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Spike in Boycotts of Turkish Goods and Services; Consumers Cite Warmongering as Cause

Image: by Yerevanci, Wikimedia Commons

The Armenian people — whose nation was the first to adopt Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD—were native to what is present-day Turkey for more than 3,000 years. However, they became an occupied nation following Turkic invasions in the 11th century. Although indigenous, as Christians Armenians were considered second-class citizens by their oppressors, and their human rights steadily declined and culminated in outright massacre by Turkey beginning in the 1800s. Their pleas for equal rights and even autonomy were met with a premeditated, state-sponsored genocidal plan which sought to eliminate the Ottoman Turkish Empire of non-Turks, including not only Armenians but Christian Assyrians and Greeks. The result was a combination of torture and massacre for adult men; torture, rape and abduction into harems, and forced conversions for select women and children; and torture, murder and deportations — also known as death marches — for the remaining Armenians. Although more than 1 ½ million Armenians, ¾ million Assyrians/Chaldeans and 1 million Greeks perished in the ordeals, today’s Turkish regime does not acknowledge the Genocide. And, there has yet to be restitution for these crimes against humanity.

— Lucine Kasbarian

As Turkey continues it’s constant attacks against Armenians, Lucine, known by VOP’s founder, has asks us to share the following report.

Six days into the renewed attacks by the Azerbaijan-Turkey-Israeli axis on Armenia and Artsakh, many countries have come forward to denounce the warmongers.

But none of these condemning nations has yet to put any meaningful actions behind its words.

Consequently, everyday people who have stakes in the conflict — or are simply upholding their values — are imposing their own sanctions upon these rogue states.  Enter the consumer boycott.

A term used to describe the withdrawal from commercial or social relations with a country, organization, or public figure as a form of protest or punishment, a boycott can be effective because anyone can participate.   One need not hail from the corridors of power to make an impact.

According to the Boycott-Turkey.org and Boycott-Turkey.net campaign (websites hijacked – this is a partial mirror site), “probably one of the most powerful weapons individuals have to effect political change is their consumer purchasing power.”

For years, Turkey has injected itself, often militarily, into the sovereign affairs of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Greece, Cyprus, India, and now, Armenia and Artsakh. On October 2, reports emerged that Turkey is using NATO and American facilities to attack Armenia and Artsakh.  Since NATO is unable or unwilling to rein in this rogue nation that many consider to be the single greatest threat to global security, public boycotts are increasingly gaining favor.

Against the backdrop of war, public disapproval for Turkish-made goods has intensified in Armenia again. Armenians recognize that Turkey’s involvement in this war will allow it to complete the Armenian Genocide.

The Republic of Armenia announced on October 1 that its supermarkets will no longer carry Turkish products. Merchants and importers are choosing other trade partners.

Since the renewed attacks on Armenia, communities in the Armenian Diaspora have also seen a resurgence in Turkish products and services boycotts.

Boycotting Turkey has been relatively consistent over the generations as Armenians as a rule refuse to support Turkey’s economy which has already enriched itself through confiscated Armenian national wealth and territory after launching the Armenian Genocide with no reparations or sanctions in sight.

These citizen initiatives include boycotting Turkish construction companies; restaurants, nightclubs; grocery stores and packaged goods; Turkish rugs, carpets, and textiles; Turkish music/ dance performances, and musical recordings; Turkish movies and soap operas; Turkish Airlines and tourism to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and/or N. Cyprus; as well as discouraging enrollment in Turkish language and studies programs at international academic institutions, many which are deeply enmeshed with the Turkish government and its military industrial complex.

Armenian-American activist Shunt Jarchafjian is on a mission to educate his fellow Armenians about the products they might see at their local markets. He pointed out that Tukas tomato paste was owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Pension Fund. He says that if someone bought that product from 1967 to 2014, the purchaser contributed to the tax revenue of the Republic of Turkey, and helped fund the retirement of the soldiers serving in the Turkish Armed Forces. He also adds that the Ulker processed foods company sits atop an Armenian cemetery confiscated by the Turkish government during the Armenian Genocide. He makes a point of explaining how the Turkish military and government have tormented the Armenians year after year, and how consumer consciousness counts.

Some activists are also demanding the suspension of support of all cultural exchange programs organized to foster so-called “reconciliation” initiatives between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

According to Bloomberg News, the Turkish lira “plunged to successive record lows in September,” that is, since the Armenia/Artsakh invasions, with 7.83 lira to the dollar. As many aggrieved groups are simultaneously boycotting Turkey, the country may be feeling the squeeze economically.

In July 2020, communities of Greece and Greek Cyprus doubled down on their decades-long boycotts of Turkish products and tourism in response to the unresolved Turkish Genocide of Hellenes, Armenians and Assyrians and the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.  Their new initiatives are in response to Turkey’s highly-contested conversion of the UNESCO-protected Christian Orthodox Cathedral of Hagia Sophia into a mosque and Turkish illegal drilling incursions into the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey under Erdogan may attempt to justify his many foreign interventions in a bid to realize his dream of restoring the Ottoman Caliphate. However, Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim world is also not as ironclad as Erdogan may wish to have it appear.  Mahmoud Zahran, a researcher specializing in Turkish affairs, said “the success of boycott campaigns would reveal how unpopular Erdogan’s regime is in a region where he has tried to paint himself as a leader.”

At the end of September, Saudi Arabia announced a ban on all Turkish goods. The Saudi Kingdom has been at loggerheads with Turkey over the contested murder of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the status of the Qatar peninsula.  According to the Turkish newspaper Dunya, the Saudi government has ordered individual businesses not to trade with Turkish companies or buy any products made in Turkey, and has imposed fines on companies that do not comply.

A Turkish boycott campaign in also in effect in Egypt. In January of this year, MP Ismail Nasr El-Din called on the government to impose a boycott of Turkish products, services and tourism “in response to the blatant transgressions by the Turkish government in the region, and its attempts to plunder the wealth of the Middle East, spread chaos, and destabilize the Middle East.” MP Omar Sumaida, head of the Congress Party, said “we launched a campaign to boycott Turkish products, and our party has developed plans to educate citizens to boycott Turkish products in all offices affiliated with the party across the country.” As early as 2013, a number of Egyptian TV channels stopped airing Turkish soap operas and dramas, to protest Turkish intervention in the Middle East.

These popular boycotts intensify the existing Arab League boycott. Many Arab countries cannot afford the high cost of retaliating militarily to Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, and so are opting for economic sanctions as defense.  “An Arab boycott of Turkish products would significantly hurt Ankara’s economy. Turkish exports to the Arab world total more than $30 billion annually, representing 18.3% of its overall exports, according to the trade data website, Trade Map.

Iraqi Kurds such as Jwnaid Murad, owner of Las Market in Erbil, have a boycott of Turkish products in effect. “Of course, boycotting goods will affect my business. But after watching Turkey commit the war crimes they have in Rojava, I don’t care,” he said. “If I had to choose between starving to death and eating food produced by Turkey, I would starve.” Iraqi Kurdish boycott organizer Hamid Banyee of Sulimaniyeh says “We’re expanding the campaign to include all parts of society, which will be a fatal blow to the Turkish economy,”

The Turkish lira has been in sharp decline since 2017, including increasing inflation, Turkish economists say. Sergey Dergachev, senior portfolio manager at Union Investment, believes that the geopolitical choices made by Turkey have contributed to the financial freefall.

As the number of global Armenian boycotts increase following the violent flare-up between Azerbaijan and Artsakh in July, Turkish/ Azeri thugs started to attack peaceful Armenians around the world, as well as destroy and deface Armenian churches, schools, monuments and memorials.  The very day Azeri attacks on Artsakh began on Sep 27, the Karageozian family of Armenian-owned Noor Mediterranean Grill in Somerville, Massachusetts began receiving death threats, violent social media posts, negative online reviews, and slurs.

Few know that since 1992, independent Armenia has endured an illegal economic blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan for standing by the Armenians of Artsakh. In fact, Turkey has been running one of the longest and biggest boycott operations of all time which includes occupying and confiscating the ancestral Armenian homeland for a thousand years. Thus, Armenian-made products rarely leave Armenia for export. At the same time, Turkey has been exporting its own cheaper goods to Armenia through the Republic of Georgia, an act which presented the needy of Armenia with reason to abandon their own more expensive products for Turkish ones. 

Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia and refuses to establish them until Armenia gives up Artsakh, accepts the boundaries agreed upon in the disastrous 1921 treaty of Kars between Kemalist Turkey and Soviet Russia (there is no official agreement over these borders between independent Armenia and the Republic of Turkey), and promises to stop pursuing international recognition for the Armenian-Greek-Assyrian Genocide of 1915. 

Says Armenian-American activist Joe Sifatsouz, “Most Turkish restaurants outside Turkey are subsidized by the Turkish government, which might explain why there are so many of them. When a friend has a yen for kebabs, tell him or her to enjoy the variations made by neighborhood Armenian, Assyrian, Cypriot, Egyptian, Greek, Kurdish, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Indian, or Iraqi restaurants instead.”

But individual resolve is seen as only one aspect of the issue. U.S. President Trump once said he was ready to halt a $100 billion dollar trade deal with Turkey over its hubris in Syria. “If the superpowers are sincere about curbing the Turkish menace, they should stop hiring Turkish construction firms, break bilateral tax treaties and remove Turkey companies from U.S. Stock Exchange listings,” added Sifatsouz. “Right now, Turkish businesses abroad must pay their host countries as well as Turkey’s Internal Revenue Administration. Removing obligatory taxes to the Turkish state — and other large-scale economic sanctions — will bring Turkey to heel.”

By Lucine Kasbarian

Armenia: An Unwelcome Conflict and a Call to Prayer

Commentary by Lela Gilbert (CBN) How familiar are most Americans with the ancient country of Armenia? It’s probably best recalled because of the great tragedy that took place there in the early 20th century—the Armenian Genocide. That massacre of some 1,500,000 Armenian Christians (along with the murder of around 750,000 Greek Christians) took place between 1914 and 1922.

In recent days, violence has erupted once again in Armenia’s corner of the world. This involves Christian Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh versus Muslim Azerbaijan. And now, Islamist Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has entered the fray, fueled by his dream of a neo-Ottoman caliphate.

On Monday, September 28, Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) News reported:

Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of reigniting their decades-long conflict in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh after fresh violence erupted in the breakaway region.

The two sides resumed open conflict again on Monday morning with the use of heavy artillery. Outbreaks of violence had continued through the night, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan.

“During night battles continued with different intensity. Early in morning, Azerbaijan resumed its offensive operations, using artillery, armored vehicles, TOS heavy artillery system,” Stepanyan wrote on Twitter…

At least 31 people — both civilians and military — have died in fighting that erupted on Sunday between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian rebels in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, officials said.

The early 20th century genocides, which were carried out by the Ottoman Turks, are widely understood to have been a jihad against Armenian Christians. In fact, at the time, the killings were declared as jihad by the Turks themselves. And according to my conversation today with a friend in Yerevan, Azerbaijan’s present invasion is perceived by Armenians as more of the same.

There are deeply rooted historical reasons for this understanding.

Armenia, which is now surrounded by Muslim countries, was the first country in the world to convert to Christianity—in 301 AD. Its Armenian Orthodox Church is rooted in the earliest Christian history. In fact, the biblical record of Armenia’s land stretches back to the book of Genesis, when Noah’s ark came to rest after the Great Flood on what came to be known as Mt. Ararat.

At the time those 1,500,000 Armenian souls were massacred at the end of World War I during the Genocide, Armenia’s historic possession of Mt. Ararat also was overturned by Turkey. Ever since the mountain has remained a potent symbol both of Armenia’s spiritual heritage and terrible forfeitures.

And now—as of today—conflict is again exploding against Armenia, including the little-known Armenian enclave called Nagorno-Karabakh. This separate remnant of Armenia—some 20 miles away from the existing border—was created by policies of the former U.S.S.R., when ethnic and religious groups were intentionally split apart.

In the early 1990s, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Christian communities were attacked by neighboring Azerbaijan, Azeri Turks, and other Muslim fighters. This conflict was widely understood by the Armenians as an extension of the earlier 20th century “jihad.” Miraculously, in a David vs. Goliath finish, Karabakh won that conflict—against all odds.

During a visit to Nagorno-Karabakh a few years after that battle, I learned that the conflict was clearly not just about land. There was a Muslim/Christian component as well. And there were, in fact, jihadi elements among the Azeri-Turks fighting against Armenia’s Christians. Tragically, some 30,000 died in that little-known war.

And now, Turkey’s ambitious Islamist President Erdogan has declared Armenia as “the biggest threat to peace in the region.” His latest posturing threatens Armenia and Karabakh, both of which are almost entirely Armenian Orthodox Christian.

As I wrote for The Jerusalem Post a few months ago:

Turkish aggression in at least five countries has been headlined in international news reports just this month, June 2020. These accounts focus on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest intrusions into Israel, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Greece.

Meanwhile, it is noteworthy to those of us who focus on international religious freedom that whenever Turkey moves in, religious freedom moves out. There can be no lasting freedom of worship for any faith unless it conforms with Turkey’s Islamic practices.

Now we can add Armenia to the list of Erdogan’s ambitions. Based on his recent hostilities, his transformation of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia and Chora Church into mosques, and his frequent expressions of triumphalism, a couple of serious questions arise:

Does Erdogan think that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, which are ancient Christian historical heritage sites, represent yet another Hagia Sophia-type landmark? Does he feel driven to seize, Islamize, and declare them as yet more trophies for his neo-Ottoman Empire?

Those questions seem to be clearly answered in a report from Asia News:

Turkey has sent 4,000 Syrian Isis mercenaries from Afrin to fight against the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh. A few days ago land convoys reached Turkey and then Azerbaijan by air. The salary is 1,800 US dollars a month, for a duration of three months. A leader of the Syrian terrorist group said: “Thanks to Allah, from September 27 until the end of the month another 1000 Syrian mercenaries will be transferred to Azerbaijan”.

With another dangerous religious conflict exploding across that war-torn region, let’s remember to pray for our Armenian Christian brothers and sisters. May religious freedom truly flourish in their corner of the world as well as elsewhere around the globe.

Lela Gilbert is a Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council.

VOP Note: Please pray for our Armenian Christian brothers and sisters.

The Forgotten Genocide — Why it Matters Today

April 24, marked the “Great Crime,” that is, the Armenian genocide that took place under Turkey’s Islamic Ottoman Empire, during and after WWI.  Out of an approximate population of two million, some 1.5 million Armenians died. If early 20th century Turkey had the apparatuses and technology to execute in mass—such as 1940s Germany’s gas chambers—the entire Armenian population may well have been decimated.

Most objective American historians who have studied the question unequivocally agree that it was a deliberate, calculated genocide:

More than one million Armenians perished as the result of execution, starvation, disease, the harsh environment, and physical abuse.  A people who lived in eastern Turkey for nearly 3,000 years [more than double the amount of time the invading Islamic Turks had occupied Anatolia, now known as “Turkey”] lost its homeland and was profoundly decimated in the first large-scale genocide of the twentieth century.  At the beginning of 1915 there were some two million Armenians within Turkey; today there are fewer than 60,000….  Despite the vast amount of evidence that points to the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide, eyewitness accounts, official archives, photographic evidence, the reports of diplomats, and the testimony of survivors, denial of the Armenian Genocide by successive regimes in Turkey has gone on from 1915 to the present.

Indeed, evidence has been overwhelming.  U.S. Senate Resolution 359 from 1920 heard testimony that included evidence of “[m]utilation, violation, torture, and death [which] have left their haunting memories in a hundred beautiful Armenian valleys, and the traveler in that region is seldom free from the evidence of this most colossal crime of all the ages.”  In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war).  Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she survived. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands,” she wrote. “Only their hair blown by the wind covered their bodies.”

What do Americans know of the Armenian Genocide?  To be sure, some American high school textbooks acknowledge it.  However, one of the primary causes for it—perhaps the fundamental cause—is completely unacknowledged: religion.  The genocide is always articulated through a singularly secular paradigm, one that deems valid only those factors that are intelligible from a modern, secular, Western point of view, such as identity politics, nationalism, and territorial disputes. As can be imagined, such an approach does little more than project Western perspectives onto vastly different civilizations of different eras, thus anachronizing history.

War, of course, is another factor that clouds the true face of the Armenian genocide.  Because these atrocities occurred during WWI, so the argument goes, they are ultimately a reflection of just that—war, in all its chaos and destruction, and nothing more.  Yet Winston Churchill, who described the massacres as an “administrative holocaust,” correctly observed that “The opportunity [WWI] presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.”  Even Adolf Hitler had pointed out that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.”

It is the same today throughout the Muslim world, wherever there is war: after the U.S. toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the nation’s Christian minority were first to be targeted for systematic persecution resulting in more than half of Iraq’s indigenous Christian population fleeing their homeland.  Now that war has come to Syria—with the U.S. supporting the jihadis and terrorists—the Christians there are on the run for their lives.

There is no denying that religion—or in this context, the age-old specter of Muslim persecution of Christian minorities—was fundamental to the Armenian Genocide.  Even the most cited factor, ethnic identity conflict, while legitimate, must be understood in light of the fact that, historically, religion—creed—accounted more for a person’s identity than language or heritage.   This is daily demonstrated throughout the Islamic world today, where Muslim governments and Muslim mobs persecute Christian minorities—minorities who share the same ethnicity, language, and culture, who are indistinguishable from the majority, except, of course, for being non-Muslims.

If Christians are thus being singled out today—in our modern, globalized, “humanitarian” age—are we to suppose that they weren’t singled out a century ago by Turks?

Similarly, often forgotten is the fact that non-Armenians under Turkish hegemony, Assyrians and Greeks for example, were also targeted for cleansing.   The only thing that distinguished  Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks from Turks was that they were all Christian.  As one Armenian studies professor asks, “If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?”

Today, as Turkey continues moving back to reclaiming its Islamic heritage, so too has Christian persecution returned.  If Turks taunted their crucified Armenian victims by saying things like “Now let your Christ come and help you,” just last January, an 85-year-old Christian Armenian woman was repeatedly stabbed to death in her apartment, and a crucifix carved onto her naked corpse.   Another elderly Armenian woman was punched in the head and, after collapsing to the floor, repeatedly kicked by a masked man.   According to the report, “the attack marks the fifth in the past two months against elderly Armenian women,” one of whom lost an eye.  Elsewhere, pastors of church congregations with as little as 20 people are targeted for killing and spat upon in the streets.  A 12-year-old Christian boy was beaten by his teacher and harassed by students for wearing a cross around his neck, and three Christians were “satanically tortured” before having their throats slit for publishing Bibles.

Outside of Turkey, what is happening to the Christians of today from one end of the Muslim world to the other is a reflection of what happened to the Armenian Christians of yesterday.   We can learn about the past by looking at the present.  From Indonesia in the east to Morocco in the west, from Central Asia in the north, to sub-Sahara Africa—that is, throughout the entire Islamic world—Muslims are, to varying degrees, persecuting, killing, raping, enslaving, torturing and dislocating Christians.  See my new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for a comprehensive account of one of the greatest—yet, like the Armenian Genocide, little known—atrocities of our times.

Here is one relevant example to help appreciate the patterns and parallels: in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, Muslims, led by the Islamic organization, Boko Haram (“Western Education is Forbidden”) are waging a bloody jihad on the Christian minorities in their midst.  These two groups—black Nigerian Muslims and black Nigerian Christians—are identical in all ways except, of course, for being Muslims and Christians.  And what is Boko Haram’s objective in all this carnage?  To cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christians—a goal rather reminiscent of Ottoman policies of cleansing Turkey of all Christians, whether Armenian, Assyrian, or Greek.

How does one explain this similar pattern of Christian persecution—this desire to be cleansed of Christians—in lands so different from one another as Nigeria and Turkey, lands which share neither race, language, nor culture, which share only Islam?  Meanwhile, the modern Islamic world’s response to the persecution of Christians is identical to Turkey’s response to the Armenian Genocide: Denial.

Finally, to understand how the historic Armenian Genocide is representative of the modern day plight of Christians under Islam, one need only read the following words written in 1918 by President Theodore Roosevelt—but read “Armenian” as “Christian” and “Turkish” as  “Islamic”:

the Armenian [Christian] massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey [the Islamic world] is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish [Islamic] horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.

Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world—which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions—we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.

Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide.  In 1915, Adolf Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans, which he implemented some three decades later, when rhetorically asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

And who speaks today of the annihilation of Christians under Islam?

Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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