Turkey on tenterhooks for Biden’s decision on Armenian genocide recognition

A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute dated 1915 purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in the Mush valley, on the Caucasus front during the First World War. (STR/AGMI/AFP)
A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute dated 1915 purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in the Mush valley, on the Caucasus front during the First World War. (STR/AGMI/AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2021

Turkey on tenterhooks for Biden’s decision on Armenian genocide recognition

A picture released by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute dated 1915 purportedly shows soldiers standing over skulls of victims from the Armenian village of Sheyxalan in the Mush valley, on the Caucasus front during the First World War. (STR/AGMI/AFP)
  • Acknowledgment of 1915-1923 mass killing of Christian Armenians by Ottoman Turks would be the first by a US president
  • Decision would be a setback for Turkish President Erdogan at a time of continuing friction in US-Turkey relations

DUBAI: The Biden administration is considering acknowledging the genocide of ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Empire, Ian Bremmer of GZero Media has reported in the lead-up to Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, April 24.

In the event, Joe Biden would become the first US president to recognize the systematic killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 onwards in modern-day Turkey as a “genocide,” a step already taken by the Senate and the House of Representatives in 2019.




The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923. (AFP/Getty Images/File Photo)

The adoption of that measure by the two US chambers of Congress came at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s military intervention in northern Syria had strained already tense relations between his government and the US political establishment. This time around, in addition to continuing friction in US-Turkish relations, some 38 senators have sent a letter urging the president to recognize the genocide.

The atrocities started with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople in 1915 and continued with a centralized program of deportations, murder, pillage and rape until 1923. Ordinary Armenians were then driven from their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water.

Ottoman death squads massacred Armenians, with only 388,000 left in the empire by 1923 from 2 million in 1914. (Turkey estimates the total number of deaths to be 300,000.)

Many Armenians were deported to Syria and the Iraqi city of Mosul. Today descendants of the survivors are scattered across the world, with large diasporas in Russia, the US, France, Argentina and Lebanon.

Turkey admits that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during the First World War, but disputes the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide.

Getting access to vital Ottoman sources is a daunting challenge, while the language barrier makes access to Armenian sources hard for Ottomanists and comparativists alike.

Consequently, some scholars argue, Armenians have often been depicted as passive victims of violence, ignoring their active resistance during the genocide.

“This misrepresentation is due to a combination of political realities, methodological challenges, and the inaccessibility of crucial primary sources. The Turkish state’s denial of the Armenian genocide was a major hurdle,” Khatchig Mouradian, a lecturer in Columbia University’s Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and African Studies, told the website Columbia News in a recent interview.

In a new book, Mouradian has challenged depictions of Armenians as passive victims of violence and mere objects of Western humanitarianism. “The Resistance Network” is a history of an underground network of humanitarians, missionaries and diplomats in Ottoman Syria who helped to save the lives of thousands during the Armenian genocide.

“I weave together the stories of hundreds of survivors and resisters as they pushed back against the genocidal machine in Aleppo, Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, and in concentration camps stretching along the lower Euphrates,” Mouradian said. “In doing so, I place survivor accounts in conversation with — and sometimes in rebellion against — the scholarship and accepted wisdom on mass violence, humanitarianism and resistance.”

ARMENIAN GENOCIDE IN NUMBERS

* 2m Armenians living in Turkey in 1914, when genocide started.

* 1.5m Highest estimate of deaths, by massacre, starvation or exhaustion.

* 3,000 Years since Armenians made their home in the Caucasus.

* 30 Countries whose parliaments have recognized the genocide.

He said the Armenian case demonstrates how much is suppressed from the narrative when the actions and words of the targeted groups are relegated to the margins.

When historians use the term “Seferberlik” — the Ottoman word for “mobilization” — it is often assumed they are discussing the Armenian genocide. But it is also used to refer to another smaller but significant episode of mass displacement that occurred around the same time in what is today Saudi Arabia.

“Seferberlik: A century on from the Ottoman crime in Madinah” — by Saudi author Mohammad Al-Saeed — tells the story of the deportation of the holy city’s population by Ottoman General Fakhri Pasha.




Joe Biden looks set to become the first US president to recognize the systematic killing of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 onwards. (Getty Images via AFP)

History books tell of Fakhri Pasha’s “heroic defense” of the city in the 1918 Siege of Madinah, fending off repeated attacks by the British-backed Arab fighters of Hussein bin Ali, the Sharif of Makkah. However, the books prefer to gloss over what happened in 1915, prior to the siege, when Fakhri Pasha forced Madinah’s population onto trains and sent them north into present-day Syria, Turkey, the Balkans and the Caucasus.

“The Seferberlik crime was an attempt to transform Madinah into a military outpost,” Al-Saeed told Arab News in a recent interview. “The Turks tried to separate the city from its Arab surroundings and annex it to the Ottoman Empire to justify ruling what remained of the Arab world.”

He said history should not forget what happened in Madinah, particularly since the few historical sources that documented the events are in the Ottoman, English and French archives.

READ MORE

Arab News Spotlight: Why the Armenian Genocide won’t be forgotten. Click here to read the full article.

“Moreover, the sources of information are very limited and the grandchildren of those who were in Madinah at the time do not have many documents. A lot of the city’s inhabitants were displaced. Many of them did not return,” Al-Saeed said.

Speaking to Arab News in 2019 on the Armenians’ displacement experience, Joseph Kechichian, senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, said: “My own paternal grandmother was among the victims. Imagine how growing up without a grandmother — and in my orphaned father’s case, a mother — affects you.

“We never kissed her hand, not even once. She was always missed, and we spoke about her all the time. My late father had teary eyes each and every time he thought of his mother.”

Every Armenian family has similar stories, said Kechichian. “We pray for the souls of those lost, and we beseech the Almighty to grant them eternal rest,” he added.




Armenian orphans being deported from Turkey in around 1920. (Shutterstock/File Photo)

According to genocide scholars, denial is the final stage of genocide. Levon Avedanian, coordinator of the Armenian National Committee of Lebanon (ANCL) and professor at Haigazian University in Beirut, said that for Armenians, the denial of the Armenian genocide by Turkey is a continuation of the genocidal policies.

“In that sense, recognition by Turkey and by members of the international community is an essential step on the long path of restoring justice, which would inevitably include, in addition to recognition, reparations and restitution,” he said.

As a Democratic presidential candidate, Biden tweeted on April 24 last year: “If elected, I pledge to support a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide and will make universal human rights a top priority.”

In his “quick take” of March 22 on the possibility of Biden making good on his campaign promise next month, GZero’s Bremmer summed up the situation this way: “A lot of things going wrong for Turkey right now. They just pulled their country out of the Istanbul Conventions, European agreement that meant to protect women. And (Erdogan) also just sacked his new central bank governor. … The economy is not doing well. … he’s cracking down on the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, the HDP. … But the big news, is that Erdogan is about to face another diplomatic challenge.”


Iran joins expanding Asian security body led by Moscow, Beijing

Iran joins expanding Asian security body led by Moscow, Beijing
Updated 6 sec ago

Iran joins expanding Asian security body led by Moscow, Beijing

Iran joins expanding Asian security body led by Moscow, Beijing
Iran joined a rapidly expanding central Asian security body led by Russia and China on Friday, calling on the countries in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to help it form a mechanism to avert sanctions imposed by the West.
The body, formed in the 2001 as a talking shop for Russia, China and ex-Soviet states in Central Asia, expanded four years ago to include India and Pakistan, with a view to playing a bigger role as counterweight to Western influence in the region.
In a sign of its growing influence, the body’s summit in Tajikistan was the first appearance abroad of Iran’s new hard-line president, Ebrahimi Raisi, since taking office in August.
Raisi hailed the opportunity that membership would provide for Iran, as a country along China’s “Belt and Road” route, to join important trade links across Eurasia. Iranian television described Iran’s membership as giving it access to huge markets across the continent.
In his speech to members, Raisi compared sanctions on Iran to terrorism, and said the organization should design a mechanism that helps Tehran avert them.
Russia and China, along with Western countries, are parties of a 2015 agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran agreed to curbs on its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.
Washington abandoned that deal in 2018 and unilaterally reimposed financial sanctions. Negotiations this year to revive it have been stalled since Raisi’s election.
“Nothing can stop Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities that are within the framework of international regulations,” Raisi said. “Diplomacy is only effective when all parties adhere to it. Threats and pressure tie diplomacy’s hands and render it ineffective.”

New Lebanon cabinet lifts petrol price, signs audit deal

New Lebanon cabinet lifts petrol price, signs audit deal
Updated 17 September 2021

New Lebanon cabinet lifts petrol price, signs audit deal

New Lebanon cabinet lifts petrol price, signs audit deal
  • The audit is a key requirement for Lebanon to secure foreign aid

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new government raised gasoline prices on Friday, cutting a subsidy that Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said is unaffordable as he advances plans to address a devastating financial collapse.
The government also signed a new contract with restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) to carry out a forensic audit of the central bank, a step sought by donors who want to see Beirut enact reforms to unlock badly needed aid.
The Mikati government, which took office a week ago, has promised action to address the crisis, including talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a start to reforms.
IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday there had been courtesy calls with members of the new government and the Fund stood ready to engage in the period ahead. Talks between the previous government and the IMF broke down last year.
The World Bank says Lebanon’s economic collapse is one of the worst on record.
The currency has slumped more than 90 percent since 2019, more than three quarters of the population have been driven into poverty, the banking system is paralyzed and a hard currency crunch has led to shortages of vital imports, including fuel.
Lebanon has been suppressing fuel prices by providing dollars at subsidised exchange rates well below the pound’s price on the parallel market, with the stated aim of shielding people hit by the collapse.
Critics say the system has given rise to smuggling and hoarding, contributing to shortages that have crippled normal life and spawned a black market where gasoline has been sold at enormously inflated prices.
Fuel prices issued on Friday raised the gasoline price by more than 37 percent with immediate effect.
“This is the stage before last of lifting the subsidy,” said Georges Braks, a member of the Petrol Station Owners’ syndicate, who expects the subsidy to be removed by the end of September.
He said the new prices were based on an exchange rate around 12,000 pounds per dollar.
This compares with a rate of 8,000 pounds per dollar that the previous government agreed for fuel prices last month, but is still below the rate on the parallel market, where dollars were changing hands at 14,600 on Friday.
The central bank said last month it could no longer afford to provide dollars for fuel at heavily subsidised rates.
The move means importers will still be sourcing dollars from the central bank rather than the market and so a subsidy still applies, said Mike Azar, a senior Beirut-based financial adviser.
The pound has strengthened from around 19,000 per dollar since Mikati took office, ending a year of political conflict over cabinet seats that left Lebanon rudderless.
The IMF has recommended Lebanon unify the multiple exchange rates along with other steps including the central bank audit.
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil, formerly a senior central bank official, signed the contract with A&M, which the ministry said would present an initial report within 12 weeks of its team starting work.
A&M withdrew from the audit last November, saying it had not received the information it required. The finance ministry said in April the central bank had agreed to hand over required documents.
Parliament then agreed in December to lift banking secrecy for one year, amid much back-and-forth between Lebanese officials including the finance ministry and the central bank over whether certain information could be disclosed.
Lebanon’s talks with the IMF last year broke down largely due to a dispute over the scale of losses in the financial system. A plan drawn up by the previous government said these amounted to some $90 billion, a figure endorsed by the IMF but rejected by Lebanese banks and the political elite.


Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials
Updated 17 September 2021

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

Houthi militia group arrested for assassination plot on government military officials

LONDON: Police in Yemen's province of Marib arrested a group of Houthi militia planning to bomb public places with the aim to assassinate government military officials, state news agency Saba reported on Thursday.
The commander of Special Forces in Marib Brig. Gen. Saleem Al-Sayyaghi told Saba that a cache of explosives and maps of bomb sites were seized in possession of the Houthi members.
Initial investigations, he said, revealed that those arrested “steered by the Iran-backed Houthi militia” and were tasked with bombing civilian crowds and military leaders.

Sayyaghi claimed that the plot comes as the militia failed to take Marib in the battlefield despite sending fighters towards the army positions over the past months.  


Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
Updated 17 September 2021

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths

Amnesty condemns ‘impunity’ over Iran custody deaths
  • The head of Iran’s prison system admitted that videos purportedly obtained by a self-described hacker group that show abuses at the Islamic Republic’s notorious Evin prison are real

NICOSIA: Amnesty International has condemned the “climate of impunity” that prevails in Iran over deaths in custody despite reports of more than 70 such cases over the past decade.
“Iranian authorities have failed to provide accountability for at least 72 deaths in custody since January 2010, despite credible reports that they resulted from torture or other ill-treatment or the lethal use of firearms and tear gas by officials,” said the London-based rights group.
The latest documented case involved a 31-year-old whose death was reported to his family by intelligence ministry officials in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province on September 8, Amnesty said in a statement.
“Reports of the death of Yaser Mangouri in suspicious circumstances further exposes how the prevailing climate of impunity further emboldens security forces to violate prisoners’ right to life without any fear of consequence or accountability,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.
The group’s report follows an admission by Iran’s prisons chief last month that “unacceptable behavior” had taken place at a notorious Tehran prison after videos published abroad appeared to show violence against detainees.
The footage of prison guards beating and mistreating detainees was reportedly obtained by hackers who accessed surveillance cameras at Evin prison.
Amnesty International said the leaked video footage “offered disturbing evidence of beatings, sexual harassment, and other ill-treatment of prisoners by prison officials.”
It said that in 46 of the 72 deaths in custody, informed sources said they had resulted from “physical torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of intelligence and security agents or prison officials.”
Another 15 deaths were caused by the use of firearms or tear gas by prison guards to suppress protests over Covid-19 safety fears, said Amnesty.
For the remaining 11 cases, the deaths occurred in suspicious circumstances, but no further details about potential causes were available, it added.
“Iranian authorities typically blame deaths in custody on suicide, drug overdose or illness in a rushed manner and without conducting any independent and transparent investigations,” the watchdog said.
In July, Amnesty and nine other rights groups urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to establish a mechanism to collect, preserve and analyze evidence of the most serious crimes committed in the Islamic republic.
Iran regularly defends itself against reports by the United Nations or international rights groups criticizing its treatment of prison inmates.


Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
Updated 17 September 2021

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease

Over 50% of UAE residents are affected by heart disease
  • The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease
  • The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years

DUBAI: Over 50 percent of residents in the UAE have been affected by heart disease, according to a study of more than 1,000 people.

The survey commissioned by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi showed that 55 percent of respondents had been directly affected by heart disease, Al-Arabiya news channel reported.

The report further said heart disease was the main cause of death in the country, with symptoms showing a decade earlier than their counterparts in other developed countries.

“These results make clear the tragic impact that heart disease has on our community. Each and every heart disease diagnosis ripples out from the patient to their family and friends, naturally causing a great deal of anguish for all concerned,” Dr Ronney Shantouf, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said.

The survey has also shown that 53 percent of UAE residents have not had their heart health checked for more than two years, while 30 percent said they had never done so.

“It is very concerning that despite the tremendous strain heart disease places on our community and the high level of awareness we see, people are still reluctant to visit the doctor and take steps to prevent heart disease,” Shantouf said.

The study has further shown that 15 percent of respondents did not have any risk factors of heart disease.

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