BEIRUT (Zartonk, Aztag) – Major General Imad Osman, director-general of Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces, recently issued a circular to the officers and soldiers he commands announcing that Turkish language classes would be conducted online in Lebanon in cooperation with the Turkish embassy in that country. The news has inspired alarm among Lebanese Armenians as a reflection of growing Turkish influence and involvement in Lebanon.
Incidents last year in connection with Lebanese-Armenian television anchor Neshan Der Haroutiounian’s criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and even earlier reactions in Beirut and Tripoli against the 2015 commemoration of the Armenian Genocide already indicated the negative effects of Turkish influence for the Armenian community.
Chairman of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party District Committee of Lebanon Sevag Hagopian responded publicly to Osman, asking why it was important to promote the learning of Turkish in Lebanon at this point in time when the language was not a major recognized international one and a major Turkish-speaking community did not exist in Lebanon. Furthermore, he pointed out that the circular asked for interested soldiers to send their personal information directly to an email address connected with the Turkish embassy. In other words, this would allow Turkish state bodies to use this information in the future for purposes other than that of language education.
He wrote that in the context of Turkish intervention and expansionist intents as far afield as Libya and the Southern Caucasus, the proposal to administer such courses should not be considered as an innocent one. He said that he was afraid that Turkey could in the near future threaten the national security of Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Lebanese parliament deputy and Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee of Lebanon representative Hagop Pakraduni held a telephone discussion with Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi and expressed his amazement and puzzlement concerning the announcement. He pointed out that Lebanon’s political figures do not speak Turkish and this step could in fact create spies for Turkey. Pakraduni noted that Turkish state agencies in various places and different circles in Lebanon attempt to form opinion and impose perspectives, as well as to promote Turkish policies.
Fahmi responded that this decision for Turkish language lessons was not obligatory for the Internal Security Forces and is similar to plans for instruction in languages such as English, Spanish or Italian. He promised to follow up on this matter and reach a suitable solution.