September 29, 2006


Entering Berdzor-Lachin Corridor (Onnik Krikorian)

We all have read the stories that have recently appeared in various Armenian news outlets regarding the exodus of Armenians from the strategically vital region of KASHATAGH (Lachin).

This region, that lies between the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh proper, has witnessed this human outflow due to worsening socio-economic conditions and unkept promises of aid and assistance by the very officials who called on Armenians to settle these border areas after their liberation in the Karabakh war.

We urge all concerned with the plight of Kashatagh and it people to visit the new website and sign the petition addressed to the Presidents of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh which calls for immediate measures designed to ameliorate conditions in Kashatagh and thus hopefully halt the exodus.

September 28, 2006


Today, the European Parliament, by a vote of 429 to 71, dropped a clause from a report dealing with Turkey's accession talks that would have stipulated Ankara's recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for accession to membership in the European Union.

The report, (see full text), included a watered down position on the genocide recognition issue that merely urged that Turkey, "Must come to terms with its past."

The author of the report, Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Camiel Eurlings said,

"Officially, formally, recognition is not a criterion [for accession], which is the truth, but it is indispensable for a country on the road to membership to come to terms with its past," Eurlings said. "So, let the message not be misunderstood. We really urge Turkey, together with Armenia, to get over the past."

According to Eurlings, the change in the report was necessary to make it " fairer ". He said that formally, recognition of the Armenian mass killings as genocide cannot be held to be a criterion for EU entrance as no other candidate country has had to recognize it.

Pokr Mher - Welcome to the wonderful world of political deceit and deception. We really don't think that any rational observer of these political machinations believed for a minute that the "Armenian Genocide" clause as originally drafted had any chance of passage. And please do not for a moment believe that it was solely because of Turkish pressure on the European Parliament members that the clause was watered down. The vote to tone down the clause won by a 6 to 1 ratio. No... a majority of the Parliament members were already inclined to water down the clause . They did not want to "ruffle" Turkey's feathers and further alienate the regime in Ankara which has threatened to pull out of further accession - threats which are mostly empty posturing on its part. As for the comments of Camiel Eurlings - we can't understand his logic. The onus is on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide, and not other EU candidate countries, precisely because the Turkish Republic of today is the heir apparent, the self-proclaimed successor , to those who planned and executed the Armenian Genocide, namely the Young Turk regime of the Ottoman Empire. Shades of The Treaty Of Lausanne!!!!!

September 27, 2006


Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mammadyarov

The Foreign Ministers of both Armenian and Azerbaijan took turns addressing the 61st session of the United Nation's General Assembly late Monday night, but speculation that they would meet behind the scenes failed to materialize. Furthermore, both diplomats were fairly pessimistic regarding any near-term solution to the Karabakh dispute.

The Armenian FM, Vartan Oskanian, may have gotten cold-feet after the General Assembly's decision earlier this month to discuss Karabakh in conjunction with other "frozen conflicts" in the former Soviet Union. The issue was included in the UN agenda at the urging of the GUAM group of nations (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova). Armenia has always insisted that the Minsk Group remain the sole mediating body for the Karabakh issue.

Vartan Oskanian said in his speech that, "the people of Nagorno-Karabakh chose long ago not to be represented by the government of Azerbaijan. They were the victims of state violence, they defended themselves, and succeeded against great odds, only to hear the State cry foul and claim sovereignty and territorial integrity."

For his part, Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azeri FM told the Assembly that, "the occupying forces have to withdraw from the occupied territories and necessary conditions have to be in place to allow the secure and dignified return of the Azeri displaced to Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions." Mammadyarov argued that a breakthrough in negotiations would be difficult since Armenia "rejects face-to-face meetings and refuses to take a constructive approach to solving the Karabakh issue."

Answering this charge, Oskanian commented that Armenia has largely accepted the Minsk Group's current peace plan that would allow the predominately Armenian populace of Karabakh to determine the disputed region's status in a referendum. "Armenia is on record, he said, and we have agreed to each of the basic principles in the document that's on the table today."

AZERI COMMANDER BOASTS: My Troops Ready For Military Op's In Karabakh

(26.09.2006 - Baku)

During an interview with the Azeri Press Agency (APA), General Lieutenant Zakir Hasanov, Commander of Azerbaijan's Interior Troops, commented that his forces are "prepared to interfere in the Karabakh conflict at any time."

Hasanov added that while Azeri "Interior Troops are usually employed to fight armed crimes and to preserve public order, his forces could solve the Karabakh conflict if not for the presence of soldiers and heavy weapons from Armenia proper."

According to Hasanov, Azeri Interior Troops have been trained and equipped by Turkey since 1997. He concluded the interview by stating that, "special detachments of Interior Troops are presently being trained for a variety of special operations that can be executed in conjunction with regular army forces."

Azeri Parliament Tends To Favor Military Solution

In a related story out of Baku, a majority of Azeri Parliament members voted in favor of a military solution to the Karabakh conflict in a survey conducted by the Azeri Press Agency. Only a small number of MP's thought the issue should be resolved through peaceful means.

September 26, 2006

New Book Dealing With Armenian Genocide Recently Published in France

We at Sassna Dzrer are pleased to inform our readers that an important new book dealing with the 1915 Armenian Genocide has recently been published in France.

Researched and written by French-Armenian historian Raymond Kevorkian, Le Genocide des Armeniens, is a massive 1008 page history of every facet of the genocide. Of particular interest is its detailed, region by region, documentation of the forced deportations of Armenians throughout the Ottoman Empire.

Mr. Kevorkian is Director of the Armenian Nubar Library of Paris . In addition, he was one of the original founders of the "Land and Culture" organization back in the late 1970's. The organization continues its important work till today.

Mr. Kevorkian has authored numerous works dealing with various aspects of Armenian history and culture. ( see biography) Even though the book is in French, we urge all who are able to support such a dedicated and indefatigable historian as Mr. Kevorkian by purchasing this work.

Abrees..Haroutiun yeghpayr!!!

September 25, 2006

Despite A Weekend of Violence...Rumors Of PKK Ceasefire

PKK and Turkish Military Clash in Diyarbekir

During a weekend that witnessed a spate of bombings across eastern Turkey, rumors have circulated regarding a pending cease-fire on the part of the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) in Turkey.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who had been in New York to attend the 61st United Nations General Assembly meeting, stated that the PKK would announce a cease-fire in the next few days in a statement he made to Newsweek magazine.

"We have persuaded the PKK for a cease-fire and it will declare it officially in a few days", the Iraqi President and former leader of the Patriotic Union Of Kurdistan - Iraq, revealed, adding that it would help open a new page of Turkish-Iraqi relations.

This past weekend saw Kurdish rebels clash with Turkish security forces in Diyarbekir, a PKK bombing of a police guest house in Igdir (near the Armenian border), and the derailing of a Turkish freight train in the province of Elazig (Kharpert) by a PKK remote-controlled landmine. Seventeen people were injured in the Diyarbekir and Igdir bombings while the Tatvan - Elazig railway has been closed for repairs due to the landmine explosion.

Turkey has been pressuring the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq to rein in PKK forces who cross into northern Iraq from Turkey to escape Turkish military attacks against them.

September 23, 2006

ELIF SHAFAK ACQUITTED....Chaos Erupts Outside Istanbul Courtroom

(22.09.2006; BBC News)

In a trial that lasted only 40 minutes, Elif Shafak, the author of The Bastard of Istanbul, was acquitted on charges of "insulting Turkishness".

Outside the Beyoglu courtroom riot police wearing gas masks encircled the main gates while inside, the courtroom itself was sectioned off behind a row of tall temporary fencing.

Ms. Shafak was not present at the trial, having given birth over the weekend. Her husband, Eyup, was present and telephoned his wife shortly after the verdict was read. "I just talked to Elif on the phone. She was so happy and relieved", he told reporters in the packed courtroom.

The quick acquittal infuriated Kemak Kerincsiz, one of the Turkish lawyers who filed the initial complaint against Shafak's book.

"In our culture no one can brand their ancestors murderers or accuse them of genocide", Kerincsiz said. "Maybe in the West they're more tolerant, but here we can't accept those comments as criticism", he added.

For further information and to see a video clip from the trial click HERE

European Union Delegation Cites Rise of Human Rights Abuses in Turkey

(22.09.2006; Associated Press)

While on a fact-finding tour of Turkey, a human rights committee from the European Parliament says it heard reports of a resurgence of torture, abductions and beatings by security forces.

The delegation focused on the Kurdish issue and traveled to the southeast of Turkey but they also met with human rights groups in Istanbul and Ankara.

What concerned the group most were the discrepancies between cases of human rights violations recorded by Turkish authorities and those reported by human rights organizations.

Delegation member Vittorio Agnoletto, an Italian lawmaker said, " The impression is that the situation is going backwards."

A full report on the delegations findings is due to be presented to the European Parliament in a month, although they will be discussed in a debate within the next two weeks.

******Jailed British Artist Freed By Turkish Police******

In a related story, Turkish police today released Michael Dickinson, a British artist who had been arrested on September 12th for unfurling a poster of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's head superimposed on the body of a dog wearing a stars & stripes leash representing the United States. Mr. Dickinson has lived in Turkey for the past twenty years.

Sorry - But we are unable to post a copy of the poster. We contacted Turkish officials but were told that in the melee that ensued when Mr. Dickinson was being taken away,one of the Turkish police dogs, upon seeing this "weird dog/man photo", savagely attacked the poster and proceeded to tear it to shreds....

September 21, 2006

Some Random Thoughts On The 3rd Armenian-Diaspora Conference....

OK - So another one of these conferences has come and gone. Another meeting of the minds, if you like, between two realities...that of Armenia and the diaspora. Based on the results, or lack thereof, of the first two, what can we reasonably expect to see emanating from this one? While it may be too early to jump to any rational conclusions, SASSNA DZRER would like to throw out some observations that might serve as a basis for future debate and analysis....

1985 People Attended The Conference: Mostly From The Diaspora

Who are these people? Who and what interests do they represent? Why should they be trusted to do the right thing? Have they ever expressed any thoughts at all regarding the Armenia-diaspora dialectic? What are their views regarding participatory democratic institutions and the role of the individual citizen in a developing civil society??

Where is their critique of what has transpired during the last 15 years since Armenia's nominal independence? Do they see the diaspora and its traditional institutions sharing some responsibility for the continuing malaise and mistrust that percolate within large segments of Armenia's citizenry when it comes to dealing with official institutions of any kind, whether local Armenian power structures or diasporan benevolent organizations.

What Will Armenia Look Like in the Year 2020?

This innocuous question was put to some of the more "prominent" speakers at the Conference. Here is what a Mr Tom Samuelian, lawyer, linguist and representative from the Armenian University of America offered as an answer:

1) Armenian Genocide Will Be Recognized
2) Karabakh Conflict Will Be Resolved
3) Armenian Language Will Be Unified
4)Turkey Might Hand Over Our Lands
5) Thousands in the Diaspora Will Be Granted Dual Armenian Citizenship

We ask you - Is this the best one of our so-called intellectuals can come up with??
If so, then one can only imagine the level of discourse and analysis that flowed within the ranks of the other 1984 conference attendees!!!!

Foreign Minister Asks For More Money From Diaspora..But No Accountability...

Check out this platitude from Armenia's Foreign Minister - "If Artsakh, Armenia and the Diaspora unite, you will see what wonders we'll accomplish. I'm sure the 21st century will be ours."

Doesn't he realize that Armenians in the diaspora are wary of sending more money to Armenia when the funds already sent have been mismanaged, misappropriated and misused?? Do the ruling elites in Armenia believe that "Business as Usual" is the name of the game?? Why don't they address these issues?? Where is the self-criticism and long sought for promises of transparency and accountability!!!

Please - No More Speeches and Empty Rhetoric. Let us build some real and practical bridges between the people of Armenia and the Diaspora!!

When Armenians from the diaspora visit Armenia they should visiting local schools, health clinics, community centers - not abandoned churches, monastery ruins or local cafes. Meetings and discussion groups designed to bring together ordinary people from Armenian and the diaspora need to be organized. Such contact and interaction is the true and democratic basis for mutual understanding that remains lacking till today.

We can only hope that some of those who attended the Conference will come away with a real understanding of what needs to be done for the true potential of the Armenian people, both in Armenia and the Diaspora, to be realized!

Hrant Dink In Yerevan....Critical Of Pressuring Turkey To Recognize Armenian Genocide

(19.09.2006; Yerevan)

While in Yerevan for the 3rd Armenia-Diaspora Conference, Hrant Dink, editor of the Istanbul-based Agos weekly, said that there are visible changes in the way Turkish society is addressing the "taboo issue" of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. He noted that despite the continuing persecution of those who publicly raise the issue, "many Turks are now talking about the Armenian Genocide, while those that do not are interested in learning more."

Dink has had his fair share of trouble with the Turkish judicial system. He had been accused of "insulting Turkishness", but was given a six month suspended sentence for that charge in December 2005. But now he faces two new court cases. In the first, Dink and three other Agos journalists face up to three years imprisonment under Article 288, according to which he is accused of "trying to influence the course of justice". (They had written an article criticizing the six month suspended sentence). In the second case, the Istanbul public prosecutor opened a new investigation against Dink for remarks he made to the Reuters news agency on July 14, 2006, in which he used the term "genocide" to describe the mass killings of Armenians in 1915. If convicted on this new charge, Dink faces up to three years in jail as well. Dink has said he will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights as a last resort.

While in Armenia, Mr. Dink also reflected on the methods being used to pressure Turkey to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide. He said, "The Turkish state may one day recognize the genocide under pressure from various countries. This is possible. But is this the right solution? I don't think so."

He elaborated on this view by commenting that, "Armenia and its influential diaspora should educate ordinary Turks instead of seeking Western pressure on Ankara. This only gives more ammunition to Turkish nationalists." Dink concluded by stating, 'the best way to get Turkey to address this issue is to help it become a more democratic state'.

For more information on Hrant Dink's legal trials and tribulations...

International Freedom of Expression Exchange:

Novelist Goes On Trial Tomorrow In Istanbul For "Insulting Turkishness"

(20.09.2006; Various Media)

Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist, goes on trial tomorrow in an Istanbul court for the crime of "insulting Turkishness" through the fictional dialogue in her best-selling novel, The Bastard of Istanbul.

Shafak, who lives and works in the United States, has been charged under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. It was this law that also was used to put Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most famous novelist, on trial.

The European Union, with which Turkey began accession talks last year, has been a strong critic of the law and is expected to condemn curbs on freedom of expression in Turkey in a report to come out on October 24th. Turkey's parliament is holding an emergency meeting this week on further E.U. related legal reform, but has failed to act on Article 301.

The Bastard of Istanbul is a story about the intertwined history of a Turkish and American-Armenian family. The "crime" committed by the characters in it is to refer to the taboo subject of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. As an example, the fictional Uncle Dikran speaks of "Turkish butchers" and others talk about "being slaughtered like sheep."

Charging fictional characters "is a new step", according to Mrs. Shafak. "It means they are now trying to control art and this is very alarming in Turkey - a country that has witnessed three military takeovers - art and literature had always been autonomous."

The trial is not just about her book, she says. The case is part of a political effort by extreme nationalists to hamper Turkey's E.U. aspirations by demonstrating just how "un-European" Turkey really is.

For more information on Elif Shafak, her upcoming trial and Article 301 .....

Elif Shafak's Website:
PEN America:
PEN International:

September 20, 2006

Israeli Commandos Secretly Trained Kurdish "Peshmerga" in Iraq

(20.09.2006; Reuters)

On Tuesday, the BBC reported that former commandos of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), had secretly trained Kurdish soldiers in northern Iraq.

One of the former Israeli trainers told the BBC in an interview that the IDF soldiers had crossed into Iraq from Turkey in 2004.

The Kurds were trained as security forces for the new airport in Erbil, while others were trained for special assignments that included how to use rifles and how to shoot militants in a crowd.

While Iraqi newspapers have reported on Israel's contacts in the Kurdish region, Kurdish authorities have denied allowing any Israelis into Iraq. Khaled Salih, a spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government dismissed these claims by saying, "These are not new allegations for us. Back in the 1960's and 1970's we were called the ' second Israel ' in the region."

Please go to the article entitled, "Annals of National Security; Plan B", by Seymour M. Hersh to read more on the issue of Israel's interest in Kurdistan.

September 19, 2006

Lake Made Famous By " Nasreddin Hodja " Is No More

(17.09.2006; Turkish Daily News)

The lake made famous by the 13th century Anatolian humorist Nasreddin Hodja in one of his "tall tales" has all but dried up. While there is little biographical data on the itinerant folklorist, it is believed that Nasreddin Hodja lived in the town of Akshehir, in the central Anatolian province of Konya.

In the story that made the local lake famous, Nasreddin is standing on its shore, gazing intently into its blue waters. When a group of curious onlookers ask what exactly he's doing the Hodja replies, " I put some yogurt into the lake. I'm waiting for it to ferment so that the entire lake turns into yogurt." They start laughing when hearing this and proceed to explain the impossibility of such a thing to happen. To which Nasreddin Hodja retorts," Ah...but what if it does."

This story ( which sounds much funnier in the original vernacular), is a euphemism to describe attempting something impossible and to remain ever the optimist. People from far and wide flocked to the region to see where this story originated and to gaze into the lake themselves.

Today, they can no longer do so. Over the years, illegal wells, dams, unregulated irrigation and other man-made structures, have choked the lake to the extent that only a small area of swamp remains. The mayor of nearby Golcayir laments the fact that the town is no longer considered a tourist attraction.

There are initiatives on the table to designate 2008 " The Year Of Nasreddin Hodja" in commemoration of his 800th birthday. A proposal to bring the waters back will soon be submitted to UNESCO.

September 17, 2006

Turkey's New Head of Military Declares The Treaty Of Sevres A " DEAD ISSUE "

Since his appointment as Chief of Staff of Turkey's armed forces, many Western observers have been trying to decipher the political and cultural orientation of General Yasar Buyukanit. Many have looked to the General's inaugural speeches for clues as to where he stands on a variety of issues, both domestic and international.

On August 28th, the Geneva-based Center for Security Studies published a report on Turkey that concluded,

"Chief of Staff General Buyukanit's political and cultural orientation is not exactly as pro-European and pro-Western as that of his predecessors. More importantly, some fear that the new Chief of Staff will promote a tougher policy towards Kurdish activists and will be less likely to make concessions to the European Union on the Cyprus issue"

In one of his inaugural speeches, General Buyukanit made reference to the 1920 Treaty of Sevres. He is quoted to have said,

"Within the context of security, I would like to bring to your attention a very important issue. Although it is with good faith, some argue that the Turkish Republic will have to confront the Treaty of Sevres. I would like to clearly state that although some circles may have such an endeavor and others may have such expectations, I do not think there is any power to force Turkey to confront the Treaty of Sevres once again."

September 16, 2006

Turkish Official Compares Pope To Hitler; Benedict's Speech Provokes Outrage in Muslim World

Segments of a speech given by Pope Benedict XVI at the University of Regensburg on September 12th have provoked outrage across the Muslim world, most notably in Turkey. Ironically, the Pope is scheduled to visit Turkey in November, his first official visit to a Muslim country.

What exactly did the Pope say to cause such a reaction? Well, during his academic discourse, the head of the Roman Catholic church cited an obscure medieval text in which Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, who, while commenting on the relationship between religion and violence says,

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".

Surprisingly, the most vociferous reaction to what the Pope said have come from Turkey, an alleged secular state. Salih Kapusuz, deputy leader of Turkish Prime Minister's Islamic-based ASP party said the Pope's remarks, " were either the result of pitiful ignorance about Islam and its prophet, or worse, a deliberate distortion". capsize added, "Benedict is going down in history for his words. He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."

Even Turkey's pro-secular CAP opposition party has demanded that the Pope apologize before his November visit.

September 15, 2006

" New York Times " Calls For Greater Engagement With Turkey

(14.09.2006; Washington, D.C.)

The New York Times, in its editorial of September 10th, had the following to say regarding U.S. - Turkish relations,

" The United States would be wise to create many more and varied opportunities to engage with Turkey, a longtime ally, and a uniquely important one. Turkey is a predominately Muslim, secular democracy, situated between Europe and the Middle East. After years of trying to make amends for having suppressed its Kurdish population, often brutally, Turkey has seen violence resume of late. The United States needs to frankly acknowledge that instability in Iraq, on Turkey's southeast border, has fomented instability in Turkey. That morally obligates the United States to help with corrective actions."

Further on, the editorial speaks about how Turkish public opinion has cooled to the idea of further integration in Europe via accession to the European Union and cites the cold-shoulder Turkey has lately received fro various European countries. Here's the passage in question.

"As Turks see it, their support over decades for the West and for democracy has been rewarded with severe regional tension brought on by the United States, and by a cold-shoulder, particularly from France and Austria, ever since Turkey qualified for European Union accession talks."

(Medz Mher: We would like to ask the editorial board at the NY Times the following...)

Who ultimately is responsible for the instability in Iraq? What country invaded Iraq in the first place? As for the instability that the NY Times laments in Turkey...What country has been closely cooperating with Turkey's military establishment since the end of World War II, providing it with billions in destructive military power which it has mainly used against its own citizens, Turks and Kurds alike. Any instability present in Turkey stems from the failure of successive regimes in Ankara to address the Kurdish question in political terms, and not through military might.

Finally, regarding the cold-shoulder treatment Turkey has received from France and other European nations... While SASSNA DZRER believe that these countries are at heart opportunists (remember France and the debacle in Cilicia 1918-1920), contradictions sometimes do arise between the national ruling elites in Europe and Turkey . Such rifts are evident today, whereby some European nations, notably France, are raising the issues of Cyprus and recognition of the Armenian Genocide as prerequisites for Turkey's entrance into the European Union. Whatever the underlying motivation for raising these issues, one would think that the NY Times would view the continuing Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey as issues that need to be addressed before Ankara is rewarded for "services rendered" by being granted entre into the European Club.

September 14, 2006

Speaker Of Iran's Majlis Ends Two Day Visit To Armenia

(09.13.2006; Islamic Republic News Agency

During a two-day official visit to Armenia, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Speaker of Iran's Majlis (Parliament), said that his government would never yield to the will of 'bullying powers'. Referring to Iran's nuclear issue, the Speaker said that Iran had always pursued negotiations to settle the issue. He also praised what he termed Armenia's 'logical stance' on the issue.

His counterpart in Armenia, National Assembly Chairman Tigran Torossian said that, " All countries should benefit from equal conditions to access nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. No country should abuse its position to restrict other states."

The Majlis Speaker, who arrived in Yerevan on Monday, mentioned that the first pipeline to transfer gas from Iran to Armenia would be operational by year's end.

Regarding relations between the two nations, the Speaker commented that Iran-Armenia ties have been quite favorable given the good relationship that exists between Iranian Muslims and the Armenian minority. Pointing to the deep-rooted bonds linking the Iranian and Armenian peoples, both Haddad-Adel and Torossian called for an expansion of cooperation between the two neighboring states.

Bush To Meet Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan In October

(09.12.2006, Washington D.C.)

President Bush is scheduled to welcome Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House on October 2 for discussions on a wide range of issues including the "War on Terror", Turkey's political and economic reforms and U.S. support for Turkey's accession to the European Union.

According to White House spokesman Tony Snow, "this meeting will provide an opportunity for the President and Prime Minister to further enhance the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey."

During Erdogan's last visit to the White House in June 2005 (see photo), Bush praised Turkey's democracy as an "important example for the people in the broader Middle East."

One issue that will be on the table during the October meeting will be U.S. - Turkish cooperation in countering the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) and its actions in Turkey and northern Iraq.

***For further information on the upcoming visit see related article

Turkish Nationalist Politician Sees Stones As Solution

(09.13.2006; Turkish Daily News)

Copies of three ancient stone tablets unearthed in Mongolia went on display outside the offices of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Ankara.

Speaking at the opening ceremony for the 1300 year old stone replicas was MHP leader Devlet Bahceli. Mr. Bahceli noted that the tablets were the first time "Turks as a nation" made their mark on history with their own name and alphabet.

"The solution for Turkey's current ills lies in the words of our forbearers", added Mr. Bahceli. The huge tablets contain writings dealing with politics, diplomacy and the art of war.

(Medz Mher: Now if my math is correct, 2006-1300= 706A.D.
Yeah, that would make them the "new kids on the block")

September 12, 2006

Ataturk Appears As Hillside Apparition In Ardahan...

In the Ardahan province of eastern Anatolia, near the village of Karadag, a certain silhouette appears on a local hillside every evening from mid-June to mid-July just before sunset. Local residents believe that it the profile of Mustafa Kemal Pasha, the first president of the modern Turkish Republic.

To commemorate the strange phenomenon the villagers hold a festival where they make "merry" under Ataturk's watchful gaze.

( Medz Mher: We thank the Turkish Torque Blog for these photos. If readers see someone other than Ataturk on the hillside we encourage you to send us your nominees.)

U.S. Ambassador in Baku -"Azerbaijan Is A Faithful Ally In Global War Against Terrorism"

( Baku; 09.11.2006; Various News Sources) On the 5th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center in New York, USA, there has been a flurry of related news stories emanating from Baku, Azerbaijan, that our readers might find perplexing and troubling to say the least. Below is a compilation of these stories.

On September 11th, in Baku, at a ceremony marking the 5th anniversary of the World Trade Center tragedy, United States Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Anne Derse, stated, "Azerbaijan became one of the faithful allies of the U.S. in this global fight against terrorism. Therefore our government expresses its gratitude to Azerbaijan".

(Note: Anne Derse was confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan in May 2006. Prior to that she worked as Director for Biodefense Policy at the U.S. Homeland Security Council. In 2004-2005, she assisted in establishing the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq)

In a related story, Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, during the 5th session at the Islamic Conference of Tourism in Baku , remarked, " Today is September 11th and five years ago the world saw a terrible attack. The Islamic World condemned this attack." In the same breath he continued by mentioning the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and how Azerbaijan has also suffered from Armenian " terror ".

(Pokr Mher: At this time there is no U.S. Ambassador in Armenia. John Evans, who had been serving in that capacity was unceremoniously sacked for publicly recognizing the Armenian Genocide of 1915, a stance contrary to the current Bush Administration's policy. His most likely successor, Richard Hoagland, has refused to refer to the events of 1915 as a genocide. The U.S. Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations recently confirmed Hoagland's nomination by a vote of 13 to 5. It is curious to note that Committee Chairman, Senator Richard Lugar, who actively fought for Hoagland's confirmation , has been a frequent visitor to Azerbaijan. In May 2006, Senator Lugar also supported the candidacy of Anne Derse to become the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan. During the Derse confirmation hearings Senator Lugar stressed Azerbaijan's importance in the energy sector and called on the U.S. to continue assisting the regime in Baku.)

September 10, 2006

France's Interior Minister Says " NO " To Turkey's Admittance To European Union

(Brussels; 09.08.2006) During a speech on September 8th at the Brussels based Friends Of Europe think-tank, Mr. Nicolas Sargozy, France's Interior Minister, stated that current membership talks with Turkey should be suspended.

Sargozy, a leading contender for the French presidency in elections next spring, was in Brussels to introduce his reform package for the European Union. A major issue facing the E.U. has been how many member states it should include and who they should be. Mr. Sargozy has always recommended limiting potential new members to Europe proper.

Thus, on the issue of Turkey's proposed membership he stated, " Turkey is our neighbor and our friend. We have to reinforce our links with her, but without going to full accession'. He also added that, " We should now say who is European and who isn't".

Opinion polls show that the French public are overwhelmingly opposed to Turkish membership in the E.U. Many observers thus feel that Mr. Sargozy's remarks regarding Turkey were directed more at French voters than European Union members.

September 09, 2006

Grand Mufti Heads Syrian Clergy Delegation To Armenia: Meets With Foreign Minister

(Arka News, Pan 09.06.2006) Sheikh Ahmed Badr Al-Din Hassuni, Grand Mufti of Syria, traveled to the Republic of Armenia at the invitation of the Catholicos of the Armenian Church, Garegin II, for 4 days of interfaith talks.

While in Armenia, Sheikh Ahmed Hassuni met with Armenia's Foreign Minister, Vartan Oskanian, and discussed a variety of regional issues including the situation in Lebanon and the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. Mr. Oskanian, who grew up in the Syrian town of Aleppo, spoke warmly of his childhood there and of the hospitality shown Armenians by the Syrian people. The Grand Mufti spoke of the friendship that existed between Armenian and Syria and expressed hope for a strengthening of the ties between the two nations.

On religious matters, the Grand Mufti spoke of the need of mutual respect between Christianity and Islam and criticized those Muslim spiritual leaders who would misrepresent the true nature of Islam.

As an example of this the Grand Mufti singled out the term " jihad " and what it really means. He pointed to the following comment made by Sheikh Us-Islam Pashazade, Chairman of the Spiritual Board of Muslims in the Caucasus, in Baku on August 23, " I am ready to announce a jihad to liberate the Azerbaijani territories occupied[by Armenian forces] when the times comes".

According to Grand Mufti Ahmed Hassuni, on the contrary, " the true meaning of jihad helps people to enjoy the blessings of life and not to kill".

U.N. General Assembly Calls on U.N. To Take Action To Prevent Ecological Damage Due To Fires In Karabakh

(Associated Press; 09.08.2006) The latest twist in the continuing debate regarding the "fires" issue in the border regions of Nagorno-Karabakh occured when the U.N. General Assembly passed a draft resolution calling on the United Nations to urgently assist in preventing ecological damage in the region due to the mysterious blazes.

Azerbaijan's U.N. Ambassador Yashar Aliyev introduced the resolution. However, Armen Martirosyan, Armenia's U.N. Ambassador distanced himself from the resolution since its title included the words," the situation in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan".

September 06, 2006

Erdogan Emphatic - Turkey Will Never Recognize Armenian Genocide

Hot on the heels of the European Parliament's report (see below post) that called on Turkey to officially recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915 as a precondition for its entry into the European Union, Recep Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister is quoted as stating the following;

"It would be nothing but a daydream to expect recognition by Turkey of the so-called genocide of Armenians..."

(Pokr Mehr: Funny... But the more one denies the truth, the more it returns to haunt you...)

European Parliament Calls On Turkey To Recognize Armenian Genocide As Precondition For Accession

On Monday, September 4th, the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs issued a report that calls on Turkey to "reinvigorate" the reform process and recognize the Armenian genocide of 1915 as a precondition for accession to the European Union.

The report by the European Union's legislative body will be debated by the entire Parliament during its plenary session of 25-28 September. Specifically mentioned in the approved draft report are Turkey's "persistent shortcomings" in areas such as freedom of expression, religious and minority rights, the role of the military, among others.

Official reaction from Turkey was naturally quick in coming. Mr. Namik Tan, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, was quoted as saying, " It is obvious that the European Parliament's report on Turkey focused on issues which have nothing to do with common sense and objectivity". As an example he mentions issues like the so-called Armenian genocide. Elsewhere, Turkey's Permanent Member to the E, Volkan Bozkir, expressed dismay regarding the report, saying that it may harm Turkey -E.U. relations.

(Pokr Mher: Such political maneuvering eerily reminds one of the infamous 1923 Treaty Of Lausanne when the European powers and Turkey agreed to "conveniently" ignore the crime of genocide that Turkey perpetrated against Armenian and other so-called minority peoples in the name of mutually beneficial economic and strategic interests. Is one to believe that some 80 years later either Turkey or Europe are ready and capable of assuming the moral highground on this and related issues???)

September 05, 2006

Turkey's Prime Minister To Attend Akhtamar's Reopening Ceremony In October

According to recent reports in the Turkish press, restoration work on the Holy Cross Church on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van is over and that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is scheduled to attend the reopening ceremony to take place on the site sometime in early October.

The Turkish press also write that the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople, Mesrop II Mutafian, who helped spearhead the drive to get the church restored, will offer a message of reconciliation to both Armenia and Turkey that will be jointly be broadcast by both Turkish and Armenian radio stations.

In April 2005, after decades of neglect by Turkish authorities, some US 1.5 million was allocated by Turkey's Ministry of Culture for stabilization work to finally proceed. The contract was given to a local Kurdish contractor.

The Holy Cross Church was built in 951-921 A.D., during the reign of King Gakik I, of the Ardzruni princely family. In 1113 A.D. the church became the residence of the Catholicos of Akhtamar.

For years Turkey had been criticized by the European Union and prestigious preservation organizations for allowing this unique architectural and cultural monument to deteriorate to such an extent that there were fears it might collapse if immediate restoration work was not carried out.

Debate Over Fires In Nagorno-Karabakh Border Regions Rages On

According to the Interfax news agency (08.31.06), the OSCE's Acting Chairman's personal envoy, Andrzej Kaspsik, has called for greater cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding the spate of fires along the Karabakh " LOC " (Line Of Contact). Mr. Kaspsik also stated that negotiations are presently underway to send a new team of experts to the region.

In a related news article, The Azeri-Press Information Agency (09.04.06) has reported that according to the Azeri Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, some 34,090 hectares of Azeri lands, now controlled by the Karabakh military, were destroyed by fires between June and August of this year.

Both sides along the Karabakh " LCO " offer differing theories as to how the fires are being started. While both Armenians and Azeris admit that fires in the region occur naturally every year, each accuses the other of deliberately setting the blazes by using tracer rounds and other incendiary ammunition.

OSCE monitors last visited the region in July 2006 to assess the situation. While the team was not able to get full access to the region due to several cross-border shooting incidents, their incomplete study concluded that they witnessed fire damage on both sides of the "LOC". In addition, the study remarked that due the intense heat and strong winds present at the time, the spread of naturally occurring fires was greater this year..

September 03, 2006

Iran's Kurdistan: Resistance, Smuggling And Unfulfilled Dreams

Sixty years after the fall of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad, the approximately six million Kurds in Iran's northwest region continue to dream of better times despite the cultural and socio-economic repression of successive Iranian regimes in Tehran.

With the advent of the defacto autonomous Kurdish state in neighboring Iraq, the Kurds of Iran increasingly look across the border for a much needed morale boost as well as more concrete forms of assistance.

Smuggling across the border continues unabated through a network of mountain roads despite the recent crack-down by Tehran. While links also exist between the Kurds of Iran and those in Turkey, they're much less solid, especially given the fact that Turkey has flooded its side of the border with thousands of army troops. It's this one way flow of goods from Iraqi Kurdistan that keeps the Kurds in Iran afloat.

Another dimension to this unofficial trade is the flow of weapons to the Kurdish resistance movement in Iran, headed by the PJAK organization. While little is known of PJAK, it's activities have so worried Iran that the Tehran regime allegedly recently tried to persuade the Kurdish regional authority in Iraq to help stamp out the PJAK rebels.

While many Kurds in Iran support the resistance movement, there are just as many for whom getting a decent job is their main priority. Chronic unemployment is so widespread that many young people are lured into illicit avenues of making a living, such as the drug trade.

September 02, 2006

Armenia Not Planning To Send Peacekeepers To Lebanon

(PanARMENIAN.Net; 01.09.2006) According to Republic of Armenia's Presidential spokesman, Victor Soghomonyan, " Armenia will not be sending a peacekeeping contingent to the Lebanese-Israeli conflict zone ".

Soghomonyan stated that given the small number of the Armenian peacekeepers that are prepared to go, they really couldn't play a decisive role . He also argued that the involvement of Armenian peacekeepers in the Lebanon could cause problems for the Armenian community there.

(Pokr Mher: Funny, but these same points could also have served to argue against sending Armenian peacekeepers to Iraq as well. But they were sent all the same. Any guesses as to who was turning the screws back then??)

September 01, 2006

Local Turkish police Chief In Trouble For Dancing The "HALAY"

According to the New Anatolian News Agency, Elazig's (Kharpert) Police Chief faces an internal investigation after being photographed dancing the traditional Anatolian "Halay".

The Police Chief, Azim Basol, was visiting a summer camp in Elazig for economically disadvantaged kids. It was there that he was photographed doing the "taboo pinky-dance" to the accompaniment of Kurdish folk tunes.

The event caused much consternation amongst high-ranking police officers.

Moral Of The Story: Dance With The Devil...You Pay!!!

Reports From Kashatagh (Lachin) Cite Worsening Socio-Economic Conditions

Recently, several journalistic exposes focusing on the Lachin Corridor region between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have revealed that due to worsening social and economic conditions many residents are leaving the area for greener pastures.

During the 1992-1994 Nagorno-Karabakh war, this region, then a part of Azerbaijan was captured by Armenian forces and renamed "Kashatagh". After the war, a policy to repopulate the area with Armenians was instituted. According to news reports this policy has long been abandoned by the local authorities.

The Yerevan-based independent news group, "Hetq Online - Investigative Journalists of Armenia", recently published a series of reports from the region citing popular discontent with local administrators and government inaction to ameliorate living conditions. Hetq reporters even cite local suspicions regarding a hidden agenda by the Karabakh government to gradually depopulate those areas that lie outside the borders of Nagorno-Karabakh and use them as bargaining chips in future peace negotiations. Many local residents openly state that, "it's as if the governments in Yerevan and Karabakh would rather see us leave than stay".

**** For further information, we urge readers to contact: HetqOnline at: and One World Media Blog at:

Turkey Celebrates Ataturk Military Victory

On August 30th, Turkey officially celebrated the 84th anniversary of Ataturk's military victory over the Greek army in 1922. This event was the culmination of Turkey's "War of Independence" and led to the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne between the Allies and Turkey.

The largest of the celebrations was held in Ankara where General Yasar Buyukanit, the newly appointed Chief of the Armed Forces, laid a wreath at the tomb of Mustafa Kemal. Also in attendance were Turkey's President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and other military and political leaders.

(Pokr Mher adds: Amongst all the celebrations there was no mention of Turkey's invasion of the Republic of Armenia in 1920, the expulsion of Armenians , Assyrians and others from Cilicia in 1921, the destruction of the Pontic Greeks in 1922, the burning and looting of Smyrna in 1922, etc.. These too were consequences of Turkey's "War of Independence".)