Monday, February 2, 2015

Articles on Turkey's Armenian policies

Below are a couple of articles originally published in April 2011 that drew on State Department cables from 2004 and 2009 and made available by Wikileaks and the Turkish press.

Wikileaks: Turkey seeks to target “hidden Armenians”
1915 Genocide is “common knowledge” among ordinary Anatolian Turks
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Friday April 22, 2011  

Could they be Armenian? Kurdish fighters. 
Washington - Nearly a century after the Genocide, Turkish government is still seeking to identify and root out "Armenian separatism" inside Turkey, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable made available through Wikileaks and first published by Taraf newspaper.

Writing in December 2004, U.S. Charge in Turkey at the time

Robert Deutsch related a conversation with a "long-term Embassy contact with deep experience in intel[igence] and national security analysis."

Deutsch himself is a veteran State Department Middle East expert who following his Ankara posting serves as deputy coordinator for Iraq and later worked as senior advisor in the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department.

Ghost of Armenia

The unnamed Turkish source told the U.S. Embassy that as of late 2004 Turkish internal security forces (Jandarma) and its intelligence branch (JITEM) received "a steady stream of orders from Ankara to JITEM posts in the field to combat ‘Armenian separatism'" as part of the fight against Kurdish insurgency.

Deutsch notes that what he terms "paranoia" reflected "the Turkish State's fear of history" considering that "only a handful of Armenians [were] left in the southeast" of Turkey after the Genocide.

But "Ankara was basing its suspicions on the meticulous population registry (nufus kutugu) of family lineage which, among other things, shows how many citizens -- especially concentrated in certain regions of the east and southeast -- actually have an Armenian background underneath their forebears' voluntary or forced conversions or adoptions during the period when Armenians were being deported and murdered en masse by the Ottoman authorities and local Muslim bands."

"The distant and suppressed Armenian connection is so pervasive that JITEM even came across a village imam with Armenian roots, our contact relayed."

Deutsch adds that "in our own extensive travels throughout Anatolia, especially east of the Kizilirmak River [eastern half of the country - ed.], we have been repeatedly struck by (a) the common knowledge among ordinary citizens of what happened in 1915, a knowledge which most will readily share; and (b) the number of people with apparent Armenian features."

Publicly, Turkish officials have off and on attempted to link Armenians and Kurdish insurgents.
Yusuf Halacoglu, former head of the Turkish Historical Society, claimed in August 2007 that many Kurds, particularly Kurdish Alevis, were originally ethnic Armenians.

Suspicion of Armenian "factor" in the insurgency is also reportedly shared to some extent by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Speaking in Washington in November 2007 Erdogan claimed that in addition to ethnic Kurds, the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) had ethnic Armenian members. He did not elaborate.

Zigzagging rhetoric

Turkish media speculation has also linked JITEM and other Turkish national security entities with January 2007 murder of Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.

That murder was followed by public outpouring of sympathy for Armenians inside Turkey and Erdogan-led government appeared eager to improve its image on Armenian issues.

The following year Turkey accepted Armenia's offer to negotiate normalization of relations, but that negotiations process moved in starts and sputters before stalling fully by the end of 2009.

Turkish government signals on Armenia have been mixed since.

On one hand, Turkish officials no longer hinder discussion of the Genocide and have encouraged and safeguarded April 24 commemorations inside Turkey. Ankara has also paid for renovation of a former Armenian cathedral on Lake Van and for the first time in decades Turkish citizens of ethnic Armenian descent were allowed to join the Turkish state bureaucracy.

At the same time, Erdogan threatened to expel Armenian citizens working in Turkey, a threat that he repeated earlier this month. He also ordered demolition of Turkey-Armenia "friendship monument" in Kars, a step that may be aesthetically justified but nevertheless sends a negative message. Most significantly, since 2010 Turkey has stepped military cooperation with Azerbaijan, which has long openly threatened warfare against Armenia.

Wikileaks: Turkish nationalist leader to U.S.: recognize the Genocide already
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Tuesday April 26, 2011  

Washington - On April 24, 2009 leader of the hard-line Turkish nationalist party urged President Barack Obama to recognize the Armenian Genocide, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable made available through Wikileaks and first published by Taraf newspaper.

In a meeting held hours before Obama issued his first presidential statement on the Armenian Remembrance Day, Devlet Bahceli, who leads the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), showed unusual unanimity with Armenian American leaders who hoped that President Obama would honor his pre-election pledge and use the term Genocide.

MHP has its origins in the fascist Grey Wolves (Bozgurt) organization that has over the last decade emerged as a major political force in Turkey and is currently the third largest in Turkish Parliament. From 1999 to 2002, Bahceli was deputy prime minister in the government of Bulent Ecevit that preceded the current Turkish government.

Bahceli told James Jeffrey, the U.S. Ambassador in Turkey at the time, that "Whatever the U.S. is going to say, let it be said now" in President Obama's April 24 statement. Bahceli's stated position ran counter to Turkey's official opposition to recognition.

The nationalist leader said that "the US and Turkey were on a mutually-detrimental cycle, in which the months leading up to the April 24 Day of Remembrance fuel debate over whether it will be this year that the US president will utter the word "genocide."" He argued that the point of tension might finally be overcome with use of the term.

Jeffrey's analysis of the comments suggested that "Bahceli's challenge to the US to finally put the Armenian genocide issue to rest reflects a wide perception that genocide is being used as a political tool: a large swathe of Turkish society believes that the US intends eventually to declare the events of 1915 to constitute genocide, but maintains the fiction of debate as leverage in negotiations with the Turkish government."

At the same time, Jeffrey went on, "Bahceli's challenge is also undeniably self-serving; the MHP stands to benefit most at the polls from the emotional reaction that a U.S. recognition of an Armenian genocide would bring. He would lead the charge to trash relations with the U.S. were we to use the term "genocide.""

In fact, Bahceli "has been trying to make political hay, claiming the President's use of "Meds Yeghern" [Great Crime in Armenian - ed.] equates to "genocide" ever since the President's Armenian Remembrance Day message" was issued after the meeting with Jeffrey.

Nevetheless, Bahceli's position appears to have evolved substantially over just two years.
In a February 2007 meeting with then U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson, Bahceli noted that "the Armenian genocide resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives is very upsetting for Turkey" and that "MHP expects a firm stance from the US" against the resolution, according to another cable published last weekend.

In spite of this apparent shift in at least part of the Turkish elite's thinking towards U.S. recognition of the Genocide, there has been little change in Washington's position on the issue. '

This year's statement issued by the White House on April 23 "once again betrayed promise to recognize the Armenian Genocide" Obama made as a presidential candidate, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) noted in a press release. ANCA also singled out the use of the term "contested history" in the statement as "deeply offensive" and shameful."

President Obama's statement is below:
Office of the Press Secretary
April 23, 2011
Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day
We solemnly remember the horrific events that took place ninety-six years ago, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests.
Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful and prosperous shared future. History teaches us that our nations are stronger and our cause is more just when we appropriately recognize painful pasts and work to rebuild bridges of understanding toward a better tomorrow. The United States knows this lesson well from the dark chapters in our own history.
I support the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history. As we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and pay tribute to the memories of those who perished, we also recommit ourselves to ensuring that devastating events like these are never repeated. This is a contemporary cause that thousands of Armenian-Americans have made their own. The legacy of the Armenian people is one of resiliency, determination, and triumph over those who sought to destroy them. The United States has deeply benefited from the significant contributions to our nation by Armenian Americans, many of whom are descended from the survivors of the Meds Yeghern.

Americans of Armenian descent have strengthened our society and our communities with their rich culture and traditions. The spirit of the Armenian people in the face of this tragic history serves as an inspiration for all those who seek a more peaceful and just world. Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia.

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