By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier, 06 May 2010
Hakan Tekin, the young and inexperienced Turkish consul general in Los Angeles, is trying hard to earn brownie points with his bosses in Ankara by countering any reference to Armenians in the U.S. media. He went overboard last week by sending an offensive letter to the Los Angeles Times.
Tekin was displeased with Patt Morrison’s interview with me published by the Times in its op-ed page on April 24. The article was titled, “Harut Sassounian: True to the Past.”
In his brief letter, Consul General Tekin made several misjudgments. The first was to criticize the LA Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran journalist Patt Morrison, alleging that there were “many misleading elements” in her interview, without naming a single one.
Judging from the text of the consul general’s letter, it was probably drafted by one of the many American public relations firms hired by the Turkish government at great cost. While the words may have been written by Americans, the thoughts are definitely those of a Turkish denialist. PR firms don’t really care how silly their letters sound, as long as their employer is satisfied and compensates them handsomely. Here is a piece of free advice that the Turkish government and the consul general should keep in mind before again taking on the free press in a free country: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”
Tekin is behaving as if he is still in Turkey, where the media is routinely suppressed by such fascist tactics as throwing journalists in jail or physically eliminating them. He is vainly trying to import Turkey’s undemocratic “gag rule” into the United States by trying to silence the LA Times!
The consul general goes on to attack me for the photograph that accompanies the LA Times article, in which I am holding the picture of my grandmother “garlanded with a bandolier of bullets.” I am very proud of grandma Gadar, because at a time when more than a million Armenians were being marched to their deaths by the genocidal rulers of Tekin’s ancestors, she and her fellow Zeitountsis—men, women, and children—defended themselves valiantly and refused to be slaughtered like sheep. Had she not fought to save her life, I would exist today, which may have made the consul general happier! Is Tekin upset that the Turkish government was unable to finish the job of exterminating every last Armenian?
Tekin then criticizes me for my “relentless opposition” to the infamous Armenia-Turkey protocols. He has no one else to blame than his own government for not ratifying these protocols, which have been collecting dust in the Turkish Parliament for more than six months. Armenians are indeed fortunate that Turkey’s leaders have inadvertently protected Armenia’s national interests by not ratifying the protocols, so that they could extract more concessions from the Armenian government.
Incredibly, Tekin ends his pathetic letter by admonishing me to be more like William Saroyan, who he claims was “compassionate” toward Turks. May I remind the Turkish consul of Saroyan’s well-known statement castigating the Turks for having destroyed Armenia and its people. Here is the original version of that quotation, as it was published in Inhale & Exhale, New York: Random House, 1936:
“Go ahead, destroy this race. Let us say that it is again 1915. There is war in the world. Destroy Armenia. See if you can do it. Send them from their homes into the desert. Let them have neither bread nor water. Burn their houses and their churches. See if they will not live again. See if they will not laugh again. See if the race will not live again when two of them meet in a beer parlor, 20 years after, and laugh, and speak in their tongue. Go ahead, see if you can do anything about it. See if you can stop them from mocking the big ideas of the world, you sons of bitches, a couple of Armenians talking in the world, go ahead and try to destroy them.”
Could it be that the Turkish consul general is trying to denigrate me because I have rejected his repeated invitations to get together, and his persistent attempts to co-opt me? If it is any consolation for this novice diplomat, I have not been tricked by his superiors either, who are far more experienced than him in the art of fishing for Armenian collaborators!