88 Years After the Genocide,
Turks Still Persecuting Armenians
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The Turkish government and its apologists often try to cover up the
persecution of minorities in Turkey by pointing to flattering statements
made under duress by the cowering leaders of non-Turkish communities.
The fact is that minorities in Turkey, including Armenians, Assyrians,
Greeks, Jews and Kurds, are not only deprived of their basic civil rights,
but live in such fear that they dare not speak out about their oppressed
conditions, lest they be arrested or worse!
This is the reason why when Western officials meet with the leaders of these
communities in Turkey, they hear nothing but praise despite the government's
repressive policies toward the minorities.
While members of minority groups keep their mouths shut fearing for their
very lives, a handful of Turkish human rights activists put their own lives
on the line by daring to expose the deprivations suffered not just by ethnic
communities, but by almost all Turks. Despite the self-proclaimed reforms
undertaken by the Turkish government in recent months to meet the
requirements for membership in the European Union, many of these Turkish
activists are still languishing in jail!
Once in a blue moon, however, a foolhardy minority member takes the
imprudent step of coming forward to denounce the harassment he or she is
suffering at the hands of the Turkish authorities. One such courageous soul
is Caroline Jamgeuz, an Armenian pharmacist in Bahchesaray, in the region of
Van, who despite her Turkified name, is still persecuted because of her
Jamgeuz recently told the Turkish press that due to her Armenian ancestry,
she had been harassed for years by various government officials. Before
settling in Bahchesaray, where she opened a pharmacy, she had been going
from town to town to escape accusations that she was a member of illegal
organizations. She was even thrown in jail. "In Turkey, anyone who is not a
Turk is constantly harassed," she said. "And if you happen to be an
Armenian, you almost don't have the right to live."
Jamgeuz said, "I have been moving around the country for several years. But
the government always harassed me because of my Armenian heritage. I finally
settled in Bahchesaray and opened a pharmacy because there are a number of
elderly Armenians living in this town. However, the pressures against me did
not stop. The boycott against my business continued here too. Most of the
military officers serving in this area are affiliated with Milli Hareket
Party. The Commanders tell the village guards and other officials, 'if you
buy medicine from Caroline's pharmacy, we will take away your weapons and
fire you.' Despite the fact that I have a license from the government to
sell medicine, no one dares to buy any medicine from me. My customers are
constantly threatened. Wherever I open a pharmacy, a group of thugs
immediately show up to harass me."
She said that the authorities are now trying to force her out of business by
preventing new shipments of medicines from reaching her pharmacy, so she
would not have anything to sell.
Jamgeuz said that when she had a pharmacy in Kars, she was falsely accused
of being a member of the PKK (outlawed Kurdish group) and thrown in jail for
3.5 months. She had moved to Kars to escape from harassment in Istanbul.
After being released from jail, she lived in Erzeroum and Erzingan where she
was again jailed for 3.5 months.
She said that at the pharmacy she owned in Istanbul, two police cars were
always in front of her store, 24 hours a day. She was accused of harboring
anti-Turkish feelings. They said that she was a member of an Armenian
terrorist organization. Eventually, they succeeded in driving her into
bankruptcy. She ended her tragic story by asking, "Is being an Armenian a
rime in Turkey?"
Given the brutal nature of the Turkish regime, Caroline Jamgeuz's real
troubles may just be beginning, now that she has gone public with her story
of harassment and intimidation! European and American human rights
organizations and western government officials should closely monitor her
situation to guarantee her personal safety.
Eighty-eight years after the Genocide, the Turkish government is not just
denying the past, but continuing to carry out the persecution of the
remnants of the Armenian population until not a single Armenian remains in
Turkey, as Talaat, the mastermind of the Genocide, had ruthlessly avowed!