Turkish Lawsuit in San Francisco
Blames Ottomans for the Genocide
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
For many years, a lot of people -- Armenians, non-Armenians, and even some
Turks -- have been puzzled as to why the leaders of today's Turkey have been
trying so hard to cover up a genocide committed not by them, but by their
predecessors in the Ottoman Empire -- a long defunct state.
The legal responsibility of the Republic of Turkey for the Armenian
Genocide, as the successor to the Ottoman Empire, is a complex issue that
has to be determined by international courts. A case can be made that since
the Republic of Turkey inherited the assets of the Ottoman Empire, it must
also inherit its liabilities, such as the lands and other properties seized
from Armenians following the Genocide. Nevertheless, one would have thought
that -- some 87 years after these mass murders -- today's Turkish leaders
would want to distance themselves from the perpetrators of these crimes.
Taking such an approach would provide the Turks with some political cover
and polish up their tarnished image as a genocidal nation, similar to what
modern Germans have done in disassociating themselves from their Nazi past.
Rather than adopting such a common sense approach, the leaders of Turkey
have embarked on a state-sponsored campaign of revisionism, thus making
themselves accomplices to the crimes committed by their ancestors. Day by
day, with every lie and denial, today's Turks have more closely aligned
themselves with the masterminds of the Armenian Genocide!
Given this denialist background, it was surprising to discover that in court
papers filed recently, Turkish-American activist groups asserted that the
"alleged genocide of Armenians" was committed by the Ottoman Empire and not
by the Republic of Turkey. The lawsuit specifically said that the Armenian
plaque "misrepresents that the current government of Turkey (rather than the
Ottoman Empire, a separate entity, which formerly controlled the region that
is now Turkey) was responsible for (and/or condoned) the alleged genocide of
Armenians from 1915-1918."
The Turkish complaint is related to the purchase in 1997of a 103-foot high
cross atop Mt. Davidson in San Francisco by the Council of Armenian American
Organizations of Northern California, after a court ordered the city to
auction off this property in order to comply with the constitutionally
mandated separation of church and state. The Armenian group won the auction
and the majority of the voters of San Francisco subsequently approved the
Needless to say, the Turkish government and Turkish-American political
groups were highly irritated that the Armenians were able to acquire such a
prominent historic site. The Turks became even more furious when the
Armenian coalition placed a plaque referring to the Genocide at the foot of
the Mt. Davidson Cross.
The plaque reads as follows: "The Mt. Davidson Cross was designed and built
by George Kelham and inaugurated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934.
In 1997, the citizens of San Francisco voted to approve the sale of the
monument to the Council of Armenian-American Organizations of Northern
California, to preserve it as a historic landmark. This revered site is
cared for in memory of the 1,500,000 victims of the Armenian Genocide
perpetrated by the Turkish government from 1915 to 1918. Over half of the
Armenian population on its ancient homeland was killed, and no Armenian
community remained in historical western Armenia. By honoring those lost, we
honor all victims of injustice and cruelty. In their name we dedicate
ourselves to the protection of human rights and the dignity of all peoples.
'If evil of this magnitude can be ignored, if our own children forget; then
we deserve oblivion; and earn the world's scorn.' -- Avedis Aharonian
(writer and educator, 1866-19
48). Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day, April
On October 6, 2003, more than five years after this plaque was inaugurated,
the Turkish American Alliance for Fairness, the Turkish American Association
of California, and Bonnie Joy Kaslan (a member of the former group) filed a
lawsuit in Superior Court seeking to dismantle the Armenian plaque under the
guise that it is a "religious structure" which is prohibited by the terms of
the sale and court injunction.
The complaint even claims that Mrs. Bonnie Joy Kaslan (who is not of Turkish
origin) "has visited the Property, but now refrains from visiting the
Property and the Cross because of the presence of the Structure [the
plaque], which interferes with her use and enjoyment of the easement over
the entire Property. Plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of the easement has been
curtailed because of the presence of the Structure [plaque]."
Mrs. Kaslan must be a very sensitive lady. Incredibly, she is bothered by a
plaque, but not by the cold-blooded murder of 1.5 million innocent men,
women and children! The complaint failed to mention that Mrs. Kaslan is the
Honorary Consul General of Turkey in San Francisco and the recipient of
Daughters of Ataturk's Women of Distinction Award.
Given the official and non-official affiliations of these Turkish-American
entities with the government of Turkey, the language of the complaint --
blaming the Ottoman Empire for the Armenian Genocide -- may indicate a new
Turkish strategy of disassociating the Republic of Turkey from the Genocide.
Needless to say, the Turkish lawsuit is without any merit. Nevertheless, the
media coverage of this case would provide an additional opportunity, at the
expense of the Turks, to publicize the Genocide committed by the
Turks/Ottomans against the Armenians.