By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Even though the Turks are supposed to be on their best behavior in order to convince the Europeans that they are civilized enough to join the European Union, they are still extremely intolerant of anyone who dares to bring up the taboo subject of the Armenian Genocide.
Last month, when Orhan Pamuk, an internationally-known Turkish novelist, boldly told a foreign reporter that one million Armenians were killed around 1915, just about all Turkish commentators, historians (government-paid propagandists) and politicians severely condemned the writer for making such a statement. A radical Turkish group even called for the murder of this “traitor.” Furthermore, a Turkish publisher is being prosecuted by the government for releasing the Turkish translation of an English language book that urges the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. Around six months ago, in the midst of trying to qualify for the start of membership talks to join the EU, the Turkish Parliament adopted a new law that makes it a crime for anyone to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. If this is how the Turkish government is acting, while trying to impress the Europeans, imagine what it would do if its actions were not under scrutiny!
Given all the controversy this issue has generated within Turkey, the Turkish “Flash TV” decided to air earlier this month a five-hour live talk show on the Armenian Genocide. The host of the program requested that the Armenian Patriarchate send a representative to take part in this show.
However, the Patriarchate refused to participate by saying that it did not have an expert on the subject to be discussed. The host then invited Rev.
Krikor Aghabaloghlu, the outspoken and courageous pastor of a local Armenian evangelical church, to present “the Armenian point of view.” Rev.
Aghabaloghlu is a well-known activist who has already been jailed once for challenging the confiscation of his church’s property by the Turkish government.
While there have been many talk shows on the Armenian issue, no one has ever dared to go on Turkish TV and repeatedly assert in a bold and brazen manner, as Rev. Aghabaloghlu did, that there is no doubt a genocide was committed against the Armenians. Both Hulki Jevizoglu, the host of the show, and his main guest, historian Mehmet Saray were dumb-founded and tongue-tied by the Armenian clergyman’s unexpectedly outspoken remarks. In a very calm and congenial manner, and with always a smile on his face, Pastor Aghabaloghlu said on national Turkish TV that all Turks in Anatolia know the truth about the Armenian Genocide. He said that no one dared to talk about this subject and that anyone who had the courage to speak about it, is called a traitor, condemned by the media, taken to court, and sent to jail.
Despite all attempts to shut him up during the show, Rev. Aghabaloghlu kept on insisting that as a clergyman he has the obligation to tell the truth.
When asked to back up his comments, he said that he knew the facts first-hand from the experiences of his own family. Besides, he added, there is plenty of evidence for the Genocide in thousands of books and that everyone knew that the Armenians in Anatolia were the victims of Genocide.
Otherwise, he said, what did happen to the Armenians inhabiting that region?
Did they evaporate? Did they decide to migrate en masse? Are there any Armenians left in Anatolia?
Making the Turks even angrier, Rev. Aghabaloghlu said that since Armenians are mistreated in Turkey today, one can only imagine how much worse their treatment must have been back then under the Ottoman Empire?
Mehmet Saray, the Turkish historian, was so enraged by the Armenian clergyman’s assertions that he kept asking the host of the show, “where did you find this man?” Saray said he would have refused to appear on the show if he had known that he would take part in such a “low quality” discussion and that his years of research and his books on this issue would be ignored.
When a viewer from Erzeroum called to say that mass graves of Turks were recently uncovered, Rev. Aghabaloghlu immediately retorted: “How do you know that these bones did not belong to Armenians?”
This astounding conversation, broadcast live to millions of Turkish viewers, went on until the wee hours of the morning.
Rev. Aghabaloghlu is the courageous shepherd not only of his own flock, but that of all Armenians in Turkey who dare not to speak out fearing for their lives! The good pastor risked his life by making such bold remarks on a taboo subject in Turkey. European Union officials should warn the Turkish government that Turkey’s EU membership prospects would be seriously jeopardized should anything happen to this brave Armenian servant of God who, as he says, has an obligation to tell the truth!