Turkey’s Hate Crimes Are only the Tip of the Iceberg

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Recently two outrageous events took place almost simultaneously but the reactions of the international community stood in stark contrast.

In the first instance, a Jewish cemetery in France was desecrated with Nazi graffiti. President Emmanuel Macron of France rushed to the site to deplore the vandalism and the next day the streets of Paris and other cities were filled with huge numbers of crowds demonstrating against anti-Semitism.

Indeed, anti-Semitism is rising in France and in certain Eastern European countries, fueling fears of intolerance which had plagued Europe for so many years and especially after the coming to power of the Nazi party in Germany.

The next incident is the continued acts of vandalism against Armenians in Turkey, which does not grab headlines internationally.

The alarm raised during the French incident was justified, while the indifference toward the plight of other minorities is very hard to explain or justify. Incidentally, germane to this issue is a law passed by the French legislature called Loi Gaysot, which makes the denial of the Jewish Holocaust punishable by law, while a similar law that would have extended the same punitive measure to the denial of the Armenian Genocide, was struck down by France’s Constitutional Court in 2012, arguing that it curbs freedom of speech.

This kind of double standard will play into the hands of  demagogues and racists who can insult and persecute certain minorities, including Armenians.

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Vandals in Turkey have targeted not only Armenian cemeteries but operating Armenian Churches in Istanbul to express their hatred towards them. Just this week, the Surp Hreshdagabed Armenian Church in Istanbul’s Balat District was painted by graffiti, warning “You are finish” (sic).

Only the previous week, Surp Astvadzadzin Church in Istanbul’s Zeinlink district had been vandalized while in 2018, another Armenian Church, Surp Takavor, was also sprayed with words of hate graffiti that “This homeland is ours.” In 2016, the Bomonti Mkhitarian Armenian School suffered the same fate. And a few years ago, the Armenian Patriarchate at Kumkapi was the target of a bomb threat.

The Armenian community has to suffer from all these indignities and trauma because of the state policy towards minorities. That state-sponsored policy of hate also led to the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

When the Turks proclaim that “this homeland is ours,” they intrinsically let on that they have doubts about this homeland being theirs. It is not racist to characterize many Turkish or Ottoman leaders as usurpers and destroyers of civilizations; it is only a social postulation based on evidence. They have occupied Asia Minor, destroyed Greek and Armenian civilizations, committed genocides and now believe it is time to dictate “You are finish.”

If President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey was a person, we would characterize “this homeland is ours” as a Freudian slip.

When a member of the Turkish Parliament, Garo Paylan, raises his voice in protest against hate messages, rather than praising or supporting him, the administration threatens to strip him of his parliamentary immunity and put him behind bars. Indeed, Paylan has courageously stated: “A hate crime has been committed against the Balat Surp Hreshdagabed Armenian Church. Hate crimes against Armenian churches and synagogues take place several times every year. Not only the perpetrators by the powers behind [the attacks] should be addressed, but above all, hate-generating policies should be ended.”

These crimes could not be regarded as the unintended consequences of a policy since that policy is inciting hatred towards Turkey’s minorities. Right at this moment, Erdogan’s administration is waging a war against a quarter of the country’s population, the Kurds. And Hrant Dink was also a victim of that policy, after being harassed in trials on trumped up charges for years.

It is the manifestation of the same policy when government officials turn their ire against Armenian migrant workers. This time around, it is a right-wing party aligned with Erdogan’s AK Party, which is advocating the expulsion of migrant workers, who are thought to number between 10,000 and 30,000. But Mustafa Destici, the head of the Great Union Party, has asked the government to take action against those immigrants, stating, “There are 100,000 Armenians here who came from Armenia and are illegally filling their stomachs. I am saying that we should expel them. Why are we letting them stay?”

First of all, the number is exaggerated and second, for a very practical reason — the language barrier — they are mostly employed by local Armenians. Never mind that the Turks have destroyed an entire historic Armenia and have filled their stomachs with the looting of what millions of Armenians left behind.

This threat does not only come from the extreme right-wing. Before him, Prime Ministers Turgut Ozal and Tansu Çiller also made similar threats while Mr. Erdogan has made oblique references to them by stating that the Turkish state is such a charitable institution that it does not take punitive actions against the “transgressions” of the Armenians.

Mustafa Destici has been trying to take his revenge on those migrant workers, because he cannot stand up to French President Macron, who recently announced that April 24 will officially mark Armenian Martyrs’ Day in France. The Turkish government has been exercising a policy of cat-and-mouse with its minorities to dupe the European Union. A case in point is the recent return of Sanasarian Han, a huge piece of real estate, which had been confiscated from the Armenian community and after a show trial, was returned it to the Armenians, only to be confiscated again.

The Turkish leaders view Europeans as naïve statesmen who cannot detect their chicanery. But lo and behold, the European Union suspended the negotiating process with Turkey.

The Turks and Azeris have deep-seated anxieties with regard to the harsh judgement of history since they have occupied the territories of indigenous people and one day may face a reckoning.

Hence, the Sevres Syndrome remains alive.

That is why they are in a race against time to destroy all the vestiges  of Armenian presence and civilization on those lands, meantime fabricating a historic narrative that for centuries Seljuk Turks were inhabiting the Anatolian plateau and that Christian Albanians have inhabited Karabakh and Nakhichevan, all ancestors of Turks and Azeris.

Before World War I, there were 2,538 churches and 451 monasteries within the borders of modern Turkey. They have all been either destroyed or repurposed as stables, museums, storage areas or movie theaters. Laure Marchange and Guillaume Perrier explain in their book, Turkey and the Armenian Ghost, “Since the Armenians’ religious heritage was the strongest expression of their ancestral roots, it became a prime target of their oppressors. In absolute numbers, Turkey’s wipeout of Armenian cultural heritage dwarfs Azerbaijan’s’ recent vandalism in Nakhijevan.”

One Armenian scholar, Argam Ayvazyan, singlehandedly has documented almost all the architectural monuments in Karabakh and Nakhichevan and has published 200 articles and 40 books on the subject.

To this day, none of the successive administrations in Armenia have given proper recognition and support to him and his cause. It is time to divulge a little secret here. Way before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ayvazyan reached out to me at the Manoogian Cultural Fund, declaring that momentous events are predicted in the Caucasus. Therefore, he said, it is time to document monuments in Karabakh and Nakhichevan. After obtaining initial funding, he hired a foreign photographer to capture all the monuments. Even during  the Soviet period, Armenians were banned from traveling to Nakhichevan and the Azeris had managed to expel the remnants of the Armenian population from that exclave.

In Nakhichevan, Ayvazyan was able to document 89 Armenian churches, 5,840 ornate khachkars and 22,000 horizontal tombstones. All the khachkars were destroyed by the Azerbaijani government in 2005. All protests to UNESCO proved futile. Later on, it was discovered that when the US cut its support to UNESCO, the Azerbaijani government donated a grant of $5 million and was soon after recognized by UNESCO as a “country of tolerance.”

What a farce.

The ghost of martyred Armenians will haunt the Turks and Azeris forever and their only protection from history’s judgement will force the race toward the destruction of Armenian monuments.

Today’s hate crimes in Turkey are only the tip of the iceberg. The rest lies below the surface, under the ocean of history.

 

Clarification

The editorial above included a quote from a story by Simon Mahagyan and Sarah Pickman, titled “A Regime Conceals Its Erasure of Indigenous Armenian Culture.” Azadian had quoted the text, but misplaced the quotation mark, thus the sentence “In absolute numbers, Turkey’s wipeout of Armenian cultural heritage dwarfs Azerbaijan’s recent vandalism in Nakhichevan,” was not included in quotation marks.

In addition, several sentences were paraphrased from the article.

We regret the errors, which were all unintentional.

Below please see the link to the article, https://hyperallergic.com/482353/a-regime-conceals-its-erasure-of-indigenous-armenian-culture/

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