Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian, Primate of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom Speech at Parliamentary Breakfast

On 21st November, Bishop Nathan Hovhannisian spoke to attending MP's at the Parliamentary Breakfast after Holy Communion.

This is a once-monthly event whereby Canon Robert Wright, 78th Speaker's Chaplain, invites religious dignitaries from different Churches to partake in the Parliamentary Service and later address the Members of Parliament.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session that dealt with the current realities of the Armenian Church, issues relating to the Armenian Genocide and Karabagh.

Canon Robert Wright, Esteemed Members of Parliament :

First and foremost, I would like to thank Canon Robert Wright for having invited me to be speaker this morning at your Parliamentary breakfast after Holy Communion.

When invited to be here, I chose to share with you for the space of a few short minutes a vignette of my own Armenian Church - a church whose realities span a historical period of over 1700 years, from the year 301 AD when St Gregory the Enlightener witnessed Armenia become the first nation-state to adopt Christianity as state religion, to the 1600th anniversary of St Mesrop Mashtots who created our Armenian 36-letter alphabet in 406 AD, to the Golden Age for Armenia, and finally to our present times in the third millennium and the early stages of the 21st century.

I do not wish to encumber you for too long with our ecclesiastical structures, not when I have all of ten minutes this morning! But let me just mention that the Armenian Church, member of the Oriental Orthodox family, is headed today by HH Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and based at Holy Etchmiadzin in Armenia. It is the spiritual Mother See across all Armenian hierarchies, and is endowed with several spiritual and administrative bodies that represent its authority.

Indeed, from the National Ecclesiastical Assembly to the various Councils and Brotherhoods, the Armenian Church remains one of the foremost and primary references for 9 million Armenians across the world - whether in the Republic of Armenia, independent since 1991, or in the Diaspora. In Armenia itself, the relationship between the Government of the Republic and the Armenian Church is clearly regulated by a recent law legislating the rights and responsibilities of both parties. As lawmakers, looking at Articles 7 & 8* alone, would help you realise that the Church plays a major role in the cultural and educational levers of the country, and is co-responsible for some of the scholastic curricula and textbooks within its remit.

One distinctive characteristic of my Church is that, unlike many other Churches, its supreme leader is elected by the clergy and laity alike. In other words, lay men and women have a role in selecting their shepherd. This approach in democracy, I am sure you will agree with me, strengthens the bonds between clergy and laity as it engages both sides in the life, witness and renewal of the Church rather than isolate one party in a white tower at the expense of the other.

There are roughly 9 million Armenians world-wide. The majority, I am proud to add, preserve their Armenian identity even as they integrate quite comfortably and successfully in their host countries. Broadly speaking, Armenians rely on three fundamental axes for the nourishment of their identity. Those axes are their faith (therefore their Church), their language (therefore Armenian), and their education (therefore their schools). In my own diocese in the UK for instance, and as Canon Wright is quite aware, Armenians are close to their Church structures through their representation in the Armenian Community & Church Council of Great Britain. They are also by and large Armenian native speakers in their own homes and with their own families even though many of them are also native British citizens in centres of Armenian presence such as in London, Manchester, etc. They are also faithful to their weekly Saturday and Sunday schools as their young children are enrolled to learn about their language, religion, scouting, customs, social and cultural activities.

But when I speak of my people in the Armenian Diaspora, comprising almost half of the overall number of nine million, it is also fitting to recall that many of them are living in the Diaspora because they were chased out of their own homes and lands during the genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turks under the cover of WWI. All you need to do is read the powerful and academically-sanctioned Blue Book (as you would call it in parliamentary circles) authored by Arnold Toynbee & Lord Bryce upon the request of Government in order to feel the victims of this genocide as well as their children, grand-children and great grand-children calling out for your support - whether through Early Day Motions, Private Members' Bills, grassroots' lobbies or pressure upon HM Government to recognise this event or at least not oppose it and foil all attempts to recognise it. We Armenians struggle to show recollection and homage to the victims of this genocide - including hundreds of clergy from our Church who became martyrs - by recognising their painful death so that we could live - and live in freedom here and now. Perhaps you would help remind our Prime Minister that Hitler himself said to his generals as he planned the horrors of the Holocaust and an attack on Poland, "After all, who remembers the Armenians today"? Indeed, who does - from Armenians to Rwandans and Darfurians today?

Ladies and gentlemen, Jesus said to St Thomas, "You saw and therefore you believed. Happy are those who believe without seeing". In Armenian, we have paraphrased this adding that it is better to see something once than to hear about it seven times! I would therefore like to encourage you all to get to know us better by travelling to Armenia, our fatherland, and enjoying not only our history and culture, but also the budding beauty of our country and its open hospitality.

May the Lord bless your political work, inspire and protect you, and may He always be the example you carry in your hearts.


* Article VII - Cultural Institutions belonging to the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church

The government of the Republic of Armenia shall delineate the amount and purpose of state assistance for the protection and enrichment of cultural institutions, collections, museums, libraries and archives which are the property of the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church and constitute a part of the national cultural inheritance, in the proposed annual state budget, having previously discussed it with the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church.

Article VIII - Role of the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church in the Educational Sphere

1. The Holy Apostolic Armenian Church has the right to:

a) Establish or sponsor kindergarten (pre-school) institutions, elementary, secondary and high schools, specialty colleges and institutions of higher learning, within the framework of the legislation of the Republic of Armenia.

b) Participate in the preparation of the scholastic curriculum and textbooks for "Armenian Church History" courses within state educational institutions, the defining of minimum requirements of instructors of said subject, and to present prospective instructors to the schools.

c) To organize voluntary scholastic courses within state educational institutions, utilizing their buildings and resources, coordinating the issues regarding the realization of courses with said institutions.

d) Contribute to the spiritual education of society within educational institutions according to the scope of the law.

2. Scholastic institutions established by the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church shall receive the same assistance that the state provides to other private institutions.

3. The state guarantees the implementation of the right to a religious education on a voluntary basis.

4. The official communications of the Holy Apostolic Armenian Church shall be reported by mass media outlets without alteration.

Christians face ongoing intimidatio

Articles from the Turkish Press

Church building in Izmit vandalised.

Police in Turkey's western city of Izmit have arrested a man who set a fire early on the morning of 3 September at the entrance of the local Protestant church and then fired his handgun several times.

The church's pastor is the brother-in-law of one of the converts to Christianity murdered in Malatya in April and has been targeted by fanatical Muslims.

Identified by police authorities as Semih Sahin, the man who set fire to the church entrance reportedly told interrogators he had been "bothered" by what he heard and read in the newspapers about the Izmit Protestant Church, so he wanted to "make a scene" to arouse public opposition to it.

According to local police, who described the apprehended suspect as a "psychopath", Sahin has a previous criminal and prison record. He was brought before a local prosecutor, formally charged and jailed yesterday afternoon.

Yesterday's incident, which occurred at 3:15am, was recorded on a security camera installed by the church several months ago, in the wake of the gruesome stabbing deaths of three Protestant Christians in Malatya on 18 April.

One of the murdered victims, Turkish Christian convert Necati Aydin, was a brother-in-law of Izmit Protestant Church's pastor.


On the security camera video recorded on 3 September, Sahin walked up to the door of the church, laid down a box and some other flammable materials, poured liquid over the pile and lit it whilst smoking a cigarette.

He then walked off, returning shortly to find the pile burning brightly on the stone steps. Stepping away down the street, he proceeded to fire his handgun, loaded with blanks, into the air several times.

Police arrived within four minutes and were soon joined by 10 people from the neighbourhood, but the fire was not put out until the fire department came minutes later.

The suspect, whom police said was about 30 years old, was apprehended on a nearby street shortly after the incident still carrying the handgun.

The church pastor confirmed to reporters that police authorities called him at 8:00am to inform him of the incident.

Although the fire blackened the entrance and steps to the church, there was no structural damage to the building, the pastor said.

The Izmit pastor has been provided with an armed government security guard since the last week of April, when he returned home with his family after his brother-in-law's funeral.

Death threat

On 20 May, the testimony of one of the Malatya murder suspects was leaked to the Turkish press, stating that he had planned to murder the Izmit pastor next.

The pastor was again targeted in the Turkish media on 14 July, when police authorities in Izmit's Kocaeli province reported the round-up of a mafia-style gang of 23 suspects involved in assassinations of businessmen and a rash of other illegal activities in the region.

After his capture, gang leader Ismail Halil was interrogated about the group's alleged plans to murder the Izmit pastor in the near future, for which they were to receive US$1 million, according to Sabah newspaper.

Halil reportedly claimed his legal right to remain silent on this question.

In a previous incident this summer, a group of neighbourhood boys plastered the front of the church building with raw eggs on the morning of 30 July, just as the church began a week-long English club for its young people.

Police identified the culprits after viewing the security camera footage, bringing them from their homes to clean up the mess.


"The Protestant community is negatively affected by contemptuous, disinformative media coverage which also has the effect of showing Christians – and in particular persons who have converted to Christianity [from Islam] – as targets for acts of violence," noted a new report released 1 September by Turkish Protestants.

Issued by the Legal Committee of the Alliance of Protestant Churches of Turkey, the 'summary of concerns' called for the Turkish authorities to create a "culture of tolerance" toward its minorities.

"In the past year there have been scores of threats or attacks on congregations and church buildings," the report said.

"The perpetrators have not been found."

The report concluded: "The state should be guaranteeing freedom of religion and the security of individuals and property."

TURKEY – Judge pressured to quit Christians' trial


State prosecutor is also replaced

Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal

A Turkish judge announced his withdrawal this week from the case of two Christians charged with 'insulting Turkishness'.

Judge Neset Eren said at a hearing on 12 September that he was quitting to "distance the court's decision from any form of indecision or doubt".

Judge Eren's announcement came after the plaintiffs' ultranationalist solicitor submitted a written request on 4 September that the judge resign. Kemal Kerincsiz accused Judge Eren of failing to deal impartially with the case.

Exactly 11 months into the case, Judge Eren had been expected to deliver a ruling at the hearing on 12 September in Silivri's criminal court, 45 miles west of Istanbul.

In October 2006, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal were charged with insulting Turkish identity, reviling Islam and secretly compiling files on private citizens for a local Bible correspondence course.

But at their most recent hearing in July, State Prosecutor Ahmet Demirhuyuk had told the court there was "not a single piece of credible evidence" to support the accusations against the two men, both of whom are converts from Islam to Christianity.

A new state prosecutor, Adnan Ozcan, replaced Mr Demirhuyuk at the September hearing.

Islamist pressure

The courthouse was surrounded by supporters of Mr Kerincsiz and his three young clients, two of them minors, who have accused Hakan and Turan of slandering Turkey and Islam.

Ultranationalist Kemal Kerincsiz

"If [Hakan and Turan] had been acquitted, there would have been a large protest," said the Christians' solicitor, Gursel Meric.

Mr Meric, who attended the hearing without Hakan and Turan, said the prosecution attempted to prolong the case by asking for additional testimonies.

A spokesperson for the nationalist Turkish Orthodox Church, a tiny group that split from the Greek Orthodox Church after World War I, submitted a request to the court to be a complainant in the case. Sevgi Erenol's request was rejected.

Mr Erenol, known for outspoken criticism of other Christian denominations, has accompanied Mr Kerincsiz to all previous hearings.

Mr Meric said Mr Kerincsiz delivered an impromptu press conference to a number of journalists following the hearing, but major newspapers declined to report on the case on 13 September.

The next hearing has been set for 26 September, giving a higher court in Istanbul time to deliberate on whether to accept Judge Eren's resignation.

Deep judiciary problems

Scores of Turkish academics and writers have been charged in the past two years under article 301 of Turkey's penal code for insulting the Turkish Republic, institutions of state or "Turkishness".

A recent European Commission report said that indictments related to non-violent expressions of opinion had doubled in Turkey in 2006, the Turkish Daily News (TDN) newspaper reported on 14 September.

The report noted that more than half the incidents were raised under article 301.

Under its newly elected centre-right Islamist government, Turkey has begun to discuss a new constitution that could reform or abolish the controversial article.

"The simple fact is that 301 has become a symbol of what ails Turkey," Semih Idiz of TDN wrote.

The columnist noted that deeper problems underlie the controversial law.

"The problem is not just a question of repealing or amending this or that article, but one that concerns the quality of the judiciary in this country and the lack of sophistication when it comes to a true understanding of modern freedoms," said Mr Idiz.

Armenia and Regional Cooperation Projects

[Sedat Laciner is a director of ISAK/ISRO that purports to write serious analytical papers that in fact are propaganda.

Normally these are to be dismissed but this one is worth reading to get the flavour of learned but distorted Turkish thinking.

Then read on for some of the reality of this country for non-Turks and non-Moslems.]

’s economy is booming. GDP, being around 181 billion dollar in 2001; is estimated to be about 500 billion US dollar by the end of 2007. With the purchasing power parity (PPP) it will pass 750 billion US dollar. In other words, Turkey’s economy has grown almost three times in less than six years. The total volume of export was 31 billion dollar in 2001; by 2007 it passed 100 billion dollar. Furthermore growth in some sectors is quintuplicate. Turkey’s economy that was not able to allure foreign capital even in amount of 1-2 billion dollar in the past, now only in 2006 allured more that 20 billion dollars direct foreign capital. It is expected that for direct foreign investments to pass 20 billion dollar in 2007 too. Thus, Turkey became the 15. biggest economy in the world and 5. economy in Europe. Furthermore the process has not been stopped. It is foreseen that the growth speed will linger so on.

Neighbours of Turkey also benefit from Turkey’s fast economic growth. According to new foreign policy approach adopted in Turkey, “zero political problems with neighbouring countries is possible”. Moreover the new government gives priority to increase economic co-operation with neighbouring countries. From this stand point, it is worthy to note the significant increase of trade with the neighbour and near countries such as Israel, Russia, Iran, Syria, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, Greece, Georgia and Central Asia countries. For instance foreign trade volume with Russia exceeded 20 billion dollar. When added tourism and investments, economic relations with Israel pass 10 billion dollar in 2007. Taking into considerations the bilateral investments and increasing speed of import-export, it can be easily seen that the role of neighbour countries and of near countries will increase in Turkey’s economy.

Contrary to some other countries, Turkey does not use its growing economic power as a threat in its external relations. It is usually accepted by Turkish policy-makers that economy and economic regional integration can be used as a tool in solution of the political problems. In this context, the most serious project for the solution of Palestine problem came from Turkey. Turkish businessmen will develop two separate industry areas in Palestine to contribute the peace efforts by decreasing employment problem in the country. The agreement has been signed last week by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ankara.

Similarly, building up the energy lines between the neighbours does not only have priority regarding to economic welfare but has also been seen very important in terms of increasing political stability. Azerbaijan’s oil is transported to the Turkey’s Mediterranean coasts via Georgia. Oil has been followed by gas export and Azeri gas is transported to Greece via Turkey. Efforts still continue on to bring the line till Italy. One another aim is to transport Turkomen gas to Turkey via Iran and lastly to Europe from Turkey. Some other projects are to transport Russian gas to Israel; Iraqi gas to Turkey and Europe; Egyptian gas to Turkey. Iraqi petrol is already transported to Mediterranean via Turkey pipelines. Taking into consideration the proposed billion-dollars-refinery investments in different places of Turkey, and other petro-chemical investment projects it is clear that more energy lines will pass through Turkey. Those lines do not only increase the economic welfare but also contribute regional economic integration in addition to contributing the decrease of problems in political area. For instance, the line that connects Turkey and Greece will effect bilateral relations positively.

Within this frame, there is only one country that is not affected by Turkey’s fast economic growth and efforts to have good relations with neighbouring countries: Armenia.

Armenia, which is a land-locked in Caucasus and has no significant natural resource, is a relatively poor country. It is unfortunate that its most of the borders with the neighbours have been closed for more than a decade thanks to the Armenian aggressive policies in the region. The only open borders are Georgia-Armenia and Iran-Armenia borders. However, the open borders are not enough to get access to the rest of the world. Iran is one of the most problematic country in international society and Georgia struggle with the domestic separatist problems and Russian involvement. Both economies cannot fulfil the Armenian economic needs. The only country can provide an access for the Armenians to the developed world is Turkey. However Armenia adopted more hawkish approach towards Turkey especially with the presidency of ultra-nationalist Robert Kocharyan. President Kocharyan, who was supported by Russia and the ultra-nationalist Tashnaks, started an anti-Turkish campaign in almost every country in the world instead of developing economic and political relations with Turkey. Armenia has supported all anti-Turkish campaigns organised by radical Armenian Diaspora institutions. Kocharyan and his friends naming the 1915 communal clashes between Turks, Kurds and Armenians as genocide, blamed Turkey and Turks of being enemies of Armenians. Though almost a century has passed over the events Mr. Kocharyan still puts this issue at the heart of the newly established Armenia’s foreign policy and combats against Turkey’s economic and political interests anywhere. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan suggested establishing a commission to debate the historical claims but Yerevan refused this suggestion. Kocharyan has moreover been invited to Istanbul and he did not come to Turkey. None of the Turkish suggestions has been answered by Armenia till now. Armenian politicians just accuse and listens to nobody in the Armenian issue.

It is not possible for Armenia to harm Turkey with its current economic, political and military power. Its population is less than one fifth of Istanbul. Armenian economy is 50 times smaller than Turkish economy. Armenian military power can not even be compared with the Turkish one. Armenia is not strong enough to persuade Turkey by its own power, that’s why Armenia tries to manipulate the greater countries, such as Russia, France and US, against Turkey. Armenia expects at least to have parliamentary bills which support claims of Armenia within these countries by the effects of the Armenian Diasporas. This aim was reached in France. However, there is no development in terms of Armenian aims. Even some of the Turks who were not interested in Armenian claims in the past, now started to be against Armenia. The appropriate atmosphere among public opinion in Turkey to construct good relations with Armenia is being destroyed every day, and the most important factor is Armenian approach itself. Anyone in Turkey, even the Turkish Armenians, ‘knows’ that most of the Armenian population and most of the Armenian Diaspora people hate Turkish people. Under these circumstances nobody could expect any good will gesture from the Turkish public. Turkish Government has been under great public pressure about the Armenian issue. Though Turkish Government is ready to take great steps to put an end to the historical Armenian Issue, it cannot move while Armenia tries to undermine Turkish interests everywhere.

Indeed, the most and probably the only country have suffered as a result of these events is Armenia itself. The country is entirely isolated since its independency in 1991. All energy, communication and transportation lines by-passes Armenia. Although the most proper transit country for Azerbaijan-Turkey oil pipeline project was Armenia, Armenia was by-passed and Georgia, which was more expensive and risky route, was preferred. Likewise, although there is a railway between Turkey and Azerbaijan passing via Armenia, Armenia did not allow usage of this line and Turkey and Azerbaijan have to construct a new line between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. While Yerevan Airport becomes unimportant airport everyday, flights between Turkey-Georgia and Turkey-Azerbaijan become more frequent. It would not be a surprise if an express highway project appears between those countries in coming days. Moreover, as for trade, countries so-called support Armenia, prefer Turkey and Azerbaijan when they export or import. For instance on the one hand Russia supports Armenia regarding to its claims, on the other hand Turkey-Russia trading volume has exceeded 20 billion dollar. Turkish investments in Russia and Russian investments in Turkey grow rapidly. While Russia invades Armenian economy unilaterally, on the other hand Russia-Turkey economic relations ground on principle of equality. The position of France which did accept the Armenian historical claims within its parliament is the same. France while does not do investments in Armenia, it does constitutionalize Turkey as the centre of investment. Renault is one of the most prominent export factories in Turkey. The trade volume of Turkey-France is over 10 billion dollar in 2006. Examples can be multiplied. By the time, Armenia only receives promises from its allies while Turkey does make trade and investment. Similarly Azerbaijan’s trade and other economic activities with the US, Britain, Israel, France and other developed countries have been booming, while the Armenians just focus on the events happened almost 100 years ago. Azerbaijani economy has been integrated into the rest of the world while Armenia insists to occupy Karabakh’s rocky mountains. While Azerbaijan and Turkey become more developed and globalised countries, Armenia becomes more and more dependant country on Russian and Diaspora aids. While Russia invades Armenian economy, Diaspora dominate Armenian politics.

Karabagh is a mountainous region and its economic worthy is not valuable enough. Significant part of the population was Armenian even under the Azerbaijani government. If developments could have left to its progress about 100.000 Armenian would have taken the control of the region at the end of the day. In addition to the Karabagh Armenians, before the war there were significant numbers of Armenians in Baku. Some of the Armenian sources claim that the Armenian population in Azerbaijan was about 500.000. However, the effectiveness of the Baku Armenians was more than their actual population. By courtesy of its economic power Azerbaijan Armenians were able to develop political power. In other words, with 3 million population Armenia would have been more powerful in terms of both economic and political aspects thanks to the Armenians in Azerbaijan. Adding the Armenians in Georgia and Turkey, if Armenia could have good relations with its neighbours, then it would have been in very developed level in a comparison to now. In another word, if Armenia gave more importance to its regional diasporas to develop good relations with the region instead of US and Europe Armenian diasporas, there is no doubt that Armenia would have been more developed and powerful country.

However, nationalist Armenians have chosen war. Among with Karabagh, Armenian forces attacked to its close area Azerbaijan. In the end while Armenia occupied almost % 20 of Azerbaijan, 1 million Azeri people have been dislocated. With the war, hundred thousands of Armenians in Baku had to turn back to Armenia. Thereby, while Azerbaijan became one of the most homogenous countries, national consciousness in Azerbaijan has increased as a result of Armenian attacks. Azeris became a real nation thanks to the Armenian attacks. While Armenia lost the economic power of Armenians in Azerbaijan, it only gained a land with no natural resource. Moreover, with the closure of Turkey and Azerbaijan borders Armenians’ access to the world has significantly been cut. Population decreased from 3 million to 2 million in Armenia. Young people and qualified Armenians migrated to Russia, Europe and the US. In spite of that, Kocheryan is not able to manage even this small land with smaller population; and continued to demand more and more land from the Turks. Armenian constitution still does not recognize Turkey’s borders. Nationalist groups that demand lands from Turkey and Azerbaijan are still powerful. Tashnaks who are willing to take ‘revenge’ from Turks determine the administration. The power of Diaspora over the Government increases every day. Tashnaks and Diaspora nationalists are happy. They enjoy Armenian identity by harming Armenia. How much Armenia lost that much Armenian diaspora is happy. The victimization is at the heart of Armenian identity in the diaspora and any solution to the Armenian issue will harm Armenian diaspora. The best solution for the diaspora is the continuation all od the problems with the Turks.

In conclusion, Armenian persistency costs too much for Armenia. Because of its meaningless persistency, even ‘allies’ of Armenia are not able to help the Armenians. For instance the U.S and the EU can not even find areas for cooperation with Armenia. The country which is surrounded by more than 100 million Turks cannot solve its economic or political problems by declaring the Turks as enemy of Armenians. Under these circumstances it is not clear how long more can Armenia sustain. However, it is hard to say that the situation goes bad for Turkey or Azerbaijan.

The Parliament of South America Recognizes the Armenian Genocide

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay- Deputies from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay--all members of the South American Parliamentarians coalition, known as MERCOSUR-- adopted on Monday November 19 a resolution recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide. The meeting was held in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay.

In a unanimous decision, the Human Rights Committee of the parliament recommended the adoption of the resolution.

According to the Armenian National Committee of South America, the resolution says, "The Parliament of MERCOSUR condemns the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey from 1915-1923 which took the lives of one-and-a-half million people. The Parliament expresses its support to the righteous cause of the Armenian people. The Parliament also appeals to governments and parliaments, which have not recognized and condemned the Armenian genocide, to adopt similar decisions."

The resolution was introduced by representatives from Argentina and Uruguay.

MERCOSUR member states Argentina and Uruguay have already recognized the Armenian Genocide. Chile followed suit this year.

MERCOSUR, established in 1986, is one of the largest intergovernmental organizations in South America. The associated members of MERCOSUR are Bolivia, Chili, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

"The recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the South American parliamentary organization is another nail in the coffin of the Turkish Government's Armenian Genocide denial policy," said Aris Babikian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC). "Once again the international community sent an unequivocal message to the Turkish Government that Ankara authorities should come to terms with their history and atone for their predecessor's crime against humanity," added ANCC's executive director.

"MERCOSUR's decision is a clear indication that the international community will not be fooled by the Turkish Government's so called 'historians commission' proposal to study the Armenian Genocide or any other fable concocted by Ankara's Big Lie machine. The historical facts are overwhelming and the Turkish government sooner or later has to come to terms with its dark past," concluded Babikian.

Cohen and Albright Grilled on Hypocrisy of Opposing Armenian Genocide Resolution while Leading New Genocide Prevention Effort

November 21, 2007

1) Cohen and Albright Grilled on Hypocrisy of Opposing Armenian Genocide Resolution while Leading New Genocide Prevention Effort

2) ANC-WR Meets with NKR President Bako Sahakyan

3) Eastern U.S. Prelate Urges House Members to Take Moral Stand on Armenian Genocide


1) Cohen and Albright Grilled on Hypocrisy of Opposing Armenian Genocide Resolution while Leading New Genocide Prevention Effort

Former Secretaries of Defense and State Face Tough Questioning During Launch of Genocide Prevention Task Force

WASHINGTON, DC – The credibility of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen in leading a newly launched genocide prevention initiative was called into question, today, by reporters who cited their ongoing efforts to block Congressional reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide (H.Res.106 / S.Res.106), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“Sadly, the Genocide Prevention Task Force’s worthwhile efforts to build consensus for an unconditional stand against genocide as a core U.S. foreign policy priority are undermined right out of the box by the fact that its leading figures, Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, are today actively and publicly working to block American recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

Secretaries Cohen and Albright were keynote speakers at a National Press Club press conference hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, U.S. Institute for Peace, and American Academy of Diplomacy, to announce the formation of the Genocide Prevention Task Force, which the two will co-chair.

In response to questions raised by Hamparian and reporters from media outlets including Asbarez, the Armenian Weekly, and the Armenian Reporter, the two former secretaries were largely evasive, and consistently used euphemistic language to avoid proper reference to the Armenian Genocide.

“There are no absolutes in this,” explained Secretary Cohen, referring to U.S. action against genocide. “There is an element of pragmatism... I think anyone serving in public office necessarily has to have a set of balancing factors to take into account.” MORE. . .

2) ANC-WR Meets with NKR President Bako Sahakyan

Los Angeles, CA – On November 20, 2007, the Board of Directors of the Armenian National Committee – Western Region (ANC-WR) met with His Excellency, President Bako Sahakyan of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). President Sahakyan is visiting the United States in preparation for the ArmeniaFund Telethon which will take place on Thursday, November 22, 2007, Thanksgiving Day.

"We were pleased to welcome President Sahakyan to our office today to discuss important issues facing Artsakh," stated ANC-WR Board Member Zanku Armenian. "Our work in raising awareness of Artsakh's successes and challenges in decision-making circles in Washington, DC is a vital part of our work. We look forward to encouraging the U.S. Congress to allocate humanitarian and development funds that will help the citizens of Artsakh to further strengthen their communities, economy and society," he added. MORE. . .

3) Eastern U.S. Prelate Urges House Members to Take Moral Stand on Armenian Genocide

Washington, DC - His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, Prelate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, met with over a dozen Members of Congress last week on issues of concern to the Armenian faithful, including the moral imperative of America adopting a principled stand on the Armenian Genocide and against all instances genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The Prelate discussed the state of the Armenian Church in the Eastern United States and reminded Members of the historic repression of minorities under Ottoman rule, culminating in the genocide of Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians from 1915-1923. He noted that, following the Genocide, many Armenians found a safe haven on U.S. shores, and that their descendents today comprise a large portion of Armenian parishes throughout the country.

His Eminence went on to explain that discrimination against the Armenian Church and the remaining Armenian community living in Turkey continues, citing the Article 301 restrictions against free speech regarding the Armenian Genocide, amongst a number of other repressive laws. He also discussed the destruction of Armenian churches and cultural icons in present day Turkey and Azerbaijan, citing the lack of a meaningful U.S. protest of Azerbaijan’s decimation of the 1,300 year-old Armenian cemetery in Julfa, Nakhichevan. His Eminence and the ANCA delegation noted that, despite several requests, the U.S. Embassy in Azerbaijan has yet to investigate the matter or even to visit the site. MORE. . .

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Thursday, 22 November 2007

Secretaries Albright and Cohen Should be removed from Genocide Task Force

How hypocritical of Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, former Secretaries of State and Defense, to announce the formation of a task force on preventionof genocide, when two months ago they wrote a letter to the U.S. Congressagainst a resolution on the Armenian Genocide!

One would have thought that genocide denialists would not be the most qualified people to lead an effort on averting future genocides. Yet, this is exactly what happened last week.

Albright and Cohen shamelessly stood in front of TV cameras at the National Press Club in Washington on November 13 to declare that they are co-chairing a new "Genocide Prevention Task Force." The other members of the task force are Sen. John Danforth, Sen. Tom Daschle, Amb. Stuart Eizenstat, Michael Gerson, Secretary Dan Glickman, Secretary Jack Kemp, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Amb. Tom Pickering, Julia Taft, Vin Weber and General Anthony Zinni. This effort is jointly sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. The task force has five working groups dealing with early warning, pre-crisis engagement, preventive diplomacy, military inter- vention, and international institutions. It is expected to issue its report in December 2008.

Cohen told members of the media with a straight face that the task force is going "to look certainly to the past for lessons" in order to prepare a setof recommendations to the U.S. government on how best to respond to future threats of genocide. He stated that mass violence is "inimical to human behavior, to human decency, [and] to our sense of humanity=80¦. We can no longer live in a
state of denial or willful indifference." These bold words are from a man whose company, The Cohen Group, is affiliated with DLA Piper, one of the major lobbying firms hired by the Turkish government, at a cost of $100,000 per month, to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

As soon as the two former high-ranking officials finished delivering their opening remarks at last week's press conference, they were confronted by skeptical members of the press and Armenian activists who questioned their sincerity and pointed out their hypocrisy. This accusatory exchange was covered extensively by CNN, AFP, AP, and the Jerusalem Post.

Albright and Cohen were asked by Aram Hamparian (ANCA/Armenian Weekly): "How do you reconcile your work in trying to build a moral American sentiment, an unconditional consensus against genocide, when just very recently both of you signed letters urging America not to recognize the Armenian Genocide?" Albright, forgetting her earlier words about learning from the past, quickly shifted the mission of the group to the future. Carefully avoiding using the term "Armenian Genocide," she acknowledged that "terrible things happened to the Armenians - a tragedy=80¦. While we were Secretaries, we recognized that mass killings and forced exile had taken place, and we also said that the U.S. policy has been all along for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia on this particular issue." She also said that her earlier letter to Congress against the genocide resolution merely questioned whether "this was an appropriate time to raise the issue." Secretary Cohen, in his turn, referred to the Armenian Genocideas "the human suffering that took place between 1915 and 1923." He said he was concerned that the Armenian resolution "might result in reactions on the part of the Turkish government that could place our sons and daughters in greater jeopardy [in Iraq]." The two officials gave evasive answers when Elizabeth Chouldjian (ANCA/Asbarez) asked whether they were advocating that "for political expediency purposes we shouldn't be taking action on future genocides because of what it could mean to U.S. interests."

Russell Mokhiber, editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, then pointedly asked if Albright and Cohen were in fact saying: "If our friends do it, it's not genocide; if our enemies do it, it is genocide=80¦. If you are going to define genocide by who does it, not by what it is, your task force is in trouble."

Exposing his ignorance on the issue of the Armenian Genocide, Secretary Cohen said: "I don't know that the UN has declared that genocide occurred in the Armenian situation." He must not be aware that back in 1985 the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, by a vote of 15-1, adopted a report which included a section acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. "The experience of the Armenians does indeed conform with the UN Convention," Nareg Safarian (The Armenian Reporter) shot back at Cohen and added: "The two of you have personally worked toward ensuring that the United States government does not take a stand recognizing the Armenian Genocide. However, taking on this new role, how can you reconcile your positions and the U.S. foreign policy?"

Given their repeated attempts to block the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, both during and after their tenure in government, Secretaries Albright and Cohen should be removed from the leadership of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. They have undermined their own credibility and lost the moral standing to speak on the topic of genocide. One cannot deny a genocide and then turn around and act as a defender of its victims. Furthermore, Secretary Cohen has a personal conflict of interest due to his firm's affiliation with a company that lobbies for Turkey against the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide. This fact alone should disqualify him from membership, let alone leadership, of the genocide prevention group.

The task force has already backed down from its declared position on another controversial issue. During the November 13 press conference, in response to a question on whether the Task Force would dare investigate allegations of mass violation of human rights in Israel, Cohen told the reporter: "On the issue of whether genocide is taking place in the West Bank and Gaza - certainly that will be part of [what] the task force [is] looking at." However, just hours after that bold announcement, Albright and Cohen changed their tune by saying that the task force will not "determine which situations, past or present, including the West Bank and Gaza, constitute genocide." Arthur Berger, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's senior advisor for external affairs, was reported by the Jerusalem Post as saying: "He did not expect Israel to be singled out or dwelled on by the task force."

Armenian-American groups in Washington should request a meeting with members of the task force as well as its three sponsoring organizations, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace, to request that Albright and Cohen be dismissed. Moreover, they should ask that a qualified Armenian-American be appointed as a member of the task force.

Readers are urged to convey their comments/complaints to: Andrew Hollinger of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, phone: (202-488-6133) and e-mail:
ahollinger@ushmm.org; Lauren Sucher of the United States Institute of Peace (202-429-3822) and e-mail: info@usip.org; and Amb. Ronald Neumann of the American Academy of Diplomacy (202-331-3721) and e-mail: academy@academyofdiplomacy.org.


Bernard Lewis, Abe Foxman, Genocide, and `Genocide'
Daniel Koffler, November 12, 2007

TAGS: Armenian Genocide Daniel Koffler Fire Foxman Josh Strawn Raphael
Lemkin Samantha Power

I want to underscore Josh's comments about Bernard Lewis' sinister
complacency on the question of the Armenian genocide. Josh helpfully
mentions the heroic campaign of Raphael Lemkin, the inventor of the
term `genocide', to install the concept into international law. Josh is
quite right that that the concept `genocide' picks out does not merely
encompass its archetypal instance, the Holocaust, but any acts of a
relevantly similar nature that are to be absolutely forbidden among
civilized nations.

If you follow the Wikipedia article on Lemkin, you'll see that his
struggle to have an international law banning genocide began in earnest
in 1933, well before the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people
had begun. In fact, the connection between Lemkin's conceptual
invention and the crime Ottoman Turkey perpetrated against its Armenian
population is not merely theoretical; the Armenian genocide and its
aftermath were Lemkin's direct inspiration. As Samantha Power recounts
in her excellent book A Problem from Hell, in March 1921, in a pleasant
neighborhood of Berlin, Soghomon Tehlirian, a young Armenian man whose
family had been slaughtered by the Turks and who had been conscripted
into a revanchist band of assassins, gunned down Mehmed Talaat, the
former Ottoman Minister of the Interior who oversaw the murder of one
million Armenians and acted as the Turkish government's principal
obfuscator on the international stage.

Lemkin, a linguistics student at the University of Lvov, read about
Talaat's assassination and the events surrounding it in a newspaper.
I'll let Power take over:

Lemkin was intrigued and brought the case to the attention of one of
his professors. Lemkin asked why the Armenians did not have Talaat
arrested for the massacre. The professor said there was no law under
which he could be arrested. "Consider the case of a farmer who owns a
flock of chickens," he said. "He kills them and this is his business.
If you interfere, you are trespassing."

"It is a crime for Tehlirian to kill a man, but it is not a crime for
his oppressor to kill more than a million men?" Lemkin asked. "This is
most inconsistent."

Lemkin was appalled that the banner of "state sovereignty" could shield
men who tried to wipe out an entire minority. "Sovereignty," Lemkin
argued to the professor, "implies conducting an independent foreign and
internal policy...Sovereignty cannot be conceived as the right to kill
millions of innocent people...."

Lemkin was torn about how to judge Tehlirian's act. On the one hand,
Lemkin credited the Armenian with upholding the "moral order of
mankind" and drawing the world's attention to the Turkish slaughter.
Tehlirian's case had quickly turned into an informal trial of the
deceased Talaat for his crimes against the Armenians; the witnesses and
written evidence introduced in Tehlirian's defense brought the Ottoman
horrors to their fullest light to date. The New York Times wrote that
the documents introduced in the trial "established once and for all the
fact that the purpose of the Turkish authorities was not deportation
but annihiliation" [attn: Bernard Lewis - DK]. But Lemkin was
uncomfortable that Tehlirian...had acted as the "self-appointed legal
officer for the conscience of mankind." Passion, he knew, would often
make a travesty of justice. Impunity for mass murderers like Talaat had
to end; retribution had to be legalized.

The ironies here are numerous, and one I'll mention just in passing is
that while the New York Times was not under any illusions about the
nature of the Turkish atrocities as far back as 1921, the establishment
press of 2007, following conventions of supposed objectivity that in
general do more to throttle truth than disseminate it, can't quite seem
to figure out what the fact of the matter is regarding the Armenian

The bottom line, pace Bernard Lewis, is that the crime of genocide was
originally conceived to describe what Turkey did to the Armenians. Just
as it is a priori that a meter stick is one meter long, so it is a
priori that the Turkish mass-murder of Armenians was genocide, and a
denial of this fact is not merely an expression of ignorance, and not
even, strictly speaking, false. To say "there was no Armenian genocide"
amounts to what the logical positivists called vocus flatus, a
syntactical and seemingly articulate string of symbols that
nevertheless is literally meaningless, due, in this case, to its
containing an analytic inconsistency. "There was no Armenian genocide"
is not a false sentence because it is not even a sentence. It's like
trying (and failing) to refer to "the married bachelor."

One further irony that deserves notice is the role of Jews in alerting
the world to what the Turks had done to the Armenians long before the
Jews themselves were victims of a genocide, and how the profiles of
Lemkin and others compare with cravenness of Abe Foxman and the ADL.
Lemkin was not the first nor the most prominent Jew to assume the
plight of the Armenians as his own. Henry Morgenthau, an emigrant from
Germany to the US, was ambassador to Ottoman Turkey during the First
World War, who began to plead with his superiors to come to the aid of
the Armenians as early as February 1915. "There seems to be,"
Morgenthau wrote to Washington, " a systematic plan to crush the
Armenian race." Power again:

Local witnesses urged [Morgenthau] to invoke the moral power of the
United States. Otherwise, he was told, "the whole Armenian nation would
disappear." The ambassador did what he could, continuing to send
blistering cables back to Washington and raising the matter at
virtually every meeting he held with Talaat. He found his exchanges
with the interior minister infuriating. Once, when the ambassador
introduced eyewitness reports of slaughter, Talaat snapped back: "Why
are you so interested in the Armenians anyway? You are a Jew, these
people are Christians...What have you to complain of? Why can't you let
us do with these Christians as we please?" Morgenthau replied, "You
don't seem to realize that I am not here as a Jew but as the American
Ambassador...I do not appeal to you in the name of any race or religion
but merely as a human being."

Morgenthau's efforts cast the issue rather starkly, I think. If the
Anti-Defamation League cannot call genocide `genocide', for fear that
to do so is impolitic, then the Anti-Defamation League does not need to
exist. At the very least, Abraham Foxman and whichever other ADL
officers are responsible for the organization's behavior on this matter
should resign, not just from the ADL, but from public life entirely;
whatever moral stature the ADL retains depends upon them doing so.

Lastly, we should not forget that Morgenthau's response to the Turkish
Eichmann --- for once the comparison is apt --- was an American, not a
Jewish response. Morgenthau was begged to "invoke the moral power of
the United States"; if the government of the United States cannot be
bothered to state the truth simply and forthrightly, then it has no
such moral power.

Sunday, 18 November 2007


Two Turkish soldiers have been charged for abuse of power as part of
the probe into the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink,
officials and media reports said Friday.

The pair are the first members of the security forces in the northern
city of Trabzon, where the murder was planned, to face charges in
the case.

The security forces in the Black Sea port have been accused of failing
to act to prevent the murder despite having received intelligence
that local ultra-nationalist youths were plotting to kill Dink.

A prominent member of Turkey's tiny Armenian community, Dink, 52,
was gunned down outside the office of his bilingual Turkish-Armenian
weekly Agos in Istanbul on January 19.

Even though he campaigned for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, Turkish
nationalists hated him for branding the Ottoman massacres of Armenians
during World War I as genocide, a label that Ankara fiercely rejects.

Trabzon prosecutor Yakup Unal Demir told AFP he had indicted two
members of the gendarme, a paramilitary force policing rural areas,
but declined to give further details.

The two soldiers risk between six months and two years in jail for
abusing power, newspapers reported.

The charges resulted from a probe that followed the testimony of
a relative of the alleged mastermind of the plot, who said he had
informed the gendarme that his nephew was seeking to buy a gun to
kill Dink, the Sabah daily said.

It was not immediately clear when the trial will start.

The self-confessed gunman, 17-year-old Ogun Samast, alleged mastermind
Yasin Hayal and 17 other suspects went on trial in Istanbul in July.

Lawyers for the Dink family have accused the police of withholding
and destroying evidence in the case, suggesting that some members of
the security forces might have condoned the murder.

In September, two policemen went on trial in the northern city of
Samsun for their role in a scandal that saw security forces pose for
"souvenir" pictures with the gunman after he was captured there a
day after the murder.

The killing prompted fresh calls on Ankara to purge the "deep state"
-- a term used to describe security forces prepared to act outside the
law to preserve what they consider to be the best national interests.

The charge sheet in the main trial in Istanbul says police received
intelligence as early as 2006 of a plot to kill Dink organised in
Trabzon, home of Samast and most of his alleged accomplices.


Two Turkish soldiers have been charged for abuse of power as part of
the probe into the murder of ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink,
officials and media reports said Friday.

The pair are the first members of the security forces in the northern
city of Trabzon, where the murder was planned, to face charges in
the case.

The security forces in the Black Sea port have been accused of failing
to act to prevent the murder despite having received intelligence
that local ultra-nationalist youths were plotting to kill Dink.

A prominent member of Turkey's tiny Armenian community, Dink, 52,
was gunned down outside the office of his bilingual Turkish-Armenian
weekly Agos in Istanbul on January 19.

Even though he campaigned for Turkish-Armenian reconciliation, Turkish
nationalists hated him for branding the Ottoman massacres of Armenians
during World War I as genocide, a label that Ankara fiercely rejects.

Trabzon prosecutor Yakup Unal Demir told AFP he had indicted two
members of the gendarme, a paramilitary force policing rural areas,
but declined to give further details.

The two soldiers risk between six months and two years in jail for
abusing power, newspapers reported.

The charges resulted from a probe that followed the testimony of
a relative of the alleged mastermind of the plot, who said he had
informed the gendarme that his nephew was seeking to buy a gun to
kill Dink, the Sabah daily said.

It was not immediately clear when the trial will start.

The self-confessed gunman, 17-year-old Ogun Samast, alleged mastermind
Yasin Hayal and 17 other suspects went on trial in Istanbul in July.

Lawyers for the Dink family have accused the police of withholding
and destroying evidence in the case, suggesting that some members of
the security forces might have condoned the murder.

In September, two policemen went on trial in the northern city of
Samsun for their role in a scandal that saw security forces pose for
"souvenir" pictures with the gunman after he was captured there a
day after the murder.

The killing prompted fresh calls on Ankara to purge the "deep state"
-- a term used to describe security forces prepared to act outside the
law to preserve what they consider to be the best national interests.

The charge sheet in the main trial in Istanbul says police received
intelligence as early as 2006 of a plot to kill Dink organised in
Trabzon, home of Samast and most of his alleged accomplices.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Armenia's Access To Turkish Airspace Restricted

By Ruzanna Stepanian

Turkey has banned Armenian civilian aircraft from flying over its
territory en route to Syria and Lebanon, government officials in Yerevan
said on Thursday.

They told RFE/RL that Turkish aviation authorities have cited
unspecified `technical reasons' for the ban in separate letters to the
Armenian government's Civil Aviation Department and the Armavia national
airline, which carries out regular flights from Yerevan to Beirut and
Aleppo. The letters were sent after an Armavia plane bound for the
Lebanese capital was denied access to Turkish airspace and had return to
Yerevan Tuesday.

`Turkish aviation authorities have officially notified us that there are
problems relating to the Yerevan-Aleppo and Yerevan-Beirut flights and
that those flights will not be serviced by them temporarily and will
have to rerouted,' said Gayane Davtian, a spokeswoman for the

Both Davtian and Armavia officials said the Turkish side did not
elaborate on reasons for the restriction that does not seem to apply to
the Syrian airline Astrom that operates weekly flights services from
Aleppo and Damascus to the Armenian capital. An Astrom representative
in Yerevan said its next flight scheduled for Saturday will go ahead as

`Through diplomatic channels we yesterday asked the Turkish authorities
to clarify the situation,' Vladimir Karapetian, a spokesman for the
Armenian Foreign Ministry, told RFE/RL. `We have not yet received a

Turkey has kept its airspace open to passenger jets flying to and from
Armenia for the past several years while refusing to reopen the
Turkish-Armenian land border and establish diplomatic relations with
Yerevan. Some Turkish officials and politicians warned recently that
Ankara could scrap the over-flying rights if the U.S. Congress passes a
resolution recognizing the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire as genocide.

Davtian said Turkey has so far placed on restrictions on weekly flights
Yerevan and Istanbul as well as Armenian and other aircraft flying to
and from Europe via Turkish territory. She also said that Turkish planes
continue to use Armenia's airspace for carrying out flights to third
countries. `Armenia's airspace remains open to all countries,' added the
More Remains Of Plane Crash Victims Flown To Armenia
By Ruben Meloyan

More than 18 months after the deadly crash of an Armenian airliner in
southern Russia Armenia received on Thursday the remains of ten more
victims of the worst air disaster in its history.

The disfigured corpses of three people, among them a former head of
Soviet Armenia's secret police, and body fragments of seven others were
flown to Yerevan after lengthy DNA tests conducted by Russian forensic
experts. Officials said all of them have been identified and will be
handed over to family members.

The Airbus A-320 of the Armavia national airline plunged into the Black
Sea as it tried to land in the Russian resort city of Sochi in May 2006,
killing all 113 people on board. Only the bodies of 46 of them have been
fully or partially recovered from the sea and identified by forensic

Russian aviation authorities that led an official investigation into the
crash concluded in July 2006 that it was essentially caused by pilot
error. They said the A-320 crew lost control of the plane as they made a
second attempt to land at the Black Sea city's airport.

The Armenian government's Civil Aviation Department questioned some of
the conclusions drawn by Russian investigators, though. It said in
particular that they failed to take note of Sochi airport's alleged
failure to `detect dangerous weather conditions' that are thought to
have prevented the plane belonging to the national airline Armavia from
landing safely on first attempt.

Armavia's owner Mikhail Baghdasarian insists that the A-320 would have
avoided the crash had it not received a last-minute order to veer away
from the airport's runway and make a second approach.

Nov 15, 2007

YEREVAN, NOVEMBER 15, ARMENPRESS; Sirusho, a 20 year-old singer and
songwriter, will represent Armenia at the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest
in Belgrade.

The news has been announced by the national broadcaster-Public TV-
November 14 evening.

Sirusho's first public performance was at the age of 7 and with only 9
years of age, she received an award for her song "Lusabats". Sirusho
released her first album in 1999 and her second one, Sheram followed
in 2005.

Sirusho was voted Future of Armenian pop music in the first ever
Armenian national music awards. She has given concerts in many
countries around the world including Canada, Belgium, Greece, Poland ,
Syria, Iran, Russia, Georgia, Jordan and the USA.

Armenian composers have been invited to write songs for Sirusho,
5-7 of them will be selected by a special jury and the song which
will represent the country in the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest will
be chosen during a national final during January or February.

The Economist: Turkey's foreign policy

Turkey's foreign policy
Nov 15th 2007 | ISTANBUL
From The Economist print edition

The visionary behind Turkey's newly assertive foreign policy

SHIMON PERES became the first Israeli president to address the parliament of a Muslim country when he spoke to Turkish deputies on November 13th. “We may be saying different prayers, but our eyes are turned toward the same sky and toward the same vision for the Middle East,” he told an audience that included both the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Turkish one, Abdullah Gul.

For Turkey, this was an historic moment, a chance to reclaim the muscle of its Ottoman forebears as a force in the Middle East. Until a few years ago, Turkey, with its intimate ties with America and Israel, was scorned by its Arab neighbours as a Western stooge. The suppression of public expressions of Muslim piety decreed by Ataturk merely reinforced the canard that Turkey was run by crypto-Jews.

But this image has faded since the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) party came to power five years ago. Even as it pursued the goal of European Union membership, AK started to revive long-dormant ties with the Muslim world. Driving this multi-pronged vision is Ahmet Davutoglu, the self-effacing chief adviser on foreign policy to the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Disgruntled foreign-ministry officials discount Mr Davutoglu's behind-the-scenes influence, but it is unquestionably huge. Both Mr Erdogan and Mr Gul call him Hodja, or teacher. The former academic drew their attention in the mid-1980s with essays on Islam and the West. Ali Babacan, Turkey's young foreign minister, whom Mr Erdogan is rumoured to be grooming as his successor, takes Mr Davutoglu with him wherever he goes.

Critics accuse Mr Davutoglu of pulling away from the West. Never more so than when Turkey invited Hamas's leader, Khaled Meshal, just as Condoleezza Rice, America's secretary of state, was flying to the Middle East to tell Arab governments not to deal with Hamas after its Palestine election win in January 2006. Many see this as the biggest foreign-policy blunder of the Erdogan era. Sitting in his office in the Ottoman sultan's last palace, Dolmabahce, Mr Davutoglu disagrees. Was it not America that exhorted Hamas to take part in the election, he asks. “So why refuse to recognise its results?” Turkey's aim was to persuade Hamas to recognise Israel. Yet the affair had a toxic effect on Turkey's relations with America and Israel.

Born into a merchant family in the conservative city of Konya, Mr Davutoglu is unabashedly pious. He clawed his way into an elite Istanbul lycée, where he was educated in German. Mr Davutoglu rankled at having to read Western classics before touching Turkish ones. Why were Turkey's ideas imported from the West? Where was the great Turkish thinker?

Mr Davutoglu's desire to transform Turkey into a pivotal country in the region lies at the heart of his vision. Turkey was long perceived, he told a conference, “as having strong muscles, a weak stomach, a troubled heart and a mediocre brain.” Getting away from this means creating strong economic ties across Turkey's borders. Even as the Turks threaten separatist PKK rebels inside northern Iraq, business ties with the Iraqi Kurds flourish. Hawks who called for the expulsion of Armenian migrants when an American congressional committee passed a bill calling the mass slaughter of Ottoman Armenians “genocide” were overruled. At the same time Mr Davutoglu is an avid proponent of Turkey's membership of the EU. “Turkey can be European in Europe and eastern in the East, because we are both,” he insists.

The chaos in Iraq and the escalation of PKK attacks remain Turkey's biggest headaches. Yet here too Turkey is taking the initiative. On November 5th it hosted a conference of Iraq's neighbours that was attended by Ms Rice. A day later Mr Davutoglu flew to Washington with Mr Erdogan. He was one of a handful of Turks present at Mr Erdogan's talks with George Bush. Dealing with Turkish foreign policy means dealing with Mr Davutoglu.

Back to the Ottomans - Women in Turkey

[this article subscribes to the West's aspiration that Turkey acts a model for other Muslim countries, a concept that would be alien to most of them.
No mention of the treatments of other religions in that country.]

Back to the Ottomans
Nov 1st 2007
From The Economist print edition

Why Turkey matters so much to Islam

FOR many Westerners, Hidayet Tuksal is a confusing figure. Headscarfed and imposing, she grew up in a strict Muslim household in Ankara. At university in the 1980s, she focused on the Koran's teaching about women. She has since made a name arguing that much of the discrimination against women in the Islamic world has scant basis in the sacred text (because Eve was described as weak and flawed, it does not follow that all women are). For this she has got into trouble with traditionalists.


The prime minister, his wife and a headscarf

On the other hand, this 44-year-old mother of three is no fan of Turkey's secularist laws, especially when it comes to that headscarf. Because she wears it, she is currently banned from teaching at university. (Had she been younger, she could not have studied there either: the army tightened up the laws on what students could wear in 1997.) From her perspective, Turkey's secularists are stopping her educating Muslim women about their freedoms.

Turkey is buzzing with such arguments. When the (mildly Islamist) Justice and Development (AK) Party came into power in 2002, people joked that it was like electing the Taliban. So far the experience has been revolutionary in the good sense. Under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AK Party has occasionally veered off target (at one time he wanted to jail adulterers), but the main emphasis has been on freeing markets and stamping out corruption.

In July Mr Erdogan faced down mutterings from the army and deservedly won a second term. But now secular Turkey is getting worried again. Another Islamist, Abdullah Gul, has become president—an especially controversial appointment because his wife wears the headscarf. Restaurants have become nervous about serving food during the Ramadan fast. Recently a young woman wearing a knee-length tunic and leggings was arrested in Istanbul for “indecent exposure”.

Now Mr Erdogan wants to “modernise” the constitution. The new version would get rid of the headscarf ban at universities. It also keeps some illiberal traits: a clause saying the state should ensure equality between the sexes has gone; an infamous piece of the penal code, which was used to prosecute various writers for “insulting Turkishness”, remains. Many women who supported Mr Erdogan against the army are worried.

Turkey matters enormously to two big debates about religion in public life. The first is specifically to do with Islam: how compatible is it with political modernity? The second should be universal: where exactly to draw the line between religion and the modern state? Sadly, Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries where that debate is possible to have.

Merely posing the question of whether Islam is different raises Muslim hackles. They sense a post-September 11th witch-hunt, and with some cause. Every Western schoolboy now “knows” that the Koran promises suicide-bombers will be provided with 72 virgins (not true) and that in Muslim countries you can get stoned to death for being gay (true, sadly, in some places). Yet few Western schoolboys know much about the equally blood-curdling texts of the Old Testament: if you want illiberal family law, Leviticus is hard to beat.

Islamic politics, Muslims continue, is not uniform: Kano is very different from Karachi or Kuwait. And the troubles of Arabia, they maintain, have little to do with religion. They were caused by the Ottoman empire being amateurishly subdivided by the British, invaded by the Americans, occupied by Israel and exploited by the oil companies.

All these things may be true, but they do not stop Islam being different. There are still reasonable questions a dispassionate observer (or a Muslim) should be asking. Why is Islam involved in quite so many modern wars of religion? Why have its believers coped so badly with modernisation? Back in 1700 it controlled three of the world's economic superpowers—the Ottoman empire, Persia and India. Today, despite (or perhaps because of) oil, the Arab world in particular lags behind on most indices of modernity, from the number of books published to investment in science. Political bad luck cannot explain all of this.

The first answer that many Muslims and Westerners jump to—that Islam is stuck in a clash of civilisations with the West—seems unconvincing. Put simply, the main battle is not taking place in that arena. One great irony of the war on terror is that although George Bush has declared war upon jihadism, his enemies devote very little energy to fighting him. The jihadists' main war is not against the West but against apostate Muslim regimes: where they do battle with outsiders, it is mainly against occupying powers—Russia in Chechnya, America in Iraq, India in Kashmir and Israel in Palestine.

The two most important arguments about Islam are both internal ones. The first is the doctrinal split between Sunnis and Shias. An ancient disagreement to do with the primacy of various successors of the Prophet has become a greater schism—exaggerated not just by the sectarian killing in Iraq but also by the worries of the Sunni powers, such as Saudi Arabia, about Shiite Iran. Emmanuel Sivan, an Israeli expert on Islam, points out that in the battle for Gaza, Fatah loyalists accused Hamas of being Shia. The same “insult” is used in Nigeria.

The more complicated argument has to do with how much Islam should adapt to the modern world. Westerners, as you might expect, like to split Muslims between traditionalists and modernisers. In fact, the modernisers (people, say, who would like to let women lead prayers) are a tiny group. The main argument is between two sets of traditionalists, with both claiming to be the authentic ones.

The first strain, pushed especially by Wahhabi preachers and Saudi money, argues that nothing of much value has happened in Islam since the first couple of generations of the faith. Corrupted by infidel ideas, Islam must re-centre itself on the Koran. For Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703-92), the battle was against the worship of tombs and relics; for his spiritual descendants and other fundamentalists it is against television and Western clothes.

The second strain, while respecting the Koran, points to traditions from a later period—and especially to Islam's capacity to react creatively to new circumstances. The Koran, it argues, is the word of God given to nomadic tribes: it needs to be put into context. This version, which would be the heart of any Islamic reformation, is still the dominant strain in the great universities of Cairo and Damascus. But it has lost out to the Wahhabi strain in countless mosques and madrassas around the world.

Worse, from a modernising point of view, this second strain counts for virtually nothing in the main political battle within the Islamic world. That battle has little to do with religious reformation. Rather, as this newspaper described it earlier this year (see article), it comes down to a separate contest between martyrs and traitors.

The martyrs have a simple, coherent message that goes well with the Wahhabi and other Islamist causes: failure in Muslim countries has been due to moral dissoluteness and secularism. Society should be rebased around the Koran. The martyrs' strength is that organisations like Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood are relatively incorrupt and democratic. On the other side of the argument are “the traitors”—the Arab world's deeply undemocratic regimes, most of them propped up by some mixture of Western might and oil money. Some, such as Egypt, suppress the Islamists in the name of maintaining secularism; others, such as Saudi Arabia, suck up to the radicals. All the traitors in their different ways feed the sly line that Islam is incompatible with democracy.

Is there an alternative to this dismal choice? Some Asian brands of Islam seem better suited to coping with the modern world. The government of Malaysia (which in 2001 controversially decided it had always been an Islamic state) has actively favoured Islam and has increased the role of sharia courts, to the yelps of human-rights people; yet it has also presided over a vibrant economy. The tiny emirate of Dubai in the Gulf is another success. But Turkey offers by far the greatest hope.

Historically, the heirs to the Ottoman empire have fallen into the “traitor” category. The West tolerated military interference in Turkish politics, partly because it was told that the alternative—religious extremism—was worse. The AK Party has disproved that caricature. Indeed it marks something new: a party of fervent Islamists, neither traitors nor martyrs. Provided it sticks to its course, it could help normalise the argument about Islam. It would also make it possible for Muslim countries to engage in a more reasonable debate about religion's role in the public square.


Ataturk: the way forward or back?

Ms Tuksal's problems to do with headscarves and universities might be serious for her; but in many ways they are excitingly normal. France has a similar dispute over whether Muslims can wear headscarves to school. And virtually every rich country is debating the role of religion in education or the acceptability of religious symbols in public life. Britain has had arguments not just about Muslim veils but also about Christian crucifixes, Sikh turbans and Hindu nose studs.

Why has the public square become so fiercely contested? One reason is that both religious people and their secular opponents are getting more uppity: now that they are both choosing their beliefs, they are damned if they are going to let others boss them around. But in truth drawing a strict line between church and state has always proved enormously difficult.

This newspaper, for example, has always leant towards strict separation, but, like most liberals, it has frequently found that goal conflicting with other ones. For instance, if you support giving poor parents vouchers to choose schools, why shouldn't they pick religious schools—especially when in many inner cities they may be the best choice? In northern Nigeria American aid agencies seeking to promote female literacy faced a choice between giving money to secular schools (which Muslims shun) or to hybrid ones, which mix the standard madrassa fare with some Western basics (and are popular with Muslims). The aid people rightly chose the latter—even though some congressman is bound to complain about taxpayers' money going to help Islam.

So it is normal to have disagreement about the public square. But Islam stands out as the religion that brooks the least difference between church and state. In the Christian world, with the tiny exception of the Vatican, clerics have no urge to rule anybody. The Church of England seems embarrassed by having 26 bishops in the House of Lords (as it should be). Christian Democrat parties everywhere tend to treat the first part of their name as silent.

The idea of a firm division between God and Caesar is embedded not just in the gospels but also in Christian history: hence the Holy Roman Emperors' multiple disagreements with the pope. Islam has always left less room for the secular. Unlike Jesus, Muhammad was a ruler, warrior and lawmaker. Islam, which means “submission”, teaches that the primary unit of society is the umma, the brotherhood of believers, and it provides a system of laws—sharia—for people to live by. As Mark Lilla, an American academic, has argued, there has been no “great separation”: pious Muslims still turn to holy texts for guidance on all aspects of their lives.

In some extreme Islamic countries sharia, a system rooted in medieval traditions, is so strictly interpreted that it is hard to see how women in particular can lead modern lives. In Saudi Arabia a woman cannot drive or go to a mixed gym. Sharia seems to work better when there is recourse to a secular system, as there is in Bosnia and northern Nigeria. In Nigeria most Muslims do not bother to go through the federal legal system, because sharia is cheaper and quicker.

Turkey is quite different. Its courts are secular. Several of the erotic exhibits at its modern-art fair would have had Saudi Arabia's religious police reaching for their scimitars. But even Ataturk could not stop politics and Islam being intertwined.

Religion in Turkey is run by a government department. The diyanet's main function is bureaucratic: it distributes money to mosques, regulates prayer times and so on. The current diyanet president, Ali Bardakoglu, who serves in the AK government, has followed a liberal course. Ms Tuksal approves of his fierce opposition to honour killings. He has also sent out the firm message that Christian evangelicals (who in the past have sometimes been beaten up) should be left alone.

This all sounds very enlightened. But does it make sense for religion to be answerable to the state? The same question could be asked about Britain, where the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, wants to get rid of his powers to appoint bishops, or about the money France spends on Catholicism. But it matters much more in the Islamic world.

Ms Tuksal is a refreshingly modern figure. But Islam plainly is different. Turkey marks the beginning of the faith's debate about the modern world, not the end.