By Harut Sassounian
Ask your Senators and U.S. Representative to work for a truthful and just resolution of the Armenian Genocide by supporting the adoption of S.Res.140 and H.Res.154
This is the right time to act, during the Armenian Genocide Centennial year and in the wake of the vast global awareness raised around April 24th by Pope Francis and so many others.
H.Res.154, a bipartisan measure spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Robert
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for an investigation into reports of the violation of Kurds’ rights by the Turkish government in the country’s southeastern region.
The Russian foreign minister made the remarks during a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Wednesday.
“Any reports, particularly those documented ones, about rude and large scale human rights abuse and violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated. There are special international procedures for that,” Lavrov said.
The top diplomat called on the international community to respond to the situation.
According to reports from Turkey’s Kurdish areas in the southeast, entire residential blocks have been destroyed in the cities of Cizre and Diyarbakir, a devastation resembling some neighborhoods in Syria after five years of foreign-backed militancy.
There have also been reports of a massacre of dozens or possibly hundreds of Kurdish civilians, including children, in Cizre at the hands of Turkish soldiers.
A report by a rights group also says more than 160 civilians, including 29 women, 32 children, and 24 elderly people, were killed from August to December last year in Turkey’s Kurdish areas.
Lavrov accused Ankara of targeting the Kurds immediately after a deadly attack in the capital city last year, which Turkey blamed on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants without launching an investigation or announcing official findings.
“The Turkish side began to use this as a pretext to justify the ongoing missile and artillery attacks of Syrian territory in the areas traditionally inhabited by Kurds,” Lavrov added.
He further warned that Turkey’s actions in the region were undermining the negotiated cessation of hostilities in Syria as a new round of indirect talks on the crisis is underway between the Damascus government and the foreign-backed opposition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Since last August, Turkey has imposed nearly 60 curfews in its Kurdish regions, disrupting the lives of some 1.4 million people living in those areas.
Kurds make up between 10 and 25 percent of Turkey’s population.
Tensions have been on the rise between the Turkish government and PKK militants since Ankara launched its operations against their positions in southeastern Turkey, northern Syria and Iraq.
PKK militants, who accuse the Turkish government of supporting the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, have also engaged in a series of attacks against Turkish police and security forces.
The Iraqi government has demanded that Ankara withdraw the more than 100 Turkish forces that entered Iraq with tanks and artillery for alleged “training” of troops near Islamic State-occupied Mosul. Baghdad stressed the unsanctioned move was a breach of its sovereignty.
The Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement early on Saturday that the Turkish troops were acting in violation of the country’s sovereignty and demanded the forces withdraw immediately. “Around one regiment armoured with tanks and artillery” has entered the northern Nineveh area, according to the statement from the Iraqi Prime Minister’s media office.
The unauthorized presence of Turkish troops in Mosul province is a serious breach of Iraqi sovereignty https://t.co/s051sa8ls6
— Haider Al-Abadi (@HaiderAlAbadi) December 4, 2015
However, according to two US defense officials quoted by Reuters, Turkey’s deployment is not part of the efforts of the US-led coalition battling Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
On Friday, 130 Turkish soldiers equipped with heavy weapons were deployed at a military base on the outskirts of the city of Mosul, which is currently held by IS, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper.
According to Cumhuriyet newspaper, the number of the deployed Turkish troops amounts to at least 150.
The town of Bashiqa is located about 10 kilometers northeast of Mosul.
Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, was seized by Islamic State in June 2014 and has been fully governed by militants ever since. Moreover, the extremist group captured large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition that were stored in the city.
“In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in an interview with Iraqiya state TV in June. “We lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul alone,” he added.
The Turkish intrusion into Iraq comes shortly after Ankara’s motives in the war on Islamic State have been questioned by Moscow, Tehran, as well as by Baghdad.
The Russian government has been particularly vocal in pointing the finger at the illegal oil trade between IS terrorists and the Turks. Moscow-Ankara relations deteriorated after a Turkish F-16 jet downed a Russian Su-24 bomber on the Syrian-Turkish border for an alleged airspace violation on November 24, while the Russian jet was returning from an anti-terrorist mission. In the days after, the Russian Defense Ministry presented detailed photo and video evidence showing three huge “live pipelines” made of oil trucks effortlessly crossing the Syrian border into Turkey in militant-controlled areas.
The statement says:
“An indelible, massive crime was committed in these lands, 100 years ago—a crime that will remain irreversible, irremediable, and unforgivable. During the genocide of 1915, Armenians and other Christian peoples of Asia Minor, among them Assyrians and Rums, were targeted by a systematic politics of extermination, and destroyed along with their social organizations, economy, arts and crafts, and historical and cultural heritage.
Our initiative “100th Year – Stop Denialism” was established to commemorate the genocide on April 24, in Istanbul and Diyarbakır. The initiative brings together (in alphabetical order) the Anatolian Cultures and Research Association (Aka-Der), Human Rights Association (HRA) – Committee against Racism and Discrimination, Nor Zartonk, Platform for Confronting History, Turabdin Assyrians Platform, and Zan Foundation for Social, Political, and Economic Research. Our initiative is also supported by the Gomidas Institute (London), the Armenian Council of Europe, and Collectif Van (Paris), whose representatives will be joining us.
Shame and responsibility are the basis of the “100th Year – Stop Denialism Initiative’s” conceptualization of the commemoration. We believe that any commemoration of the crime of genocide on these lands will have to express the responsibility of genocide denial itself, and the shame felt by the descendants of the peoples who have had the opportunity for growth, development, and enrichment in the absence of–due to the absence of–the peoples who fell victim to genocide.
While this understanding constitutes the ethical core of our acts of commemoration on April 24, our concrete demands are for recognition, apology, compensation, and restitution.
Our initiative’s commemorations begin at 11 a.m. on April 24, in front of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts on Sultanahmet Square, where we will hold a moment of silence in memory of the victims. This building was known as the central prison in 1915; individuals from the Istanbul Armenian community, including intellectual leaders, were arrested in their homes, detained here, and then sent off to the Haydarpaşa train station.
After the moment of silence, we will begin our “Genocide March,” walking in silence from Sultanahmet to Eminönü, and then crossing over to Haydarpaşa by sea. The detainees of April 24, 1915, were deported from Haydarpaşa to the depths of the country—in actual fact, to their deaths. Here, our “Genocide March” will end with another commemoration.
From Haydarpaşa, we will proceed to the Şişli Armenian Cemetery to commemorate Sevag Şahin Balıkçı, who fell victim to a ethnic-hate murder on April 24, 2011, while on mandatory military duty in Batman, and express our support to the Balıkçı family in their pursuit of justice.
Before and after the events of the “100th Year – Stop Denialism Initiative,” the constituents of the initiative will participate in two other events. Representatives of the Armenian Council of Europe, who were invited to Istanbul by the HRA Committee Against Racism and Discrimination, will hold a commemoration on Beyazıt Square at 10 a.m. on the same day, April 24. Members of the HRA Committee Against Racism and Discrimination, human rights defenders, and activists against genocide denial will participate in the commemoration of 20 Henchak Party leaders and members who were executed by hanging on June 15, 1915–yet another mass execution, of symbolic import, during the period of the Armenian Genocide.
A protest march organized by Nor Zartonk will start out at 6:30 p.m., from Galatasaray Lycée and head toward Taksim Square, followed by a 100th year commemoration event led by the Platform for Commemorating the Armenian Genocide, at 7:15 p.m., at the Taksim end of Istiklal Street.
Concurrently, in Diyarbakır, the Human Rights Association Diyarbakır branch and the Gomidas Institute are jointly organizing a commemoration of Armenian and Assyrian victims in the ruins of Surp Sarkis Church at noon on April 24, with support from the Diyarbakır Bar Association and the Zan Foundation.
The struggle for genocide recognition and against denialism will end neither on April 24, 2015, nor on Dec 31, 2015. Until the state of the Republic of Turkey and the majority following official ideology recognize the crime and take steps toward compensation for the irreversible and irremediable losses, we will persevere in our pursuit of justice for the genocide victims of Asia Minor and for their descendants, who are dispersed around the world or who continue to live under the conditions of genocide perpetuated by denial.”
“The customers book tickets much earlier now because from November there was not a vacant room in any hotel in Tsakhkadzor,” said the founder of the Tourist Association Marina Kpryan reporters.
A journey of 4-5 days outside of Yerevan a family of four must spend 300,000 to 800,000 drams (approximately 660 to $ 1700), all inclusive, depending Hakob Hakobyan President of the Association of Hotels and Executive Director Tufenkyan the society.
According to official statistics, last year in Armenia around 670 000 people have preferred such leave, an increase of 30.1 percent compared to 2012. In the first six months of this year, about 100,000 tourists were recorded 30.4 percent growth compared to the same period of 2013.
According to Hakobyan, the outcome of the meeting with the heads of five hotels show that compared data from last year’s sales are the same, which suggests that many Armenians prefer to spend the winter holidays outside countries.
Sona Yeghiazaryan director Joel travel agency said that Armenians prefer most of the time from hot countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, spending $ 700 to $ 800 per person on average.
“Europe is a favorable destination, only in this case, there is a problem with embassies, and those who want to leave have to look after their visa dice in August as we begin our bookings in August,” said Yeghiazaryan .dropoff window
Meanwhile, representatives of tourism sphere appreciate the growth of tourism receipts in Armenia but nevertheless regrets they emphasize that specifically winter is not considered an active season, because it is not filled with cultural events and the offers are limited to the parties in restaurants and concerts.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Economy last year Armenia was visited by over a million tourists – 12.6 percent more than in 2012 and the first six months of this year – around half a million or 17.3 percent more than during the same period last year.
To improve service for tourists this year three new hotels have been opened in Armenia, which, according to Hakob Hakobyan, has enriched the market supply by 550 new rooms. Next year, 300 rooms should be added.
“In Yerevan, we can find a room for every budget – from 15,000 drams to 700,000 drams (about $ 30 – $ 1500). The average price is 45,000 dramsD (about $ 100) including breakfast, and for a capital this is a normal price, “said Hakobyan predicting higher prices in the area.
“If food becomes more expensive it will be reflected on food expenditures by the hotel as” he has said.
By Sara Khojoyan