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Turkish Lawmakers Could Face Punishment Over Armenian Genocide Remarks

ANKARA — Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a far-right political party that adheres to Turkish ultranationalism, have drafted new Rules of Procedure for the country’s Parliament. The 18-point document, in part, envisages limiting the words used by the opposition.

The new bill stipulates imposing fines on those lawmakers who will use the “Armenian Genocide” and “Kurdistan” terms. Deputies will be fined 12,000 liras for “insulting the Turkish nation and its history”, which makes up to two-thirds of an MP’s salary (the salary of deputies is $ 5,900 ), Hurriyet reports.

The draft law also features a series of nationalist clauses, one of which reads: “Nation is a religious and ethnic group brought together around the common values, fate and future developed through historical processes.”

Earlier this year, Istanbul-Armenian MP, Garo Paylan was punished for using the word “Genocide” and was deprived of the right to participate in the next three parliamentary sessions. Later, it was proposed to deprive him of his deputy mandate for “inciting ethnic hatred.”

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Panel Discussion and Community Conversation on the Significance of “the Promise”

By Michael Rettig

The highly anticipated nationwide release of “The Promise” in April sparked a flurry of excitement in the Armenian American community. Armenian organizations across the country rallied in support of the first major Hollywood film to tell the story of the Armenian Genocide to a wide audience. Because of this energy, the film has continued to be a topic of discussion three months after its release. “The Promise” undoubtedly increased awareness of the Genocide, but it is important for Armenians to keep the issue at the forefront of public discourse.

On Tuesday June 27, the Armenian Cultural Conservancy of Fresno hosted a panel discussion on “The Promise” to analyze the importance and lasting impact of the film. The event, cosponsored by St. Paul Armenian Church, was moderated by local attorney Marshall D. Moushigian and included film maker Dr. Carla Garapedian, associate producer of “The Promise”; Dr. Matthew Jendian, Professor and Chair of the Sociology Department at Fresno State; the Fresno County Superior Court Justice Houry Sanderson; and Professor Jack Geiger, professor of Theater Arts at West Hills Community College. The panelists delivered opening remarks and then engaged in a lively discussion with the audience before concluding.

A common theme throughout the evening was the question of whether “The Promise” was an effective vehicle for educating the general public about the Armenian Genocide. According to Professor Geiger, the film’s love story enabled it to attract a wider audience. “If it were only about the facts of the Genocide, it would have been a documentary,” said Professor Geiger, “Like all great stories, the movie incorporates themes we could relate to against the backdrop of significant events.”

Dr. Jendian echoed this sentiment in stressing the unique role that drama plays in fostering empathy in a way history books and documentaries do not. According to Dr. Jendian, the purpose of the film was not to explain why the Genocide happened, but to show the events that took place and stimulate conversation. Successful drama invests the viewer in the characters and inspires them to further research the film’s topic. Dr. Jendian used “The Promise” as an educational tool by assigning his students to write reflections on the film for extra credit. “Their responses revealed a much more nuanced view of the Genocide than our intellectual study in the class produced,” said Dr. Jendian. “They were deeply moved.”

Dr. Garapedian noted that director Terry George was adamant that the film garner a PG-13 rating so it could be shown in classrooms. The panelists unanimously agreed that the film was artistically and educationally more effective because of its subtle dealing with the violence. Professor Greiger appreciated that “The Promise” did not rely on sensational violence to tell its story. “I don’t think anyone who saw the movie left with any doubt about the brutality of the treatment of the victim. Despite this, they were able to keep the PG-13 rating, enabling it to be used for educational purposes.”

One scene that stood out to Judge Sanderson was the arrest of more than 200 Armenian intellectuals in Istanbul. “When you systematically arrest the leaders of a society, it clearly depicts the genocidal intent of the perpetrators,” stated Judge Sanderson. “The film makers were able to portray that event while leaving most of the violence to the imagination.”

The audience was especially curious about the film’s cast, both how they were impacted by the experience and how their involvement affected popular opinion. According to Dr. Garapedian, lead star Christian Bale immersed himself in the history when he accompanied her to the Ararat Eskijian Museum in Los Angeles. There he learned more about the Genocide and the producers’ vision for the film. Bale demonstrated his passion for the role when he appeared on multiple talk shows with fellow co-stars Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon to promote the film, thus increasing public awareness.

Dr. Garapedian revealed that the producers wanted to cast as many Turkish actors as possible, but many of them refused due to fear of reprisals from the Turkish government. However, Dr. Garapedian noted the actors who played the carriage driver Mustafa and the deputy governor who helped protect the orphans were both Turkish. Dr. Jendian, whose paternal grandmother was adopted and cared for by a Turkish family, appreciated that the film depicted such noble Turks. “Everyone in a society does not embrace Genocide,” said Dr. Jendian. “Without people with a heart for others, many of us would not have survived.”

Reflections such as this panel demonstrate that the Genocide is not only an Armenian issue, but a universal issue that must be continually engaged with. “The Promise” is an important milestone in the effort to educate the public and achieve nationwide recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Photo by Alain Ekmalian

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Adrienne Alexanian Presents Father’s Memoir, Forced into Genocide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America co-sponsored a book presentation of Forced into Genocide: Memoirs of an Armenian Soldier in the Ottoman Turkish Army, written by Yervant Edward Alexanian, an eye-witness to the massacre and dislocation of his family and countrymen in Ottoman Turkey during the Armenian Genocide. Adrienne G. Alexanian, Yervant’s daughter, has spent years preparing her father’s manuscript for publication, which she presented at St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Washington, D.C on Sunday. The Assembly co-sponsored the event with St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church, Knights and Daughters of Vartan, and the Armenian National Committee of America.

Born in Sivas, Turkey, Yervant survived the Hamidian massacres as an infant to later fight for survival as a conscript in the Ottoman Turkish Army during the 1915 Genocide. Despite everything he went through and witnessed, “he was prepared to die” instead of saving his own life by converting to Islam. He fled to America in 1920, where he spent his life advocating for justice for his people. There are no other books or comparable account which exists in Armenian literature on this aspect of the Genocide.

Yervant passed away in 1983, leaving behind many documents and pictures discovered by his daughter. Adrienne explained that the memoirs came to light by chance while she was going through her father’s belongings. He did not share stories of the Armenian Genocide with his daughter, wishing to not burden his family. Instead, he wrote down his memoirs as a form of therapy that would later live on through Adrienne’s efforts.

Award winning Middle East journalist Robert Fisk highlighted Yervant’s memoirs in one of his articles on Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide in The Independent on March 22, 2017. “Forced into Genocide is Yervant Alexanian’s own frightful account of his people’s suffering, with unimpeachable documentation – in vast enough amounts to prevent the usual Turkish ‘genocide deniers’ (twins of the European ‘deniers’ of the Jewish Holocaust) of denouncing the book as a forgery,” Fisk wrote. “It is a story which Erdogan should be reading – and publicising – right now, for it involves more ‘Nazi practices’ than the new Sultan of Istanbul would ever want to acknowledge,” he added.

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Governor Brown Signs State Budget with $3 Million for Armenian American Museum

SACRAMENTO — California Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2017-2018 state budget on Tuesday with $3 million earmarked for the Armenian American Museum. The new funding will be dispersed over the next 3 years at $1 million per year. The approval brings the State’s total funding commitment for the Museum to $4 million.

“We are proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our State of California leaders to build a historic cultural and educational center that will honor the rich history and celebrate the diverse cultures who call our great state home,” stated Museum Governing Board Co-Chair Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.

“We would like to express our special thanks to Senator Anthony J. Portantino, Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León, and Budget Subcommittee Chair Richard Roth for leading the efforts to prioritize the funding in the 2017-2018 state budget,” stated Museum Governing Board Co-Chair Archbishop Hovnan Derderian.

The $3 million funding request was initiated in the State Senate by Senator Anthony J. Portantino with the support of Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León and Budget Subcommittee Chair Richard Roth. Upon the approval by the Senate Budget Subcommittee and Budget Conference Committee, the new funding for the Armenian American Museum was included in the 2017-2018 state budget proposal approved by the State Legislature on June 15.

“There is a long history of California supporting laudable museum projects around the state,” stated Senator Anthony J. Portantino. “I wanted to make sure that the Armenian American Museum garners equal and fair support.”

“It was an honor to work with my colleagues in the California legislature to secure $3 million dollars in funding for the Armenian American Museum,” stated Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León. “I am proud to stand in solidarity with the Armenian community.”

Last year, Governor Brown approved the 2016-2017 state budget with $1 million for the Armenian American Museum, an initiative led by Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian and supported by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León. Governor Brown’s January budget proposal released earlier this year suspended the previously approved $1 million for the Museum. State Legislators called for the restoration of the funds and advocated for additional funding in the 2017-2018 state budget.

“The Armenian American Museum in Glendale has the potential to serve as a beacon of hope for countless visitors through its work to embrace our diversity, educate, and empower all who step through its doors,” wrote Assemblymember Laura Friedman in a letter in March urging the Governor to reinstate the $1 million for the Museum. Friedman’s support for building the Museum in Glendale began as a Glendale City Councilmember and she has continued to advocate for the project in the State Assembly as one of her top priorities.

Ultimately, Governor Brown’s May Revise budget proposal reinstated the initial $1 million and the 2017-2018 budget signed by Governor Brown today commits an additional $3 million for the Armenian American Museum.

“The State of California’s investment in the Armenian American Museum lays the foundation for a momentous project that will serve generations to come,” stated Museum Governing Board Co-Chair Bishop Mikael Mouradian.

Museum officials continue to work closely with the City of Glendale on developing the project’s concept design, traffic, parking, economic, and environmental studies in preparation for the upcoming ground lease agreement consideration by the Glendale City Council.

“We are looking forward to working with our City of Glendale partners to build an iconic center in the heart of Glendale’s Arts and Entertainment District,” stated Museum Governing Board Co-Chair Reverend Berdj Djambazian.

The Museum’s concept design by Alajajian Marcoosi Architects for the proposed downtown Glendale site was unveiled in December 2016. The concept design’s animated video tour can be viewed at

For more information about the Armenian American Museum, visit or call (844) 586-4626.

About Armenian American Museum
The Armenian American Museum is a developing project in Glendale, CA, with a mission to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Armenian American experience. When completed, it will serve as a cultural campus that enriches the community, educates the public on the Armenian American story, and empowers individuals to embrace cultural diversity and speak out against prejudice.

The governing board of the Armenian American Museum consists of representatives from the following ten Armenian American institutions and organizations: Armenian Catholic Eparchy, Armenian Cultural Foundation, Armenian Evangelical Union of North America, Armenian General Benevolent Union – Western District, Armenian Missionary Association of America, Armenian Relief Society – Western USA, Nor Or Charitable Foundation, Nor Serount Cultural Association, Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, and Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

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$3 Million Dollars for Armenian Museum & $10 Million for Genocide Education Included in the Final Version of California State Budget

SACRAMENTO — Senator Anthony Portantino has announced that the Armenian Genocide Education curriculum implementation and the Armenian-American Museum funding have been included in the final version of the State budget. The California Legislature will be voting to pass the 2017-2018 budget on Thursday, June 15.

The $3 million-dollar funding commitment for the Glendale-based museum brings the state investment to this important human rights project to $4 million dollars. Earlier in the year, Portantino helped restore the initial $1 million from last year’s budget. Portantino asked the State Senate to prioritize increasing the State’s commitment to the museum to an additional $3 million over the next three years.

Portantino, with the support of Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León and Budget Subcommittee Chair Richard Roth, arranged a presentation from Armenian Museum Executive Board Member Zaven Kazazian before the budget subcommittee. Portantino joined Kazazian in making the presentation before the subcommittee.

“I am extremely happy that as a member of the budget committee, I was able to bring these two important proposals to light this year. It was such a pleasure to invite Zaven Kazazian from the Armenian Museum Board to Sacramento to present this significant human rights project to the attention of the Senate and then into the State Budget,” commented Portantino.

The subcommittee and the Senate subsequently included the funding in the Senate version of the budget. Since the request was not included in the Assembly budget, it had to be sent to the budget Conference Committee for resolution. The Conference Committee adopted the Senate proposal, paving the way for the museum funding to be included in the fiscal 2017 – 2018 budget.

“I am very pleased that the State Senate included the request for funding of our important museum proposal. It was an honor to present at the Senate subcommittee and I’m very excited that the full budget includes the Senate request,” concluded Zaven Kazazian, Armenian American Museum Executive Board Member.

As Chair of Budget Subcommittee on Education, Portantino also put in the request for the funding of the genocide curriculum update implementation. Again, this proposal was included in the Senate priority list. After long negotiations, $10 million dollars was included in the 2017-2018 budget to fund the History-Social Science curriculum framework, which includes teacher training for the Armenian Genocide and other important historical updates.

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”The Promise” Faces Tough Road to Distribution

LOS ANGELES (Variety) — “The Promise,” a sweeping historical romance starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, is the kind of movie epic they just don’t make anymore. It’s a throwback to David Lean’s “Doctor Zhivago” and Warren Beatty’s “Reds,” movies that transposed big, emotional stories against a sprawling canvas, and tugged at the heartstrings while dealing with thorny political periods.

It’s risky, but not just in that way. Not only is it one of the most expensive independently financed films ever made, it also deals frankly with the Armenian genocide. The mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire took place between 1915 and 1922, but decades later, the episode remains politically fraught. Bringing the story to the masses was a mission for Kirk Kerkorian, a businessman of Armenian descent who once owned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He died in 2015 as the film was going into production.

“This was personal for him,” says Eric Esrailian, one of the film’s producers. “He always wanted to make an epic film with the best actors available that wouldn’t just be a history lesson.”

His vision wasn’t cheap. “The Promise,” co-written and directed by Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”), cost nearly $100 million to make before tax breaks. Kerkorian provided all of the financing through Survival Pictures, a company he set up with Esrailian. The film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, has yet to close a distribution deal. Esrailian thinks the subject matter may be scaring some buyers away.

There’s a reason for that fear. Officials in Turkey continue to deny that systematic killings of Armenians took place. “I’ll just say that there are some studios that have business interests in Turkey, and you can form your own opinion,” says Esrailian.

There were no public protests at the Toronto premiere, but there is already evidence of a propaganda campaign to discredit “The Promise.” The film’s IMDb page has received more than 86,000 user votes, the bulk of them one-star ratings, despite the fact that the movie has had only three public screenings. That’s more user reviews than appear for “Finding Dory,” the highest-grossing film of the year. The filmmakers say reaction on social platforms has been equally intense.

“The day after we screened the movie, 70,000 people went on IMDb and said they didn’t like the movie,” says Mike Medavoy, one of the film’s producers. “There’s no way that many people saw the movie after one screening. There aren’t that many seats in the theater. ”

“The Promise” centers on a love triangle involving a medical student (Isaac), a journalist (Bale), and the Armenian woman (Charlotte Le Bon) who steals their hearts. All three find themselves grappling with the Ottomans’ decision to begin rounding up and persecuting Armenians.

“Some critics blamed us for being old- fashioned,” says George. “But that’s what we set out to do. We wanted as wide an audience as possible.”

This isn’t the first attempt at a movie about the Armenian genocide. In the 1930s, MGM planned to adapt “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh,” Franz Werfel’s novel about the massacres and deportations of Armenians, starring Clark Gable. That production was abandoned after the Turkish government threatened to launch a worldwide campaign against it.

Studios may have a reason to be cautious. The film business is an increasingly globalized one, with major movies depending on foreign revenue to make a profit. When Hollywood has dramatized the genocide, the blowback has been fierce. Atom Egoyan has the scars to prove it: His 2002 film “Ararat,” which depicted a Hollywood director trying to make a film about the genocide, was the focus of a vast campaign targeting the film’s distributor, Miramax, and Disney, its parent at the time. The studio received so many negative emails that its website crashed.

Egoyan warns that the controversy is just starting. “It’s going to be a tough ride,” he says. “The denialist lobby is very well-organized.”

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Inauguration of Maria Jacobsen’s Bust in Solvang California

By Mike Agopian

Maria Jacobsen (November 6, 1882 – April 6, 1960) was a Danish missionary and a key witness to the Armenian Genocide. Jacobsen wrote the Diaries of a Danish Missionary: Harpoot, 1907–1919, which according to Armenian Genocide scholar Ara Sarafian, is a “documentation of the utmost significance” for research of the Armenian Genocide.[1] For her humanitarian efforts, Jacobsen is known as “Mayrik” (Armenian: mother) or “Mama” for having saved many Armenians during the Genocide.

Maria Jacobsen was born in Denmark in the town of Siim near Ry on 6 November 1882 and as a child, she lived in Horsens with her father Jens Jacobsen and mother Ane Kristine Pedersen. At an early age, Jacobsen had learned about the massacres of Armenians during the Hamidian massacres from the Danish media. Christian organizations throughout the world started a campaign to express their solidarity with the Armenians and to serve to help them. When Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis, a feminist activist, came to Denmark from England in 1898, she helped form the Women’s Missionary Workers (K.M.A.; Danish: Kvindelige Missions Arbejdere) in 1900.[3] Jacobsen soon participated in the support and relief efforts of orphans in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

When Maria Jacobsen arrived in Kharpert, she immediately started working in the American hospital located in the area.
In a diary entry regarding the deportation of Armenians, on 26 June 1915, Jacobsen stated that, “it is quite obvious that the purpose of their departure is the extermination of the Armenian people.” She added:
Conditions now are completely different from what they were during the massacres of 20 years ago. What could be done then is impossible now. The Turks know very well about the war raging in Europe, and that the Christian nations are too busy to take care of Armenians, so they take advantage of the times to destroy their “enemies”

Jacobsen also stated in her diaries that Turkish soldiers told her and other Danish missionaries, “Why do you give money and food to these people? They are only going out to the mountains to be killed.”
On July 6, Maria Jacobsen and Danish missionary Tacy Atkinson reported that 800 of the males thirteen years and older who were arrested were “massacred” in a gorge. Jacobsen then wrote about males over the age of nine who were taken to a mosque under the guardianship of “Kurds and gendarmes” who returned with their cloths covered with blood.[7][8]

An Armenian child waiting before his admission to the orphanage

Jacobsen described the situation of the Armenian orphans and the famine throughout the city:
We lived this way for a year in fear that all the children would die of hunger. Each day new groups of children stood in front of my door asking for help, but what more could I do? I had nothing more to give them. One day a 13 year old boy stood out among a starved group of children that came to me. His belly was not swollen up with hunger as others so I told him; there are many in worse condition than you who need help. Yours is the least serious, that’s why I am sorry, I can not take you in. The same evening when I came to our kitchen’s fireplace, my eyes caught a child lying crumpled on the warm ashes. It was the boy I sent away the previous day. He had died of hunger. That day I thought I would never be able to smile again. Each day we found ten to fifteen children that had died of famine.

Jacobsen later wrote about the circumstances of the deportees stating that ‘these poor people did not look like humans any more, not even animals could be found in this state, people would be merciful and kill them’.

Serving as part of the Danish missionary, Jacobsen had taken thousands of children under her care and hid them from Turks. She was known for taking care of an orphan that was a survivor of a group of orphans that were killed when thrown into a river.[8] Jacobsen reported that the Turkish authorities demanded from the American missionaries to hand over the orphans, however, when this happened, many of them were killed.

Jacobsen also remarked about the Norwegian and Scandinavian media during the Genocide:

Today I went down to Mezreh and visited Sister Bodil (Biørn), together with Karen-Marie and some Turkish sisters. There we saw an account of the great Turkish blood bath of the Armenians in a Norwegian newspaper from September 30th. We were glad to see this. If they know about this in Norway, they must also know in Denmark and can follow us better in thought and prayer. This we need in these distressing times that the friends at home share in our suffering and carry us forward to the Mercy Seat.

It was during this period that Jacobsen adopted three children. The first, Hansa, had fled the Bedouin family she was sold into and hid in a tree until she became unconscious from sickness and fell, where a Turk police officer and Jacobsen found her. Jacobsen chose to adopt her on the spot. The second child was Beatrice, and the third was Lilly, who she had found on the side of the road.

After World War I, Maria Jacobson left the Ottoman Empire after contracting typhus from the orphans.[4] After going to her native Denmark, she went to the United States where she gave a series of lectures and speeches on the plight of the Armenian people and the massacres that they have been subjected to. In the seven months that she spent in the United States, she managed to raise money for the orphans. After being prohibited from entering Turkey, Jacobsen subsequently went to Beirut, Lebanon where she continued to care for the orphans.

In January 1922, after the Armenian Genocide, Jacobsen transferred many orphans to Beirut. After moving to Zouk Michail in July 1922, she helped establish an orphanage which sheltered 208 Armenian children from the region of Cilicia. Through the efforts of the Danish missionary, an Armenian orphanage that had previously been owned by the Near East Foundation was acquired by The Women’s Missionary Workers (K.M.A.) in 1928.The orphanage, which was located in Jbeil, became known as the “Bird’s Nest”.

Maria Jacobsen, who was also fluent in Armenian, often read the bible to the orphans in Armenian. Jacobsen also married an Armenian dentist.

Maria Jacobsen died on 6 April 1960 and is buried in the courtyard of Birds’ Nest as desired by her will
• On the 130th anniversary of her birth, the Armenian Genocide Museum issued a jubilee postcard of Maria Jacobsen.
• Jacobsen became the first woman to receive the Danish Kingdom’s Gold Medal Award in 1950.
• On her 50th Jubilee celebration, Jacobsen was awarded with the Gold Medal of Honor by the government of Lebanon on 14 December 1954. The award was given to her for her service and dedication to the Armenian community.

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MP Garo Paylan Banned from Turkey’s Parliament After Genocide Remarks

ANKARA — Garo Paylan, Istanbul-Armenian member of parliament was temporarily banned from Turkey’s National Assembly after he used the term genocide to describe the deaths of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire a century ago, officials said on Saturday.

Paylan, a lawmaker belonging to the pro-minority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said during a constitutional reform debate that Armenians had at one time made up 40 per cent of the Turkish population and now only constituted 0.1 per cent.

“Obviously, something has happened to us, and I call it a genocide,” Paylan said.

“The Armenian people know very well what happened to them. I know very well what happened to my grandparents,” he added.

Paylan said four communities had been lost and “driven from these lands in large massacres (and) genocides,” referring to Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jews, according to Anadolu Agency.

Videos showed lawmakers from the the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) angrily interrupting Paylan’s speech. They called for Paylan’s expulsion from the assembly, claiming he had “insulted the Turkish nation”.

In the end, Paylan has been banned for three full sessions before he was allowed to return to his parliamentary seat.

Paylan’s comments came after a vicious fight broke out in parliament on Thursday as lawmakers voted on parts of the 18-article constitution bill which — if passed — will be put to a referendum at the end of March or early April.

Paylan “I will not stop saying what I believe in”
MP Garo Paylan is planning to appeal to the Constitutional court over the ban, Armenpress reports.

“I have repeatedly talked about the Armenian Genocide, I have brought the issue of the Genocide and facing with it to the agenda. The ruling “Justice and Development” party entered into a coalition with the nationalists over the constitutional changes. Yesterday evening I said that it is necessary to confront the genocide in order to prevent the same mistake to happen now”, he said.

Paylan said he was removed from taking part in the three parliamentary sessions. “The AKP set such a punishment, although it doesn’t exist in the parliament’s rules of procedure. I was punished illegally”, he said.

He said due to the nationalist atmosphere existing in Turkey, the freedoms are more restricted, and if until recently it was not taboo to say Armenian Genocide, now the situation changed.

“In this new reality saying the term “genocide” is again being perceived as a crime. If I again say this word, perhaps the same punishment will be applied, but I will not stop saying what I believe in. At the moment my application to be submitted to the Constitutional Court is being prepared. I am going to appeal also to the European Court of Human Rights. I think I will succeed”, he said.

In response to a question of receiving threats, the lawmaker said of course they exist, however, he has many supporters. “Of course, negative reactions exist since we live in an atmosphere of nationalism. But I have supporters and will continue my fight”, Garo Paylan said.

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”The German Bundestag Would Have Probably Never Passed the Genocide Resolution Without Hrant Dink.”- Cem Özdemir

TORONTO — On the 10th anniversary of Hrant Dink’s assassination, Armenian political, cultural, religious, business, philanthropic and academic organizations of Toronto and Montreal gathered together to commemorate Hrant Dink and remember his immense contributions to human rights.

The Zoryan Institute of Canada prepared the contextual, audio-visual presentation celebrating Hrant Dink’s life, featuring the events leading to his murder and the significance of his loss to the cause of human rights worldwide.

On this occassion, Mr. Cem Özdemir, Co-Chair of the Green Party of Germany, and his colleague, Dr. Henriette Rytz, traveled from Berlin for the event to express their solidarity with the principles advocated by Hrant Dink.

Mr. Özdemir was one of the champions of Germany’s parliamentary resolution that recognizes the 1915 mass murder of Armenians as genocide and accepted its complicity in the crime, in collaboration with the Ottoman Turks.

Also on this occasion, Hrant Dink’s widow, Mrs. Rakel Dink, sent a special video message of appreciation to the audience and Mr. Özdemir himself.

“I would like to salute all of you with my most sincere thanks, love and yearning.I would like to thank all the organizers, participants and the ones who made the efforts to realize such an event in Unity. During the past ten years, communities and human rights activists worldwide come together to combat discriminationand strengthen their power. My special thanks to Cem Özdemir who is among you today. He was always on Hrant Dink’s side, ten years ago….He always had a share in this struggle. Thank you.”

Ms. Megan Reid, Zoryan Institute’s Outreach Coordinator, opened the event by welcoming the German delegation headed by Mr. Özdemir and revealed the relationship between the Institute and Hrant Dink.

”The Zoryan Institute shares the values promoted by Hrant Dink who understood that true peace can be achieved only if Turks and Armenians can speak openly about their past.”

Mr. Raffi Bedrosyan, the initiator of the program and Special Advisor to the Zoryan Institute on Turkish Affairs, was the moderator of the evening and summarized the meaning of the event: “The objective of today’s event is not only to commemorate Hrant Dink, but to reaffirm our commitment to continue Hrant Dink’s mission for reconciliation among people with different ethnicities, cultures and religion, particularly among Armenians and Turks.”

He further explained how Hrant Dink, the founder and editor-in-chief of Agos, aimed to eliminate all stereotypes, hatred discrimination against minorities in Turkey. To demonstrate the type of hatred promoted by Turkish officials at the highest level, he shared a part of a speech by Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the President of Turkey, who complained about people calling him “..even uglier things…an Armenian.”

The keynote speaker, Mr. Cem Özdemir, a close friend of Hrant Dink, gave a heartfelt speech about why he came to this event and why the German Bundestag passed the resolution. Speaking about his background and his values, he had this to say:

“I grew up in a Turkish family. My mother and father came as so called guest workers to Germany. They taught me that [I] should not select [my] friends by their nationality or religion but you select them by the heart they have. My mother grew up in Istanbul and experienced as a 6/7 years old child what was then a pogrom happening towards the Greek minority in 1955. She told me, they were our neighbours, we were living together. We visited them when they had their Christian holidays and they visited us when we had our Muslim celebrations. Then the nationalists came. Of course, the neighbours didn’t want to attack their neighbours so they had to bring in people from the prisons from far away to attack the Greeks. My mom who is a Muslim believer, stressed to me that [I] have to protect people even if they are from other religions or… are not a good Muslim.”

Referring to Hrant Dink’s influence on him, Cem Özdemir explained how Hrant “taught [him] most about the Armenian Genocide and what happened to other Christian minorities in Turkey. Without Hrant, I would not be here. Without Hrant, a lot of Armenians in Turkey, believe me, would not talk about the Genocide. Without Hrant, a lot people of Turkish origin would have never heard about the Genocide and without Hrant, the German Bundestag would have probably never passed the genocide resolution.”

“We should not finger point at Turkey. We [the Germans] should also talk about our involvement. We were eye witnesses, our diplomats, missionaries, knew exactly what was happening. They told us precisely and thanks to Mr. Wolfgang Gust, his wife and the Zoryan Institute, all of this is documented,” Özdemir said.

Mr. Özdemir explained the importance: “…that we talk about German guilt and German responsibility. That is why we talked about the responsibility of Germany, to do everything we can do and of course the EU too, that Armenia, the country Hrant loved so much and at the same time he also loved his other country, Turkey. That those two countries that Hrant loved so much, that one day they have an open border and it is as easy to go from Armenia to Turkey and from Turkey to Armenia. Just as easy it is for me today to go from Germany to France and from France to Poland.”

Reaffirming Hrant Dink’s mission, Özdemir stated the following: “If we have the chance to hear the other side of the story, even if they may be brainwashed, I am sure they will start to ask questions. That is the start for change and rethinking.”

He further added “….Trust the Zoryan Institute…trust what your fathers, mothers and grandparents told you, nobody can neglect that and nobody can take that away.”

He closed the tribute to Hrant Dink with a heartfelt statement, ”I want to use this opportunity to thank Hrant and say how much I miss him. I am sure you all miss him too.”

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Zoryan Institute Responds to Turkish FM Çavusoglu’s Call for Joint Commission

TORONTO — In response to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu calling on Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915, the Zoryan Institute has the following response:

As they say, “This is déjà vu all over again.”

Calls for Armenia to set up a joint commission to study the events of 1915 have become the modus operandi for the Turkish government for years. Çavusoglu’s recent statement merely echoes that of his predecessors, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2014 when he was the Prime Minister. Every year, a few months before April 24th, when resolutions appear before government bodies around the world, especially the US Congress, the high-ranking officials of Turkey make the same call. They claim to want to study those events to find out what really happened. This is nothing but a public relations stratagem to make it appear that Turkey is open-minded and willing to normalize relations with Armenia.

Such calls ignore the fact that in 2003, the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (“TARC”) at the time requested The International Center for Transitional Justice to examine the events of 1915 as a case of genocide. The ICTJ issued its finding that “the Events, viewed collectively, can thus be said to include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them.” The Turkish members of the Commission rejected this finding and broke TARC apart.

In 2010, the United States, Switzerland, and other countries tried to broker the signing of protocols between Turkey and Armenia, whose border between them is closed, and who do not have diplomatic relations with one another. Despite the signing with much fanfare in Switzerland, the Turkish government has refused to ratify the agreement to this day.

Renowned Turkish scholar, Prof. Taner Akçam of Clark University, published in the preface to his awardwinning book, The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, after years of studying official documents from the German, Ottoman, and other archives, the following statement:

“Far from conflicting with one another, the sources are in fact complementary: they tell the same story but from different points of view…. Taken in their entirety, Ottoman and Western archives jointly confirm that the ruling party CUP did deliberately implement a policy of ethnoreligious homogenization of Anatolia that aimed to destroy the Armenian population”.

On June 2, 2016, Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, voted to declare the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 a genocide. The resolution was introduced by Cem Özdemir, a German parliamentarian of Turkish origin. There were at least one dozen other German deputies of Turkish origin who co-signed the Resolution with all parliamentarians voting in favor except one. The Turkish president, Erdogan, quickly denounced the resolution and recalled his Ambassador from Berlin. Part of the resolution reads as follows:

“By order of the Young Turk regime, the planned expulsion and extermination of over a million ethnic Armenians began in the Ottoman city of Constantinople on April 24, 1915. Their fate exemplifies the history of mass extermination, ethnic cleansing, expulsions, and yes, of genocides, which marked the 20th century in such a horrific way. We are aware of the uniqueness of the Holocaust, for which Germany bears guilt and responsibility.

The Bundestag regrets the inglorious role of the German Empire, which, as a principal ally of the Ottoman Empire, did not try to stop these crimes against humanity, despite explicit information regarding the organized expulsion and extermination of Armenians, including also from German diplomats and missionaries…. The German Empire bears partial complicity in the events”.

Turkey has already rejected the finding of the ICTJ, an internationally respected organization headed by the renowned Elie Wiesel. It has harassed and persecuted Prof. Taner Akçam. Now, given Germany’s acceptance and admission of its own complicity in the Armenian Genocide in collaboration with its political and military ally, the Ottoman Empire, why propose another joint commission? President Erdogan, himself, has publicly stated that he will never accept that Turkey committed genocide.

Under the circumstances, it is hard to believe Çavusoglu’s claim that “…we will accept any revelation.”

Rather than go through the sham of a joint commission, it would be more practical and constructive for Turkey to open its border with Armenia, establish normal diplomatic relations with its neighbor, stop harassing its scholars and writers and jailing its journalists, and accept the very well established historical record, and admit its guilt in the Armenian Genocide, as its own ally, Germany, has done.

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