By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The purpose of this column is to draw lessons from the recent attacks on the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria.
Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took two bold actions: 1) he blocked Twitter, a social media site with 12 million users in Turkey, to cover up revelations of corruption about himself and his inner circle; and 2) he aided and abetted the Jihadist fighters’ invasion of Kessab, located in the Northwest corner of Syria, bordering Turkey!
What do these two seemingly unrelated events have in common?
Erdogan himself indirectly answered this question, during a campaign rally on March 20: “we will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care at all what the international community says. Everyone will see the power of the TurkishRepublic.”
Clearly, the Prime Minister does not care that he would be criticized for violating the democratic principle of freedom of expression and acting as an autocratic thug. He says and does whatever he thinks is in Turkey’s or his own best interest!
US officials reacted by paying mere lip service to Erdogan’s internet crackdown. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted the following message: “Deeply troubling that Turkey blocked Twitter. Shutting down free access to info inconsistent with democracy; support citizens’ call to unblock.” Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, who was forced to resign after blocking publication of an article on the Armenian Genocide, described Erdogan’s anti-Twitter action as: “21st century book burning.” Similar benign criticisms were voiced by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, and European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Did Erdogan care about these verbal lashings? Absolutely not! He didn’t give a damn! He had already blocked YouTube for two years, because the website carried videos deemed insulting to Kemal Ataturk. The Turkish Prime Minister now threatens to ban both Facebook and YouTube after the March 30 elections.
Why don’t Armenian leaders — in Armenia and Diaspora — act more boldly, similar to Erdogan, especially when the survival of Armenians is at stake? It is most appropriate to raise such a question after the invasion of Kessab by Jihadists, taking Armenian hostages, pillaging their homes, and desecrating their churches.
Regrettably, repeated pleas by Armenian-American organizations to US officials, to help protect Armenians and other Syrian Christians, have fallen on deaf ears. On March 24, the ANCA sent another strongly-worded letter to Pres. Obama, demanding immediate White House and congressional intervention to stop the attacks on Kessab. The US government does not seem interested in the tragic fate of Syrian-Armenians and other minorities, since Washington is hell-bent on toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime, ignoring the loss of innocent lives.
Armenians should not be content by merely shaking their heads and complaining to each other about the tragic news emanating from Syria. They must wake up from their collective coma and take bold action. Daily demonstrations must be held in major U.S. cities and in front of American, British, French, Saudi, and Turkish embassies and consulates around the world to protest their arming of so-called rebels who are kidnapping and murdering Syrian Armenians, among many others.
Urgent meetings should be held with top US, British and French officials, demanding that they immediately halt deliveries of all weapons and financial assistance to ‘rebels’ in Syria, until they cease attacks on civilians!
I wrote a column back in 2002 with the following headline: “The Armenian ‘Mouse’ Needs to Roar More Often.” Basically, it was a call for bolder action. I had referred to the short story written by William Saroyan, titled: “The Armenian Mouse,” in which a brave mouse, by its aggressive behavior, manages to defend itself from more ferocious beasts.
Remaining silent and inactive are no longer viable options, while our compatriots are getting slaughtered in Syria. Sheepish behavior only serves to embolden the enemies of the Armenian nation.
Armenians need to be proactive rather than reactive. On the eve of the Genocide Centennial, they cannot be silent bystanders while the Turkish government and its allies are directly or indirectly embarking on a new campaign of exterminating Armenians in Syria.
Armenians must speak up, protest, and take effective action to defend their countrymen in all corners of the world. They need to become the ‘mouse’ that ROARS!