By Harut Sassounian,
Just when we thought that we had heard everything about the current Armenian government’s questionable positions on Artsakh, Armenia, and Armenian interests, we are now facing another monumental mistake by Armenia’s leaders.
On April 25, 2023, the descendants of those who killed the Turkish masterminds of the Armenian Genocide inaugurated the Nemesis Monument in Yerevan. In attendance were opposition members of Parliament, and surprisingly, Tigran Avinyan, the Deputy Mayor of Yerevan, who is a member of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s political party.
Nemesis was the name of the operation which was organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation to eliminate several Ottoman leaders who were responsible for the Armenian Genocide. This operation implemented the death verdicts issued in absentia by the Turkish Military Tribunal in Istanbul, in 1919, against the Genocide perpetrators, since they had fled from the country. Talaat Pasha, the main culprit in the Armenian Genocide, was killed by Soghomon Tehlirian in Berlin, in 1921. A German court found him not guilty due to Talaat’s massive crimes.
Talaat’s remains were brought from Berlin to Turkey in 1943. The Turkish government ‘honored’ Talaat by naming avenues, mosques, schools, hospitals and a memorial after him in Istanbul. This would be just as shameful, had the German government named schools and avenues in Berlin after Hitler! Another Genocide organizer, Minister of War Enver Pasha, is buried in the same memorial in Istanbul. His remains were brought in 1996 to Turkey from Tajikistan where he was assassinated in 1922 by an Armenian.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu retaliated against the Nemesis Monument by announcing that Turkey banned overflights by Armenian airlines from Turkish skies. Furthermore, Cavusoglu brazenly announced that Turkey would take additional steps against Armenia, if the Nemesis Monument is not dismantled. Thus, Turkey violated the rules of IATA (International Air Transport Association) which states that countries cannot ban overflights for political reasons. Armenia should take legal action against Turkey under IATA rules and ban the overflights of Turkish Airlines over Armenia’s skies.
This unwarranted Turkish retaliation is taking place at a time when the governments of Armenia and Turkey are negotiating for over a year to open their mutual border and normalize their relations. Even though it is announced that these negotiations are taking place “without any preconditions,” in reality, Turkey has made several demands, such as Armenia declaring that Artsakh is part of Azerbaijan by recognizing its territorial integrity, allowing the so-called ‘Zangezur Corridor’ to cross Armenia’s territory, linking mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhichevan, which would mean that the ‘Corridor’ is under the sovereignty of Azerbaijan, not Armenia.
Even if Turkey would open the border someday, it will shut it down again if Armenia does not meet any of Turkey’s future demands, thus continuously blackmailing the Armenian government. Turkey’s current demand to dismantle the Nemesis Monument is an early warning of more demands to come from Turkey, such as dismantling the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex in Yerevan, banning the burning of Turkish flags on April 24, and removing from Armenia’s Declaration of Independence the paragraph that states: “The Republic of Armenia supports the task of achieving international recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey and Western Armenia in 1915.”
This is the result of prostrating oneself in front of the unrepentant enemy and begging for peace. In response to the Turkish ban of Armenian overflights from Turkish skies, Armenia’s leaders criticized their own country for erecting the Nemesis Monument in Yerevan, rather than telling Turkey that they have no right to interfere in Armenia’s domestic decisions. In the process of trying to appease Turkey, Armenia’s Prime Minister and the President of the Parliament made a number of anti-Monument statements. So, it is OK for Turkey to glorify Talaat, the Turkish Hitler, but not OK for Armenia to honor those who killed the butcher. Armenia’s leaders, rather than making excuses for the Nemesis Monument, should have demanded that Turkey dismantle the Talaat Pasha Memorial in Istanbul.
Prime Minister Pashinyan made the excuse that the Nemesis Monument was authorized by the City of Yerevan, not the government of Armenia. The Monument was approved by the Yerevan City Council on Sept. 14, 2021. Pashinyan contradicted himself by first telling the Armenian Parliament that the decision to authorize the Monument was made “to avoid being labeled traitors…. But by doing so, we actually keep betraying the state and national interests of our country.” He then went on to say that “a wrong decision was made and the implementation of that decision was wrong.” Pashinyan also stated that “one of the shortcomings of democracy is when the authorities or the government leader is not controlling everything and everyone.” This is a shocking statement from someone who came to power claiming to promote democracy, yet he does not seem to understand the basic principles of democracy. Pashinyan, in fact, controls everything and everyone in the country!
Meanwhile, the President of the Armenian Parliament Alen Simonyan, during a press conference in Ankara last week, also made excuses by saying that Turkey should not view the Nemesis Monument “as an expression of the foreign policy of the government of Armenia nor as an unfriendly act. The Armenian government’s foreign policy is conducted by the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.” Simonyan further said that only “opposition members of the Parliament had attended the inauguration of the Nemesis Monument.” Cavusoglu replied that the Armenian government’s excuses are “insincere and untrue. No one should try to deceive us by saying that it does not fall within their jurisdiction.”
Armenia’s leaders need to draw an important lesson from this episode. Unless Armenia immediately rejects Turkey’s attempts to interfere in Armenia’s internal affairs, I fear that the Turkish government will be emboldened to impose further demands which will severely restrict Armenia’s sovereignty.