825) Armenian Cathogigos And Turkey

The visit of Armenian Cathogigos (Patriarch) Karekin II to Turkey in response to the invitation of Greek Patriarch Bartholomew resulted in some incidents. The first of these was the protestation of Karekin II by a Turkish group. Some Armenian newspapers perceived this protest as disrespectful; however, today, such protests are accepted as a normal outcome of democracy. As laws permit such protests, every body can be protested by anyone, anywhere, anytime. One of the individuals, who have been protested the most, is President George Bush. Seen in this perspective, protestation of the Cathogigos is quite normal by those who refused the genocide allegations as well as occupation of Karabagh by Armenia.

The second and more important case was the words of Karekin II regarding the so-called Armenian genocide. As the Information Service of Armenian Church states, at a press conference on June 25, in response to a question posed by a Turkish journalist, Karekin II said that “the Armenian genocide is a reality that happened and can never be an item for debate”. In responding another question on the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey he said that Turkey should come to terms with its past and should recognize the Armenian genocide. As a response to a third question on the convening of a conference to discuss the event that had taken place in Anatolia during World War I, he said that it shall be possible to welcome similar initiatives if they are intended to present the actuality of the genocide to Turkish society”.

Before commenting on this issue more, it should be stated that the Cathogigos came to Turkey for religious purposes; therefore he should have not touched upon political issues, or should have used a softer tune, taking into account the sensitiveness of the Turkish public opinion for genocide allegations. However, he put his views forward uncompromisingly, as if he was willing to teach something. In doing so he abused the right to freedom of speech. This incident would surely be considered in his future visits to Turkey.

The words of Karekin II, which argued that the so-called Armenian genocide was a reality and not an item for debate sound like a dogma. As long as there are some 70 million people refusing these allegations together with the possible support of the Islamic countries to Turkey on this matter, Karekin II’s words has no meaning other than demagogy.

Cathogigos’ comments on the normalization of the relations between Turkey and Armenia as well as Turkish prior recognition of “genocide” contradict with the position of the Armenian governments who has never been put this condition forward for the normalization of relations, rather they always declared that there were no preconditions for normalization. It is impossible that the Cathogigos was unaware of these declarations; therefore, his comments on that matter were aimed to affect the Armenian public opinion.

Why did the Cathogigos speak so harshly? The answer of this question should be searched in the rivalry between two patriarchates. After World War II, in order to protect the Diaspora Armenians from the Etchmiadzin Patriarchate, which was under control of Soviet Union, with the consent of big powers including the United States another Patriarchate was established in Antilias, Lebanon. After the independence of Armenia, although this Patriarchate should have been abrogated, this was never realized and there emerged a rivalry between these two Patriarchates. Antilias Patriarchate has been controlled by Dashnaks, therefore it defends the views of Dashnaks and criticized Turkey unmannerly for its non-recognition of the genocide allegations. However, Etchmiadzin Patriarchate left this issue to the Armenian governments and only commented on each April 24, the so-called anniversary of the genocide. Now, it can be understood that Karekin II tried to increase his leverage in this rivalry by criticizing Turkey for non-recognition of Armenian genocide allegations.

As for the reactions of the Turkish official posts towards these comments, according to Armenian press, a Turkish diplomat said: "We expect that the Armenians, in their turn, look at their history instead of politically manipulating their status as victims and instead of brainwashing their own people with falsified history, should listen to our advice and have the courage to sit on table to see what has happened and what has not."

The Chairman of the Turkish Religious Affairs did not meet Karekin II, but the Governor of Istanbul did. As the visit of Karekin II was not official, the Governor was not obliged to receive Armenian Cathogigos according to protocol rules but he might receive him for courtesy. So he did. However the aforementioned speeches of Karekin II made this courtesy unnecessary.

It’s obvious that the visit of Karekin II has not contributed to the normalization of Turkish Armenian relations, on the contrary it rather added a new point of contention to the existing problems.

Comment: Ömer Engin LÜTEM -
29 June 2006, Resource : İKSAREN

Armenian Catholicos Karekin Investigated

An investigation has been launched by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecution Office into the world leader of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, following claims that he 'denigrated Turkishness' in remarks made during his recent visit to Istanbul.

A complaint was lodged at the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecution Office by both Recep Akkus and the strongly-nationalist Turkish Lawyers Union.

The Istanbul Prosecution Office has opened an investigation into the matter.

Catholicos Karekin-II stated last Sunday evening at a press conference at the Turkish Armenian Patriarchate in the Kumkapi quarter in Istanbul that Turkey must recognize the Armenian claims of genocide during the final years of the Ottoman Empire.

In his remarks Sunday, the Armenian Catholicos expressed his wishes for more progress in Turkish-Armenian relations.

Remarking that the issue of genocide had been debated by researchers for 90 years, Karekin-II said: "For our people it is not a subject for research. It is an event that took place and it must be recognized." He said that the genocide issue was one of the problems that had to be solved for the normalization of relations between the two countries.

Armenian Catholicos Karekin arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday of last week as the guest of Turkey's Armenian Patriarchate Mesrob II and the Fener Greek Orthodox Partriarchate Bartholomeos. He has since left Turkey for Armenia.

The fate of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire during WWI and after is still a sensitive issue in Turkey.

Armenians claim that 1.5 million Armenians living under the Ottoman Empire were killed as part of an intentional and systematic genocide campaign during World War I.

Turkey denies the allegations that 200,000 Armenians died during forced migrations due to cold weather and bad transportation conditions.

By Cihan News Agency
June 29, 2006

Nationalist lawyer seeks charges against Karekin II

Kemal Keriçsiz, a nationalist lawyer who is the head of the Turkish Lawyers' Union, petitioned prosecutors yesterday to bring an Armenian religious leader to trial for “insulting Turkishness,” news reports said.

Karekin II, head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, paid a visit to the Greek Orthodox leader in Istanbul last week and said Turks committed “genocide” against Armenians.

Kerinçsiz, who previously led a legal campaign against Turkey's internationally acclaimed author Orhan Pamuk, asked an Istanbul prosecutor to bring charges against the Armenian religious leader.

By defending the alleged Armenian genocide, Karekin declared the Turkish nation to be “a country that committed genocide,” according to the lawyer's petition, calling for the opening of a public case against the religious leader under Article 301 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK) which stipulates a sentence of up to two years' imprisonment.

Turkey vehemently denies Armenian claims of an alleged genocide at the hands of the Ottomans in the last century, arguing that 300,000 Armenians and as many Turks were killed in civil strife in the final years of the Ottoman Empire when the Armenians rose up for independence in eastern Anatolia and sided with invading Russian troops. Karekin II was in Turkey last week for a week-long visit to the Armenian community here and to have talks with Fener Greek Patriarch Bartolomeos. After his arrival at an island off Istanbul, a group of demonstrators led by Kerinçsiz protested the Armenian religious leader, who went to Heybeliada, a seminary which has been closed for decades.

The Heybeliada Orthodox Seminary was closed in 1971 under a law requiring state supervision of university-level religious education. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, urges Ankara to reopen the seminary.

The nationalist lawyers, protesting the Armenian religious leader's visit to the seminary, said religious education by a seminary was against the Turkish Republic's Constitution and the principle of secularism.

The Turkish public has become well acquainted with Kerinçsiz as he has been a co-plaintiff in almost all cases filed against a number of journalists, academics and authors under articles 301 and 216 of the TCK, which went into effect in June. Article 301 covers the offense of “insulting Turkishness,” while Article 216 deals with “inciting people to hatred.”

Friday, June 30, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

What Karekin II's visit makes us think

The Istanbul visit of the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, has caused us to ask certain questions. There was some tension when a group of people led by lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz staged a protest at Heybeliada.

The Istanbul visit of the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, has caused us to ask certain questions. There was some tension when a group of people led by lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz staged a protest at Heybeliada.

Karekin II came to Istanbul as a guest of Fener Greek Patriarch Bartolomeos. Was the timing of the visit appropriate? What was the aim of this visit? What did the patriarch seek to achieve with this visit? It is easy to answer these questions because we know the patriarch.

The patriarch may profess that politics is not what the Patriarchate stands for, but since taking office he has been involved in politics, as have all the patriarchs who came before him. His political efforts are countless.

In his speeches he constantly argues that the Lausanne Treaty, signed at the end of the Turkish War of Independence, has been constantly violated; he sees himself as the ecumenical patriarch and asks why the theological school at Heybeliada is still closed. Despite knowing the answers to his own questions, he chooses ignorance by constantly claiming that the treaty is being violated. Even though Turkish intellectuals respond and give him answers, it appears this isn't enough for him. Whenever the responses don't suit him, he dismisses the Patriarchate's history and secret objectives and efforts and starts to note religious education rights, claiming what is said counter to him is from lack of knowledge and prejudice.

These days, Bartolomeos even goes as far as saying, “If you fail to open the theological school at Heybeliada, your admission into the European Union will become more difficult.”

The theological school he talks about was opened as a high school linked to the Patriarchate in 1884. In 1971, the Education Ministry closed the high school in accordance with the law. The patriarch knows that a school supervised by the Education Ministry would not be subservient to his objectives and is asking every country that listens to pressure Turkey into reopening the school.

Karekin II's visit must be seen as part of this effort. Bartolomeos committed a mistake by inviting Karekin II to Istanbul at a time when the Patriarchate and the school are being publicly debated. Karekin II's statements concerning the so-called “Armenian genocide” proved that this visit was far from a sincere one and ended up upsetting the public. Karekin II was lucky to have said what he said in a country of freedom, where he did not face any criminal charges. I leave it to my readers to understand the symbolic meaning of the group photo taken in front of the Heybeliada theological school.

The patriarch never mentions the plight of Turks in Western Thrace in enjoying the same rights granted to Istanbul's Greeks. He seems to have forgotten Article 45 of the treaty.

He is silent on the question of why there is not a single mosque in Athens. We also need to consider why our compatriots living in Western Thrace are not described as Turks. Even though these questions were never answered by the patriarch, it is up to us to remind him and keep asking. We should also wonder why the European Union is silent on these questions even though they are well aware of what's happening. Instead of pressuring Turkey to open the school, the living standards of Turks in Western Thrace need to be put into the spotlight. The EU is surprisingly silent when topics of discussion move beyond the problems associated with Turkey.

No matter how much the patriarch may dismiss his political objectives, he is at the center of politics and is playing this game in the international arena.

The patriarch says if former President Turgut Özal were alive, then Özal would have made sure the school was reopened. One must pay attention to why the patriarch reaches such a conclusion. Maybe his election as the patriarch was also linked to this.

The Republic of Turkey is governed by the rule of law, not feelings. The path the patriarch is on is blocked.

Friday, June 30, 2006
Orhan Kilercioğlu

We're making a fool of ourselves:

The head of the Armenian Orthodox Church, Karekin II, visited Turkey a few days ago and at a press conference said the genocide was not seen as a claim but a fact in Armenia, asking Turkey to accept it, too.

It was a statement that did not go beyond a foreign religious leader airing his opinion. We had heard much worse from many foreign leaders who were perceived as pro-Turkish.

However, a criminal inquiry was launched into Karekin II for insulting Turkey.

A group of lawyers who are preparing to enter politics from a party that reflects their kind of mentality are making use of every opportunity to air their views and get on television. They were the ones who filed a complaint against Karekin II, and the prosecutor initiated an inquiry.

Now the prosecutor will either say "This is nonsense. Karekin II just aired his views. There is no crime," or s/he will notify the border gates and try to question him if he re-enters Turkey. Later on, charges will be filed and the trial will proceed in absentia.

In short, we will make a fool of our country. We will be worse than France and Switzerland, who we criticize.

Let's prove there was no genocide with serious and strong campaigns. Let's not give credence to such shameful and petty games.

Mehmet Ali Birand


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