Residing in Fool’s Paradise Editorial Board, 1 January 2011

Watching across the border at the duplicity of Pelosi, Obama and Co. a few weeks ago, some Armenian-Canadians might have felt a flush of pride and self-satisfaction for having won the genocide battle against the Turkish lobby in Canada six years ago.

Their complacency and folly could very well lead them to fool’s paradise. Editorial Board, 1 January 2011

Watching across the border at the duplicity of Pelosi, Obama and Co. a few weeks ago, some Armenian-Canadians might have felt a flush of pride and self-satisfaction for having won the genocide battle against the Turkish lobby in Canada six years ago.

Their complacency and folly could very well lead them to fool’s paradise.

Our antagonists are far from asleep. In fact, in the past several years they have re-energized their campaign against us—in Canada and around the globe. Just a few days ago, on Dec. 28, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu pledged to neutralize the Armenian Diaspora in the conflict between our nation and Turkey. Prime Minister Erdogan had similar words. We also know about the Turkish-Azeri alliance is not just against Armenia and Artsakh but also against Diaspora Armenians.

But back to Canada… where some Armenians seem to think the battle is over.

–The Turkbaijan lobby continues to attack the Toronto Public School Board’s curriculum to make sure the Genocide of Armenians is removed from history courses of Grade 11 students. The activities of the Intercultural Dialogue Institute and the Intercultural Dialogue Centre we focused on (“Turkbaijan Propaganda in Bloom”) last month are part and parcel of the campaign to influence Canadian educational institutions to deny or at least ignore the Genocide.

–The Turkbaijan lobby is throwing its weight to exclude the Genocide of Armenians from the Human Rights Museum, scheduled to open in Winnipeg in 2013. The $350-million museum will be largely funded by the federal government. However, there are indications that the Turkbaijan lobby is trying to persuade the Asper family of Winnipeg—the initiators of the project—to give cold shoulder to Armenian representation at the museum. It’s more than likely that our antagonists are using the Turkish-Israeli relationship card to influence the Aspers—one of the leading Zionist families in Canada.

–The Armenian community in Canada is not aware that Ankara-Baku lobbyists operating in Canada have been trying to persuade Prime Minister Stephen Harper (through pressure exerted by Canada’s foreign minister) to remove the word “genocide” from Mr. Harper’s annual message on April 24.

–The Armenian community in Canada seems to be unaware that political gains can be reversed. A new administration in Ottawa can back peddle and waffle on genocide recognition. Canada’s recognition is based on a motion which doesn’t have the power of a more legally-binding resolution. While Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, does recognize the Genocide of Armenians, there’s no reason to believe that Mr. Ignatieff would become the next prime minister or that a future Liberal Party would follow in the noble steps of the ruling Conservative Party and Prime Minister Harper and withstand Turkish blandishments and coercion.

–A few years ago the Turkish lobby hired Fleischmann-Hillard, one of Canada’s and possibly one of the world’s largest public relations, to improve Turkey’s image in Ankara’s denial of the Genocide of Armenians. After a thorough research, including Canadian public opinion of Turkish politics, tourism, cuisine, etc. the PR agency made its recommendations to the Turkish Embassy.  Since then, the Turkish lobby has been acting upon those recommendations. For example, every summer there’s a “Turkish Day” at Dundas Square, the most important public square in Toronto, meaning in Canada. Turkish food, travel, culture, live bands are featured at the event. And all this dominated by blazing, oversized red flags with the star and yataghan-sharp crescent.

We, Armenian-Canadians, tend to talk too much among ourselves. A great deal of our Genocide talk and activities are internal. For example, for a number of years the Toronto Armenian Centre (TAC) has sponsored mostly-Armenian films at the Pomegranate Film Festival. However, the festival takes place in the suburban TAC, which is a difficult commute.  It’s no brainer that the festival would have a much greater attendance if it was held in downtown Toronto rather than in the suburban “ghetto” which is considered boondocks to the film buff denizens of downtown.

Too much of our effort is uncoordinated or badly coordinated, to wit the recent campaign against Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobi Bryant becoming a spokesman for the Turkish Airlines (THY). Some 30 Toronto Armenian young people braved the elements to demonstrate where the Bryant had come to play in Toronto. A similar demonstration took place in Los Angeles. While the commitment of the Armenian activists is commendable, in this instance it was for naught—if not worse. Does anyone believe that the demonstration would make a difference to the millionaire Bryant? About the same time, Faruk Cizmecioglu, THY’s marketing and sales deputy director general, announced that the airline had also signed a contract with Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. The Turkish Airlines has similar contracts with football clubs in Barcelona and Manchester United, and other athletic organizations. Are we going to demonstrate against or boycott these people and organizations? In addition to not helping advance our cause, these demonstrations could backfire and antagonize sports fans who don’t know or care about Armenian-Turkish politics. Incidentally, actor Kevin Costner has been a THY spokesman for a number of years, yet there was no Armenian demonstrations against him.

It seems every other Armenian-Canadian parent’s dream is to have an offspring who is a physician, pharmacists, dentist, lawyer or electrical engineer. Surely a commendable ambition, but to make our case heard we need Armenians in the mass media. Our organizations can encourage young Armenians to pursue careers in media and in public relations by offering them scholarships, by helping them get jobs upon graduation.

In North America an overwhelming percentage of politicians are former lawyers. Why not encourage Armenian lawyers to enter politics? By encourage we mean raise funds and help in election campaigns.

While having Armenian politicians is certainly the “gold standard,” we should realize that political aides have a tremendous impact on the thinking and actions of politicians. We should encourage and support our young people who want to enter the political arena, but not necessarily become politicians.
At one time there was a group of Armenian-Canadians which made a point of writing letters to the media to advance Hye Tadd or to shoot down Turkish propaganda in Canadian media. It’s time we created something similar. It doesn’t take much work: Half-a-dozen people who read newspapers or follow TV and radio can make a huge difference when they write to editors to correct inaccurate or biased anti-Armenian news reports or opinions. All it takes is a letter or two.

Just like the Turkbaijan foe, we have to promote familiarization trips—to Armenia. Politicians, media, public figures who visit Armenia would retain lifelong positive attitudes of Armenia and Armenians after a visit to our homeland.

The ideal would be to have a full-time public relations professional whose sole job would be coordinating and leading our public relations efforts.  A $50,000 budget would guarantee the hiring of such an individual. The sum might seem high to some Armenians, but considering what the other side is spending, it’s not a drop in the bucket.
Finally, we—and Armenians everywhere–have to realize that our battle with Turkbaijan is permanent and open-ended until Turkey meets the Three Rs—Restitution, Reparation, Return of our lands and Baku renounces its claims on Artsakh.

  1. Probably the Most Important Editorial for Canadians

    The Keghart Team has penned arguably its most important editorial to date related to issues relevant for Canadians.

    By Canadians, I mean them all, not just those of Armenian origin. Because the affirmation or the denial of the Genocide of Armenians is an issue that touches all Canadians and they all need to be mobilized.

    I have personally had several heated debates with many of our community so-called " leaders" who have declared the Genocide issue in Canada solved and the battle won and ended.

    The only place where this has actually been achieved is in Quebec. The recognition of the Genocide of Armenians is enshrined in a LAW. Everywhere else it is simply an affirmation by provincial legislatures. In the House of Commons it is a private member’s motion that was voted on. This can be reversed and/or neutralized with other motions. The position of the Government of Canada while laudable under the current administration, can be changed. Had the House of Commons affirmation been in the form of a law, then the Canadian Government denial would have been the equivalent of BREAKING that LAW, therefore the government (any government in power) would think twice before taking such a position because of the guaranteed legal action that would follow.

    On the legal front, we should be working to enshrine the Genocide recognition in ALL legislatures, territorial and provincial as well as with the Assembly of First Nations and in both houses of Parliament as a LAW. We should be further putting the brightest of our legal minds together to work on achieving the prosecution of the deniers of the Genocide of Armenians based on Canada’s hate laws and precedence set in Holocaust denial cases.

    Finally, while the Keghart team is right on in the possible actions and approaches, I believe that the scale of mobilization should be at least one order of magnitude higher. Collectively, we waste millions on highly dubious initiatives and projects (and not only in our community). It is about time that we focused on the real priorities. Only then can we face our children and tell them truthfully that we did something for our survival.

    The choices we make now are about whether we walk off the stage of history or do we continue to be. It is a Hamletian choice and no less.


    Viken L. Attarian

  2. PR Professional

    The editorial is interesting, useful and timely. I hope Armenian-Canadians take note and act now, rather than nod their heads in agreement and pass the buck.

    I particularly like the idea of hiring a full-time PR professional who would coordinate and lead our public affairs and political activities. The various political, social, business, clerircal organizations should get together and make this happen. To my knowledge, there are four or five–in Toronto– journalists who might be interested in taking on the job. The PR office doesn’t have to be on a ritzy downtown street: It can operate from a basement.

  3. Become Armenian apolitical

    Last November, when I posted comments concerning this same topic, it was in the context of the creation of the Supreme Council which will eventually represent all Diaspora Armenians. I felt that we were completely absent from the mass media. People confused us for Romanians or Albanians. We cannot wait for the next generation to produce a team of young articulate activists, history and anthropology majors, law makers and documentary producers. We have to act now to bring together what is available in every country where Armenians reside, mainly in Europe, the Americas, Australia and the Middle East. It will take more than one PR man to do the job, and we also need the help of each Armenian Ambassador and the Diaspora Minister to help put Armenia on the map. The budget will also have to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to say in the millions. It will have to run like a business profit center, not on ad hoc basis, nor from a basement of a house.


    Now two comments about Kevin Costner and so-called “Turkish-Days”. Having recently spent four years in GCC countries, I have seen Kevin Costner’s ads on TV practically every day. But I don’t think they were very effective, because in the final analysis, the aircraft used and the service provided on Turkish Airlines did not match (nor would ever match) that of Emirates or Qatar Airlines or of any other GCC country.


    On the other hand, “Turkey-Days” were considered as a major yearly public relation event in every country in the Middle-East; with a kick-off gala evening in a 5-star hotel, hosted (by invitation only), by the local Ambassador or Consul, followed by a weekend long of social events, open to the local public at large, highlighting Turkish Entrepreneurs, food, Turkish products for sale, fashion shows and tourism. I had the opportunity to see some of the literature handed out at these events. They described Turkey as the gentle, neighbor loving country, whose “ancestors” built amazing monuments to be seen in Western Anatolia (most of them built during the Roman and Byzantine rule) !


    And yet, our multilingual tourist guides in Armenia working on bus tours, are ‘so’ politically correct that, in the presence of foreigners, they wouldn’t say a word, not a peep, about lost Armenian provinces or lost Ararat Mountain, while visiting places close to the border; simply to say that the other side of the border lays a country called Turkey!


    Again, at a most recent “Ethnic Day” held in the Town of Mount Royal in Quebec, although it was great to watch Armenian dances at the beat of Armenian drums, yet Armenians were squeezed between the Lebanese and the Greeks, and the MC, among other things, said that NKR was an Armenian area located in another country (?!?!).


    This is why I think, extreme political correctness will lead us nowhere. This is why the guidance of a properly organized and centralized propaganda machine is essential now, to proactively spread around facts and figures, and make people visit Armenia, learn about our history, like us and be sympathetic to our cause.

    We have to rise above local petty internal politics, become “Armenian apolitical”, start thinking Pan-Armenian. We have to get the assistance of our Ambassadors and the Diaspora Minister if we want to complete with our enemy and win on his turf.

  4. Great article

    You say that Turks are trying to get Harper to remove the word "genocide" from his April 24 speech.

    This reminds me that even if Turkey itself recognizes the genocide as genocide, it can always change its mind later.  That is, a pronouncement about genocide can always be withdrawn, for example, if a new government or parliament comes to power. 

    And what does it mean for Turkey to "recognize" the genocide?  A law?   A speech? 

    Is an acknowledgment of "massacres" but not "genocide" acceptable? To those who wish to bury the issue – including some European countries – it will be.   They will stand up and cheer, and some of the Armenian "reconcilation" types will go along with it.

    And will a genocide acknowledgment by itself indicate a change in Turkey’s behavior?  Probably not.

    The upshot of all this is that mere words cannot close the genocide issue.  There must be a material reckoning, including reparations, restitution, and territory.

    1. Read the whole Editorial…
      Mr. Boyajian,  I think you had stopped reading this Editorial in the middle, please read the whole thing.

  5. I agree with every point!

    Thank you  for this great Editorial.  It addresses essential points that Armenians should wake-up and act.

    1. We shouldn’t take for granted any government’s recognition of the Genocide when they are allowing Turks to lobby against it.

    2. Any recognition should be followed with actions (education, legal bill against denial, etc.)

    3. Unfortunately our political parties are more of a hindrance for our efforts for Genocide recognition….

    4. Why can’t we do the same – hire a public relations experts, get their recommendations, then create a paid team of Armenian legal / media to apply those recommendations?

    5. We need to encourage our new generation to be in the media, law, accounting and politics more than anything else.  And we need to do this yesterday!

    Our organizations have the wrong concept of allocating money to Armenian projects, most of the donated money is going in the wrong direction. 

    These organizations can easily create a PR team and allocate not only $50K, but $500K/year for such a project that will go far beyond what that money is doing for us today!

    I hope at least one of the ideas in this Editorial will be implemented one day soon.

  6. Public Relations

    As a public-relations professional, I endorse your suggestion that the Canadian-Armenians engage a PR professional–(I would, wouldn’t I?)


    1. Your proposed budget is much too small–even assuming that the PR-man takes nothing for himself. A good campaign–and it is better to have no campaign rather than a bad one–requires far too many expenses. In addition to the cost of day-to-day operations (telephone, electricity, heat, postage, etc.), there is the need for producing and re-producing documents and literature, as well as entertainment, travel, etc. It should be budgeted for well into six-figures

    A good campaign will require journalist visits (by one or a group) to Armenia, to the killing fields at Der el Zor, and elsewhere. That includes travel by business class (as a minimum–first-class would be ideal), top-rated hotels (4-star a minimum), local travel, entertainment, meals, etc.

    It is possible–it is to be hoped, rather–that a rich Armenian or two would pick up the tab(s) for journalist visits–as was done when I lived in London and someone paid for six top journalists (and me, as their “Mother Hen”) to go for a week.

    2. There must be an organization backing the PR-man, but he must report to ONLY ONE person–not a committee. That ONE person can have the joy of listening to ten opinions from five Armenians!

    3. Maybe it should have been Number One. What is the message or messages that you want to send? Who is to determine/agree the message(s)? By what authority will this “who” have to act on its own? Etc.

    4. It must be a long-range plan. Good public relations is not a rocket; it is a blunderbuss.

    You cite the fact that the Turks have hired a top-level PR firm. You can be sure that it is paying a large sum–probably from Ankara. And listening to it, not second-guessing and assuming it knows better what is to be done and how.

    The cynic in me says that NO present Armenian group will agree to the hiring of a PR Professional (or agency) unless it is given the role of co-ordinating and directing the effort–and, no doubt, interfering in the operation at every stage. Therefore, a new group–perhaps anonymous and unannounced–might get away with it. Perhaps, too, with a plan, the group might get funding from Armenia–but let us not hold our breaths.

    Don’t forget. the mice had a great idea about putting a bell around the neck of the cat!

    Avedis Kevorkian
    Philadelphia, PA

Comments are closed.

You May Also Like