Turkey Calls for ‘New Beginning’ with Armenia While Engaging in Decades-Old Campaign of Genocide Denial

(Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Photo Credit: AA) 

By Taniel Koushakjian

AAANews Blog

January 20, 2015

While Americans commemorated the life and legacy of renowned civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 19, 2015, Armenians around the world commemorated the life and legacy of Hrant Dink, an Armenian Turkish journalist, and the founder and editor of AGOS Newspaper, who was gunned down in the streets of Istanbul, Turkey on the same day on 2007. Ironically, these two men have a lot in common: both sought to serve as a bridge between two estranged communities (White Americans and African Americans; Turks and Armenians); both rejected violence and extremism and worked in an atmosphere of peace and common understanding; both were assassinated for their ethnicity and their message of peace through historical justice.

Some Armenian circles even call Hrant Dink the Martin Luther King of the Armenians. Yet, to mark the 8th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s murder, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attempted to capitalize on Dink’s message of tolerance and understanding by calling for a “new beginning” in Armenian-Turkish relations. “The way to leave the great tragedy that had frozen history in 1915 is to break taboos,” according to Davutoglu.

However, it is beyond hypocritical to accept Davutoglu’s call for a new beginning while, under his leadership, the modern Turkish republic continues to engage in the decades-old campaign of Armenian Genocide denial across the globe.

Nothing could illustrate this fact more than the timing of the Gallipoli centenary currently being planned by Ankara. As the acclaimed writer Robert Fisk of The Independent recently wrote in an article entitled ‘The Gallipoli centenary is a shameful attempt to hide the Armenian Holocaust,’ “This is not just diplomatic mischief.” Fisk reveals that, “The Turks are well aware that the Allied landings at Gallipoli began on 25th April – the day after Armenians mark the start of their genocide, which was ordered by the Turkish government of the time – and that Australia and New Zealand mark Anzac Day on the 25th. Only two years ago, then-president Abdullah Gul of Turkey marked the 98th anniversary of the Great War battle on 18th March 2013 — the day on which the British naval bombardment of the Dardanelles Peninsular began on the instructions of British First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. At the time, no-one in Turkey suggested that Gallipoli – Canakkale in Turkish — should be remembered on 24th April.”

(Thousands gather in Istanbul, Turkey for a vigil to mark the 8th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s murder. Photo Credit: Agos Newspaper)

It is difficult for anyone aware of the issues to believe Davutoglu’s statement that “Turkey, for its part, has moved beyond this point and left stereotypical rhetoric and generalizations in the past.” If Turkey truly wants a new beginning with Armenians, it would immediately end its decades-old campaign of Armenian Genocide denial. But that policy continues, nearly 100 years after committing the greatest crime against humanity during World War I. To invoke the message of Hrant Dink in this vein, Turkey, once again, exposes that it’s true intentions are to continue the Ottoman Turkish Empire’s policy to distort the facts, distract attention away from, and deny the Armenian Genocide.

Meet the Writers

By Taniel Koushakjian

AAANews Blog

July 29, 2014

Every summer, the Armenian Assembly of America family grows as the Terjenian-Thomas interns embark on an 8-week adventure in our nation’s capital. While many of our interns are working in their respective fields all over Washington, a select group who have a passion for journalism, communications, and politics have gained experience working in the Assembly’s press department.

Gevorg Shahbazyan spends his time working between the Assembly communications team and the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Representative in the U.S. Gevorg is from Miami, Florida, where he majors in International Relations, with a concentration in diplomacy, at Florida International University. Gevorg is fluent in English, Armenian, and Russian, and he is also learning Spanish and Persian.

This summer, Gevorg penned his first publication, “Russian Policies in Ukraine and their effect on the South Caucasus,” which was prominently featured in the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, the first English language Armenian weekly published in the United States. He has also collaborated on other assignments which have been met with equal success.

“It has been a very enjoyable and educational experience working for the Assembly,” stated Shahbazyan. “The Armenian Assembly has supported and helped many young Armenians, and I can proudly claim that I was one of many students. Sharpening my skills as a writer and expanding my knowledge of the American political system all while working in Washington, D.C. has been like a dream come true,” Shahbazyan said.

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 (L-R: Peter Kechichian, Taniel Koushakjian, Gevorg Shahbazyan, and Mariam Pashayan)

Mariam Pashayan, originally from Yerevan, Armenia, also spends her time in D.C. in two functions; as an intern at the Armenian National Institute as well as the Assembly’s communications team. Mariam is currently studying political science in the Honors Program at Fresno City College. She is currently in her second semester and will be transferring to a University of California school of her choice. She has a great knowledge and interest in Armenian issues and speaks both English and Armenian fluently.

Mariam kick-started the summer by raising key Armenian American concerns in the most unlikely of places: a conference dealing with Turkey. Her line of questioning stunned the panel and the audience as she and her fellow Assembly interns were the only Armenians in the room. Mariam also published her first article this summer covering Congressmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) statements on the departing Armenian ambassador in the U.S.

“My internship this summer has been a very demanding and yet educational experience. I have completed assignments ranging from reporting on conferences and committee hearings, to conducting research at the Library of Congress,” stated Pashayan. “I am very thankful for this opportunity that was given to me by James and Connie Melikian and the Armenian Assembly. I will forever cherish the memories and friendships I have made in this program, Pashayan said.

Peter Kechichian is currently a communications intern for the Armenian Assembly of America. He was born in Melbourne, Australia and recently graduated from Monash University with a B.A. in journalism and minor focus in political science. He is currently pursuing his honors degree at the same university and is conducting research on the Armenian Genocide. He has extensive experience in the media industry, working in news rooms in Melbourne, New York, and Yerevan. Peter speaks both English and Armenian fluently.

Like his colleagues, Peter’s work this summer has been widely distributed to various mainstream, Armenian, and Armenian American publications. He was first to break the news that President Obama had nominated a new ambassador to Azerbaijan. Peter continued his coverage of the ambassadorial merry-go-round with the announcement of a new U.S. ambassador to Armenia, as well as the Armenian Assembly welcoming the new Armenian ambassador to Washington. Peter also collaborated with his peers, jointly publishing an analytical piece entitled “NATO and Azerbaijan: an Unbalanced Partnership,” which was picked up by The Bug Pit, the military and security blog of Eurasianet.org.

“Working as a communications intern for the Armenian Assembly of America has been both a challenging and an immensely rewarding experience. I have completed tasks as diverse as drafting press releases and conducting research, to attending conferences and Congressional hearings, as well as meeting with important public figures,” stated Kechichian. “I know that the skills I have developed during my time here will help me greatly in my future career and I’m grateful for the Assembly in giving me the opportunity,” Kechichian said.