Armenian Parliament Member Physically Attacked
Former AGOS Journalist Garo Paylan, one of three ethnic Armenians in the Turkish Parliament, was attacked last week by members of the ruling AKP government during a session of parliament, a rather surreal occurrence to anyone in the West. The attack occurred after Paylan politely corrected a statement made by an AKP representative regarding the mostly Kurdish HDP party, of which Paylan is a member. The assault would be somewhat similar to 20 or 30 Congressmen in the United States attacking a black member of Congress or a Native American Representative for merely stating that an accused African-American or American Indian had in fact not instigated a particular conflict or crime.
Paylan has been outspoken in the past year about the fate of 1.5 Million Armenians slaughtered in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide and for the need of Turkey's government to atone for the crime and pay restitutions to the Armenian community. Instead, in recent months the Turkish government has seized the largest Armenian Church in Turkey, Surp Giragos in Diyarbakir, reiterated its historically racist "one people, two nation" approach to President Aliyev in Azerbaijan, and lent its support to Baku in its continued military aggression against the Republic of Armenia. More troubling perhaps for its cowardice and lack of moral fiber, it has launched a concerted attack on Paylan himself: within minutes of his statement the AKP parliamentarians involved delivered something like 100 blows to Paylan, an act that mocks the open, democratic society that a small minority in Turkish civil society have for years been trying to establish--with little luck.
Appeals for Protection go Unheeded
Appeals by various Armenian and human rights groups in America and elsewhere to cease the attacks on Paylan have so far fallen on deaf ears. Many worry that the outspoken Paylan, who is tall, confident and cuts a dashing figure in his tailored suits, will soon meet the same fate as Hrant Dink, his AGOS colleague who was gunned down in cold blood and in open daylight in Istanbul in 2007. The people who plotted Drink's murder, members of the so-called Turkish deep state, have yet to be prosecuted.
In a letter dated May 6th--and in a remarkable case of what one must assume is willful misrepresentation--Lawrence C. Mandel, the Charge d'Affaires to American Ambassador John Bass in Ankara, responded to an appeal from a leading Armenian-American lobby: "We are aware that Mr. Paylan was one of a number of parliamentarians from several political parties injured during fighting that broke out during a recent debate in parliament on a contentious and politically charged issue." As in the case elsewhere around the world, it seems that the United States is happy to not antagonize an ally--no matter how egregious its human rights violations--and to let the status quo continue undisturbed, until one day it is too late. Mandel continues his letter: "We share your concern for the need for all persons living in Turkey, whatever their religious, ethnic or national origin, to be able to voice their views freely without fear of threat or reprisal (..,and (we) have described in an annual human rights report...) in great detail the United States government's ongoing concerns about patterns of discrimination, hate speech, attacks and other issues faced by all of Turkey's minorities" Charge d'Affaires Mandel and Ambassador Bass may want to recall that in 1915, the then U.S Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau voiced similar concerns about anti-Armenian killings in Turkey and that did not prevent the Turkish government from slaughtering 3 million Christians and seizing their property and financial holdings. A hundred years later, Erdogan, Davutoglu and their ilk do not seem to give a proverbial fig about Turkey's minorities. A quick look at the video footage below will confirm that the attack was in fact directed at Paylan himself and not at some imagined "group" of parliamentarians, as Mr. Mandel asserts.
Turkish-Armenian Member of Parliament Garo Paylan being attacked
Time to Federate Turkey
The Erdogan government is an enemy to democracy and freedom around the world: it has most recently supported DAECH/ISIS with money and arms, raided the offices of the country's leading newspaper Hurriyet and continued to prosecute opposition journalists. It now seeks to lift parliamentary immunity on government representatives so that it can prosecute Kurdish politicians, and continues a bloody war in the country's Southeastern regions against the Kurdish population.
It is time for Angela Merkel and other western politicians to stop kowtowing to Turkey's geopolitical position and its government's continued threats regarding a whole host of issues including the current Syrian refugee crisis until it cleans up its own house and deals honestly and forthrightly with its so-called "minority" issue: as there are today over twenty million Kurds living inside Turkey, calling them a "minority" is in and of itself problematic. I have always advocated a simple solution to Turkey's ethnic problems: educating civil society about the truth of what happened in 1915 with the Young Turks and during the preceding massacres under Abdul Hamid and federating the country --like Switzerland--into Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Assyrian and Kurdish regions, all of whom would be part of a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic Turkish state that would be an example for the rest of the Middle East. It seems that the AKP and Erdogan are instead set on continuing the carnage and racial/religious discrimination that has existed in the country for well over a century now. Let us hope that the government there and its people come to their senses before it is too late for all involved.