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Double talk - Turkish style 06/26/2003

Double talk - Turkish style

The new Islamist government of Turkey is on a campaign to dupe the public opinion in Europe and the US and continue its repression of minorities.  There is a profusion of news items in the media to make believe that a breakthrough is about to happen in Armenian-Turkish relations: Indeed, Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdulla Gul met with his Armenian counterpart, Vartan Oskanian, in Madrid and the information emanating from that meeting was that some progress had been achieved towards a rapprochement between the two countries.  The news media reported that the Turkish military had already given its blessing to open the border between Armenia and Turkey.  It is no secret that the military runs the political show in Turkey, while the elected government pretends to play the democracy game, just to feed the news media in the U.S. with ammunition to portray Turkey as a democracy.  No serious news media or government representative in Europe lends any credence to the charade performed by the Turkish government.

The U.S. news media has pre-cast theories to demonize certain countries or leaders and to absolve others of flagrant crimes, irrespective of the realities on the ground.  To cast Turkish military dictatorship as a "democracy" is one of the prime examples of that behavior.

Another trick to manipulate the public opinion was the mission of Mr. Ezcan, the chief of intelligence of the Turkish foreign ministry, who toured the U.S. to meet with the Armenian representatives to find out whether the genocide truly happened!  The TARC negotiations seem to be merely the extension of the above manipulative maneuvers.

If the Turkish government really means business, at least during this campaign, it could contain itself and suspend all the repressive actions, which disprove their intentions of good neighborly relations.

While Turkey tries to put a smiling face on its foreign policy, repression and mistreatment of minorities continue.  And not only continue, but they intensify.

Just within the last few months a number of government actions were taken to destroy the Armenian community life in Turkey.

1.  Out of the blue the State Treasury sued the Holy Cross Seminary Board under the false pretense that the Board was operating a lay academy while holding a license to run a religious school.  At this time the lawsuit is being pursued aggressively to confiscate the properties of the Holy Cross Seminary.

2.  The Minister of Education imposed a composition contest to the schools in Turkey - including the Armenian schools - to disprove that the genocide of the Armenian people did actually take place in Ottoman Turkey.

This brainwashing action, typical of authoritarian countries, was severely criticized and lampooned in one of the Turkish newspapers, Gunden.

The order further deteriorated into a civil rights issue when the government tried to implement it.  The provincial governor of Killis had organized a compulsory conference to have "experts" train the teachers how to implement this order.  Some innocent questions by six teachers landed them at the court, with one of them in jail.  Of course, neither CNN, nor any other U.S. news media representative, was there to report the incident.  They were conveniently absent or busy trying to portray this military dictatorship as the paragon of democracy, worthy to be emulated by other Moslem countries in the region.

But there were some courageous people who defied the government action.  The President of the Teachers' Union, Aladdin Dincher, issued a protest qualifying the government action as outrageous.  He further stated "The government promulgates laws to pretend that it defends freedom of speech, hoping to win a membership in the European Union, when in fact it takes intolerant and repressive actions to stifle that very same freedom".

Despite all these reactions the government remains unmoved, and the Minister of Education, Mr. Cellik, continues to pursue relentlessly this policy of indoctrination.

While this type of brainwashing policy has been implemented by all the successive governments, since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, Mr. Ezcan had the nerve to tell the Armenian representatives he met in the U.S., that his generation had never heard of an event called "The Armenian Genocide".  Of course, when every generation had a Cellik at the head of the Ministry of Education, how could anyone learn about such a colossal crime?

3.  As if this much outrage was not enough to convince the Armenian community that it was living under an authoritarian government, the General Director of the Public Charities (wakef) has slapped on the face of the community one more time by disbanding the Board of Karageuzian School on May 7, and handing over its verdict on June 4.  This time, the pretext of this community expropriation is that the Karageuzian Board had a piece of property, which was rented as parking lot to generate some income.  The rental arrangement was made many years ago with government knowledge and approval.  After long litigation, the recent change of tenants has provided the opportunity to the government agency to seize that property, arguing that the property was held for charity purposes (Hayrat), whereas the Board had rented it for profit.

The Armenian daily "Marmara", which is extremely cautious to criticize any government action, was outraged enough to write: "The news was stunning and extremely painful, because it comes to prove once more that we were duped to believe that under this government many pressing issues, regarding the confiscation of community property would be resolved.  The new laws [adopted by the Parliament] had encouraged us to hope that they would end all unjust practices of the past with regard to community properties, but it looks like they will continue.  A law is passed, but it is not implemented, because all kinds of hurdles are created to hinder implementation".

Thus it is very obvious that the Turkish authorities talk from both sides their mouth, while they try to convince government leaders in the U.S. and Europe that Turkey is heading towards more democracy, while in practice they tighten the noose around the neck of the minorities.

Therefore, it behooves us to continue our vigilance and to intensify our struggle.  If Turkey allows itself to occupy 38% of the territory of a sovereign country of Cyprus, under the pretext and pretense of defending the Turkish minority there, then the Armenian government has at least the right to express its concern over the plight of the Armenian community in Turkey.

Diaspora Armenians have to focus on these repressive actions in their advocacy campaign to educate legislators who will vote to award Turkey with grants and loans.

Europe is more sensitive regarding Turkish behavior.  Therefore, these actions need to be highlighted at the European Parliament and at every European country.

Last, but not least, the Armenian community in Turkey can take some actions, even if that will mean to anger the authorities.  This policy of emasculating the Armenian community, by continued repression and confiscations, can be brought to the international court in La Hague.

The Armenian Patriarch of Turkey, His Beatitude Mesrob Mutafian, himself has a crucial role in defending community rights.  He must have had enough of the runaround the Turkish authorities have given him, every time he has visited Ankara for a community grievance.

When European governments blamed Turkey for its mistreatment of minorities, Archbishop Mutafian was dispatched by the Turkish authorities to disprove the accusations.  When he was asked in an interview, why did he take that mission to cover up Turkey's misbehavior, while the religious leaders of other minorities had refrained to do so, the Patriar ch assured the interviewer that the Turkish government would reward the community for his services.

Now that the true nature of the "reward" has been revealed, it is incumbent upon the Patriarch to take the same European route to inform those countries about the new repressions against Armenians, even with the prospect of ending up in jail.  That would further dramatize the plight of the community in Turkey.

It looks like our struggle against this international pariah state is nowhere near its end.
It is just beginning.

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