3686) Attempts At Diasporizing Turkish Armenians I-II-III

Attempts At Diasporizing Turkish Armenians

 Vicken Aykazian, Representative of the Eastern Diocese
of America of the Armenian Apostolic Church


An article published by AVİM in October[1] discussed the possibility of dividing Armenian people into three categories (Turkey, Armenia, Diaspora) in terms of their thought and behavioral patterns. The article touched upon the Diaspora Armenians undergoing a radical and quite negative change over time regarding their attitude towards Turkey and Turks while Turkish Armenians not allowing such an extremism to propagate amongst themselves. Lastly, with examples, it was explained that there is an attempt to impose the Diaspora Armenian mindset onto Turkish Armenians through various discourses.

It is now possible to provide examples of Armenia joining the attempts to "diasporize" Turkish Armenians.

The new Armenian government, which was established following the "Velvet Revolution" in 2018, has been aiming to form a strategy to more effectively utilize the Armenians living in various parts of the world (meaning Diaspora Armenians) towards Armenia’s benefit. The flawed foreign policy that Armenia insists in pursuing has led to the country being excluded from regional projects and its borders being closed with its two neighbors, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Due such missed opportunities, Armenia’s economy has fallen behind Azerbaijan and Georgia, its neighbors in Southern Caucasia. Therefore, investments made in and aids given to Armenia by the Diaspora have vital importance for the country’s economy. . .

Within this context, during a speech in February, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan referred to what Armenia envisions regarding the Armenians around the world:

"[…] We have not yet carried out an inventory of the potential and influence of our Diaspora by countries. As a result, this area is not properly regulated. The government’s plan of actions for the next five years gives a special place to the creation of an all-Armenian network."[2]

In conjunction with this, Pashinyan mentioned the establishment of an integrated organization, structure, or format that would represent the Armenian Diaspora:

"We must be able to develop and formulate a concrete address to record who we should speak to for speaking with the Diaspora. There are many issues in the government’s, political agenda, and when they say these issues must be discussed with the Diaspora – whom exactly? The Diaspora is huge and is very comprehensive. There are thousands of organizations and if it is physically possible to discuss with a part of them, it is impossible to discuss with the other part and everyone.

We therefore have the task to create a representational institution representing the entire Diaspora and we all understand that this will be an extremely big challenge and a serious issue, because you know that the Diaspora is multi-layered, it is very complex, there are multiple relations, contradictions."[3]

From this point of view, Pashinyan explained the reason behind the Armenian government’s intention to shut down the Ministry of Diaspora, which had regulated the country’s relations with the Diaspora until this time, with the following statement:

"Overall, one of the reasons for deciding that Armenia should not have a Diaspora Minister was this, because it was implementing functions that were already being done by other ministries. I am talking about educational, cultural, youth and organizational functions. And instead of this, important functions that must be implemented in terms of relations with the Diaspora, basically were not being implemented."[4]

This new approach by Armenia towards the Diaspora was solidified in April; with a bill approved by the Armenian parliament, the Ministry of Diaspora was shut down and aggregated with the Prime Ministry of Armenia.[5] The High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs , which was established in the Prime Ministry, will pursue policies regarding relations with the Diaspora on the directives of the Prime Minister and, within this framework, will co-ordinate the work of the relevant ministries.[6]

Armenia’s new approach towards the Diaspora was already visible by February. In February, the statements of Armenia’s Minister of Healthcare Arsen Torosyan, who came to Turkey for a meeting organized by World Health Organization in Istanbul, revealed some of the plans the Armenian government has been considering. Torosyan’s visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul and his statements during his interview with the Agos newspaper revealed that Armenia perceives itself as the motherland of all Armenians in the world and implied that Armenia, in its own way, includes Turkish Armenians in the Diaspora.

Torosyan gave the following response to the Agos newpaper’s question "In terms of your ministry, what expectations do you have of the Diaspora Armenians?":

"Today we had the opportunity to speak about this subject during the visit to the Surp Pırgiç Hospital [an Armenian foundation hospital in Istanbul]. As a ministry, we are cooperating with Armenian doctors from various places around the world. Firstly, doctors are already visiting us and offering their support in terms of healthcare. I must state that I have left the Surp Pirgic Hospital visit with very positive impressions. In this regard, I think that there are many things that we can do together. […]"[7]

During his visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, Torosyan stated that the Armenian Diaspora cannot not survive separately from its motherland (he meant Armenia) and that he attributed great importance to Turkey’s Armenian community. Torosian continued with these statements:

"The Armenian community here is a little bit more disconnected from Armenia. It is very important for us that the way of thinking as if Armenia is weak and needs money gets changed. It needs to develop and enrich those people who will want to develop it. No longer are we poor, no longer are we weak, we need to develop thanks to the Armenians living in and out of Armenia."[8]

The fact that the Minister of Armenia Torosyan answered the questions regarding the Diaspora Armenians in terms of Turkish Armenians on two separate occasions indicates that Armenia, in its own way, lumps Turkish Armenians with the Diaspora. However, as it had been stated in the article prepared by AVİM on this subject:

"[…] Turkish Armenians are one of the core elements of Turkey and they live in the lands where their ancestors lived. Considering the mental and behavioral differences between Turkish and diaspora Armenians, it is both unrealistic and ill-intentioned to attempt to incorporate Turkish Armenians into the Diaspora."[9]

Armenia aims to create a new framework for dialogue with the Armenian Diaspora in order to attract investments and aid into the country. Such a search by itself does not have any faults. However, including Turkish Armenians into such a plan as if they are also members of the Diaspora would not be appropriate. Such an attempt would be akin telling Turkish Armenians that “you are an element of the Diaspora rather than of Turkey”[10] and would imply an attempt to estrange Turkey’s own citizens from their country.

[1] AVİM, “Attempts At Diasporizing Turkish Armenians - I,” Center for Eurasian Studies (AVİM), Commentary No: 2019/4, January 16, 2019, https://avim.org.tr/en/Yorum/ATTEMPTS-AT-DIASPORIZING-TURKISH-ARMENIANS-I

[2] “Armenian prime minister presents functions of chief commissioner for Diaspora,” Arka News Agency, February 12, 2019, http://arka.am/en/news/society/armenian_prime_minister_presents_functions_of_chief_commissioner_for_diaspora/

[3] “Armenia wants single institution representing entire global Diaspora,” Armenpress, February 12, 2019, https://armenpress.am/eng/news/963950.html

[4] “Armenia wants single institution representing entire global Diaspora.”

[5] “Armenia parliament liquidates key ministries,” Vestnik Kavkaza, April 18, 2019, http://vestnikkavkaza.net/news/Armenia-parliament-liquidates-key-ministries.html

[6] “Armenia wants single institution representing entire global Diaspora.”

[7] Pakrat Estukyan, “‘İstanbul Ermenileri Ermenistan’a yatırım yapmalı’,” Agos, 21 Şubat 2019, http://www.agos.com.tr/tr/yazi/22083/istanbul-ermenileri-ermenistana-yatirim-yapmali

[8] “Healthcare minister becomes first post-revolution Cabinet member to meet Armenian community of Turkey,” Armenpress, February 16, 2019, https://armenpress.am/eng/news/964524.html?fbclid=IwAR3ZfK39ZvHzI2C21HIflQVSpJ-5_ZsykmBQ01bI6ZpmPZKCAPSE06OFMyQ

[9] AVİM, “Attempts At Diasporizing Turkish Armenians – I.”

[10] AVİM, “Attempts At Diasporizing Turkish Armenians – I.


Armenians had settled and integrated themselves in various parts of the world centuries ago. As such, contrary to general opinion, the community referred to as the “Armenian Diaspora” did not come into existence because the 1915 Armenian Resettlement and Relocation; it had in fact started to form much earlier than this date. As is the case with the rest of humanity, Armenians were influenced by the culture and the historical and political processes in the lands that they lived, and they thus began to be become differentiated from fellow Armenians living in other parts of the world. Taking into consideration Armenians’ thought and behavioral patterns, it is possible to generally categorize Armenians into three groups: 1) Turkish Armenians, 2) Armenia Armenians, and 3) Diaspora Armenians.

Beginning from 1965, the 50th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian Resettlement and Relocation, it was possible to observe a radical and very negative change especially in the diaspora Armenians’ approach towards Turkey and Turks. As a part of this change, diaspora Armenian youth began to be constantly subjected to unrealistic and fanatical discourses. The result of this faulty education was the creation of terrorist groups who remorselessly took the lives of numerous innocent people and the glorification of these terrorists. In this context, it was the diaspora Armenians with their extreme conduct who sabotaged the improvement of Turkish-Armenian relations. In contrast to this, Turkish Armenians, in possession of the experience acquired from having co-existed with the rest of Turkey for generations, did not allow for the propagation of the diaspora Armenians’ excesses. In sum, diaspora Armenian began in time to become assimilated in their country of residence and began to lose their connection to both their language and religion. In order to create a common identity and cause, as last resort, they began latching onto hatred towards Turks. Turkish Armenians did not permit such a degeneration process to take root amongst themselves and found their identity in Turkey in which they are equal citizens.

Meanwhile, diaspora Armenians and newspapers with publication policies in line with their goals are determined to carry out activities to “diasporize” Turkish Armenians, as in, to pull them to the Diaspora's side. One of the most recent examples for this occurred during the as-of-yet unconcluded election process for the new Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul.[1] Individuals who argue that the patriarch election process should be conducted in concert with the Turkish government as per custom, such as the General Vicar (Acting Patriarch) Aram Ateshian and the Head of the Union of Turkish Armenian Foundations and Head of The Yedikule Surp Pırgiç Armenian Hospital Foundation Bedros Şirinoğlu, have become the targets of personal attacks.[2] On the other hand, there have attempts to bring to the foreground individuals who sought to engage in a power struggle against Turkish government, one example being the spiritual leader of the Armenian community in Germany Archbishop Karekin Bekchian (whose conduct had raised many question marks). The goal was to encourage the abandonment of the constructive Turkish Armenian mindset and the adoption of the belligerent diaspora Armenian mindset. Attempts at diasporizing Turkish Armenians continued with the utilization of various discourses even after the strategy regarding the patriarch election pursued through Archbishop Bekchian resulted in failure.

Taking into consideration its present publication policy and the news it emphasizes, it can be said that the Agos newspaper has become an instrument for these diasporization efforts. An example that can be given for this assertion is the interview Agos conducted with the Vicken Aykazian, Representative of the Eastern Diocese of America of the Armenian Apostolic Church.[3] Responding to the question “What do you think about the patriarch elections in Turkey?” asked by Agos, Aykazian indicated that Turkish Armenians have weakened as a community and that they are experiencing a deficiency in leadership. Reacting to the reinstatement of General Vicar Ateshian after the Turkish government did not recognize Archbishop Bekchian’s değabah (trustee) title, Aykazian accused the Turkish Armenians of “remaining silent and doing nothing.” According to Aykazian, Turkish Armenians should have carried protests on this matter and thus announced it to “all the world”. In other words, according to Aykazian, the matter should have been internationalized. Lastly, in his own way, Aykazian praised the Turkish Armenians by making the following statement, “I’ve always said this without reservation; our Istanbul Armenian community is the creme de la creme [the best] of the Armenian community in the diaspora.”[4] With these words, Aykazian is telling the Turkish Armenians (most of whom reside in Istanbul); “you are an element of the Diaspora rather than of Turkey” and thus attempting to alienate them from Turkey. Yet, Turkish Armenians are one of the core elements of Turkey and they live in the lands where their ancestors lived. Considering the mental and behavioral differences between Turkish and diaspora Armenians, it is both unrealistic and ill-intentioned to attempt to incorporate Turkish Armenians into the Diaspora.

It is not being argued that everything is proceeding without problems for Turkish Armenians. As indicated by Garbis Keşişoğlu, one the authors of the Luys magazine –a Turkish Armenian publication, the small Turkish Armenian community is in need of a serious reorganization in education, involvement, and solidarity.[5] However, as indicated by Keşişoğlu, instead of putting such a reorganization into action, some sections persist in carrying out personal attacks against General Vicar Ateshian and attempting to blindly defend Archbishop Bekchian. As such, in line with diasporan conduct, some sections are busy quarreling with the Turkish government and with their own community rather than engaging in constructive deeds.

As we have indicated in many of our articles,[6] the Agos newspaper had adopted a publication policy in line with the Diaspora’s approach ever since the murder of its chief editor Hrant Dink. Actually, even during the Dink period, Agos was experiencing significant friction with the members of the Turkish Armenian community. For example, in an interview he gave in 2006, the Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Mesrob II Mutafyan (he has completely withdrawn from public life due to illness and his mother has been appointed as his guardian), who is also one of the founders of the Agos newspaper, argued that Hrant Dink was insulting the Armenian community with his statements. Mesrob II also made the following statement regarding Agos; “By losing its founders and members of its editorial board, Agos has in one sense lost its function as a community newspaper and has turned into a private publication organ under the control of Mr. Dink.”[7] It seems that the Agos newspaper has transgressed even the publication policy of the Dink period, which was already under criticism, and has come to pursue a more extreme path. In this context, it will be beneficial to closely follow Agos and similar publications to stay informed regarding attempts at diasporizing Turkish Armenians.

*Photo: Vicken Aykazian, Representative of the Eastern Diocese of America of the Armenian Apostolic Church

[1] Mehmet Oğuzhan Tulun, “The Election Process Of The Armenian Patriarch Of Istanbul Has Been Reset,” Avrasya İncelemeleri Merkezi (AVİM), Analysis No: 2018/12, May 9, 2018, https://avim.org.tr/en/Analiz/THE-ELECTION-PROCESS-OF-THE-ARMENIAN-PATRIARCH-OF-ISTANBUL-HAS-BEEN-RESET

[2] See, for example: AVİM, “Bedros Şirinoğlu Is On The Target,” Avrasya İncelemeleri Merkezi (AVİM), Commentary No: 2018/49, September 28, 2018, https://avim.org.tr/en/Yorum/BEDROS-SIRINOGLU-IS-ON-THE-TARGET ; “Hovnan Srpazan’dan açıklama,” Agos, Sayı 1174, 14 Aralık 2018, p. 7.

[3] “Ermeni toplumu değabah krizinde gerekli tepkiyi gösteremedi,” Agos, Sayı 1175, 21 Aralık 2018, p. 16.

[4] “Ermeni toplumu değabah krizinde gerekli tepkiyi gösteremedi.”

[5] Garbis Keşişoğlu, “Cemaatimizin Yeniden Yapılanması lazım (12)”, Luys, 15 Kasım 2018, p. 5.

[6] AVİM, “Agos And The Emphasis On ‘Ararat’,” Avrasya İncelemeleri Merkezi (AVİM), Commentary No: 2018/52, October 12, 2018, https://avim.org.tr/en/Yorum/AGOS-AND-THE-EMPHASIS-ON-ARARAT

[7] Lraper: `ERMENİ CEMAATİNİ AŞAĞILIYOR´,” HyeTert, 23 Mart 2006, https://hyetert.org/2006/03/23/lraper-ermeni-cemaatini-asagiliyor/

Commentary No : 2019 / 4 Avim 16.01.2019

On 16 January, AVİM had published a commentary on the efforts geared towards alienating Turkish Armenians from their own country and thus pulling them towards Armenian Diaspora’s line of approach.[1] HyeTert, an internet website operating for the purpose of following news that might be of interest to Turkish Armenians, shared AVİM’s commentary on its own site,[2] but added the following warning (in Turkish) at the beginning of the article:

“***HyeTert is of the opinion that that this source and/or content contains/propagates false and/or misleading information and/or genocide denial, racism, discrimination or hate crime. Before sharing the text, please take into consideration these warnings and check the content and/or source from reliable sources.***”[3]

Based on its research and the documents it has gathered, AVİM is of the opinion that the events that transpired in 1915 do not fit the definition of the legal term “genocide”. However, everyone is free to express their opinions to the contrary on this matter.

Moving beyond the genocide dispute, it is not possible to understand what exactly is being alleged about AVİM’s article by reading the overly general warning written by HyeTert using ands and ors. Our article was not written for the purpose of containing false or misleading information or disseminating racism, discrimination or hate speech. Furthermore, AVİM is of the opinion that the article contains no such objectionable content. Instead of the overly general warning mentioned above, it would have been more constructive and useful for both AVİM and HyeTert readers to have explained what is being alleged by the use of examples.

[1] AVİM, “Türkiye Ermenilerini Diasporalaştırma Çabaları - II,” Avrasya İncelemeleri Merkezi (AVİM), Commentary No: 2019/4, January 16, 2019, https://avim.org.tr/en/Yorum/ATTEMPTS-AT-DIASPORIZING-TURKISH-ARMENIANS-I

[2] “Türkiye Ermenilerini Diasporalaştırma Çabaları,” HyeTert, 16 Ocak 2019, https://hyetert.org/2019/01/16/turkiye-ermenilerini-diasporalastirma-cabalari/

[3] This warning is also present in some other articles shared by HyeTert.

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