Armenian-American advocacy groups recently announced an effort to amend the State Department Authorization bill to incorporate the text of H.Res. 306 that urges Turkey to “safeguard its Christian heritage and return confiscated church properties” at the House Foreign Affairs Markup, Wednesday, July 20. This resolution distorts the facts on the ground, and flatly overlooks Turkey’s efforts to promote religious freedom and tolerance, as well as the preservation of places of worship belonging to Jews and Christians.
The members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) approved amendments to a State Department Authorization bill that blatantly misrepresent Turkey’s record on religious freedom and preservation of religious legacy.
I strongly oppose the language sneaked into the measure by Berman, a politician known for championing controversial and racist Armenian causes, because it presents a partisan view held by those openly hostile to Turks, Turkish-Americans, Turkey, and the entire Turkic realm.
This language ignores the centuries long Ottoman/Turkish tolerance to all religions at a time when Jews were persecuted for their beliefs by Christians in Europe and found refuge and prosperity on Turkish soil. This language also ignores how Greek and Armenian churches were allowed to thrive during centuries of tolerance. This language dismisses the constructive steps Turkey has taken to safeguard and expand religious freedom and to preserve places of worship belonging to Jews and Christians.
Yesterday (July 20, 2011), the ill-advised Berman amendment passed 43-1, but stripped of all of its stealthy and virulent references to the alleged Armenian genocide. All those ‘whereas clauses’ loaded with hate towards Turks and reeked of pure vengeance were weeded out and only ‘resolved clauses’ were included. What was left was mostly general concepts like ‘Christian rights’ to ownership and religious rites with which most elected officials would have to agree. Please note that such amendments used to sail through, at least now we, the Turkish Americans, are putting up a fight and the anti-Turks are backing down. That ought to be the power of grassroots, or TABAN (Turkish American Broad Advocacy Network) as we call it at ATAA.
The Armenian lobby carefully worded H Res 306 with loaded phrases like ‘intentional destruction’—an integral part of the definition of genocide—because they knew that Speaker Boehner would never let that perennial nuisance, the alleged Armenian Genocide resolution, come to the Floor, nor did Boehner want the HFAC Chair Lehtinen to bring it up. That is why the Armenian lobby sneaked in through the back door by piggy-backing the genocide language onto H Res 306 and sprinkling it on top with it with some innocuous language about churches.
After Ros Lehtinen, the chair of the HFAC cosponsored H Res 306 and withdrew her co-sponsorship, the Armenian lobby saw the writing on the wall that they could not pass even the disguised version of their bogus genocide (H Res 306) as a free standing resolution, so they switched to ‘plan C’. They attached it to the State Department Authorization Bill.
The biased language lifted from H.Res. 306 does not acknowledge progress made in Turkey but some conscientious debaters in committee pointed this out anyway (such as Rohrbacher, Meeks, Poe, Burton, Duncan, and a few others.)
That said, the authorization bill is widely believed not to become law.
As a founding member of the Council of Europe, and as an accession country to the European Union, Turkey is continuously reviewing and enhancing the rights of religious minorities. Turkey has undertaken comprehensive reforms which aim to provide higher standards for all Turkish citizens, irrespective of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. The European Union recognized these specific improvements in its 2010 Progress Report, which acknowledged that “freedom of religion, freedom of worship continues to be generally respected.”
Although preserving the vast number of historical and religious sites that date back to the earliest times of human civilization is a tremendous challenge for any country, Turkey has restored numerous Christian and Jewish heritage sites. From 2003 to 2010, a total of 20 historic sites including eight churches, one synagogue and one monastery have been restored throughout Turkey. Restoration continues at three churches, two synagogues and one monastery, and is scheduled for one church and one synagogue in 2011. Among the most notable Christian heritage sites restored are the Akdamar Armenian church in Van (at a cost of $1.5 million) and the Osk Vank Georgian church near Erzurum. In addition, a major project is being undertaken by the Turkish Ministry of Culture and the World Monuments Fund to restore the historical Armenian heritage site of Ani in Kars, including the Ani Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Savior.
Moreover, in Turkey, non-Muslim places of worship are administered by their own associations and/or foundations. Currently, there are more than 300 places of worship belonging to non-Muslim communities, including 53 churches run by foreigners residing in Turkey. Turkish Christians have also been permitted to conduct masses at religiously significant venues that had been, due to disuse, rendered museums. For example, the Greek-Orthodox Church held a religious service at the Sumela Monastery in the Black Sea coast in August 2010. In 2010, for the first time since World War I, a religious service was organized by the Turkish Armenians at the church on Akhtamar Island. In addition, high ranking Turkish authorities, including cabinet ministers, have frequent meetings with the religious leaders of non-Muslim communities.
Do you now understand how these Armenian lobbyists work? Through deception, falsification, hearsay, and forgeries?
And if all this sounds too sneaky, tricky, and dishonest to you, my comment would be…
‘Welcome to 1915 ! It’s déjà vu all over again…’