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Members Of Congress Speak Out Against Turkish Government Crackdown On The Armenian ..

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  • Members Of Congress Speak Out Against Turkish Government Crackdown On The Armenian ..

    MEMBERS OF CONGRESS SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE TURKISH GOVERNMENT CRACKDOWN ON ARMENIAN GENOCIDE CONFERENCE




    “The sad reality, Mr. Speaker, is that when it comes to facing the judgment of history about the Armenian genocide, Turkey, rather than acknowledging the truth, has instead chosen to xxxxxle on the rights of its citizens," said Rep. Pallone


    WASHINGTON, DC – Members of Congress this week expressed outrage and disappointment at the Turkish Government’s recent decision to quash a planned academic conference on the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.) The event, organized by scholars from Turkey’s Bilgi, Bogazici and Sabanci Universities, was scheduled to take place May 25-27th at Bosphorus University.

    In remarks of the House floor yesterday, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) commented that the government’s forced cancellation of the conference “further affirms the speculation that the image that the Turkish Government has attempted to create for itself is nothing more than a desperate attempt to create a facade. Contrary to what Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and other Turkish officials would have us believe, the Government of Turkey is not democratic, is not committed to creating a democracy, is not making an effort to create better relations with Armenia and is definitely not ready to join the European Union.”

    Rep. Pallone went on to explain that the U.S. “cannot sit by and allow any nation that we consider an ally and a nation that is desperately seeking admission into the European Union to behave in such a manner. To bring this development into perspective, consider that according to current law in Turkey, dozens of U.S. Senators and hundreds of Congressmen would be punished simply for having voted for Armenian genocide resolutions, spoken about the lessons of this crime against humanity or commemorated the victims of the atrocity. So, too, would the American academic establishment, human rights groups, the mainstream media and just about everyone else aside from the Turkish Embassy and its paid lobbyists here in Washington, D.C.”

    Fellow Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg questioned the Turkish Government’s commitment to democracy and free speech. “An important test of whether a country is a healthy democracy is whether someone can go out into a town square and speak their opinions freely. When the Turkish government cancels an academic conference like this and calls the participants traitors, it becomes very clear that they have not made a sufficient commitment to protecting free speech. These actions seriously undermine Turkey's credibility."

    California Democrat Adam Schiff, author of the 2004 “Schiff Amendment” on the Armenian Genocide, concurred. "The decision to hold a conference at Bogazici University to discuss the Armenian Genocide held out promise that Turkey would begin confronting all aspects of its Ottoman past. Cancellation of the conference, and the Justice Minister's inflammatory accusation of ‘treason,’ shows that Turkey's intellectual freedom and academic independence has taken one step forward and two giant steps back. How much longer will it take modern Turkey to recognize the facts of a genocide now 90 years old,” noted Rep. Schiff.

    Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA), who spearheaded a successful effort in 1996 to cut foreign aid to Turkey based on their ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide, stated: "Turkish government pressure on historians from Bilgi, Bogazici and Sabanci Universities to cancel the Armenian Genocide conference is yet another indication of the Turkish government's repression of freedom of speech and lack of respect for academic freedom. The action exposes as a hollow gesture Prime Minister Erdogan's call for a dialogue between Turkish and Armenian historians. The Turkish government's labeling of Turkish academics as 'traitors' simply for discussing the Genocide amongst themselves underscores the need for those of us here, in the United States, to call on Ankara to end its campaign of genocide denial."

    Urging Turkey to end its ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide, Michigan Republican Thaddeus McCotter argued, "Only honesty can begin to ease the ache of this evil perpetrated upon the Armenian people, and to further guard against a recrudescence of genocide anywhere in our world. Thus, any delay in acknowledging and apologizing for their nation's abhorrent historical crime only serves to embolden other proponents of genocide, and to implicate this generation of Turks in the sins of the past."

    Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) took direct aim at statements by Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, who dubbed conference organizers as “traitors.” "I condemn the recent action taken by the Turkish government to censor academic debate about the Armenian Genocide. Democracy and truth were thrown out the window when Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek accused historians at three prestigious Turkish universities of treason when they attempted to debate the issue of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey does not deserve to be granted membership in the European Union if they continue to shut down educated discussion about this issue."

    The Conference, titled "Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy," was jointly organized by the Comparative Literature Department of Bilgi University, the History Department of Bogazici University and the History Program at Sabanci University. Originally set to take place May 25th-27th at Bosphorus University, the schedule was to include over 30 papers by Turkish scholars from Turkey and abroad.

    In the days leading up to the conference, Turkish Government officials spoke stridently against the conference and its organizers. Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek, in a speech before the Turkish Parliament on Tuesday, went so far as to accuse the academics of "treason." The Minister described the conference as a "a stab in the back to the Turkish nation." Cicek expressed regret that, as Justice Minister, he could not personally prosecute the organizers and participants.

    The government crackdown on the conference is the most recent chapter in the Turkish government's 90-year campaign of genocide denial. This effort has intensified in recent years. In 2003, Education Minister Hikmet Cetin issued a decree making student participation in a nation-wide essay contest denying the Armenian Genocide compulsory. The most recent revisions to the Turkish Penal Code criminalize references to the Armenian Genocide and the removal of troops from Turkish occupied northern Cyprus.

    The complete text of Rep. Pallone’s May 26th statement on the House floor is provided below.

    Link
    [COLOR="Lime"][CENTER][B]GIVE US A REASON TO FORGIVE, RECOGNIZE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE[/B][/CENTER][/COLOR]

    [CENTER][I][COLOR="Red"][B]"We must remind the Turkish Government that when they had Sultan Abdul Hamid, we had Andranik Pasha, Serob Aghbyur, and Gevorg Chaush. When they had Taleat pasha, we had Soghomon Tehleryan. New Hrants will be born, and our struggle will go on.” [/B][/COLOR][/I][/CENTER]

    [COLOR="Black"][CENTER][B]"Hrant Dink's murder is tragic proof that the Turkish government - through its campaign of denial, threats and intimidation against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide - continues to fuel the same hatred and intolerance that initially led to this crime against humanity more than 90 years ago."[/B][/CENTER][/COLOR]

  • #2
    Statement by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in Opposition to the Cancellation of the Genocide Conference in Turkey:



    Mr. Speaker, I rise this afternoon to voice my outrage and great disappointment about a recent development in Turkey. A conference set to begin yesterday in Bogazici University, of Turkish scholars and academics, entitled ``Ottoman Armenians During the Decline of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy,'' was indefinitely postponed by the university organizers.

    According to Agence France-Presse, Turkish Justice Minister Cemil Cicek yesterday accused conference organizers of committing treason, saying, ``We must put an end to this cycle of treason and insults, of spreading propaganda against the Turkish nation by people who belong to it.'' In addition, Turkish officials have demanded copies of all papers submitted to the conference.

    The development further affirms the speculation that the image that the Turkish Government has attempted to create for itself is nothing more than a desperate attempt to create a facade. Contrary to what Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and other Turkish officials would have us believe, the Government of Turkey is not democratic, is not committed to creating a democracy, is not making an effort to create better relations with Armenia and is definitely not ready to join the European Union.

    Over the last year, we have witnessed the Government of Turkey attempt to move towards democratization. However, the manner in which they have chosen to do so is an insult to any truly democratic government. Their attempts have included the adoption of a penal code that, in reality, represents a dramatic display of the Turkish government's campaign to deny the Armenian genocide. Furthermore, this new criminal code further hindered improved relations between the Republic of Armenia and Turkey.

    Section 306 of this penal code punishes individual Turkish citizens or groups that confirm the fact of the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey or call for the end of the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, with up to 10 years in prison. Far from coming to terms with the genocide or reaching out to Armenia, Turkey, in adopting Section 306 of its new penal code, hardened its anti-Armenian stance and undermined hopes for reduction of tension in the region. This sets the stage for possible legal action against conference planners and participants. The Turkish Government has refused to support rescinding this prohibition against free speech, despite international criticism.

    Mr. Speaker, with the cancellation of this conference, we find that the Government of Turkey will go to any length to avoid facing its bloody past. In just 2 weeks, Turkey's prime minister will be in the United States for an official visit, proclaiming that his nation is a democracy ready for full membership in the European Community and asking for U.S. support. The sad reality, Mr. Speaker, is that when it comes to facing the judgment of history about the Armenian genocide, Turkey, rather than acknowledging the truth, has instead chosen to xxxxxle on the rights of its citizens and still maintain lies.

    Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian weekly Agos in Turkey stated, ``This decision strengthens the hand of those outside Turkey who say Turkey has not changed, it is not democratic enough to discuss the Armenian issue, it shows there is a difference between what the government says and its intentions.''

    Numerous European countries, including Poland, France and Greece, have passed Armenian genocide resolutions and have continuously urged Turkey to admit its crime. Just this week, French President Jacques Chirac urged Turkey to recognize the genocide and said failure to do so could harm Ankara's drive to join the European Union.

    We cannot sit by and allow any nation that we consider an ally and a nation that is desperately seeking admission into the European Union to behave in such a manner. To bring this development into perspective, consider that according to current law in Turkey, dozens of U.S. Senators and hundreds of Congressmen would be punished simply for having voted for Armenian genocide resolutions, spoken about the lessons of this crime against humanity or commemorated the victims of the atrocity. So, too, would the American academic establishment, human rights groups, the mainstream media and just about everyone else aside from the Turkish Embassy and its paid lobbyists here in Washington, D.C.

    Only by being prepared to admit mistakes and make amends can the Turkish Government truly be considered a nation governed by the values of democracy. This recent event reveals the vulnerable side of Turkey, one that is still hiding from its history and is incapable of learning from its mistakes so as to ensure that they will not be repeated in the future.

    Mr. Speaker, the United States prides itself on being the world's leader in spreading democracy and liberty. As an effective leader, it is our duty to recognize that Turkey is not yet a democratic state and it will take a sincere effort on the part of Turkey to make a transition from a government that currently advocates censorship and lack of freedom of speech to one that embraces the principles of democracy in its true meaning.



    --end--


    Link
    [COLOR="Lime"][CENTER][B]GIVE US A REASON TO FORGIVE, RECOGNIZE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE[/B][/CENTER][/COLOR]

    [CENTER][I][COLOR="Red"][B]"We must remind the Turkish Government that when they had Sultan Abdul Hamid, we had Andranik Pasha, Serob Aghbyur, and Gevorg Chaush. When they had Taleat pasha, we had Soghomon Tehleryan. New Hrants will be born, and our struggle will go on.” [/B][/COLOR][/I][/CENTER]

    [COLOR="Black"][CENTER][B]"Hrant Dink's murder is tragic proof that the Turkish government - through its campaign of denial, threats and intimidation against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide - continues to fuel the same hatred and intolerance that initially led to this crime against humanity more than 90 years ago."[/B][/CENTER][/COLOR]

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