Facts in the Eye of the Beholder

By George Aghjayan, Westminster, MA, 10 June 2010

I recently read in Keghart.com Lucine Kasbarian’s review of Khatchig Mouradian’s and Emil Sanamyan’s presentations at ALMA in Watertown, MA. I, too, was present at that event, where the two offered accounts of their recent trips to Turkey. However, my reactions are quite different from hers. From the outset, I must say that Kasbarian’s review, while containing some valid points, is replete with distortions, leading me to believe that personal agendas and narrow perspectives are at work here. I thus feel compelled to respond.
 

By George Aghjayan, Westminster, MA, 10 June 2010

I recently read in Keghart.com Lucine Kasbarian’s review of Khatchig Mouradian’s and Emil Sanamyan’s presentations at ALMA in Watertown, MA. I, too, was present at that event, where the two offered accounts of their recent trips to Turkey. However, my reactions are quite different from hers. From the outset, I must say that Kasbarian’s review, while containing some valid points, is replete with distortions, leading me to believe that personal agendas and narrow perspectives are at work here. I thus feel compelled to respond.
 

The length of Kasbarian’s piece precludes me from addressing the issues point by point. So, I will concentrate on the sections addressing Mouradian’s presentation.

First, Kasbarian devotes nearly three times the space to Sanamyan’s presentation, compared to that of Mouradian’s, and yet lumps them together at the end. It is clear that Kasbarian wishes to sweep Mouradian’s experiences in with Sanamyan’s and, as such, she fails to recognize substantive differences. Second, she focuses almost exclusively on one particular visit – one organized by TEPAV, the Turkish think-tank – while scarcely acknowledging that Mouradian has recently undertaken two trips to Turkey. These trips cannot be viewed separately; they must be understood together to draw any meaningful conclusions.

Third, her method of inquiry is laced with biases that undermine her thesis from the outset. The rhetorical questions that ‘lead the witness’; the innuendos hinting toward conspiracy; the patronizing tone that condescends without a hint of respect – all of this reveals her article to be a thinly veiled accusation, more than a review of what transpired.

On substantive matters, Kasbarian’s main focus is the trip organized by TEPAV, a think-tank with close ties to the Turkish government. She makes much of these ties, questioning Turkey’s objectives in organizing such a trip, and especially in inviting Armenian-American editors to participate. Her conclusion is that the trip served only Turkey’s interests and that Armenians played along to their (and our) detriment. Pointing this out is all well and good, but it is not enough, if we are to assess the merits of the visit. It is also necessary to review the writings and actions of both men, during and after their trips, to understand how our (collective) interests have been impacted. Particularly in the case of Mouradian, Kasbarian has fallen far short of such an assessment.

Rather than simply pointing out a ‘Turkish trap’ set out for these two Armenians, she could have added that the trip was going to take place regardless of whether they participated. In fact, each of the other participants would have likely participated based on their own agendas. None of that would have changed, except for their interaction with Mouradian and Sanamyan during the trip. In my view, there is much to be gained in rubbing shoulders with other editors and opinion makers, who might prove receptive to Armenian perspectives. In hindsight, it is debatable what impact this interaction had, but the potential benefits cannot be dismissed out of hand. Similarly, Kasbarian points out that Turkey can exploit Mouradian’s and Sanamyan’s presence as a sign of tolerance and goodwill on its part, but she fails to acknowledge that attendance (or not) by Armenian journalists would surely have been spun either way. It is superfluous to emphasize these points.

It is a serious charge indeed when Kasbarian contends that Sanamyan and, by association, Mouradian have now been corrupted. Such a charge, however, requires more proof than what she has delivered. Sanamyan’s past employment with the Armenian Assembly (or the fact that he is Baku-born) cannot be trotted out like some sort of smoking gun. Serious charges require analysis of cold, hard facts, which she has largely failed to do.

Here are some cold, hard facts: Mouradian posted five dispatches from Turkey and other articles in the ‘Armenian Weekly’. It is these writings and his second trip one month later that must be evaluated (and not selectively) to discern the benefits for Armenian interests. Obviously, my assessment is that there were clear benefits, one in particular that I will discuss below but which Kasbarian ignored, whether purposefully or not.

Also of interest is Kasbarian’s reporting of the question-and-answer portion of the program. It was clear at the time to me, and likely to others, that a few in the audience were asking questions in a coordinated way. One need not be a “conspiracy theorist” to guess why Kasbarian grouped these questions together, repeatedly referring to “some in the audience.” The “some,” in fact, were four, maybe five of her close friends and associates, out of a total audience of 100. There were many other questioners during that session, many of them non-hostile or supportive of the presenters. Yet these are found nowhere in her coverage.

Also omitted is the exchange involving one of her colleagues, who aggressively questioned Mouradian. Mouradian’s passionate response (not outburst) drew widespread applause from the audience. But again, this is nowhere to be found in Kasbarian’s account. Such purposefully incomplete and inaccurate coverage of the sentiments of those in attendance discredits her calls for “transparency.”

But this is not all. What I find most reprehensible is that Kasbarian neglected to mention Mouradian’s most significant point: That he stood in Ankara with others and spoke of reparations for the Armenian Genocide. This was the primary focus of Mouradian’s supposed “outburst.”

Let me repeat: Mouradian and others spoke of reparations in Ankara in April, on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the Genocide. This is something quite significant, and the omission of it discredits Kasbarian’s legitimacy as a critic.

It is no secret that Kasbarian, her husband David Boyajian and their close associates harbour a bias against Mouradian. It is because of this that I feel they missed some significant aspects of his trips to Turkey. Worse, it seems Kasbarian feels such bias allows her the right to use innuendo and not-so-veiled accusations in an attempt to bolster baseless arguments. Such tactics are cheap and unwarranted for honest discourse.

Yes, there are those in Turkish society and, more importantly, in government that still harbour racist attitudes of the past. But this cannot be used as evidence that nothing has changed inside Turkey. The depth and pace of that change should certainly be questioned, but not in the flawed and biased manner of Kasbarian. Again, one must ask why she would present such an obviously flawed perspective, especially in light of her efforts to dispel similar simplistic representations of Armenian interests.

In the end, Mouradian’s two trips cannot be compared with such disastrous endeavors as the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) or the Protocols between Turkey and Armenia. It is unfair and inaccurate to do so. Even worse is to portray Mouradian’s efforts as placing reconciliation before justice. His writings and actions tell a much different story.

14 comments
  1. Illuminating us all on the very questions posed by Ms. Kasbarian

     

    Mr. Aghjayan’s response to Ms. Kasbarian’s analysis seems to focus on rehabilitating a perceived character assassination of Mr. Mouradian. By way of counter-argument, Mr. Aghjayan refers to Ms. Kasbarian and ALMA audience members as holding personal agendas, basing their statements on innuendo, and concocting conspiracy theories. Where in Mr. Aghjayan’s response does he focus on and critically review the several important issues and inconvenient truths that Ms. Kasbarian and questioners in the audience raised that pertain to the Armenian national interest?

    While I prefer not to get into “naming names” as Mr. Aghjayan has done, I certainly could have done so to inform readers of Mr. Aghjayan’s political background and affiliations with Mr. Mouradian and how both could shed light on the approach taken in his commentary. Indeed, Mr. Aghjayan’s extensive political background afforded him the unique opportunity to illuminate us all on the very questions posed by Ms. Kasbarian. It is unfortunate for us all that he chose not to do so.

  2. Why go to Turkey?

    I still don’t understand why the ARF feels that one of its top editors needs to go on a Turkish-sponsored junket to Turkey.  If you combine this with other events sponsored by ARF affiliates, such as forums with Hasan Cemal, the grandson of genocidist Jemal Pasha, you get a picture of the party trying to approach the Armenian cause by getting friendly to Turks. 

    That won’t work.  It reminds people of the way the ARF cozied up to Young Turks after 1908.  Besides getting a genocide resolution passed, I don’t see much of substance that the ARF is doing to advance the Armenian cause in America, and in Armenia the party makes noises about opposing the government but is weak. 

    The party has to answer questions and come up with a program, not just criticize others.

    1. Turkish trip

      There’s no secret about Turkey’s propaganda ploy. A few months ago the government of Turkey announced that Ankara will try to build bridges with the Armenian Diaspora. What better way of doing this than inviting Armenians to junkets (shish kebab on the Bosphorus, downed with raki, and followed by pastry and turkish delight), disguised as study sessions, seminars, hands-across-the-border gimmick conferences?
  3. I was there

    I was there to listen to the people on the panel. The people who attended were really not very political–if you know what I mean– but some were and they asked questions. I would say most people were neutral.

    Some seemed to like the idea of Armenians going to Turkey and talking to Turkish officials and thought it would help Armenians. Other people did not like it. I don’t think it will help much to talk to those officials and to people like Abramowitz (the ambassador) because those Turks are against us and always will be. I think that it is OK for people to believe that nothing was gained by going to Turkey and that we are fooling ourselves if we think that friendly Turks can sway the Turkish government.

    Turkey is worse than ever. It is a radical regime over there. If that makes me like Kasbarian then I agree with her that we Armenians are fooling ourselves to accept invitations to Turkey from the government.

  4. The motives of the Turks are

    The motives of the Turks are obvious.  Any Armenian, particularly the editor of what is supposed to be a standard bearer for the Armenian cause, who takes part in this Turkish charade will be nothing more than a dupe in the Turkish cause of murder, banditry and denial.  A few weak and self-indulgent postings in the Weekly certainly do not justify placing the Weekly in the position of being used by Ankara. 

    Let us not lose sight of the fact that the goal is to get back whatever ill-gotten gains that still reside in Turkish hands and try to get ourselves, as best we can, back together.  Until that happens, we should have no interest in healing the Turks, recognition through nuance, brotherly love, etc.  Those things can only come after basic justice is served.  There have been plenty of friendly Turks throughout history, real and feigned.  None of that friendship prevented the liquidation of Western Armenia.  If we have not learned that we shouldn’t so willingly accept the invitations of Sultans, beys, pashas, aghas, chavoushes or chobans, God help us. 

  5. Not welcome

     

    Armenians with hardheaded thoughts and suspicions toward Turkey are not welcome on panels.  They do not get to have any say. They need to express their opinions but are not invited. 

  6. End This Farce!

    Mouradian and Sanamyan stepped into Turkey and met genocide-denier President Gul just a day after another genocide-denier PM Erdogan threatened to deport 100,000 fellow Armenians.

    Why haven’t they fully explained themselves yet?

    Meanwhile, Mouradian and Sanamyan posted dispatches of their trip, most of which displayed striking similarities to how the ARF interacted with the Ittihadist (Young) Turks (aka Committee of Union and Progress) and Mouradian’s and Sanamyan’s pandering to several denialist figures and hosts and even anti-restorative justice rights advocates.

    Have they lost their moral compass?

    One does not attain restorative justice by participating in decades of diluted, closed-door events that resemble lectures and protests for improving Turkish democracy and human rights in general and in an open-ended format where nothing is binding at the conclusion of the endeavor. Did the Jewish people attain their restorative justice this way?

    One does not attain restorative justice by gratifying a small number of “Armenian-friendly” Turkish scholars, like anti-reparations Taner Akcam and Fatma Gocek and other so-called progressive, flip-flop Turks such as Amberin Zaman, whose numbers across the board have not increased in the past decade and who lecture mostly to Armenians to weaken them and their legitimate cause.

    And, one does not attain restorative justice by engaging in “reconciliation” events that foreign governments are sponsoring and/or exploiting to push the detrimental protocols process and “normalization” drive forward. Former Amb. Evans recently spoke in favor of these events at a commemoration program in Michigan, and Amb. Yovanovitch refers to these “unprecedented” events frequently in speeches across Armenia.

    If the ADL-Ramgavar or any other Armenian party engaged in any such TARC-like activity, the ARF would have harshly criticized that party day in and day out and rightfully so. But, I guess it is okay that they themselves are steering the “reconciliation” wheel for God knows what benefit besides personal and partisan gain.

    Yes, Turkey has “changed.” It has changed for the worst. And, it is changing some of our fellow Armenians who clearly do not think things through, are lackeys of corrupt bureaus and organizations thousands of kilometers away and/or see Hye Tad "promotion" as an opportunity for
    career advancement and notoriety.

    How much longer is this farce going to continue?

  7. TARC lives

    Editor’s Note:
    This appears to be an advertisement and Keghart.com’s policy is not to post material that has purily commercial intent. However, in this particular case Badrig has aptly chosen a title which expresses the intent of the material that follows and has relevance with the subject under discussion.

    “… they will rebel only when they become conscious." George Orwell, "1984."

    Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF), a recognized leader in the field of program implementation and grants management in the South Caucasus, is looking for an international facilitator with vast experience in dialogue projects to work in the upcoming Armenian-Turkish large-scale dialogue project, pending funding. The facilitator will commit a substantial part of his or her time over the next two years (from 25% to 100%) to traveling between Armenia and Turkey, working with Armenian and Turkish partners, moving forward future joint projects, as well as facilitating joint Armenian-Turkish events, so that they are goal-oriented, effective, and fruitful.

    The recruitment is done on behalf of a consortium comprising Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF), International Center for Human Development (ICHD), Yerevan Press Club (YPC), and Union of Manufacturers and Businessmen of Armenia (UMBA). These four organizations have recently joined their forces to pursue coordinated action and project implementation in the context of Armenian-Turkish relations.

    APPLICATION PROCEDURES: To apply, please send cover letter and resume with “International Facilitator – Armenia” in the subject line.

    OPENING DATE: June 15, 2010

    APPLICATION DEADLINE: July 5, 2010

  8. More reconciliation stuff – please stop it!

    Look, I saw the job posting by Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) on this page for someone to do Turkish Armenian dialogue and reconciliation.  I did not know that we and Turks were once good friends and are now should be reconciled.  Who chose the word reconciliation because I never heard it before Western people started babbling and writing that word all over the place. I do not want to be reconciled with Turks. They are not my friends and they are not my ex-husband so why I need to be reconciled to them?  Reconciliation is the stupidest word I ever heard and most Armenians are fooled by it but I am not.

    This EPF and others want a person to bring Turks and Armenians together and it has to do with money not peace.  Armenia is in the way because western oil and gas companies want to dig pipelines through our Armenia and also through Armenian land in Turkey because they are not satisfied with Georgia and also they want to drag Armenia away from Russia and now I ask when Armenians will wake up and see that they are being used by people who do not care about Armenian rights but just want money and for Armenians to bow down to Turkey and give up any claims forever.  I do see concerts given by Armenian musicians in Turkey and I think they and artists who do that are naive.  Reconcilation is stupid word and please don’t use it ever again.  It makes me sick to my stomach.

    1. Reconciliation

      Right on the money, Annie.
      I hadn’t thought about it, but ‘reconciliation’ is a misleading lie.
      To be reconciled one has to have been a friend.
      Turkey has never been our friend–since the Seljuk and Ottoman marauders ravaged Armenia and held us as ra’ya (sheep) all those centuries (see ‘Cringing Armenians in a recent Keghart.com). In 1915 they slaughtered the ra’ya.
      What reconciliation?
  9. The Eurasia Foundation

    The Eurasia Foundation is searching for someone who will play saboteur (oops, I meant facilitator) in the mockery they call Turkish-Armenian "reconciliation." It’s no secret that projects such as what Eurasia has in mind is part of a grand plan that will be in full swing by the time the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide rolls around.

    Turkish and Armenian artists, musicians, photographers, architects, actors and others (have already been) and will continue to be invited to participate in very high-profile events that prey on their egos and vanities : to showcase their talents with the world while joining hands with each other to "forgive and forget," celebrate "friendship," and take part in "Joint" events, panels, concerts, lectures, exhibits and the like — in Turkey, Armenia and the Diaspora.

    From 2001-2004, David Phillips, a senior advisor with the US State Dept. tried to sell us TARC (he was its chairman). He failed to persuade the Armenian community to jump on his bandwagon. But that hasn’t stopped him or the US State Dept. This past February, Phillips went to Armenia to celebrate the release of the Armenian-language version of his book, "Unsilencing the Past: Track II Diplomacy and Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation." (It was first published in English in 2005 by Berghahn Books.)

    If TARC is dead, then why is Phillips peddling his book and ideas to various organizations and individuals in Armenia in 2010? So long as our Armenian community organizations and political parties do business with the corrupt Sargsyan regime, with the scheming US Embassy in Armenia, and go on such junkets to Turkey, they have blood on their hands.

    TARC is reborn and we are in for no garden party, much less some progressive movement ushering in democracy.

  10. Mr. Aghjayan’s article

    Mr. Aghjayan’s article does nothing more than validate Ms. Kasbarian’s suspicions. I was not present at ALMA. Yet having read both articles I can’t help but wonder what are the answers to her questions. Why such an empty, immature and accusatory rebuttal to an honest, well-argued analysis by Ms. Kasbarian?

    She has introduced many valid points that deserve answering. The abiding question she poses is: Who is really representing the Armenian diaspora and what is his/her agenda?

    It seems that with the exception of a few, Armenians are willing to give up so much for so little in return. Do Armenians truly feel that Turkey can be their partner when Turkey is becoming richer, stronger, more arrogant and obnoxious?  Are the Armenians so deprived of attention that they are falling for the poisonous caress?

  11. Misplaced Concern

    Having read the various arguements against reconciliation and against the Eurasia Foundation’s project, I can’t help but notice the comments came from Armenians living in the United States. It is easy to have righteous indignation from the comfort of your suburban home when your life has no more semblence to life in Armenia than mine. Armenians in Armenia (and isn’t this what it is all about?) have much to gain with open borders. Appeasing the Diaspora should play no part in this. Let Armenians in Armenia make the call.
  12. Instead of chewing words, come clear

    As most  here online know quite well TARC  was doomed right from the beginning and it failed. Present republic of Turkey´s inclination to demonstrate that they are "changing" is yet another diplomatic/politically motivated move. Only the very "Paremid" not to say "Barzamid" will give credit to such staged "shows".

    Until such time that they do not come forth with real changes, such as toppling down their so-called democratically minded minded "secular" chieftains and replace  them with true honest leaders, they are not to be trusted, period.

    Why then all this commotion? Mr. Muradian and company have brought up the question  of reparations. At the very least an agreement from the Turkish establishment to REVIEW their so far unrelenting stance and begin to consider a real rapprochement would have given us (Muradian& co.) a reason to inform the Diasporan Armenians that they mean business.

    Another case in point is the upcoming Akhtamar Pilgrimage that has stirred the Armenians worldwide, hoping that there may be some slight move to show us their "change" in attitude towards our just demands. They should allow Armenians to go to Sourp Khatch Holy Cross Armenian church, pray there freely as they wish, with no Ataturk or turkish flag draped on, and a Cross atop the church. It’s a chance for them to show tolerance and a graceful approach. No matter how you turn  it around it all boils down to being sincere  or insincere. They should grasp the importance of this very touchy occasion and act properly as the moment dictates.

    When TARC  was on in NY, I "suggested" that their delegates ought to show a goodwill gesture by declaring that their Government had decided to place Mount Ararat and surrounding area, including ANI ruins under Armenian jurisdiction. It was not published in NY Armenian press or other cities, for our own house  is in disorder. Unfortunately no one, except those privileged can have a say in Armenian affairs.

     

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