Identity Theft Grand Slam

Editorial, 11 July 2014

Thanks to the Internet the invasion of privacy has become a commonplace bane of our lives. The criminals who try to steal our identities usually have financial gain in mind. Recently there was an identity theft on a grander scale: a theft far, far more ambitious, virulent, and far reaching. The identities stolen were that of national origin. There were 16 such simultaneous thefts. The criminal was none other than the Republic of Turkey.

This is how the heist started:

Five years ago a researcher in Brantford (100 kilometers west of Toronto) discovered that about 16 “Turk” internees from World War I period were buried in that city’s Mount Hope Cemetery. The news caught the eye of Ali Riza Gunay, the eager-beaver Turkish consul in Toronto. The diplomat realized he had hit a jackpot: his superiors had recently sent a directive to all Turkish diplomats to search in the countries where they served for places, events, and people linked to Turkey.

Editorial, 11 July 2014

Thanks to the Internet the invasion of privacy has become a commonplace bane of our lives. The criminals who try to steal our identities usually have financial gain in mind. Recently there was an identity theft on a grander scale: a theft far, far more ambitious, virulent, and far reaching. The identities stolen were that of national origin. There were 16 such simultaneous thefts. The criminal was none other than the Republic of Turkey.

This is how the heist started:

Five years ago a researcher in Brantford (100 kilometers west of Toronto) discovered that about 16 “Turk” internees from World War I period were buried in that city’s Mount Hope Cemetery. The news caught the eye of Ali Riza Gunay, the eager-beaver Turkish consul in Toronto. The diplomat realized he had hit a jackpot: his superiors had recently sent a directive to all Turkish diplomats to search in the countries where they served for places, events, and people linked to Turkey.

The idea was to burnish the questionable image of Turkey by building “bridges” to countries all over the world. The “Turkish” interns would eminently fill the bill. There was also a huge bonus: Ankara saw the Turkish internees as a whip to lash Canada for recognizing the Genocide of Armenians. To underline their nefarious intent, the mandarins in Ankara decided to erect a Turkish monument in the cemetery. Upon learning of the plot, Ontario Armenians and Alevis launched a campaign to stop it: further research by the Brantford historian soon revealed that the internees were Kurdish Alevis who had emigrated to Canada just before WWI and often lived in the houses of Armenians who had been their friends back in “old country” and had encouraged them to flee Ottoman persecution for freedom in Canada.

About 25 Toronto-area Armenian activists initiated a campaign in early July 2013 to stop the Turkish monument. They met Alevi leaders, including Suleyman Guven, editor of the “Yeni Hayat” Alevi newspaper and visited the cemetery, along with Alevis, and interviewed the Brantford researcher who repeated that the internees had been Kurd Alevis. The Armenians also launched a petition and sent letters to the local MP, to the minister of multiculturalism and other officials of the federal, provincial and municipal governments, including Brantford Mayor Chris Friel and his council.

The Armenian group then invited to a meeting Toronto-area Armenian political parties to discuss how to collectively react to the Turkish farce. Mike Kharabian, the head of the Ramgavars attended, in addition to Vazken Terzian, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. The latter in unofficial capacity. Upon the request of the “Stop the Fake Monument” group, Hye Tadd was invited to the activists’ second meeting. At that meeting, Hye Tadd representative Nshan Atikian dismissed the work that the activists had done and informed the group that Hye Tadd had been following the issue for several years. He almost implied that the activists were interfering with the good work of Hye Tadd.

Assuming the campaign was in good hands, the activists’ group disbanded, although several of its members, including the editorial board of Keghart.com, kept an eye on developments.

Facing bad publicity and solid resistance from the Armenian and Alevi communities, the Turkish consul changed his tack and suggested a modest plaque, instead of a loud monument. Meanwhile, the Brantford City Council decided to obtain the federal government’s view before proceeding. The issue became dormant.

The Turkish project was silently revived this spring (from modest plaque to tombstone). The Brantford City Council heard from Mr. Guven of “Yeni Hayat” and the imam of the Brantford mosque about a proposal to install two tombstones in sector of the cemetery where the Alevis were buried. The Imam insisted that the people buried were Muslims. Mr. Guven, who presented ample proof, made it clear that the interned were Alevis, thus not Muslim or Turk. The council voted to hold a meeting in early June to decide on the date of a second meeting which would be the final word on the Turkish-initiated project. But suddenly, on June 11, it was announced in the “Brantford Examiner” that at its first meeting in June, the council had decided to give permission to two tombstones—one for the Muslims, the other for the Alevis. Each group would cover its expenses. Alevis were not even informed of the council’s final decision, said Mr. Guven. How the two tombstones idea was expedited and engineered by Mayor Friel remains a mystery: throughout the controversy, the mayor had been close to Consul Gunay. The mayor had complained that he didn’t want to see Brantford enmeshed in “international” politics, although for several years he had been playing footsy with Mr. Gunay. Perhaps he didn’t know that the very job of Mr. Gunay is international politics. The mayor also crossed verbal swords with Mr. Guven who publicly accused the mayor of pro-Turkish bias.

While the two tombstones plan was being approved, the Armenian National Committee of Canada (ANCC) had been presumably working behind the scenes. The “Brantford Expositor” said that in addition to “discussions with Turkish representatives, the federal government has also heard from representatives of the Canadian-Armenian community”. Councilor Phil Coleman said that the Brant MP [the local riding] “believes the Armenian Community has no issue with a stone or plaque going up on the site but has insisted that whatever is put on the plaque must be historically accurate.” Was that lame stance the essence of ANCC’s attitude? Was the milquetoast response the best ANCC could do to stop the Turkish propaganda project?

And before one could say “Recep Tayyip Erdogan”, a slick “Muslim” monument was planted in the plot where Alevis are buried: a Turkish political plot over an Alevi plot.

To celebrate, the Turkish Federation in Toronto bused some of its members to the inauguration (June 22) of the “Muslim” tombstone which had the Turkish flag etched at its top. Although it was supposed to be a Muslim ceremony officiated by the local Arab imam, three Turkish imams from Toronto and Hamilton took over the ceremony and made speeches in Turkish, referring to the Alevis as Turkish martyrs (“shaheeds”) similar “to the people who liberated the homeland (‘vatan’)” meaning Turkey. Meanwhile, the Turkish community held a victory dance and stomped all over the cemetery, fluttering at least eight over-sized Turkish flags…celebrants wore red tee-shirts with the Turkish star-and-crescent blazing on them; others wore red jackets with the Turkish flag. Too late the Palestinian imam realized that the Turkish community and its federation had hijacked the “Muslim” ceremony into a Turkish “chifteh telli”. Mayor Friel, who had attended the Turkish requiem-fiesta together with Councilors Dave Neumann and Vince Bucci, told to Mr. Guven in an email a few days later: “Turks absolutely politicized the process and much to my disgust. We have severed any remaining contacts with their representatives…Brantford Muslims were blindsided as I was.” Too late, Mr. Mayor; too late to wake up and smell the Turkish coffee. The $4,500 Turkish monument is now comfortably encased in the plot where no Turk is buried.

While the Turkish consul and his friends were pretending the monument was in honor of Muslims, the Turkish Federation and the 100 Turks bused in from Toronto gave away the game through their words and misbehavior, and called a spade a spade: the monument was Turkish. The Turkish attendees also exposed the hypocrisy of the Turkish government and its representatives in Canada. To emphasize the point, local Turkish TV and radio provided full coverage of the “Muslim” ceremony and accurately called the tombstone “Turkish monument”. On “Turkuaz TV”, a Turkish Federation spokesman said: “We meant to erect a Turkish monument. As a first step we put the crescent-and-star as the symbol of our Turkish flag. We want to commemorate our martyrs.” Anatolian Radio (June 21) invited its listeners to attend the “Ottoman Turkish Internment” ceremony in Brantford. It said: “The Turkish Community finally succeeded in its efforts to have a tombstone erected in the Turkish section of the Mount Hope Cemetery in Brantford for our compatriots who were rounded up by the Canadian Government during the First World War and imprisoned in Kapuskasing and who then lost their lives…” The “Canadaturk” newspaper gave full-court coverage.

Now that the efforts of the Armenian activists and members of the Alevi community have failed, there are several questions which remain unanswered.

Why didn’t the Alevi community provide adequate support to the energetic and committed editor of its newspaper “Yeni Hayat”? Was it because Alevis are afraid their kin in Turkey might be harmed? The Alevi community has the right to know.

Why did ANCC’s Ontario chapter fail to stop the Turkish tombstone, especially after reams of documentation (some of them posted in Keghart.com) available which unequivocally proved that the interned are Alevis?

From day one the ANCC knew that the monument was politically motivated (one of its representatives said so). It was such an important propaganda project for Ankara that last year, when the Turkish consul had planned to erect a monument Ankara scheduled Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag to attend its unveiling, and arrangements were made to cover the event on a prestigious TV station in Ontario. From day one the ANCC knew that Ankara wanted to portray the Alevi buried in Brantford as Turks killed by the Canadian government. From day one the ANCC knew that the intention was to use these “Turkish martyrs” to tarnish Canada’s image and to chastise it for recognizing the Genocide of Armenians. It was to force an apology from Canada for committing “genocide” of Turks. From day one the ANCC knew that the Turkish Project was to put Canada on the defensive, to neutralize it, especially with the Genocide centennial on the corner. Canada is well known around the globe as a protector of human rights. The Ankara jab is to throw mud at Canada. A country which kills demonstrators, bans Twitter and YouTube, jails more journalists than any other country, a country where to call someone “Armenian” is a common curse, is out to teach Canada about human rights.

 Despite the importance of the issue, how can the ANCC explain its lukewarm (at best) and dismissive (at worst) attitude? Armenians have the right to expect more from their “most effective” lobbying organization. Supine doesn’t work in politics.

Midway the campaign to stop the Turkish monument, the Armenian activists had an extensive program to publicize the Turkish sham, to attend Brantford City Council meetings, to meet the local media, to hold demonstrations in Brantford, to network in Brantford, to distribute flyers in that city exposing the Turkish Game… These plans were promptly abandoned when the group disbanded upon the ANCC assurances that the “official Armenian lobby” was on top of the situation.

Now what?

Will the ANCC do what Armenians campaign for the removal of the disgraceful and fraudulent Turkish tombstone and work for its replacement by a non-religious, non-political tombstone or at least remove the objectionable Turkish flag on top of Alevi immigrants who died in Canada a century ago?

We wait with bated breath. 

 

12 comments
  1. I protest

    I protest. Turks have no right to make a fraudulent monument. What they have built illegally has to be removed.

  2. Alevis and Kurds

    All recent studies on the subject have shown that those Alevis were Armenians going back to the 16th and 18th centuries when Armenians were pressured to become Alevis and Kurds. The Alevis who came to Canada and the United States are Armenian, not Kurd. The Kurds were too busy pillaging and destroying Armenian villages; they had no reason to escape. Ask which clan they came from. There are 300-400 Alevi clans who are Armenian. They are our brothers and sisters. 
     

  3. I Agree

    I agree with this article that this monument was erected by Turkey with the intent to silence Canada's acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 

    It is the responsibility of each of us to document, as completely as possible, the names and stories of our own families who were Ottoman citizens and were murdered by the Turkish government on their own historical homeland. Each of us has the responsibility of going to our Member of Parliament and thanking the Government of Canada for welcoming and sheltering the few who escaped the Armenian Genocide and arrived in this benevolent country.

    We need a monument to be erected in 2015 that would express our gratitude to Canada. It would have the names of those who somehow escaped from Turkey and died in this country, still grieving for the horrendous loss of their murdered clans. Two places to consider for the monument would be Pier 21 or the port of St. John, New Brunswick, where the French ship Le Havre landed with many of the Armenians who escaped to Canada.

    We don't need the support of any Johnny-come-lately mayor. We have historians throughout the world who support our claims; some of them Turkish.

  4. Identity Theft Grand Slam

    For years now, I  have tried hopelessly to enhance awareness to the ravages of  the modern/subtle style Turkish negationism in the democratic West where Armenian communities are struggling with their identity and their historical rights and truths. 

    The Turkish strategy is to attack frontally and circumvent the minutest event/proof of the Armenian Genocide, even within UN forums. It's like a sinking boat. As I said in my last article, if the Armenian Diaspora, organized as an accredited NGO, does not speak up and act at all human rights meetings, the downfall will be achieved. The interference of independent judges and/or the creation of a special tribunal is impending. There is some hope that international lawyers and judges in a trial carried out under the auspices and surveillance of UN will not yield to Turkish/Azeri political pressure made of wild misinformation and lies to smother Armenian destiny, identity and political future. 

    Aline D.

  5. 100th Anniversary

    What better place to hold a memorial service than at the Brantford cemetery? 

  6. Brantford Lessons

    There are several lessons to be learned from the Brantford example:

    1) Mendacity is alive and well in Turkish governmental and even civil circles. Note to those advocating dialogue and reconciliation: Wake up.

    2) Armenian advocacy and lobbying groups have their own partisan interests that do not necessarily dovetail with what is in the Armenian national interest. This is not the first time in history that independent activists have been told that they are interfering with finely-tuned behind-the-scenes activity or even demonized for daring to enter the arena. Note to our lobbying groups: your monopoly days are over.

    3) Non-aligned but highly-informed activism should be encouraged, as should coalition-building with sympathetic groups. Note to individual activists: when your campaigns achieve a measure of success, be prepared to see the absentee established organizations take unearned credit.

  7. No co-relation

    As someone who has followed this scandal for a couple of years, I would like to add the following to your article:

    There is no relation between the people buried at Brantford's Mount Hope Cemetery and the 100 people arrested and interned during WWI as enemy aliens. There is no single match between the names of those interned and those buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery. As well, the dates alone pretty much prove that there is no connection: The war started in 1914, but the first burial was in 1912. Only a few buried there overlap the war years, but the names don't match with the list of people interned as enemy aliens.

    Vahakn

     

  8. Cemetery

    Much ado about nothing. Had we ignored it there would have been no hoopla. For every action there is a reaction. Ignore them and there is no free ride.

    1. Much Ado?

      Sam,
      As the article points out, Ankara's aim in honoring the "Turks" buried in Brantford was to have a weapon with which to vilify the Canadian government for recognizing the Genocide and putting Ottawa on the defensive. So it had to be fought. Their media has, for months, been calling those buried "slaves of Canada" and that Canada committed genocide of the Turks. 

  9. Thanks to Keghart 

    Thanks to Keghart  for bringing up our national issues in such detail. We have to support this reliable source. Also it's obvious that the A.N.C.C. [Armenian National Committee of Canada] has to explain it's strategy regarding our national issues and justify the related consequences. 

    A.N. 

  10. Cemetery

    Yes, ANCC should have done more and more aggressively, but shouldn't you be pointing your daggers at the Mayor and the council members who supported this obvious sham? Time to vote him out, no?

    1. The Mayor

      Although Brantford was home to one of the earliest Canadian-Armenian communities, there are very few Armenians in the city.–Editor.

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