Stéphane © armenews.com
BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
Armenians worldwide applauded the Cilician Catholicosate for filing a lawsuit in the Turkish Constitutional Court on April 27, demanding the return of its historic seat in Sis, Kozan district of Turkey’s Adana province. The Cilician See’s former headquarters, established in 1293, was confiscated by the Turkish government in 1921, at the culmination of the Armenian Genocide.
Catholicos Aram I announced that should the Turkish court reject the lawsuit, the Catholicosate intends to appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, which requires that all domestic legal remedies are exhausted before it considers appeals on cases filed against Council of Europe members states. Skeptics of Turkish acceptance of European Court decisions should know that the Republic of Turkey has complied with all rulings since its acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction in 1990.
The Catholicosate’s lawsuit is a landmark case for several reasons:
— It seeks to restore partial justice for the enormous human, material, and territorial losses suffered by Armenians during the Genocide.
— It shifts “Hai Tad [Armenian Cause] efforts beyond the recognition of the Armenian Genocide into the legal sphere,” as stated by Catholicos Aram I.
— It could set a precedent for similar legal claims, as His Holiness informed The New York Times last month: “After 100 years, I thought it was high time that we put the emphasis on reparation…. This is the first legal step. This will be followed by our claim to return all the churches, the monasteries, the church-related properties and, finally, the individual properties.”
Despite the noble objectives pursued by the Catholicosate’s lawsuit, a controversy surfaced in the Armenian community last week, when several websites and newspapers reported that the Catholicosate of Cilicia had demanded that the Turkish government “either return the property of the Catholicosate of Sis or pay a compensation of 100 million Turkish Liras ($37 million).” Garo Armenian, a prominent Armenian community leader, wrote a cautionary article titled, “Our Sacred Sites are not Personal Possessions.” He stressed that “the Catholicosate’s lawsuit raises a series of important questions which must be collectively considered forthwith with prudent diligence in order to prevent any undesirable precedents.” He also urged the Catholicosate to clarify this issue if the news reports have not accurately reflected the content of the lawsuit.
I contacted last week the Catholicosate’s representatives seeking such a clarification. I was assured in an e-mail by Father Housig Mardirossian, Assistant to His Holiness Aram I, that “The lawsuit of the Catholicosate has one clear objective: The return of the Catholicosate of Cilicia.”
In response to my request for a copy of the lawsuit, Payam Akhavan, a prominent international lawyer and lead counsel for the Catholicosate, stated that “it is not possible or advisable at this stage to share the full application while it is still pending before the Turkish Constitutional Court.”
On questions regarding monetary compensation, attorney Akhavan provided the following explanation: “The fundamental claim before the Turkish Constitutional Court is that Turkey should return the Monastery and Cathedral of St. Sofia, both because of the Catholicosate’s property rights, as well as its religious significance for Armenians. The claim is not for compensation, given that this is not merely private property, but rather, property of religious and historical significance. However, I have been advised by our Turkish lawyer that under Turkish laws and procedures it is necessary, with respect to the property rights claim (and not the religious rights claim) to reserve the Catholicosate’s alternate right to seek compensation by providing a provisional amount…. But I want to emphasize that the claim is not for compensation; it is for the return of the property, to be used for religious worship and related cultural purposes.”
I contacted an independent lawyer in Istanbul who confirmed that Turkish law indeed required that a specific value be stated for a property under litigation.
Now that the financial issue is clarified, there are other important matters facing the Catholicosate and Armenians in general. Some of these questions might be a little premature, but Armenians may want to reflect upon them in order to anticipate the consequences of any eventual decisions by Turkish or European courts:
1. What would the Catholicosate do should the Turkish court or government allow the restoration of the Sis church and its use for religious worship without returning ownership of the property to the Catholicosate? Moreover, what if the Turkish government also offered monetary compensation for the repair of the church headquarters while retaining the property rights?
2. In case the Turkish Court or the European Court of Human Rights decided to return the Sis church property, would the Catholicosate relocate to its historic headquarters or continue to remain in exile in Antelias, Lebanon?
In view of the Turkish government’s recent overtures to the heads of Assyrian and Syriac churches to return to their historic headquarters in Turkey from temporary exile in Syria, Turkey’s leaders may use the Armenian lawsuit as a cover vis-à-vis their own hardliners, and make a similar offer to the Catholicosate of Cilicia.
President Erdogan may make such a gesture for three reasons:
1. To preempt a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in favor of the Catholicosate, and avoid setting a legal precedent for future Armenian lawsuits;
2. To score a public relations victory in international circles, particularly after his party’s loss of parliamentary majority in last Sunday’s elections;
3. To reap the economic benefits of foreign tourists and Armenian visitors to the historic headquarters of the Cilician Catholicosate at Sis.
Police fire tear gas and water cannon to disperse nationalists demonstrating against pro-Kurdish poll rally.Dozens of people have been injured in eastern Turkey, local officials say, after police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse nationalists protesting against an election rally by the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Thursday’s clashes in the northeastern city of Erzurum were the latest in a string of incidents in the run-up to Sunday’s parliamentary elections, in which the HDP is trying to clear a 10 percent threshold for entering parliament as a party under proportional representation.
The unrest erupted a day after unidentified men opened fire on a HDP campaign bus in Kurdish-majority eastern Bingol province, killing the driver.
The governor’s office for Bingol said an investigation into the shooting had been launched.
Around 1,000 Turkish nationalists stormed the rally in the main square of Erzurum, an area seen as a bastion for Turkish nationalists.
About 2,000 HDP supporters had gathered to hear Selahattin Demirtas, the party leader, speak at the rally.
His appearance had been seen as a bold statement in a region where his party is far from popular, as it tries to win votes from outside its southeastern Kurdish-majority heartland.
Should the HDP pass the 10 percent threshold, it would become more difficult for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reach his goal of changing the constitution to boost presidential powers.
Private NTV television showed the demonstrators breaking through police barricades, before security forces responded with tear gas and water cannon.
The demonstrators, mostly young people, waved Turkish flags and chanted slogans such as “This is Erzurum, there is no way out from here” and “God is greatest”.
A minibus driver suffered severe burns when his vehicle, covered with HDP flags, was set on fire, the Dogan news agency said.
Security forces thanked
Ahmet Altiparmak, Erzurum’s governor, said in a statement quoted by Turkish media that 38 people had been wounded, including 11 police, 17 HDP supporters and 10 protesters.
But he also thanked the security forces and public for showing sensitivity so that the situation did not get out of hand.
The injuries were said to be not serious.
Demirtas went on with the rally and urged caution, saying: “There are only three days left. We will continue to work with patience, without allowing provocations.”
The HDP has long been accused by Turkish nationalists of being linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed insurgency in the southeast for Kurdish autonomy.
In May, two blasts targeting HDP’s headquarters in the southern cities of Adana and Mersin injured several people.
Thousands of people across the world have joined together in a global movement, protesting against American biotech giant Monsanto. Activists from over 400 cities are speaking out against GMOs and Monsanto’s monopoly over the food supply.
Saturday marked the third global annual March Against Monsanto (MAM). According to the organizers, 48 countries were scheduled to participate in a massive global turnout.
Click here to see a map that shows where the protests are taking place around the globe. A total of 452 rallies have been registered with the MAM organization.
Activists accuse the agricultural corporation of selling toxic chemicals, which are bad for people’s health, water supplies, vital crop pollinators and environment in general. The giant is also criticized for its attitude towards food safety regulations and a staunch opposition to GMO labeling. Meanwhile, small farmers blame Monsanto for monopolizing the seed market.
— Sputnik (@SputnikInt) May 23, 2015
Thousands of people have held separate demonstrations across Iraq in protest against the ongoing Saudi military aggression against Yemen.
On Tuesday, Iraqi protesters carried portraits of the leader of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, as they converged on the landmark Firdous square of the capital, Baghdad, to voice their resentment at Riyadh’s onslaught against its impoverished southern neighbor.
A similar rally was also staged in Iraq’s southern city of Basra, where people held banners and flags to show their anger at the Saudi airstrikes across Yemen.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein has warned that Yemen is on the brink of complete collapse amid Saudi-led aerial assaults against the country.
“The country seems to be on the verge of total collapse,” the UN official said in a statement released on Tuesday.
He also expressed worries about the fatalities caused by the air raids, saying the situation in Yemen “is extremely alarming, with dozens of civilians killed over the past four days.”
According to figures published by Zeid’s office, over 90 civilians have been killed and nearly 370 injured since March 26, when the Al Saud regime unleashed deadly air raids against Yemen in an attempt to restore power to fugitive Yemeni president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh.
Hadi stepped down in January and refused to reconsider the decision despite calls by Ansarullah revolutionaries. The Yemeni parliament did not approve his resignation.
Gradually, as the Yemeni government failed to provide security and properly run the affairs of the country, the Ansarullah fighters started to take control of state matters to contain corruption and terror.
The fugitive president fled Aden to the Saudi capital city of Riyadh after Ansarullah revolutionaries advanced toward Aden, where he had sought to set up a rival power base, and withdrew his resignation.
The Houthis, however, say Hadi lost his legitimacy as president of the country after he escaped the capital in February.
ANKARA (EurasiaNet.org)—Turkey is reportedly linking its purchase of a multi billion-dollar air-defense system to whether the bidder countries recognize the Armenian genocide.
That news, reported by a number of Turkish media, is the latest unexpected turn in the multi-year saga over the arms deal. The original bidders for the deal were companies representing the United States, Europe, China, and Russia, giving the program the air of a geopolitical litmus test. When Turkey announced that it planned to give the Chinese company the contract, it faced a barrage of pressure from its NATO allies who were concerned that linking that system with NATO air defense equipment already in Turkey could expose NATO secrets to China.
All along, Turkey has denied that there was any political subtext to its decision, saying that its choice of China was related solely to questions of price and the fact that China would hand over more of the technology to Turkey. Now, though, that appears to have changed. With the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide approaching in April, Ankara is reportedly waiting to see how the various bidders mark that event.
“Rumors in political circles in Ankara said that no decision will be made over the missile defense system winner before [April 24] since Turkey wants to first see France and the U.S.’s position on the 1915 incidents,” reported the pro-government Daily Sabah. “An agreement may be made with China if the U.S. and French administrations take a ‘pro-Armenian’ stance.”
Hurriyet Daily News has reported the same thing:
“’We have agreed with the government leaders not to rush to a decision any time soon,’ one defense procurement official said. ‘A decision before April 24 is out of the question.’
“A senior diplomat confirmed that Ankara first wants to see the U.S. and French positions on the ‘genocide claims’ before awarding a sizeable contract ‘to a bidder potentially from one of these countries.’
“’How these countries observe the centennial of the events [of 1915-1920] will be an important input for our final decision,’ he said.”
And a “top government official for defense and security issues” told newspaper Defense News last month: “One imminent political deliberation is whether the US Congress will recognize the alleged Armenian genocide in April. We will wait Congress’ move before making a decision on the contract.”
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Ministry of Defense has said that whichever system it buys will not be linked to NATO’s. That would seem to open the door for buying the Chinese equipment. But it also has extended the deadline for the Chinese, American, and European bidders until the summer — as Defense News notes, the sixth time it has made such an extension.
It’s not clear whether official recognition of the Armenian genocide has any more chance to get through Congress this year than it has before. But arguments like Ankara’s have held sway in the past: in 2010, a coalition of American defense contractors wrote a letter to Congress arguing against genocide recognition: “Alienating a significant NATO ally and trading partner would have negative repercussions for U.S. geopolitical interests and efforts to boost both exports and employments.”
But the U.S. bid was relatively unlikely to win; the second-place offer, after China’s, was that of Eurosam, based in France, a country which not only recognized the genocide but even criminalized genocide denial.
By Naira Hayrumyan
Chairman of the House of Representatives of Cyprus Yiannakis Omirou was recently on a visit to Yerevan. He made an unexpected proposal. In particular, he told Armenian lawmakers about “the destabilizing role of Turkey in the region” and suggested that “a united front” needs to be created against the policy of Turkey.
“Cyprus and Armenia should intensify bilateral relations, combine their efforts in international organizations and take advantage of the Cypriot and Armenian Diasporas, creating a united front against the policy of Turkey. On behalf of the members of the House of Representatives [of Cyprus] and myself I express willingness to work in this direction,” Omirou said.
It is not known yet whether Armenia agreed to coordinate actions in this direction with Cyprus. In the official reports about the meetings of Omirou with the Armenian president, the speaker of the Armenian parliament there are only general phrases and assurances that the historical Armenian-Cypriot friendship will be continued.
Analysts are wondering what “a united front against the policies of Turkey” may mean. Is it simply a diplomatic term or an institutionalized front is emerging? And what role Armenia would have in this front that may also include other countries as well? Would it be a coalition like the one created against the Islamic State, for example?
Because of its notorious “zero problems with neighbors” policy Turkey in the past few years not only deepened its problems with neighbors, but also lost many allies. Turkey’s actions in Syria, its “disobedience” in NATO, its reluctance to help the coalition against the Islamic State leads to the fact that in the Western world they cease to perceive Turkey as an ally.
Political analyst Igor Muradyan believes that a policy of “global containment” of Turkey is being carried out in the world today and a major place is assigned to Armenia in this policy. However, he thinks that a close relationship between Turkey and Russia allow it, to some extent, to offset the pressure from the West and a number of regional countries.
Just in a few months’ time the world will be commemorating the victims of the Armenian Genocide on the 100th anniversary of the crime. A rug woven by orphans of Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks in the 1915 Genocide is on display at the White House Visitor’s Center these days (November 18-23). The rug was gifted to U.S. President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and is evidence of the predatory policy of Turkey at the beginning of last century. Permission for the exhibition of the rug that has been mostly kept in storage since the Coolidge family returned it to the White House in 1982, was obtained with difficulty amid resistance from Turkey. In the world, many saw this as the first step towards the U.S. affirmation of the Armenian Genocide, which may become the detonator of the revision of relations with Turkey on a global scale.
Apparently, the countries that also suffered much at the hands of Turkey are also preparing for this occasion. Turkey currently occupies the northern part of Cyprus. “Despite the fact that Turkey’s actions are condemned internationally – in particular, on November 13 the European Parliament adopted a special resolution – Ankara’s violations are becoming more and more open and destabilize the entire region. At the same time, government and military leaders of Turkey openly threaten to use military force if the Republic of Cyprus continues to implement its sovereign rights. In these conditions, the Republic of Cyprus had to discontinue its participation in the negotiations on the Cyprus problem and announce political and legal steps against Turkey,” top Cypriot legislator Omirou said in the Armenian parliament.
He said that the refusal of Turkey to ratify the Armenian-Turkish protocols is the manifestation of the same policy.
The results of contest will be declared on January 19 — the death anniversary of Hrant Dink, Agos newspaper reported.
The contest is organized by the department of fine art at Gazi University with the support of Azerbaijani embassy in Ankara. The statement issued by organizers said the links between two nations were allegedly cut because of betrayal of the Armenians.
The aim of this exhibition is to sober international community that ignored “massacres of Turks” by Armenians during the First World War, professor Alev Cakmakoglu said.
Turkey refrained from becoming part of a group of countries and international organizations that pledged support to the central government in Baghdad in its fight against the threat of the radical Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during an international conference on Iraq’s peace and security conference in Paris, the private Cihan news agency reported.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu attended the international counter-terrorism conference along with the five UN Security Council (UNSC) permanent members, a number of European and Arab countries and representatives from the European Union, Arab League and United Nations hosted in Paris on Monday.
All the attendants except Turkey pledged to help the Baghdad government in its fight against ISIL. The main agenda of the meeting was about providing military support to the government of Baghdad against ISIL. But Çavuşoğlu did not offer any kind of support to Baghdad during the conference, according to Cihan.
During the meetings, the Turkish delegation in Paris reportedly emphasized that the fight against ISIL is not only in Iraq — it is also a threat in Syria — and pointed out that as long as President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is in power, the threat of ISIL will continue.
Turkish diplomats informed their counterparts in the meeting about a “no-entry” list that consists of 6,000 individuals from Europe and elsewhere who are linked to radical groups. So far, the Turkish diplomats said, 1,000 of them have been extradited.
Turkey also recently refused to sign a communiqué that supports an international campaign against ISIL in Jeddah. At the counter-terrorism meeting, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon agreed to cooperate against ISIL, take steps to stop foreign fighters going to Iraq and Syria and funds going to ISIL, provide humanitarian aid and contribute to different aspects of the military campaign.
While the Arab allies signed the final communiqué, NATO ally Turkey did not.
Turkey was reportedly asked during these meetings to seal its borders to prevent foreign fighters from coming and going into Syria through its territory and to take measures to prevent oil smuggling.