Pro-Azeri and Pro-Turkish Writers Denigrate Armenia and Diaspora

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

Turkish and Azeri circles were displeased with my latest column where I had analyzed Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s phone call to Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan.

Azerbaijan’s Trend news agency published a ridiculous article by Elmira Tariverdiyeva, titled: “Yerevan’s failed phone call or why Trump did not respond.” She is the head of Trend’s Russian-language news service.

The Azeri article is replete with nonsensical and false assertions. The author, who has a limited knowledge of American politics, calls the Pence-Sargsyan phone calls a “disaster.” She wrongly claims that Pence simply returned Sargsyan’s phone call. In fact, it was Vice President-elect Pence who made the call to Pres. Sargsyan.

The real disaster is that the President of filthy rich Azerbaijan, Aliyev, would have been unable to talk to Pres.-elect Trump or Vice President-elect Pence without the assistance of highly-paid lobbyists in Washington!

The Azeri journalist goes on to make bigger gaffes by claiming that Hillary Clinton’s defeat “was a big disappointment for Yerevan. It is known that Clinton maintained fairly close relationships with an extensive Armenian diaspora in the US.” Elmira does not seem to know much about either Armenia or the Diaspora. Contrary to her false assertion, most Armenians did not support Clinton!

Tariverdiyeva also claims that Yerevan is frustrated because Trump is more familiar with Azerbaijan based on his investments in that country. In my opinion, it is too premature to make such self-serving and unwarranted assumptions. On the contrary, Pres. Trump has many reasons to be tough on Azerbaijan given its dictatorial regime, serious violations of human rights, and the participation of many Azeris in ranks of ISIS terrorists in Syria. It is ridiculous to claim that Pres. Trump would be more favorably inclined toward Azerbaijan because of his $323,150 licensing fee from the Baku Trump Tower, which he does not own!

Another more sinister article was written by Alexander Murinson, who is neither Azeri nor Turk, but for some questionable reason, has written a series of anti-Armenian tirades over the years in various publications. In his LinkedIn page, Murinson describes himself as: “Currently seeking new [job] opportunities…. An expert on Azerbaijan-Turkish-Israeli cooperation…. Considered a leading expert on Azerbaijani Jewry.” Murinson serves on the faculty of an obscure school in Washington, D.C., “BAU (Bahcheshehir) International University,” recently founded by Turkish billionaire Enver Yucel.

In an attempt to seek new job opportunities and ensure that his article titled, “The Armenian Lobby’s Tenuous Relations with President-elect Trump,” is published, Murinson panders to the right-wing website The American Spectator, under the false premise that Armenians are anti-Trump, therefore, anti-conservative.

I had planned to rebut point by point Murinson’s statements, but decided to let his own words expose his faulty judgments. Here are some of his nonsensical gems:

— American “Armenian lobby’s agenda is largely contrary to U.S. national interests and, perhaps counter-intuitively, to the best interests of the Republic of Armenia….”

— “Turkey [is] a key and indispensable strategic ally of the U.S. in the Middle East….”

— “This may lay at the core of the deep concern and disappointment of the U.S. Armenian lobby with the election of Donald Trump as President. For observers of the region, the nasty anti-Trump campaign executed by Armenian-American activists is no secret. The online campaign proudly announced that Armenian pop stars Cher and Kim Kardashian are ‘pulling all stops’ against Trump, while a noted pro-Armenian celebrity Amal Clooney, whose odd list of clients once included Armenia’s government and Julian Assange, led the anti-Trump effort along with her husband George.”


— “The Armenian concern seems to stem from the fact that Donald Trump is not beholden to Washington’s typical web of special interest groups. He might pursue a more clear-eyed approach to the region, basing it on America’s national interest rather than the interests of a particular lobby. He might even take a sober look at the oversold notion of Armenian political influence in the U.S. and notice its increasingly obvious irrelevance.”


— “The next Secretary of State should be different from the once pro-Armenian Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who favored his Armenian friends….”


In view of such persistent attacks, Armenian-American political organizations should forcefully counter all deceitful and defamatory articles written by the likes of Elmira Tariverdiyeva and Alexander Murinson. It is high time to establish an Armenian Anti-Defamation Committee!

Judge Calls Erdogan ‘Crazy President’ In Court Hearing on Armenian Lawsuit By Harut Sassounian

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in Pasadena, California, on August 4, regarding two lawsuits on Armenian properties confiscated by Turkey in 1915-23: Bakalian and Davoyan vs. the Republic of Turkey and its Central and Ziraat Banks. A District Court had dismissed these lawsuits in 2013 on grounds that they dealt with a political issue which came under the purview of elected officials, not the courts.

The Armenian plaintiffs were represented by Kathryn Lee Boyd of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Mark Geragos of Geragos & Geragos. The Turkish side was represented by Neil Soltman of Mayer Brown. The panel of federal appeals court judges consisted of Alex Kozinski, Stephen Reinhardt, and Kim Wardlaw.

The three Judges stated that since a sovereign country has the right to appropriate the property of its citizens, a U.S. court would not have jurisdiction to intervene in such cases unless they were accompanied by violations of international law or genocide.

Judge Kozinski repeatedly questioned the appropriateness of the references to the Armenian Genocide as one of the two Armenian cases had mentioned it as one of the reasons for the lawsuit. “Our government has resisted calling this a genocide. Our government has been quite adamant, as far as I can tell, that this is not genocide,” Judge Kozinski contended. “Federal Courts have to take a position that is possibly contrary to the position that has been adhered to by our government, the Executive Branch of our government, for decades.”

When Geragos advised Judge Kozinski that the U.S. House of Representatives and Pres. Reagan had both acknowledged the Armenian Genocide, Judge Kozinski oddly responded: “Pres. Reagan hasn’t been President for … decades.”

The Judge’s comment made no sense. The facts of the genocide and its acknowledgment have not changed, just because those tragic events and their recognition occurred decades ago! In fact, the U.S. government acknowledged the Armenian Genocide in 1951 in an official document submitted to the World Court.

Throughout the hearing, Judge Kozinski persistently asked if the plaintiffs’ attorneys would agree to set aside the Armenian Genocide issue for purposes of this lawsuit. Attorney Geragos finally consented in order to pave the way for the lawsuit to proceed, particularly since there were a dozen other Turkish violations of international law that fulfilled the requirements of jurisdiction.

Attorney Boyd pointed out that it is not necessary to prove genocide in order to bring a lawsuit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA) of 1976. Actually, “Crimes against Humanity” are also violations of international law. On May 29, 1915, France, Great Britain and Russia issued a Joint Declaration accusing Turkish government officials of committing “Crimes against Humanity and Civilization” and warned that they will be held responsible for these crimes.

Judge Kozinski also questioned the reason why these lawsuits were filed 100 years after the fact, prompting Geragos to assert that there was no statute of limitations under FSIA. He further stated that the elapsed time made no difference, since there was an “on-going violation” because Turkey kept these properties and did not turn over the accrued rents to the Armenian owners for decades.

Geragos also told Judge Kozinski that the concept of a sovereign nation appropriating the properties of its own citizens does not apply in this case, since Armenians were stripped of their citizenship by official Turkish decrees, and deported from the country.

Only after attorney Boyd explained to Judge Kozinski that the confiscation of Armenian properties by the Turkish government was “arbitrary and discriminatory,” the Judge seemed to understand the issue and proceeded to tell Neil Soltman, the attorney for the Turkish Government, that there was a difference between appropriating a house in Connecticut under eminent domain and the taking of all houses belonging to a particular race or religion which would be a violation of international law, and therefore legally actionable by a U.S. court.

Finally, a seemingly casual remark by Judge Wardlaw, referring to Turkish President Erdogan as “this crazy President,” may be an indication that U.S. government officials are getting fed up with Erdogan’s ‘crazy’ antics and would henceforth allow the justice system to proceed with cases dealing with gross Turkish violations of human rights and not hide behind politically motivated judicial cover up.

The Federal Court of Appeals is expected to issue its decision within the next 90 days.

Bundestag’s Turkish Member: ‘Young Turks Are Traitors; Talat & E nver Criminals’

By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier

Cem Ozdemir, co-chair of the Green Party, delivered a passionate speech in the German Parliament (Bundestag) on June 2, 2016, in support of the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide by Ottoman Turkey, while acknowledging Germany’s complicity in this mass crime.

Ozdemir, born in Germany, is son of Turkish-Circassian (Cherkess) migrant parents. He was the first person of Turkish descent elected to the Bundestag (1994-2002). He reentered the German Parliament in 2013, after serving in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009.

With support from all political parties in the Bundestag, the Armenian Genocide resolution, which Ozdemir had long championed, was adopted by the German Parliament almost unanimously, with one no vote and one abstention.

Below are translated excerpts from the remarkable speech Ozdemir delivered in German in the Bundestag on June 2nd, while wearing on the lapel of his suit the ‘forget-me-not’ button symbolizing the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide:

“There can be no question about the appropriateness of time when talking about unimaginable savagery like genocide. We know that after lengthy and tiresome back and forth, Germany, as an accomplice to the crime, is openly calling the event by its proper name…. This constitutes a chapter of German history.” Ozdemir recalled the callous and cruel words of German Imperial Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg: “Our whole purpose was to keep Turkey on our side during the entire course of the war. Whether Armenians were to be destroyed or not, made no difference.”

In a powerful statement, Ozdemir directly addressed the Armenian guests attending the Bundestag’s session on June 2nd: “Just because we were complicit in this horrible crime in the past does not mean that today we are going to side with the deniers.”

Ozdemir went on to urge the millions of Turkish residents of Germany to be proud of the “heroic Turks” who rescued Armenians during the Genocide, and not “criminals like Talat and Enver.”

The Turkish-German Parliamentarian then declared that the ugliest expression which causes him great pain is that ‘Armenian’ is used as a ‘swear word’ in Turkey. “They ask me if I am Armenian. I don’t view someone being an Armenian as an insult. Being a descendant of a Sunni Muslim family, Eastern Christianity does not make me uncomfortable.”

Ozdemir quoted his Turkish Armenian friend Hrant Dink who was assassinated in Istanbul by an extremist Turk: “If Armenians lived in Van today, that city would be the Paris of the Orient.” During his visit to Armenia in March 2015, Ozdemir elaborated on Dink’s statement in an interview with Civilnet: “I went to the Genocide museum and read the names and professions of the people we have lost. They were the most forward looking and brightest intellectuals of Istanbul and they were killed starting with architects, intellectuals, journalists, writers…. The Ottoman Empire exterminated the most progressive citizens in its history. The Ottoman Empire lost immensely. I think one of the reasons why Turkey isn’t among the most developed countries today is because the Young Turks were not heroes, but traitors. They harmed Armenians, Assyrians and Turks as well.”

The Turkish German Parliament member ended his nine-minute speech, which was repeatedly interrupted by thunderous applause, by stating that “members of Bundestag should not be threatened for expressing their thoughts. I am sure that I will not be arrested on my way home from the Parliament or that my parliamentary immunity will not be lifted; I will not be beaten up or killed. I cannot say the same thing about my colleagues in Turkey!”

Nevertheless, Ozdemir did not anticipate that after Bundestag’s approval of the Armenian Genocide resolution, he and ten of his Turkish colleagues in the German Parliament would be placed under police protection after receiving numerous death threats from Turkish extremists.

In an announcement reminiscent of Hitler-era racial profiling, Pres. Erdogan advocated that the 11 Turkish members of the German Parliament who had supported the Armenian Genocide resolution undergo a blood test to prove their ‘Turkishness.’ Meanwhile, officials of Tokat, Turkey, Ozdemir’s father’s hometown, stripped his name from the list of honored sons of that city.

However, after making bombastic threats of retaliation against Germany, Pres. Erdogan was forced to restrain himself, realizing that such irresponsible steps would only lead to a devastating effect on the faltering Turkish economy!

Pope Listens to His Heart, not Handlers, On Genocide during Armenia Pilgrimage



By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier


While Armenians throughout the world were overjoyed with the landmark “pilgrimage” of His Holiness Pope Francis to the first Christian state, most people were unaware of the behind the scenes deliberations on the Armenian Genocide issue in the Vatican prior to his visit.


The Pope’s dual roles as Pontiff of the Catholic Church and head of the Vatican State occasionally create problems within and outside the walls of the Holy See, which is what happened during the Pope’s visit to Armenia last week.


After lengthy preparations and internal discussions, the Pope arrived in Armenia on June 24 ready to deliver a series of sermons and remarks over the course of his three-day visit. Surprisingly, none of his prepared speeches contained the words Armenian Genocide, but there were plenty of references to “tragedy, slaughter, terrible trial, and immense suffering.” His homilies repeatedly used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” (Great Crime) which was wrongly translated by the Vatican as “Great Evil.” The first indication of a change in terminology came prior to the Pope’s pastoral visit in a video address to the Armenian people, which did not mention the Armenian Genocide. Later on, during his visit to the Armenian Genocide Monument, the Pontiff did not write the words Armenian Genocide in the guest book, copying the text from a pre-prepared note card!


There may have been two reasons why the words Armenian Genocide had been avoided:


1) Since Pope Francis had already gone on record using the term “Armenian Genocide” during last April’s Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican officials had decided to deliver a new message of “peace and reconciliation.”


2) The Pontiff’s foreign policy advisors may have been reluctant to raise the Armenian Genocide issue once again after the Turkish government’s harsh reaction last year and withdrawal of its ambassador from the Vatican for 10 months.


Pope Francis, however, surprised everyone, when he departed from the text of his prepared remarks that had been already distributed to the media, by adding the word genocide to his address at the Presidential Palace in Yerevan on June 24. Here is what Pope Francis actually said while recalling his earlier sermon of April 12, 2015: “The occasion was the commemoration of the centenary of the Metz Yeghern, the ‘Great Evil’ that struck your people and caused the death of a vast multitude of persons. Sadly, that tragedy, that genocide, was the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century, made possible by twisted racial, ideological or religious aims that darkened the minds of the tormentors even to the point of planning the annihilation of entire peoples.”


Later that day, Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, explained why Pope Francis deviated from his prepared text: “The Pope says what he finds appropriate, and no one decides what the Pontiff should say. The Pope had no reason to avoid the word ‘genocide’ during his trip to Armenia. The reality is clear and we never denied what the reality is.”


The Pontiff’s use of that single word in one speech did not escape the attention of Turkish authorities. Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli responded by accusing the Pope of having a “Crusader mentality.” Canikli went on to repeat the usual Turkish lies about the Armenian Genocide. Lombardi, the Pontiff’s spokesman, dismissed the Deputy Prime Minister’s criticism, stating that “the Pope is not doing Crusades. He has said no words against the Turkish people.”


Refusing to buckle under Turkish pressure, Pope Francis went on to sign a “Joint Declaration” with Catholicos Karekin II on June 26, 2016, which referenced the Vatican’s earlier acknowledgments of the Armenian Genocide: Pope Francis’s April 12, 2015 sermon and the “Joint Declaration” signed on Sept. 27, 2001 by Pope John Paul II and Catholicos Karekin II. Another “Joint Communique” acknowledging the Armenian Genocide was signed on Nov. 29, 2000, by John Paul II and Karekin II.


During his return flight to Rome on June 26, an AFP journalist asked Pope Francis why he added the word genocide to his speech in Yerevan. The Pope explained in detail that genocide is the only word he has grown up with to describe the mass killings of Armenians. The Pope also mentioned his upcoming trip to Azerbaijan and Georgia from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.


Pope Francis approached his “pilgrimage” to Armenia with utmost honesty and spoke from his heart about the Armenian Genocide, ignoring the political calculations of his advisers and speechwriters. He preferred to conduct himself as a true man of God rather than a crafty politician!







Pres. Erdogan May Have to Resign If his College Diploma is Fake




By Harut Sassounian

Publisher, The California Courier


As if Turkish President Rejep Erdogan did not have enough headaches, he now faces a new accusation that he may have forged his college diploma. If true, he would be forced to resign from his presidential seat and possibly go to jail or into exile.


Rumors have been circulating for some time that Erdogan may not have a college degree which would disqualify him from his presidential position according to Article 101 of the Turkish constitution which requires that presidential candidates “have completed higher education.”


Journalist Cengis Candar, in an June 15 article titled: “Is Erdogan’s university diploma forged?” exposes the serious suspicions regarding the validity of the Turkish President’s college diploma.


As Candar explains, “Erdogan went to an imam-hatip school, a high school-level institution that educates religious preachers. During the 1970’s and 1980’s, graduates of those schools could pursue their higher education only in theology.” Nonetheless, when Erdogan ran for President in August 2014, he presented to the Higher Electoral Board a photocopy of his diploma claiming to have received a college degree in 1981 from the Dept. of Economic and Administrative Sciences of Marmara University.


The problem here is that Marmara University was founded only in 1982, making it impossible for Erdogan to have graduated a year before the University came into existence. Since the Dept. of Economics was established only in 1983, Erdogan could not have graduated from that department in 1981, as he claimed. Unfortunately, none of these suspected allegations can be thoroughly investigated in Turkey by the media or civil society in view of the dictatorial nature of the Erdogan regime which routinely shuts down newspapers and prosecutes all opponents.


The President’s aides are adamant that the accusations against Erdogan are not valid, as they emanate from members of opposition parties. The first complaint came from former judge Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu who presented to the Higher Electoral Board his suspicion that Erdogan did have a college degree because of the existing discrepancies in the photocopy of his diploma. The Electoral Board promptly rejected the judge’s appeal.


A second challenge was mounted by extreme Turkish nationalist Gokce Firat who presented detailed arguments to support the claim that Erdogan’s diploma is a forgery. Firat demanded to see Erdogan’s original diploma rather than the photocopy he had submitted to the Higher Electoral Board. The Turkish nationalist accused the President and Dean of Marmara University of aiding and abetting in the crime of forging Erdogan’s diploma. He claimed that the signatures of the President and Dean of Marmara University seen on the copy of Erdogan’s diploma do not match the ones on Firat’s own diploma from the same university. He also questioned the validity of the sequence of the number found on Erdogan’s diploma. Finally, Firat claimed that even the design of the Turkish President’s diploma is different from the ones held by other graduates.


Earlier this month, the pro-Kurdish HDP Party submitted an official parliamentary inquiry, asking Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz “to clarify the mystery surrounding the validity” of Erdogan’s university diploma. In response to a similar request to the Higher Electoral Board, the HDP received a notarized copy of the Turkish President’s diploma. However, the HDP announced that it will continue to challenge the validity of the diploma.


In his article, Cengiz Candar raised serious concerns about Erdogan’s legitimacy as President of Turkey should it be proven that his diploma is forged: “If taken seriously, the follow-up to the controversy could create monumental legal questions in Turkey. If it turns out Erdogan was never qualified to be elected president, whatever he has signed or implemented would have to be considered null and void from a purely legal point of view. Politically, it would provide an armory of ammunition to his critics whose numbers abroad are rapidly increasing. And if Erdogan’s university diploma proves to be a forgery, that would naturally provide ammunition to his international opponents to bring up the argument of whether his title is legitimate.”


While Pres. Erdogan is demanding a DNA test to verify the ethnic origins of the 11 Turkish members of the German Parliament who voted to recognize the Armenian Genocide, it may be more appropriate to carry out a chemical analysis of his diploma. Erdogan should also undergo a psychological examination to evaluate his persistently irrational psychotic behavior!