Keghart editorial collective believes that the opinion piece by Hussein Shobokshi deserves a point by point response because of the many historical inaccuracies and overtly hostile tone of the writer.
[See Hussein Shobokshi's infamous article here]
After the Ottomans were chased out of the Arab Middle East and eventually Arab countries became independent, Turkey became the black hole of the region. It stretched like a nightmarish memory on top of Syria and Iraq. Arab governments and particularly Arab masses justifiably turned their backs on their yataghan-wielding colonial oppressor. Meanwhile, Turkey was preoccupied with disassociating itself from the Middle East and from traditional Islam. Official Ankara, following the diktats of Mustafa Kemal, craved Europe’s acceptance and attempted to dispense with its “uncivilized” Asian roots.
If Arab countries and Arab media dismissed Turkey—especially since that country had become an ally of Israel—Arab media, except in Lebanon, rarely if ever referred to the Armenian minorities in Arab countries. Armenians were considered a tiny, harmless, apolitical, and peaceful community which didn’t blip on the Arab media radar.
But the situation has changed in recent years. Because President Erdogan’s government has declared itself a champion of Palestinians, has self-styled itself a regional superpower (easy to do in the power vacuum of the Arab world), and volunteered to mediate between Israel and Syria, Turkey has become hot news in Arab Middle East. Following its independence, the Republic of Armenia has also come to the notice of the Arab world, particularly since the so-called rapprochement between Armenia and Turkey.
So it’s no surprise that Hussein Shobokshi of Saudi Arabia’s “asharq alawsat” newspaper has deemed the Armenian/Turkish conflict relevant to Middle East politics. What’s disappointing is the embarrassing ignorance—if not the malice—of the commentator. Space limitations restrict us from providing a detailed rebuttal to this misinformed journalist’s scribbling. However, for the sake of concision, we will respond categorically to his inane and mischievous musings.
Mr. Shobokshi wrote in the above column:
1. “…the [Genocide of Armenians] anniversary that marks the loss of large numbers of relatives in various battles at the end of the Ottoman Empire…”
So, according to the Solon of Saudi Arabia, the massacres and deportations were battles. According to fantasist Shobokshi, Armenian armies were engaged in various battles against the Ottoman—if not German—armies. It suspiciously sound like 1.5 million armed Armenian men, women, children, and the aged went into battle against the Turkish armies, killing countless professional soldiers.
2. “…The Armenians believe that the number of those killed by the Ottomans is one and a half million and they consider it ‘genocide’…”
Mr. Shobokshi, the International Association of Genocide Scholars—just to name one highly credible source—maintains that 1.5 million Armenians were killed in an orchestrated genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman government in 1915. A few years later, “progressive” and darling of the West, Mustafa Kemal tried to gobble up the newborn Armenian republic, causing the butchery of countless more Armenians who had fled the earlier genocide.
3. “…Armenians also killed tens of thousands of Turks.”
In isolated locales, a handful of civilian Armenians put up a brave defense against Turkish regulars which had made no secret of its designs to eliminate Armenians. Turkish soldiers were also killed during their invasion of Armenia. There can be no comparison in the intent of the antagonists or the vast number of Armenian civilians who were killed by the Turkish army and the miniscule number of Turkish soldiers killed by the desperate Armenian forces defending the last inch of their motherland.
A mandatory lie of Turkish propaganda is the citing that a larger number of Turks and Moslems than Armenians were killed during the First World War. This is a double-barreled lie. Turks died because Turkey was at war with Russia, France, Britain and the United States. Armenians of Turkey had nothing to do with Turkish losses. In a demonic demonstration of chutzpah rarely encountered in history books, Turkish propagandists—and their ignorant students such as one Mr. Shobokshi—now mourn the killing of other Moslems, including Arabs, who were killed by the Turkish army!
4. “… Armenians have intensified their campaigns against the Turks on the local level in Turkey…”
According to the Saudi scribbler, the scared (often hiding their identity through name change) and shrunken Armenian community of Istanbul is pressuring mighty Turkey. The anxious, 60,000-member community, which does daily somersaults not to be exposed as Gavoor Ermeni, is suddenly making life difficult for a nation of 72 million.
5. “Present-day Turkey has taken important steps towards building bridges and having mutual interests with Armenia and improving the standard of living of the Armenian community in Turkey…”
Regarding the “important steps…” jest, please see Ankara’s deception vis-a-vis the notorious Protocols. About “improving the standard of living of Armenians…” see Erdogan’s threat, on BBC no less, to deport Armenians.
6. Still about the Protocols… the Saudi man of letters wrote that despite peacemaking gestures by Turkey, “Armenia failed to take similar steps towards Turkey in return.” Is this man for real?
Has he been on a trip to Mars in the past two years?
7. Our desert friend claims that Armenia “obstructed the implementation of the agreements signed when it reopened that age-old issue of genocide.”
Someone should tell ill-informed Mr. Shobokshi that within 24 hours of their signing, Turkey’s rulers threatened the Protocols wouldn’t be ratified unless Armenia handed Artsakh to Azerbaijan. Armenia froze Protocol ratification after waiting—a full year—for recalcitrant Turkey to ratify the documents.
8. “…Turkey is not the Ottoman State in the same way that Germany is not Hitler or Nazism to Israel.”
Putting aside the mangled English here and elsewhere, the fact is the Republic of Turkey is the legal successor to Ottoman Turkey. Modern Turkey didn’t incarnate from thin air—its land, resources, policies, culture, people and rulers are the continuation of the Ottomans. In fact, the economy of the newly-born Republic of Turkey was largely financed by the wealth its rulers had confiscated from Armenians they had killed. Recent Turkish investigative reports reveal that many of the founders of modern Turkey personally benefitted from this illegal acquisition of Armenian property. And that’s another reason why modern Turkey denies the Genocide… when all the historical facts come out, it will be revealed that the founders of modern Turkey were common crooks and thieves, in addition to being mass murderers.
9. “Armenian voices can be heard from the Arab world, particularly Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, condemning and warning against rapprochement.”
This is untrue, except for Lebanon. Armenians in Syria and in Jordan are circumspect about their criticism of Turkey. Syrian-Armenians are only too aware of Turkey’s pressure on Syria, while the latter know of Turkish blood ties to Jordan’s royal family. That both governments have a passing acquaintance with free speech is another reason for Armenians to remain silent.
10. “Many Armenian politicians and businessmen make ‘odd’ statements that cast doubt over the history of the Turks and their ties with others.”
This is a badly-phrased and incomprehensible sentence. What ‘odd’ statements is Mr. Shobokshi referring to? Have Armenians been spreading lies that Turks are not indigenous to the Middle East and that originate in Central Asia? that they conquered the Middle East, destroying native civilizations—including Arab—and then oppressed the occupied countries—including Arab—for the next 600 years? These nameless but obviously busybody Armenian politicians and businessmen should be silenced pronto before they remind Mr. Shobokshi that in 1917 there was an Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkey… that the Ibn-Saudi clan was able to take over Arabia only because of the Arab Revolt, supported by Britain and a colonel called T.E. Lawrence?
11. “There is no room for Armenian weeping in the Arab World.”
Armenians are not weeping. They are demanding justice.
12. “Armenians have turned the issue into one with no ending.”
Talking of blaming the victim for the crime… It’s Turkey which is perpetuating the conflict by denying the Genocide of Armenians. It’s a safe bet that Mr. Shobokshi wouldn’t allege that Palestinians have turned their Naqba into an issue with no ending.
13. “Turkey today is a responsible state that solves the problems of its factions and communities such as the Jews, Christians, and Kurds, in a balanced and rational manner and even the rational Armenians have testified to that…”
This piece of intelligence must come as hot news to the Kurds, the Alewis, the Assyrians, the Jews, the Greeks, the Greek Cypriots… and the Armenians.
14. “But to turn Armenian ‘lamentation’ into a trench between the Arabs and the Turks and to exploit this before the international community in such a low manner (that will only benefit Israel) is completely rejected.
Finally, Mr. Shobokshi reveals his hidden agenda. It’s the good old “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” concept. Because forked-tongued Erdogan has criticized the Israeli invasion of Gaza, he has become the darling of some naïve, short-sighted Arabs, including the Saudi international affairs pundit. Oblivious to Turkey’s long history of playing both sides against the middle, Shobokshi desperately chooses to see Erdogan as a champion (in the absence of a champion among the 22 Arab states). This must be cringe-inducing to any knowledgeable and patriotic Arab.
15. “They [Armenians] have long preferred to remain silent about the Israeli massacres against Arabs…”
This, too, is a lie. At great personal cost, Diaspora Armenians familiar with the Arab/Israeli conflict have sided with the Palestinians. In the West, Armenians have participated in Palestinian demonstrations, in letter-writing campaigns and in petitions condemning Israeli policies. It’s also a well-known fact that a significant number of Lebanese Armenians worked hand-in-hand with Palestinian resistance organizations. When the Israeli army invaded Lebanon, in 1982, and ransacked PLO and other Palestinian officers, they found the names of Armenians who fought alongside the Palestinians while simultaneously combating Turkey. Israeli intelligence promptly handed copies of these Armenian names to Turkish intelligence. Soon after, a number of these pro-Palestinian Armenians were killed by Turkish intelligence forces.
16. “The Armenians should decide whether they are a deep-rooted part of the Arab world or not. Rapprochement with a respectful and strong country like Turkey is in the Arab world’s best interest.”
Armenians have lived in the Middle East for at least 4,250 years. Since they were deported from their homeland in 1915 they have been a loyal, hard-working, constructive and innovative group. From auto mechanics to jewelers to physicians, they have been respected for their honesty, professionalism and expertise. And on countless occasions they have expressed their gratitude to the Arab people for their hospitality and friendship. When some years ago Yasser Arafat mentioned that he would not be against seeing the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem become part of Israel as part of the peace settlement, the Armenian Patriarchate expressed its disappointment and opposition. To this day Armenians of Jerusalem prefer to be part of Arab Palestine.
As well, Mr. Shobokshi is edging towards racism when he lumps Armenians into one group. Some Armenians opposed the Protocols while others supported it. Whether he is aware or not, Mr. Shobokshi is also warning his Arab readers that they would not be considered a part of the Arab world unless they, too, embraced the adept at volte-face, see-sawing, Janus-faced Turkey. But to give credit where credit is due, we should thank Mr. Shobokshi for not threatening Armenians with deportation from Arab countries. Shoukran, Mr. Shobokshi.
Team Keghart Response, 2 May 2010