The initial mission of the Turkish Anti-Defamation League (TAL) is to provide legal advice and counsel to Turkish Americans regarding their constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression. The right attaches, in varying degrees, to public school textbooks and instruction; permits for demonstrations; and, the print, broadcast, and Internet media. Turkish Americans most frequently perceive a limitation of their freedom of expression when encountering one-sided depictions of controversial issues related to their ancestral history or current issues related to . .
Turkey or Turkish Americans.
You Have Rights, But You Must Speak Out
The pronounced biases in certain parts of American society against Turkey, persons of Turkish ethnicity, and the Ottoman Empire can be dispelled if the usual stereotypes, caricatures, and errors are disputed in the classroom, in town meetings, in public gatherings, and in all manner of public gatherings. These day-to-day refutations are the best vehicle for altering general attitudes towards Turkey and Turks, which translates into fairer treatment by local, state, and national government. TAL arms Turkish Americans with knowledge of their legal rights to freedom of expression, which should encourage them to speak openly and forcefully against historical mistakes or distortions about Turkey, its history and heritage, without fear of retaliation.
Add Your Perspective In Lieu of Suppressing Someone Else’s
Correspondingly, we firmly believe that Turkish Americans should eschew attempts to suppress biased or twisted speech in favor of adding a Turkish perspective to the free marketplace of ideas. Students and adults alike should be trusted to draw reasonable conclusions based on their exposure to a rich array of educationally suitable viewpoints. Indoctrination is not education. It stunts the mind and the ability to think. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis had the right idea by insisting that the proper remedy for foolish or mistaken speech is more speech, not enforced silence.
The constitutional right to freedom of expression is enshrined in the First Amendment and hundreds of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the Constitution’s text. The Supreme Court has repeatedly lectured that neither legislators nor educators may suppress or muffle an idea because it is politically unpopular. The First Amendment, however, draws a sharp distinction between government action and private speech. While the amendment prohibits government officials and laws from discriminating against disliked ideas, ordinary citizens may do so. The First Amendment does not prohibit a private organization to require members to subscribe to the Armenian genocide. On the other hand, private citizens may be sued for defamation if they falsely accuse Turkish Americans of odious activities to frighten them into silence or otherwise.
The following First Amendment principles are most relevant to Turkish Americans:
*Turkish Americans cannot be denied public jobs or be demoted or fired because of the views they hold on any issue, such as the Armenian issue, the PKK, Cyprus, or any other issue of special concern to Turkish Americans. Nor can they be denied an opportunity to speak on equal terms with other attendees in a public forum, including city council or board of education meetings.
*Turkish Americans cannot be denied public permits or licenses to demonstrate or rally in support of specific views.
*Turkish Americans may insist that public instruction on issues relating to Turkey or the Ottoman Empire be based solely on educational suitability, and not on the political power of Armenians, Greeks, Greek Cypriots, or otherwise.
*Turkish Americans may petition state educational authorities to alter or supplement textbook materials to enrich their educational value.
*Turkish Americans may protest biased or misleading lectures in public education. The protests should demand more speech and additional viewpoints, not suppression of objectionable views.
*Turkish Americans may petition city councils, mayors, state officials, Members of Congress, and the President to complain about prejudices, stereotypes, or errors on matters of concern to them. But they do not have a right to have all their complaints accepted.
*Turkish Americans have the same right of access to public or public school bulletin boards to post their views as any other group.
TAL will seek to resolve problems through both legal and non-legal avenues. Some issues can be resolved with a firm letter. Others can be settled with mediation. A lawsuit generally should be the last remedy.
Turkish Americans, however, must be vigilant in detecting problems and bringing them to the attention of TAL. Passivity is unacceptable. All that is necessary for bigotry and injustice to triumph is for good Turkish Americans to do nothing.
We seek your active involvement. Your rights can be preserved, but you must speak out. If you feel that you or your child has been the victim of suppression of free speech or similar right, please contact us and we will help you to evaluate the matter and, if necessary, identify methods and resources for seeking redress.
Biographical Sketch of Bruce Fein
Bruce Fein is a resident scholar at the Turkish Coalition of America (TCA).
Over the past decade, Mr. Fein has written and spoken extensively on Turkish-American relations; the PKK; the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Annan Plan; the Armenian genocide narrative and the politics of congressional Armenian resolutions; Turkish constitutional reform; Turkey’s blossoming democracy; and, Turkey’s anxieties over Northern Iraq, including Kirkuk. He was a guest speaker at a conference sponsored by the Foreign Policy Institute and Bilkent University in Ankara to critique the interim Iraqi constitution.
Before joining TCA, Mr. Fein was a resident scholar at the Assembly of Turkish American Association and columnist for the Turkish Times. He also served as a consultant to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and evaluated the terms of the Annan Plan. He has appeared regularly on VOA and Turkish television to discuss current political events and their implications for Turkish-American relations.
An honors graduate from Harvard Law School, Mr. Fein brings to his Turkish and Turkish-American scholarship a nationally acclaimed expertise in constitutional and international law. He has advised scores of countries undergoing political or constitutional transitions, including matters of secularism, freedom of expression, federalism, and military subordination to civilian authority.
Mr. Fein’s oral or written commentary is invariably incisive, vivid, succinct, and quotable. His worldwide experience adds special depth to his observations about Turkey and the evolution of Turkish-American relations.
"Armenian and Muslim Tragedy? Yes. Genocide? No" Assembly of Turkish American Associations
"Turkish Victims of International Infamy" Washington Times, May 2001.
"Armenian Resolution Is Misguided" San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 4, 2007
"Unveiling the PKK" Washington Times, Jan 3, 2008
"Tawdry Genocide Tale" Washington Times, Sep 2, 2007
"Turkey, Terrorism, And Double Standards" Washington Times, Nov 13, 2007 Letters to Boston Globe, Aug 2007
Turkish American Events of Other Interest
March 26-April 6, 2008
Preserving riches of history A photo expose on the destruction of cultural heritage and ancient monuments. Presented by Azerbaijani Community of Ottawa. Ottawa University, 85 University Street, University Center (at the Lounge -Area outside Student Federation Clubs)
April 11-13, 2008
Turkish American Scientists and Scholars Association Annual ConferenceHarvard Medical School Conference Center, Boston info: www.tassausa .org
April 13-16, 2008
ATC-AFOT/TAIK-DEIK 27th Annual Conference on US Turkish Relations
2008 Annual conference will celebrate the continued vitality of one of the most important bilaterel relationships in the world. info: www.the-atc.org
May 15-17, 2008
28th Annual ATAA Convention:"Peace in the World" info: www.ataa.org
24 May 2008
27. Türk Günü Yürüyüsü info: www.tadf.org
Turkish Anti-Defamation League
1025 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 1000, NW Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-370-1399 ext.3, Fax: 202-370-1398