguities might accrue. In this respect one should not overestimate the mass media's capability to shape people's thinking or opinions.

The mass media operate in a complex social context that can add question marks to their messages, introduce uncertainties, ambiguities and misconceptions.

What is the ratio between electronic and print, pro-government, opposition and independent media?

It's one thing when we talk about the pro-government press where the freedom of speech is limited by the authorities or by the factor of authority, and another thing when we talk about the opposition or independent mass media. Here too there are constraining factors. Being in opposition doesn't imply having free speech. Naturally, being outside the government's control renders additional opportunities for freedom, sometimes more, sometimes less. I'm confident that for a journalist of any media outlet that considers itself free or independent there also exist taboo-subjects, conditional to various factors – economic pressure, political sympathy or antipathy, etc… They might not be openly visible but if one wishes to one can discover a newspaper's sympathies and antipathies by, for example, reading the paper over a longer period of time. Sometimes the freedom might be a freedom of cursing out the government or someone else, but not freedom of speech.

If the government doesn't have control at least over the non-governmental segment of the print media, it is because the audience and the possible impact of print media are much smaller. This is the case everywhere; it's just that in Armenia it reaches extreme proportions. Even in developed countries the press with the greatest possible circulation cannot be compared with TV channels. As for the radio stations in Armenia, they are almost completely commercialized or are cultural in nature. Therefore, it doesn't make much sense to discuss the issue of freedom of speech in this case. I have already touched upon the rise in the number of Internet media outlets. It is worth adding that they are published in foreign languages as well and have a larger audience abroad and thus present more diverse and reliable information not only to foreigners but also to the numerous Armenian Diaspora, which might have an impact on the internal political life.

What methods of pressure are presently exerted on journalists to limit freedom of speech?

In the case of electronic mass media, control is exerted vis-à-vis the subjects being covered, the guests who are invited etc… As far as print media is concerned - where media outlets of opposition political parties still exist - government control or pressure might be exercised in a variety of ways. Control can be exercised through bribing a journalist to prevent him or her from writing on a particular subject or conducting an interview with a particular person or to write a particular article on a required subject. Naturally, tougher methods exist – from intimidation to brute force. Various pressures can be exerted not only toward journalists but toward media outlets as well.

As in all segments of society, there are corruptible and opportunistic people among journalists as well. In its turn, the information domain is multi-layered: mass media owners, journalistic elite, “proletariat”, etc… One should not depict journalists as people crowned with a halo of free speech; neither one should forget that freedom of speech is a Western concept with certain forces and interests standing behind it. Its local significance is not always unequivocal, since it is shaped in a much larger domain than the national framework of government-society, government-opposition interrelationships.

The control over freedom of expression is exercised mostly by administrative and economic means. Disobedient radio and TV companies can be deprived of broadcasting frequencies. And the other way around—the National Commission on Television and Radio might compensate for loyalty by turning a blind eye to violations of the law by a given media outlet (for example, violations related to the volumes and content of ads).

Since the owners of TV companies usually have other businesses as well (the majority of private TV channels are apparently not profitable), these companies are controlled through controlling the owners' other businesses. In other words, there are many ways of controlling.

Some people think that, in essence, in our country mass media do not shape public opinion. If this is true then why do the authorities and the political forces react so painfully to the criticism sounded by the mass media?

French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wrote an article on the subject, the very title of which maintains: “Public Opinion Doesn't Exist.” One of his statements can be paraphrased like this: what we consider public opinion is something that a government or some other power forms and disseminates in order to justify its subsequent actions. In Armenia it's even more customary to talk and act on behalf of the people. In any case, it's clear from what has been said that what is called public opinion cannot exist without the mass media. It is evident that without the help of the mass media thousands of people that make up the society do not have a chance first to have an opinion about something that they have not witnessed, and then to have a unified opinion.

Moreover, society itself is inconceivable as such without mass media. Therefore, it is only with the help of mass media that we are able to have an opinion about something, which doesn't mean, as we have already said, that we would necessarily have the opinion that the media outlet would want us to have. In this sense, public opinion, of course, exists so far as the mass media try to shape certain assessments and expectations of certain realities, and in this respect the authorities have sufficient grounds for worry.

The other side of the question is that our society remains patriarchal, where the word of the head of the family or the state must be indisputable, where dissent or even worse, criticism is perceived as an encroachment upon his authority.

What is the connection between mass media and society?

As we have said, it is impossible to separate society and the mass media from each other. Society doesn't exist without mass media. Power and politics don't exist without mass media and vice versa. Just imagine a daily newspaper that doesn't report on a government meeting of the previous day, that doesn't cover the sessions of the National Assembly (let's put aside professional media). On the other hand the presentation and interpretation of political decisions, the behavior of state and political figures is also adapted to the perspectives that the mass media realm offers. The significance and future development of events might depend on how they are presented on television.

Even the most irreconcilable opposition newspaper, to some extent, contributes to the legitimization of the government by its criticism. Do you remember how the opposition newspapers were scoffing at the members of the newly elected National Assembly by calling them “local criminal authorities”, and so on? But those who had scoffed are taking page-long interviews with them today and thus contributing to their legitimization. Politics and the political field to a greater extent are also shaped with the help of the mass media and we cannot separate them from each other. It is the journalists who teach these “local criminal authorities” to speak on political subjects. In general, the languages of the political and journalistic fields are interconnected. If you have noticed, some dialectal and jargon nuances have appeared in the spoken language of some even most experienced and opposition journalists. One wonders from where. I'm half-joking, of course, but I consider it to be a manifestation of the solidarity of the political and journalistic fields.

Interview by Sara Petrosyan

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Levon Aronian won Corus-2007 chess tournament

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Armenian grand master Levon Aronian won Corus-2007, the international chess tournament held in the Netherlands. After 13 rounds the Group A consisting of three chess players – Levon Aronian (Armenia), Vsselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and Teymur Radjabov (Azerbaijan) – collected 8.5 points each. However, the Armenian chess player was recognized the winner by the additional index. In the course of the tournament Aronian demonstrated stability. Never defeated, he scored four victories and had advantages over his rival in drawn games. Absolute world champion, Russian Vladimir Kramnik was the fourth with 8 points.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


New Congress, New Hope: Genocide Recognition resolution to appear before US lawmakers

January 29, 2007
By John Hughes
ArmeniaNow reporter

A resolution is expected to be introduced Tuesday (January 30) to the United States Congress that would, again, call on the US to officially recognize the killing and displacement of early-20th century Armenians in Turkey as genocide.
(Disputed by Turkey as war collateral, Armenians claim up to 1.5 million casualties between 1915-18.)

The bill (HR316) will be jointly introduced by four members of the Armenian Caucus, representing states where Congressional districts are heavily influenced by the Armenian Diaspora: California, New Jersey, New York, Michigan. As of Friday, 137 members of Congress supported the resolution (from a total of 435).

The United States has consistently rejected similar resolutions before every Congress in recent memory. Needing to remain cordial relations with Turkey for its strategic military value, the US has refused efforts by its strong Armenian Diaspora to make Genocide recognition part of its policy. (John Evans, the latest US Ambassador to Armenia was dismissed early from his post, because, as was widely perceived, he used the word “genocide” in a speech before a Diaspora audience. The White House denies that Evans was dismissed for that reason.)

Still, lobbyists in Yerevan and Washington, D.C., are optimistic that the resolution – unchanged since it was introduced before the last Congress -- might be more popularly received than in previous years.

In Yerevan Monday, Armenian Assembly of America Country Director Arpi Vartanian told ArmeniaNow that a recent shift in general public perception and the recent election of a Democrat-led congress would seem to favor support of this resolution. Coming, too, only a week after the internationally-reported death of Turkish-Armenian journalist and Genocide recognition activist Hrant Dink, the resolution has relevance outside the Armenian community.

“My hope is that Hrant’s murder will not have been in vain,” Vartanian said. “If it results in Genocide recognition, in the abolition of (Turkey’s) Article 301, in freedom of speech, it will not have been in vain. The adoption of this resolution would be one positive that could come out of this tragedy.”

Hopes of the Assembly and other lobbying groups ride, too, on the recent political shift in America that installed an Armenia-friendly Democrat as Speaker of the House.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (California) has backed previous genocide recognition resolutions and has pledged to use her influence as the third most powerful member of the US Government to support a change in policy. “Her position is known,” Vartanian said, “and I’m sure it carries weight.”

Similar optimism has been sounded from Armenian-Americans’ other strong political action group.

The Armenian National Committee of America ( has said: “With the recent changes in Washington, DC, we have the best opportunity in years to defeat Turkey’s Armenian Genocide denial campaign” and urges its supporters to “strike while the iron is hot”.

The Assembly Country Director also acknowledges that, relatively recently, influential publications such as the Boston Globe and The New York Times newspapers no longer qualify their language when using the word “genocide” to refer to the deaths or displacement of Armenians during the reign of the Ottoman Turks.

“Each year (recognition) becomes more of a possibility,” Vartanian said, citing worldwide awareness of genocide in general, brought to the forefront by situations such as the current crisis in Darfur.

The political reality is that should the Genocide Recognition resolution reach the stage of lawmaking, it would likely be vetoed by the current administration (though the resolution itself is a bi-partisan effort).

Against that awareness, Vartanian – who says she is “eternally optimistic” – says there is no need to wait in anticipation of a Democrat in the White House before pushing the issue.

“President Bush has to listen,” Vartanian says. “He has to take into account that this is an issue that just isn’t going away.

In the coming days the Assembly ( will be encouraging voters in the US to appeal to their representatives for support of the resolution. Assembly members are seeking support, too, from other communities including the large and influential Jewish Diaspora. Toward that effort, the Jewish Community of Armenia has attached a letter of support to the resolution.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Yerevan's stance on Armenia-Turkey relations unchangeable


/PanARMENIAN.Net/ “Official Yerevan’s stance on the Armenian-Turkish relations is unchangeable. Our state is ready to normalize relations without preconditions,” RA President’s Spokesman Victor Soghomonian said at a briefing in Yerevan. In his words, in response to Turkish PM Erdogan’s letter the Armenian leader proposed to form an intergovernmental commission to consider the whole scope of issues referring to normalization of relations between the two states. “The Armenian President proposed this instead of formation of a commission of historians for investigating the past,” Soghomonian said.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian-Australian Community Leaders Meet with Turkish Ambassador in Australia


YEREVAN (YERKIR) - A delegation of Armenian-Australian community leaders including Archbishop Aghan Baliozian Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Church, representatives of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and Varant Meguerditchian of the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC of Australia) recently met with Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Australia Murat Ersavci, to convey the Armenian-Australian community's outrage at the recent murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

Editor of the Istanbul based Agos newspaper, Dink was an advocate for freedom of speech, having repeatedly criticised Turkey for its mistreatment of ethnic minorities and Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. After countless death threats, Dink was gunned down as a result of extremist behaviour fostered by Turkey’s political system.

Ambassador Murat Ersavci refused to accept, after reading, a letter presented to him by the Armenian community delegation condemning article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, defined as insulting Turkishness.

The Ambassador stated that article 301 was an internal matter, which did not concern the Armenian Diaspora and further suggested that the Armenian Diaspora abandon its fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide as it was harming relations between the neighbour nations.

In response, the Armenian-Australian community leaders emphasised to the Ambassador, that Turkey’s political system had moulded its society into one that encouraged racism and nationalistic behaviour ultimately leading to Hrant Dink’s murder. The Armenian community representatives reiterated their demand that Turkey abolish article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, bring the conspirators behind the murder to justice and to accept responsibility for the Genocide of the Armenians in order to normalise relations between Turkey and Armenia.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Australia and the Armenian National Committee of Australia declared that ‘The meeting was a success. Although the Ambassador rejected our letter, it was clear to the Turkish representative that the Armenian Diaspora is united in its outrage at Dink’s murder and the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.’

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


XXI century nothing changed in Turkey


YEREVAN (YERKIR) - “After Hrant Dink’s murder and funeral in Istanbul, which was attended by hundred of thousands, many people in the world began to speak about a change in Turkish as if it has become more democratic and tolerant.

Such statements occurred also in Armenia,” political scientist Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan told PanARMENIAN.Net. However, he thinks, we should recall the events, which took place a hundred years ago. “In 1908 the Young Turks came into power in Ottoman Empire. Just less than a month before it they were solemnly placing flowers to the graves of hundred of thousands of Armenians who were killed by sultanate Turkey.

At those times much was talked about the new XX century, about changing ethnic character of Turks, about religion tolerance. But the same Young Turks with mass assistance of population already in 1909 organized a massacre of 30 000 Armenians in Aleppo.

The XX century has not changed anything, nothing has changed and the XXI century. Today we see the same phenomenon which was in the past: flowers and banner for the outside world and internal readiness to kill in reality. National mentality is a quite conservative phenomenon, which practically does not yield to time changes,” stressed Levon Melik-Shahnazaryan.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Armenia's GDP growth beats expectations

RBC, 29.01.2007, Yerevan 12:52:10.Armenia's GDP grew 13.4 percent in 2006, the Armenian government's press office announced citing data from Economy Minister Karen Tchshmarityan's report. Meanwhile, experts had projected a 4.5-percent GDP growth in 2006.

According to the report, several economic indicators were up in Armenia in 2006. Hence, foreign trade soared 115.2 percent to some $3.198bn compared to 2005. Foreign investment surged 31.8 percent in the first nine months of 2006.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Turkish man held for threatening ferry

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Seattle Post Intelligencer, WA


ANKARA, Turkey -- Police detained an armed man who briefly held up a ferry and threatened to blow it up in protest of pro-Armenian slogans chanted at a slain journalist's funeral, an official said Sunday.

The man, claiming to have plastic explosives on him, seized the ferry as it was on its way from Gelibolu to Lapseki late Saturday, Deputy Gov. Yusuf Ziya Ince said.

The man gave himself up to police after 2 1/2 hours and released all passengers unharmed, Ince said. He was armed but was not carrying any explosives, Ince said.

Television footage showed the man shouting: "I did it for the country," as he was being led away from the ferry to a police vehicle.

Ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who angered nationalists by calling the mass killing of Armenians in the early 20th century genocide, was gunned down outside his newspaper a week ago.

His funeral inspired a massive outpouring of support for reconciliation between Armenians and Turks.

Ince said the man was angered by the pro-Armenia slogans chanted at Dink's funeral and unfurled a Turkish flag while aboard the ferry.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

A death in Istanbul

January 28, 2007
Boston Globe
By Stephen Kurkjian

The assassination of editor Hrant Dink set off the largest peaceful demonstration in modern Turkish history. Can last week's symbolic events lead to reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia?

ISTANBUL -- On Tuesday, after hundreds of thousands of Turks filled the streets of this city to honor the slain Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink, in what was the largest peaceful demonstration in modern Turkey's history, a group of academics and political leaders appeared on Turkey's most respected television talk program to discuss what lessons might be learned from Dink's assassination.

Dink's outspoken columns in Agos, the Armenian-language newspaper he edited, had long called for recognition of the deep and tortured history of Armenians in Turkey, as well as respect and improved conditions for the fraction (70,000 in a country of about 70 million) who still live here. Although his columns led to his prosecution for "anti-Turkish" views, none of those issues were debated in the televised round table. Instead, the discussion centered on who might benefit politically from Dink's killing, whether there might have been some dark political motivation behind it, and why the northern city of Trabzon, where the 16-year-old alleged killer lived, is producing such a wave of youthful thuggery.

It was a revealing disconnect. The outrage voiced by political leaders over Dink's death, and the turnout of all segments of Turkish society at Tuesday's demonstration, so impressed Armenians here and throughout the world that many saw reason to hope that it could lead to a breakthrough on the bitter issues that have divided the two people since 1915.

The biggest of those issues, of course, is how the two sides view what happened in 1915. That was the year an estimated 800,000 to 1.5 million Armenians were killed, and hundreds of thousands more driven from their ancestral home in Turkey's eastern Anatolian region.

Although the mass killings have been recognized by most historians and scholars as a genocide, the Turkish government has vehemently rejected that characterization, teaching in its public schools that the Armenians left Anatolia on their own and that both Armenians and Turks died in large numbers. The official state position remains that whatever losses were suffered resulted from Armenians conspiring for independence or were ordered by Ottoman rulers who have no connection with the modern Turkish state.

But whether meaningful change can emerge from the symbolic events of the past week is uncertain at best, as generations of bitterness and suspicion as well as modern-day political realities divide the two peoples.

. . .

My connection to this story is a personal one: My father lost his father, brother, and sister in the 1915 genocide, and he survived only by making a 300-mile trek with his mother to Syria, where he remained until coming to the United States in the early 1920s. I went to Turkey last week to attend Dink's funeral at St. Mary's Armenian Church and to witness the demonstration in his honor to see for myself what his tragic death might mean for the future of Turkish-Armenian relations.

On Wednesday night, after a meeting with Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan at the Armenian Patriarchate across the narrow cobbled street from where Dink's funeral had been held the day before, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan missed an immediate opportunity to shed some light on the path he sees ahead.

Emerging from the 15-minute meeting, his first visit to the patriarchate in his four years as prime minister, Erdogan waved off questions from reporters eager to learn, among other things, whether he planned -- as other Turkish officials have speculated he might -- to abolish Article 301, the provision in Turkish law that holds public figures criminally liable for making "anti-Turkish" statements. Dink, as well as Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk, are among dozens of Turkish writers who have been charged under the law for referring to the Armenian genocide, and Dink's supporters believe his conviction in 2005 put a target on his back.

Doing away with Article 301 would seem to be a relatively easy move for Erdogan to make, in contrast to other changes that have long been sought by Armenians: Reopening the border between the two countries, which was closed in 1993 following Armenia's war with Azerbaijan, Turkey's ally; and giving some recognition or apology for the mass killings of 1915. But even to take such a modest step would place Erdogan in a tough place politically, with the campaign for Turkey's national elections in November about to begin, and his Justice and Development Party dependent on conservatives and nationalists for its support.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who heads the American Diocese of the Armenian Church, says a reopening of the border should be the first step in building trust between Armenians and Turks. "The two governments and their people need so badly to get to know one another again, to begin a dialogue so they can build trust," said Barsamian in a telephone interview from New York after his return from Dink's funeral.

The advantages, he noted, would be enormous for both sides. For the now-independent Republic of Armenia, whose 3 million residents continue to struggle financially after nearly 70 years under Soviet rule, there is the prospect of a great economic lift. For Turkey, as it seeks to enter the European Union, there is the prospect of improving relations with member countries such as France and the Netherlands, who are sympathetic to Armenia and their own citizens of Armenian heritage.

There is still another factor, however, that could stand in the way of reconciliation. The Armenian diaspora of 6 million, who were spread worldwide by the genocide, generally opposes making any concessions to Turkey without a formal recognition and apology for the events of 1915, and it remains far from certain whether the diaspora is now willing to give up this opposition.

My father came to epitomize this conflict for Armenians. Having spent his life avoiding any contact with Turks because of the government's refusal to acknowledge the genocide, his feelings eased somewhat after a return to the country in 1992. During that trip he saw firsthand the poverty that has long defined the lives of Armenians living in Turkey. While he could never forgive Turkey for the losses he suffered, he said it was time to put aside such bitterness if it served in the end to improve the lives of Armenians there.

Dink himself challenged the Armenian diaspora about its hard-line position on the genocide. While Dink wrote that acknowledging the sins of the past would in the end serve to improve Turkey's image as a democracy, he also said a more pressing priority is to improve living conditions for the small community of Armenians in Turkey as well as those in neighboring Armenia.

"There is a big difference between Armenians in the diaspora and Armenians in Turkey," he once said. "You guys are Armenian one day a year, on the 24th of April" -- the day on which the 1915 killings and deportations are commemorated -- "whereas we are Armenian every day of the year. . ."

Meanwhile, as Tuesday's demonstration showed, there is increasing pressure on the Turkish government to reassess its position on 1915 -- and that pressure isn't just coming from Armenians. One of Dink's close friends, Taner Akcam, a Turkish-born historian who teaches at the University of Minnesota, has urged Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide and come to terms with the events of 1915.

"The government should realize that the world applauded those thousands and thousands of Turks marching in the streets because they were all saying we condemn this murderer," said Akcam, whose recently published book, "A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility," documents the case for calling it a genocide. "The government could do the same thing by condemning the events of 1915, and tell the world that modern Turkey is different from that."

Stephen Kurkjian is a member of the Globe staff. He can be reached at

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


The death of a hero

Ottawa Citizen
January 28, 2007 Sunday
Final Edition

by David Warren, The Ottawa Citizen

Hrant Dink, a Christian Turk of Armenian extraction, was the editorof Agos, a prominent weekly in Istanbul. He campaigned fearlessly for recognition in Turkey of historical facts surrounding the forced expulsions and massacres of Armenians in 1915-17, when the "YoungTurks" governed the collapsing Ottoman Empire. He also campaigned forTurkish-Armenian reconciliation, thus earning the enmity of radicals on both sides. And he campaigned for open democracy.

Last year, he was tried and convicted under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, for "insulting Turkishness." That is an article that has been used repeatedly to silence discussion of the Armenian holocaust. He wrote in his newspaper of the pain he felt, at being taken as an enemy of his own country. Also of the pain of receiving constant death threats and having to behave like a pigeon, "always alert, looking right, left, in front, behind."

Hrant was gunned down on Jan. 19. Ogun Samast, a 17-year-old highschool dropout, has confessed the murder, declaring that Hrant had "dirtied Turkish blood." Turkish police have made several further arrests, for the boy was obviously not acting entirely on his own.

From an account of the funeral, by an eyewitness in Istanbul:

"It started with a memorial service in the street in front of the Agos offices. His widow gave a passionate speech, written in the form of a letter to her husband. Speaking of the killer, she wrote, 'We know he was once a baby. Without questioning the darkness that can turn a baby into a killer, nothing will change.' She also quoted John15:13: 'No one can have greater love than to lay down his life forhis friends.'

"In spite of being surrounded by tens of thousands of people, during much of the service a white dove stayed on top of the black vehiclethat held Hrant's coffin."

This last is the sort of detail journalists instinctively delete from copy, since it will be disputed no matter how many witnesses there were. (The dove was one of many released at the funeral.) But the fact that, according to Turkish press, as many as 100,000 walked the eight-kilometre route of the procession is itself remarkable. And the fact that many chanted, "We are all Armenians!" in Turkish, when theywere mostly Turks, must serve to remind my reader that no country can be painted in one colour.

The Columbia Journalism Review has described Turkish penal code 301 as "a law that stinks of suppression of speech." For once I agree with the CJR. And yet before we think, smugly, that we do not have such laws in the West, we must look at the whole tendency of "political correctness," which is to stink in like manner.

Everywhere I can see, we are losing the finest achievement of liberalism. Not of "gliberalism," as I call it -- the degenerate child of liberalism, which embraces its forms and denies its content -- but of the fine tradition itself, of opening rat's nests of state and clerical privilege, and exposing human claims to free enquiry.

True liberalism originated in the impulse to tell the truth, and in so doing, "vindicate the ways of God to man."

Free speech in all its forms, including freedom of the press, airwaves, and web, is something beyond law that goes into the dye and fabric of a society. It is not licence, and it dies when it becomes licentious. It exists, while it survives, for a purpose -- "that we may know the truth, and the truth will set us free." Free speech exists so that the truth may be defended, and so that ugly lies, dressed up as pretty platitudes and plausibilities, can be exposed and destroyed.

Hrant was a true hero of journalism -- though few of his licentious colleagues around the world will ever remember his name or care for his mission. The massacre of around 1.5 million Armenians is not something that will ever stay swept under a Turkish carpet.

Its denial by Turkish nationalists and Muslim chauvinists can serve no honest cause. Lies serve only lies.

Yet freedom is indivisible. Hrant had last made news in October, when he attacked a French parliamentary bill that would have made denial of the Armenian holocaust a criminal offence. He called this the flip side of the coin, and said: "Those who restrict freedom of expression in Turkey and those who try to restrict it in France are of the same mentality."

David Warren's column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday.

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January 26, 2007
New York Post
By Ralph Peters

IT'S hard to watch an old pal hit the skids, making one disastrous decision after another, throwing away a brilliant future. That's the position we're in with Turkey -a former ally bent on self-destruction.

A NATO member ideally positioned to serve as a bridge between the West and the Middle East, Turkey's secular constitution and economic progress should have made it an example for other regional states to emulate. Instead, Turkey has been aping the blighted regimes of the Arab world:

* Exploiting the population's disgust with government corruption, Islamists gained power through the ballot box - and immediately started dismantling the secular legacy of Kemal Ataturk.

* On the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Turkey stabbed the United States - its only dependable ally - in the back, denying passage to our troops in the fateful illusion that Ankara could save Saddam.

* Turkey strangled its (always faint) chance of membership in the European Union with internal repression, ludicrous prosecutions, farcical legislative efforts to Talibanize society and its stubborn denial of the Armenian genocide.

* Instead of winning Europe's approval, the government-sponsored anti-American hate speech poisoning Turkey's media only strengthens European convictions that Turks "aren't our kind."

* Impatient to send Turkish troops into Iraq to attack the PKK (a radical Kurdish group with a terrorist past), Ankara might face a startling military embarrassment, further alienate Washington - and finish off its last prayer of EU membership. (The Europeans just want excuses to keep Turkey out - and Turkey has a genius for providing them.)

* Despite the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship with Iraqi Kurdistan - where Turkish businessmen make substantial profits - the Ankara government obsesses about preventing the emergence of a Kurdish state. Betting on Iraq's Sunni Arabs (who despise the Turks but use them), Turkey has set itself up to lose big if Iraq dissolves.

* With its mischief-making in Iraq, cloak-and-dagger monkey business with Syria and failure to appreciate Iranian deviousness, Turkish foreign policy is in a self-destructive shambles unrivaled since the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

All of this leaves me in sorrow, since I spent decades arguing that Turkey's strategic importance required us to be patient as this land of enormous potential found its way to the future.

For an enthusiastic visitor to Turkey for three decades, it's been heartbreaking to watch its society and economy come to life - only to fall prey to Islamist vampires.

With Salafism - the Saudi brand of radical Islam - biting into the Turkish political jugular, the joke is that the despised Bedouins of Arabia have finally conquered the "Ottoman Empire." The most primitive and backward form of Islam is increasingly at home in the heartlands that had formed the core of the most powerful Muslim state for five centuries.

Now the question isn't whether our old ally can overcome its internal difficulties, but which of its troubles will overwhelm it first. Will the Islamist destruction of Turkish culture continue, or will a rumored military coup plunge the country back into another period of internal violence and political stasis?

For Washington, it's all bad news. The march of punitive Islam (punitive, above all, to Muslims) continues to feed on wild-eyed anti-Americanism - but a military coup could lead to a misadventure in northern Iraq similar to Argentina's Falklands debacle.

Last week's murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (in which Islamo-nationalists cynically employed a 17-year-old assassin who could only be charged as a juvenile) laid bare the divide in Turkish society: 100,000 Turks turned out to protest the barbarous killing, but the government barely shrugged, since the demagogues now command far greater numbers.

Turkey's educated elite is in much the same position as Germany's elite during Hitler's rise to power. Imagining that the Islamists would sputter out, progressive Turks failed to act. Now Turkish civilization - so great for so many centuries - is unraveling the way Germany's did in the 1930s. Turkish intellectuals made the classic error of underestimating the common man's capacity for hatred and lust for blind revenge.

As for the spectacularly virulent and dishonest anti-Americanism in the Turkish media - we need never have a "Who lost Turkey?" debate: The Turks lost it for themselves. Instead of maturing into the Western culture of responsibility, Turks succumbed to the Arab world's culture of blame.

Having looked down on Arabs for centuries, Turks are now becoming functional Arabs, reclining into fantasies of greatness as surreal as a Sufi mystic's hashish dreams. Ataturk's revolutionary vision for a modern Turkish state - betrayed by his own corrupt successors - is fading into the reality of yet another retarded Muslim satrapy.

An even more accurate parallel case than 1930s Germany is today's Pakistan. Turkey is on the way to becoming another extremist-poisoned garrison state held together solely by its military.

On my last visit, I got a madman's lecture from a Turkish customs officer on the resurrection of the Ottoman Empire. But instead of returning to that empire's undeniable glories, 21st- century Turkey appears determined to replay the miserable Ottoman twilight.

I wish we could save Turkey. But we can't. That's up to the Turks.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


The Turkish response to the assassination of writer Hrant Dink

January 27, 2007

The Turkish response to the assassination of writer Hrant Dink has been encouraging. “ We are all Hrant Dink,” said the protesters’ signs. It looks as if the people of Turkey are ready to defend their freedom.

There is little doubt that Hrant Dink was killed because of his opinions. He was shot to death on Jan. 19 in Istanbul. He was the editor of a Turkish- Armenian newspaper who spoke his mind about the 1915 massacres of Armenians. The Turkish authorities have arrested a 17- year- old and say they suspect the teenager was incited by nationalist militants.

Turkey has yet to come to terms with its history, and there is resentment and tension between ethnic Armenians and ethnic Turks. In such a climate, one might have expected the assassination of a prominent advocate, on either side, to inflame sectarian divisions, even to spark a cycle of revenge.

That hasn’t happened. There have been large and peaceful protests in the streets. Non- Armenians carried signs that read, “ We are all Armenian.” Crowd estimates from Mr. Dink’s funeral procession have been on the order of 100,000 mourners.

This is an encouraging sign that the people of Turkey want to live in a secular, pluralist and free society. As for the Turkish government, the signs are not as clear. Despite the official display of mourning over Mr. Dink, it must not be forgotten that Turkish law makes it a crime to “ insult” Turkey and its national character.

This law has led to charges against several writers, including Mr. Dink. It may have been a misguided teenager who shot him, but it is the government that is willing to send writers such as Mr. Dink to jail for using the word “ genocide” in the context of the Armenian massacres.

When Turkish police brought a nationalist into a courtroom to face charges in the Dink case, he yelled that Orhan Pamuk had better watch out. Mr. Pamuk is the Turkish writer who won the 2006 Nobel literary prize. He, too, has been charged with the crime of insulting Turkishness, although his case was thrown out on a technicality. The state is sending mixed signals to the nationalist zealots, as the courtroom outburst — not to mention the Dink murder itself — suggested.

Turkey’s policy of harassing its best writers is an embarrassment to a country that wants to be seen as worthy of inclusion in the European Union.

Most writers, and especially journalists, work to keep governments accountable to the citizenry. In return, citizens will pressure their governments to respect the press. In China, outcry over a journalist beaten to death at a coal mine has caused President Hu Jintao to become personally involved in the investigation.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression puts the number of journalists killed last year at 82 and calls 2006 the most deadly year on record for journalists. Deciding whether a person is a journalist and why they died isn’t always a simple task, so tallies vary, but 2006 was a deadly year by anyone’s calculation.

Freedom of expression is the first freedom; without it, no country can build democracy. Without it, Turkey cannot reach its potential.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

War is going on for the soul of Turkey

Jan 27, 2007
Hamilton Spectator
By Gwynne Dyer

From their powerful positions in the army, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, 'republican elite' work to undermine the reforms and to wreck Turkey's chances of joining the EU.

When they buried Hrant Dink in Istanbul last Tuesday, more than 100,000 Turks came to his funeral, filling the streets and chanting "We are all Armenians." There is a war going on for the soul of Turkey, but at least a lot of Turks are on the right side.

Dink, who called himself "an Armenian from Turkey and a good Turkish citizen," was murdered because he insisted on talking about the great crime that happened in the country 92 years ago: the mass murder of most of Turkey's Armenian population in eastern Anatolia. The newspaper he founded and edited, a bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly called Agos, had only a small circulation, but his outspoken editorials had made him one of Turkey's most famous journalists -- and a target for assassination.

His killer, 17-year-old Ogun Samast, was a semi-educated young thug from Trabzon in the far north-east of Anatolia. He was given the gun by a group of older ultra-nationalists including Yusuf Hayal, who was convicted of bombing a McDonald's restaurant in Trabzon in 2004. But these marginal characters are just pawns in the larger war between those who want a more democratic, more tolerant Turkey and those who are desperately defending the power and privileges of the old "republican" elite.

Samast shot Dink from behind in the street in front of his newspaper office. "I feel no remorse," the killer allegedly told investigators. "He said that Turkish blood was dirty blood." Of course, Dink never said any such thing. What he actually said, in a newspaper article addressed to his fellow Armenians, was that their obsession with the massacres of 1915-17 was having "a poisonous effect on your blood."

But it's east to see how a useful idiot like Samast could have believed that Hrant Dink was an enemy of the Turks, because just over a year ago a Turkish court took that phrase out of context, found Dink guilty of "insulting Turkishness", and gave him a six-month suspended sentence under Article 301 of the Criminal Code. A number of other Turkish citizens including Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk have been prosecuted under the same law for daring to discuss what happened to the Armenians, and most of them have received death threats too.

It really is a kind of war, and the villains of the piece are precisely the army officers, judges and senior civil servants who were once seen as the guardians of the "republican" tradition, the people who were going to modernize and democratize Turkey. Unfortunately, "republican" doesn't really mean the same as "democratic."

The forms of the Turkish republic were democratic from the start, but for a very long time the reality was a mass of illiterate peasants under the harsh tutelage of a narrow educated elite who were determined to Westernize the country. The "republican" elite rewrote history (including the denial of the Armenian massacres) in order to mould a new Turkish national consciousness, and saw religion as a retrograde force that must be banned from politics.

The decades passed, and much of the elite's dream came to pass. Turkey today has a per-capita income higher than Romania or Bulgaria, the most recent countries to join the European Union. Democracy is a reality, and the current prime minister, Recep Tayyib Erdogan, leads a party whose members openly refer to themselves as "Muslim Democrats." Under Erdogan, there has been a wave of legal and administrative reforms designed to qualify Turkey for EU membership. But all this threatens both the rigidly secular ideology and the autocratic privileges of the old republican elite.

From their powerful positions in the army, the judiciary and the bureaucracy, they work to undermine the reforms and to wreck Turkey's chances of joining the EU. In de facto alliance with ultra-nationalist right-wing parties that also oppose EU membership, they incite hatred of minorities, bring false prosecutions against the advocates of a more open and democratic Turkish society, and pursue the long-term goal of destabilizing the democratic order.

It was they who smuggled the notorious Article 301 into the Criminal Code when it was being reformed to align Turkish law with EU standards, they who brought false prosecutions for "insulting Turkishness" against Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk, and other well-known writers, journalists and scholars, they who spread the lies about what Dink had actually said. It is they, not some ignorant, angry teenager, who are really responsible for his death.

But the war is not over yet, and the good guys have not lost. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul vowed last November to change or abolish Article 301, and last week 100,000 Turks thronged streets of Istanbul to mourn the country's best-known Armenian and condemn his murderers.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Conservatives modify position on Turkey

Turkey's state policy of denial continues to serve as a daily affront to all Armenians.

January 26, 2007
rabble news
by Anthony Wing

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay recently modified the Canadian government's official acknowledgement of the 1915 Armenian genocide with a statement of support for the government of Turkey's proposal to establish a joint commission with Armenia to investigate the events of that period.

This apparent gesture of goodwill towards conflict resolution between neighbour states admits of an astonishing naiveté that may effectively kill the government's acknowledgement resolution first passed in 2004 by the Liberal government and briefly reaffirmed by the ruling Conservatives.

Even a cursory glance behind Turkey's proposal should have been enough to stay the Minister's hand: the government of Turkey, after denying for decades historical responsibility for the organized and bureaucratic extermination of an unarmed Christian Armenian minority by Ottoman Turks (which in recent years featured arrests and show trials for writers mentioning the genocide, including current Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk), first floated the joint-commission idea in 2005.

However, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) quickly revealed that this gesture amounted to a further act of aggression: Turkish authorities had sought the help of U.S. scholars to obfuscate the historical record and, the IAGS argued, this spurious scholarship would be used to sabotage such a panel. The IAGS expressed this in a June 2005 letter to the Turkish Government, re-sent nearly a year later:

We are dismayed that your government, in asking the Armenian government to establish a so-called objective commission to study the fate of the Armenian people in 1915, is refusing to acknowledge the resolved discourse on the Armenian Genocide in the mainstream international scholarly community outside of Turkey. We are concerned that your request is a political ploy designed to create controversy over the Armenian Genocide when in fact, outside of your government, there is none.

Also not open to debate is the government of Turkey's transparent record of human rights abuse. Eager to speed negotiations for terms of accession into the European Union, Turkey officially abolished the death penalty and state torture in a new Penal Code adopted in 2004; however, Amnesty International has since reported that torture and extrajudicial executions have persisted outside official detention centres, largely unchecked by a feeble investigation process.

Moreover, persecution of the Kurdish minority in the southeast has not abated, and the 32-year control of an impoverished military colony in the northern third of Cyprus bestows on Ankara the title of sole occupying power in mainland Europe since 1945; indeed, the EU recently suspended membership negotiations over Turkey's latest paltry concessions over the latter issue.

Here at home, the Harper government's decision to modify their Armenian genocide acknowledgement was criticized by columnist Jeffrey Simpson, but for a different reason: The Globe and Mail's sophist emeritus disagreed with the acknowledgement in the first place. For some time The New York Times had a policy that the term “Armenian genocide” could be used freely and without qualification; not so the Globe's editorial board, which twice recently allowed Simpson to place quotation marks around the word “genocide” when writing of the event.

Moreover in a recent Globe online Q&A, Simpson appeared to argue simultaneously that 1) the events of 1915 are a matter for genuine debate and 2) Canada should ignore 1). But in the case of 1), I am in agreement with Simpson, albeit on very different terms:

Rafael Lemkin, international law professor and U.S. War Department adviser during WWII, coined the term “genocide,” later furnishing a definition in his 1944 work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe. His proposal that the neologism enter language as a violation of international law was adopted by jurists at the Nuremberg trials and thereafter by the United Nations General Assembly. Appearing on U.S. national television in 1949, Lemkin was the first to call what happened to the Armenians “genocide.” Earlier he had elaborated on components of the term in an address to the Geneva Conventions:

The objectives of a [genocidal] plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.

Applying this calculus today, Turkey's state policy of denial continues to serve as a daily affront to all Armenians. Could it not therefore be put that zero acknowledgement of historical responsibility will postpone indefinitely the reconciliation and healing process for the affected group, thus perpetuating several of the articles of genocide as defined in the Geneva Conventions? This may well be the matter for genuine debate, not the “question” of whether the massacres occurred at all.

As for Canada, there is absolutely no place for credulity as we begin to emerge as a world leader in 21st century international jurisprudence. The United States government sponsored and encouraged Rafael Lemkin's efforts to entrench genocide into international law, yet in 1994 the U.S. proxy at the United Nations helped block a resolution to assist the UN Rwanda mission on the eve of the 100-day genocide of close to one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

This avoidable event may have occasioned the demise of peacekeeping, and after an intervening period of UN confusion and indecision it was Canada who seized the initiative with their support of the “Responsibility To Protect” commission. The latter's 2001 report provided a template for the policy behind Canada's current Afghan deployment, but if our leaders still hope to maintain a conscientious world leadership in foreign policy, missteps of this magnitude must be addressed.

The world's failure to remember the Armenian genocide was an inspiration for both Adolf Hitler, who borrowed its techniques of cattle-car transport and pit-burial for the Final Solution, and Rafael Lemkin, who made an indivisible contribution to human rights, international law and language in the wake of the Holocaust. If the Canadian government supports the formation of a joint commission to look into “genocide allegations,” then we should immediately appoint a committee to investigate whether the 1922 discovery of insulin has really been of any help to diabetics.

The Foreign Affairs Minister must interrupt his human rights posturing with China to condemn forthwith Turkey's latest attempt to avert the world's gaze from the 20th century's first genocide.

Anthony Wing is a Toronto writer.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Killing brings dark side of Turkish town into the light

Januare 25, 2007
Globe and Mail

TRABZON, TURKEY — Ask Mehmet Akcelep the first thing he thought when he heard that the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink had been killed, and he answers without hesitation: "I bet that's the work of a local man."

Like the other inhabitants of Trabzon, the biggest city on Turkey's eastern Black Sea coast, Mr. Akcelep, a local councillor, has grown used to seeing his home town in the news for the wrong reasons.

It was here, last February, that a 16-year-old youth shot and killed an Italian priest in the local Catholic church.

It was here, in May, 2005, that four students distributing leaflets about prison conditions narrowly escaped death at the hands of a 2,000-strong lynch mob, first of a growing national trend.

Mr. Akcelep's fears were justified. Arrested Saturday on an overnight coach and accused of shooting Mr. Dink, 17-year-old high-school dropout and amateur soccer player Ogun Samast turned out to be from Pelitli, a suburb of Trabzon.

"I said my prayers and then I shot [Mr. Dink]," Mr. Samast reportedly told interrogators. "I feel no remorse. He said Turkish blood was dirty blood."

Four others were arrested, including fellow Trabzon resident Yasin Hayal, 26, who reportedly incited Mr. Samast to kill and gave him money and the gun. As he was led into court yesterday, Mr. Hayal yelled to reporters, "Orhan Pamuk should come to his senses" -- an apparent threat to the Nobel-winning Turkish novelist who has also raised the ire of Turkish nationalists.

The comments are hardly surprising. Nationalism has always been a fundamental ingredient of Turkish society, and has been a growing force in Trabzon.

"What you have here is a headless monster, a nursery for potential assassins," says Omer Faruk Altuntas, a lawyer and local head of a small left-wing party.

What is it that has turned Trabzon, a city that 100 years ago had local newspapers in Turkish, Greek, Armenian and French, into a symbol of what one Turkish commentator has labelled "banal fascism"?

Locals say the answer is partly economic. Villages around Trabzon used to be prosperous. Then the hazelnut market collapsed, and farmers fled to the city in the tens of thousands.

The Pelitli district, where Mr. Samast is from, is made up of former villagers forced out of their homes by floods and landslides. Youth unemployment is high and most teenagers while away their time in one of two Internet cafés, or playing football.

Deep-seated grievances have been stoked by the belief that Trabzon has suffered more than its fair share of casualties in Turkey's 25-year war against Kurdish separatists.

The mob attack on the four students in May, 2005, took place in an atmosphere of national hysteria triggered by an attempt by two Kurdish teenagers to burn the Turkish flag. Turkey's top general called the flag-burners "so-called citizens."

Local critics blame the authorities for the fact that reactions in Trabzon were more virulent than elsewhere in Turkey, but they reserve their harshest words for the local media.

"Three or four times, they've pretty much invited people to take out their guns and start shooting," says retired teacher Nuri Topal. The lynch mob formed after local televisions stations ran news flashes claiming the students were separatists.

In most Anatolian towns, few people watch local television or read local newspapers. In Trabzon, both are immensely popular and influential, and all because of the town's obsession with football. Trabzonspor, the only non-Istanbul club ever to win the Turkish soccer title, is a central part of the city's identity.

Judging from the atmosphere in Pelitli, there is little chance Mr. Dink's death will change attitudes soon.

"Who cares about that Jew?" says one young man standing outside a local tea house.

"Cut it out!" barks Mehmet Samast, a distant relative of Mr. Dink's confessed killer.

He goes on to say how much he regrets what has happened, how ashamed he feels. It sounds sincere, but concludes by insisting that Ogun Samast was a victim of an international plot.

"Trabzon is vital strategically," he explains. "This murder was the work of the Americans, or the Armenian diaspora. They didn't like [Mr. Dink] either, you know."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Journalist's killing a test for Turkey

Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The Gazette

Turkish authorities moved quickly when Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was murdered last week. Within a couple of days, police arrested a teenager who has reportedly confessed, and now investigators are trying to learn if "ultra-nationalist" groups were involved.

That's good news. Unfettered police work and full disclosure are the marks of a state ruled by law. It is also encouraging that thousands of Turks joined a spontaneous public march of mourning to the offices of Dink's newspaper Agos. "We are all Hrant Dink," the marchers chanted. "Hrant Dink's murderer is this country's betrayer."

Dink upset his 17-year-old killer by using the word "genocide," and defending others who did so, about the killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians about 90 years ago during the last days of the Ottoman empire . "Genocide" is now widely accepted around the world - including by this newspaper - as the mot juste. But many in Turkey still deny any attempt at genocide. And the Turkish state, moving well beyond healthy historical skepticism, has made it a crime to "insult Turkishness" by speaking of this genocide.

Hesitating in the doorway to the modern world, Turkey is wrestling with itself about many aspects of its identity, not least acceptance of its own history.

Just this weekend, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who faces elections this year, was accused publicly, by a senior member of his own party, of using too-harsh nationalist rhetoric. By yesterday, Erdogan was saying "the kind of people who did this ... can definitely not call themselves nationalists."

Municipal officials have invited representatives of the Armenian diaspora to come to Dink's funeral, and have warned the government that the world will be watching the funeral for signs of official interest.

And not just the funeral. Especially if this killing proves to have been plotted, the global wave of revulsion against it will, we hope, send a signal to those who govern the country: If Turkey doesn't move forward - starting with genuine free speech and honest acknowledgement of the past - it's doomed to slide back into a more backward and impoverished way of life.

That's the price of "ultra-nationalism."

© The Gazette ( Montreal ) 2007

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