2882) Interviews: Suleymanov, Ayvazyan, Guttstadt . .

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  1. Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Elin Suleymanov : "Armenian Diaspora Missed The Chance To Have A Positive Impact On Armenia"
  2. Armen Ayvazyan, Project Director Of French Armenian Development Foundation Repatriation Success Story
  3. Turkey, The Jews And The Holocaust, Corry Guttstadt

"Armenian Diaspora Missed The Chance To Have A Positive Impact On Armenia" 08 June 2009 Interview with Consul General of Azerbaijan in Los Angeles Elin Suleymanov

— Armenian media reported that not so long ago, the U. S. Armenians took to the streets to express dissatisfaction with Barack Obama about non-recognition of so-called Armenian Genocide in Turkey. Reports say that the action has taken a huge number of people. What occured in the reality?

— As far as I know, during the visit of President Obama to Los Angeles protest was held from the side of the Armenian Diaspora, though it was not large.

— Judging by your reports, many high-ranking U.S. officials congratulated Azerbaijan on the Day of Republic. We know that on May 28 Armenia also celebrates the first day of the Republic, but the media did not report that Americans congratulated them as well. In general, it recently seems that Americans started to realize the situation in the Caucasus better and behave in the duly manner. What do you think of this?

— Indeed, it is gratifying to note that with each passing year, the number of American officials regularly congratulating Azerbaijan on the Day of Republic is growinf. For example, this year, such congratulations were received from the majority of the governors of western states that are members of the Consular District of the Consulate General in Los Angeles.

This, in turn, reflects a growing presence of Azerbaijan in the international arena as a result of a focused foreign policy of President Ilham Aliyev. Of course, this goes along with the growing understanding of the key role of our country in the region. In addition, the activities of the activists of Azerbaijani community in the U.S. is also crucial. Incidentally, on this occasion, I would like to express my gratitude to the Azerbaijani Society of America, the Azerbaijani-American Council, US Azerbaijanis Network — USAN, as well as the Azeri community of the city of Houston.

It is also important that the principles of equality, democracy and tolerance, which were the basics of the Azerbaijani statehood in 1918 and the continuation of which is the modern Republic of Azerbaijan, causes a positive response from the American public.

As for the festival on May 28 in Armenia, I do not have enough information about the congratulations toArmenians. Perhapns, such greetings and received. It probably is about priorities. For example, the Georgian community in California celebrated his feast on 26 May, and the most famous news story of the Armenian diaspora at the end of May was abovementioned information of picketing speeches of Barack Obama on May 27.

— Just before the meeting of the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia in St. Petersburg, many rushed to baptize them as historical. The Minsk Group co-chairs especially US co-chair Matthew Bryza also did not hold their emotions. What were the expectations of the meeting in the America?

— I think that the recent statements of President Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov made the issue of the negotiation process in general and the planned meeting in St. Petersburg clear. Matthew Bryza’s words have become more restrained as well. Of course, the U.S. side would like to see an early agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

It seems that Bryza adhered to the striving, featuring the US friends, to support optimism, in his previous statements.

However, as clearly indicated in the position, presented by the leadership of Azerbaijan, the settlement must be based on real progress, but not on artificial optimism. Moreover, the dynamics of development in the region in recent times once again demonstrated that for Azerbaijan to protect its national interests and sovereignty is an absolute priority. I think the U.S. is beginning to understand and take this into account, along with the futile and unproductive approach of the Armenian side.

— It is known that the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has seriously ruined relations with the Armenian diaspora. This has been spoken of by the Armenian media and in Armenia. What is the mood of the Diaspora California, which is considered one of the largest in the States, and what do you think of this?

— Criticism of the Armenian authorities from certain circles in the Armenian Diaspora has been recently voiced. Particular dissatisfaction among the Diaspora is voiced on the negotiations between Ankara and Yerevan, and some elements of domestic policy of Serzh Sargsyan. Without going into details of such differences, I would like to note that the Armenian Diaspora, unfortunately, missed the chance to have a positive impact on Armenia.

Instead of helping Armenia to integrate into the region as an independent nation, the diaspora from the beginning contributed to the growth of violent radicalization and ethno-centrism in Armenian society. This in turn led to the isolation of Armenia, now fully dependent on external forces.

Such short-sighted and blind-alley approach not only complicates the process of settlement and pushed Armenia to permanent conflicts with its neighbors, it also inevitably leads to internal conflicts against the backdrop of a progressive weakening of Armenian statehood.

Yerevan and the diaspora, as well as their friend and advisers should have a realistic look on the situation and realize that without a speedy end to Armenian aggression and resolving conflict on the basis of international law, it is impossible to speak of the future of Armenia positively. It is for Armenian diaspora to decide whether the future of Armenis is so important for them.

Repatriation Success Story: 239 Armenians Have Returned From France 2009/06/08 Kristine Aghalaryan
An Interview With Armen Ayvazyan, Project Director Of The French Armenian Development Foundation

Mr. Ayvazyan, when was the French Armenian Development Foundation (FADF) established and for what purpose? What projects is the FADF involved in now?

The FADF was founded in 2004 by the Association Arménienne d’Aide Sociale (AAAS), the first Armenian welfare organization to be established in France in 1890. The AAAS centers on three directions: retirement homes, social assistance and development projects in Armenia.

Our aim is to assist in the long-term and sustainable development of Armenia by formulating a variety of projects, basically in the social sector. Presently, we are focused on the migration issue and assist in the voluntary return to Armenia of those who had left and now find themselves in legal limbo in France. Another project deals with the disabled. In January 2008, with joint financing from the European Union and the AAAS, we launched a project called “Deaf Dialogue is Possible” with the aim to strengthen the development skills of the people with hearing disorders (PWHD), one of the poorest and isolated groups of society. Along these lines we have established a non-profit Social Integration Center. A third program of ours is entitled “Advancing the Rights of Children and Adolescents with Psychological Problems”.

What is the project that deals with the voluntary return to Armenia of individuals residing in France without legal status? How does it work?

This project is called “Return to Sources” and was started in November, 2005. The project is co-financed by the European Refugee Fund (ERF) in partnership with the French National Agency for the Reception of Foreigners and Migration (ANAEM).

Within the framework of the project, an Information and Training Center has been opened in Paris. Detailed information on the economic and socio-political environment in Armenia is provided to beneficiaries. The Center prepares their future reintegration in Armenian society by exploring with them possible income generating ventures.

In Armenia, French Armenian Development Foundation (FADF) helps concerned beneficiaries to draw up a business plan for setting their micro-business activities. The FADF is in charge of the follow-up. The staff provides assistance, prepare the feasibility study and assist in the actual launch of the micro-business.

What standards are involved in deciding who should return to Armenia?

That’s a decision of the French National Agency for Migration. If an individual meets those standards they will be offered an opportunity to be included in the repatriation program that includes a variety of assistance measures covering transportation costs and even outright monetary grants to facilitate the return to Armenia.

If a person meets the requirements of the French National Agency for Migration and wishes to return to Armenia, what resources are available to facilitate their reintegration into Armenian society and ensure a somewhat normal life? Do you also offer assistance in this regard?

The individual would get in touch with the Voluntary Repatriation Center run by the AAAS in Paris. The Center will review the options available to the returnee in terms of earning a living in Armenia. The Center formulates an action plan for repatriation that they send to us. Thus we know in advance who is returning and their plans. We meet with these returnees and stay in contact with them

We don’t get involved in locating suitable housing for the repatriates but will offer informational assistance if needed. We might offer a list of apartments for rent or help the person find work if they don’t wish to start their own business. We’ll provide information about the job market, what professions are in demand, and even help the person write a professional-style resume. In the past, we offered monetary assistance to all repatriates facing a housing problem. Now, we offer such assistance to beneficiaries under the age of twelve and over seventy at around 600 Euros per year. They can spend the money as they chose. This year, we plan to allocate thirty such housing grants.

During the first three months, a period we call “social accompaniment”, we assist with getting the repatriate’s paperwork in order. We accompany the person to the various agencies when needed. If there are medical issues to be addressed, we also direct the person to the correct agencies. In the same three month period, we also formulate a small business plan for the person if they desire to open a private concern. We study the market and grant up to 7,000 Euros in start-up funds. We don’t hand out cash but use the funds to cover the purchase of equipment and materials; whatever is necessary to launch a business. The aim is to ensure that the person returning will have a source of income to cover their living expenses. Within the parameters of the program, some forty business plans have been financed. In April of this year, an additional thirteen business plans have been formulated and work is underway to purchase the necessary equipment and materials.

In addition, we also offer retraining assistance so that the beneficiary can become competitive in the job market. Our first priority is to treat the individual with a sense of respect and dignity.

Committee sessions regarding the allocation of business start-up monies are convened under the auspices of the French Embassy in Armenia.

To date, how many repatriates have you assisted? How many individuals have returned to Armenia via your organization?

During the period November 15, 2005 – April 30, 2009, 239 individuals have returned to Armenia. 27 in 2005-2006, 43 in 2006-2007 and 107 in 2007-2008. 62 individuals have returned as of November 15, 2008.

Do you have exact figures of the number returning to Armenia monthly?

About 5-15 individuals per month.

What are the repatriation costs, per person, that your organization incurs?

I can’t give you the exact breakdown. The financial side of the equation is dealt with by our French partner organizations.

Based on your observations how are the repatriated families getting on? Do they have adequate housing and work?

Most own their own homes but others rent. Finding work is the main problem.

There have been cases when people returning to Armenia leave for France again.

The follow-up monitoring of the social reintegration process of the repatriates lasts for one year. The FFAD meets with the beneficiaries to review the process and outstanding issues if they so desire. It is entirely possible that a few of the repatriates leave Armenia for foreign shores but most remain.

Turkey, The Jews And The Holocaust Interview with Corry Guttstadt
Turkologist Corry Guttstadt has published a comprehensive study of the behaviour of the Turkish government towards its Jewish citizens during the Holocaust. In doing so, she has investigated a chapter of twentieth-century history that has thus far been all but neglected by international Holocaust research. Sonja Galler spoke to her about her findings.

Corry Guttstadt: Well, there are currently over 20,000 Jews in Iran too. A number alone is not necessarily a reliable indication of whether somewhere is safe or free from anti-Semitism. As far as Turkey is concerned, it is important to emphasise that only 20,000 Jews now live in the country. That's in stark contrast to the estimated 120,000 to 150,000 that lived in the region at the end of the First World War. Both before and after the Second World War, and most particularly after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the vast majority of Jews left Turkey. This was a reversal of the trend of previous centuries.

Over the course of many centuries, the Ottoman Empire was an immigration destination for Jews fleeing the Re conquista in Spain and pogroms in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, to portray the Ottoman Empire as a "multicultural paradise" is absurd and ahistorical. As non-Muslims, the Jews were subject to countless constraints. Like the Christians, they had to pay a poll tax and were obliged to behave in a submissive manner towards Muslims.

Moreover, it must be said that there were numerous fluctuations in the fortunes of the Jews in the 600-year history of the Ottoman Empire.

The period of Jewish persecution on the Iberian peninsula coincided with the expansion of the Empire, whose rulers were keen to increase the urban population. Another reason why they were happy to welcome the Sephardic Jews was because they brought with them important skills and expertise. Jews who had settled in Anatolia and in the Balkans before the Ottoman conquest, on the other hand, were forced to resettle – also for demographic reasons – and were subject to a number of considerable constraints.

What was life like for the Jews around the time the Turkish state was created?

Guttstadt: The foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923 was the final chapter in the protracted disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, which had lost most of its territory in a series of wars against major Christian European powers. The situation for the Jews varied because unlike the Christian populations in the Balkans, they were not pursuing any separatist goals. In response to European protests about the Armenian massacre, Ottoman leaders liked to point to the Jews as a "model minority".

For their part, the Jews were often the target of anti-Semitic attacks at the hands of Christian minorities around this time and were, for that reason, reliant on the protection of the state. Consequently, most Jews initially regarded themselves as allies of the Kemalist movement and looked to the new Republic with largely positive expectations. These hopes were quickly dashed because despite their attempts to adapt and their declarations of loyalty, the Jews quickly became a target for the rigid nationalism of the young Republic. One of the defining policies of the young republic was the "Turkification" of state, economy, and society.

In this light, the Kemalist leadership regarded the rights that had been granted to non-Muslim minorities in the Treaty of Lausanne as a continuation of the interference of major imperialist powers. It put non-Muslim religious communities under pressure to renounce these rights "voluntarily". Jews were also successively driven out of a number of professions and economic sectors. This prompted many Jews to emigrate, particularly to France, but also to the USA, Italy or Germany.

Once war broke out, how did the Turkish state, which managed to remain "neutral" until the end of the Second World War, behave towards the Jews who lived within its borders?

Guttstadt: I think we have to differentiate here between anti-Semitism and anti-minority nationalism, which targeted not only the Jews, but other groups too. On the one hand, anti-Semitic tracts like the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion reached Turkey and were translated into Turkish in the 1930s. Following a visit to Germany, Cevat RTfat Atilhan, who could be described as the father of Islamic anti-Semitism in Turkey, started publishing the anti-Semitic newspaper Millî 3nkîlâp (National Revolution) in Istanbul, which contained anti-Semitic caricatures that had been lifted directly out of the Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer. Although this and other magazines were banned for a certain period, they mark the birth of modern anti-Semitism in Turkey. Both the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf have gone through umpteen new editions to this day. Nationalist measures that affected not only Jews, but also Kurds, Armenians, and Greeks, included forced resettlement, the so-called "wealth tax" U which led to the confiscation of assets of those who were not in a position to pay the arbitrarily fixed and frequently astronomical sums they were required to pay U and forced labour in camps in eastern Anatolia. Although these measures are in no way comparable with the persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis, they destroyed the Jews' faith in the Republic so utterly that the majority of the country's remaining Jews left the country in 1947/48.

At this time, Turkish Jews were scattered all over Europe. How did they fare?

Guttstadt: At the start of the war, approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Jews of Turkish origin lived in Europe, most of them in France. Only about 10,000 of them still held Turkish citizenship, which became a matter of life and death during the Holocaust. There were many people who came to Europe as "Ottoman citizens", but whose place of birth had been assigned to other states once the Empire was no more. In France, it was relatively easy to obtain French citizenship. From the start of the 1930s, the Kemalist Republic began checking the nationality of citizens living abroad and revoking the citizenship of non-Muslims in particular.

This policy of denaturalisation, which the Turkish state could initially pass off as a normal consequence of the new state order, focussed primarily on the Jews during the Holocaust. In October 1942, Germany delivered an ultimatum to the Turkish government to repatriate its Jewish citizens from the states occupied by the German Reich. Above all, however, the government in Ankara wanted to prevent a mass influx of Turkish Jews and decided to use the instrument of mass denaturalisation as a means of preventing it. What proved particularly fatal in this regard was the fact that according to Turkish law, people who had either voluntarily changed their nationality or had been denaturalised were not allowed to set foot on Turkish soil ever again U even as a tourist or a refugee.

Moreover, in 1938, Turkey passed a secret decree that forbade "foreign Jews who are subject to restrictions in their native countries, regardless of what religion they currently practice" from entering Turkey. With this decree, Turkey adopted the criteria that characterised anti-Jewish legislation in Germany and its allied countries. What did the Turkish government at the time know about what was happening in the countries controlled by Germany and about the fate of Turkish Jews living in those countries?

Guttstadt: Naturally, the Germans did not tell the Turkish authorities that Jews who were not repatriated would be deported and murdered, but obscured the reality of the situation by saying that they would be "subject to the general measures applied to Jews". However, in view of the fact that numerous Jewish aid organisations had representatives in Istanbul, Turkey was a one of the places where concrete information about the Holocaust was available. From there, journalists reported about the systematic murder of Jews.

Jews that had escaped the concentration camps or ghettos and managed to make it to Istanbul, were questioned by aid committees and given the assistance they needed. Their reports were passed from Istanbul to other offices around the world. Both journalists and Jewish activists were undoubtedly under observation by the Turkish secret service. In March 1943, the Turkish government newspaper Ay:n Tarihi reported about the mass murder of Jews in Germany. Several Turkish Jews living in Europe turned to the Turkish government for help.

About 3,000 Turkish Jews were deported to German concentration camps during the Shoah. To what extent can Turkey be held responsible for their fate?

Guttstadt: The Germans are responsible for depriving these people of their rights and for their persecution and murder. In view of current attempts in Germany to rewrite history again and in view of the German "victim" debate, I refuse to qualify German responsibility in any way. Turkey could have repatriated a much greater number of Jews and opened its borders to refugees. Despite the fact that aid organisations offered to assume the costs that would ensue, the Turkish government generally refused. That being said, Turkey was certainly not the only country to adopt a passive stance.

However, until such time as the Turkish archives are opened, we can only speculate about domestic discussions and criticism of the official policy towards the Jews. We must remember that the Turkish regime at the time was dictatorial; there was a one-party system; the press toed the regime line and was subject to strict censorship. The Jewish community was also completely intimidated and impoverished by the measures taken in the 1940s.

The official Turkish line is that Turkey was a safe harbour for Europe's Jews.

Guttstadt: Because of its close ties to Germany, Turkey actually had extensive opportunities to save Turkish Jews living abroad. Isolated Turkish diplomats frequently grasped these opportunities. In Paris, for example, Turkish consuls brought about the release of a number of incarcerated Turkish Jews. Turkish consuls in Milan and Vienna also protected individual Jews. Even though these acts were not always performed for purely humanitarian reasons U some consuls may have used their influence to line their pockets U it shows the great latitude they had. In many cases, it was enough to confirm the Turkish citizenship of a Jew to prevent him or her from being deported.

The hiring of German Jewish academics at Turkish universities is often mentioned as a humanitarian act. What is your view?

Guttstadt: It is true that from the autumn of 1933 onwards, a considerable number of German Jewish academics and artists found jobs in Turkey, where they played an outstanding role in building up new universities, hospitals, theatres etc. Even though they were not received for humanitarian reasons, but for reasons of utility, the Turkish government gave these people work, in most cases allowed their families to follow them to Turkey, and protected them against persecution by the Nazi regime. Nevertheless, Turkey was never a major country of exile for persecuted Jews. In terms of numbers, the few refugees that were allowed to enter the country do not appear in any pertinent statistics.

Interview conducted by Sonja Galler, © Qantara.de 2009, Corry Guttstadt: Die Türkei, die Juden und der Holocaust (Turkey, the Jews and the Holocaust) Verlag Assoziation, A, Berlin-Hamburg 2008. 520 pages, 26 euros.



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