BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Actually, it’s the opposite. The egos in power in the lands of Turks and pup-Turks seem to have absolutely no shame. They are UN-abashedly pushing forward with actions and policies negatively impacting freedom of speech that are discrediting Turkey and Azerbaijan. This piece is not meant to repeat what the editors of both Asbarez and The Armenian Weekly have written commentaries about, media repression in those countries, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
In Turkey, aside from the ongoing post-2016-coup repression, sultanization-of-Erdoğan, and the continuing persecution of Kurds, numerous other public relations (at least) disasters are grabbing the world’s attention. Obviously, the big news is the government’s blocking of Wikipedia. Now, citizens of Turkey are deprived of access to what may well be the world’s single largest source of data, knowledge, and information. This should come as no surprise given Ankara’s history of blocking or otherwise cracking down on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Drawing less attention are two other fiascoes which are of greater relevance to Armenians. Turkey and diasporized Turks are making fools of themselves attacking and attempting to discredit “The Promise” which, let’s face it, is just another movie, in the eyes of everyone but those impacted by or connected to it somehow (Armenians, Assyrians, Azeris/Tatars, Greeks, Kurds, Turks). Imagine if you read about a movie getting more reviews than it had viewers on IMDb, a noted website dedicated to the world of movies where people can rate the films they see (that’s what happened a few months ago when “The Promise” premiered and countless Turks gave it bad reviews). Inside Turkey, other shenanigans by the government and its quislings in the Armenian community (best represented by Patriarchal Locum Tenens Aram Ateshian) are disrupting our community there by infringing on its right to elect a new Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople (remember, the current office holder has been sidelined due to his dementia).
In Azerbaijan, aside from the ongoing repression of civil rights activists and journalists we are being treated to breaking, much more international-scale, scandals. There is the report of an Azerbaijani diplomat’s wife caught stealing from a Marshalls store in New York’s borough, the Bronx. Imagine, getting busted with $188.88 worth of goods from a discount-retailer when you are representing your country in another country! Of course, she was let off because of her diplomatic immunity. Then we have the still under-exposed but expanding scandal of Azerbaijan bribing various European officials. This is far worse than the case of ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives who traveled to Baku and got gifts, improperly according to U.S. law.
This is all great on the publicity front. Besides encouraging and thanking them, we should be pleased, even. We should encourage Ankara and Baku to continue their self-degradation.
At the same time as all this is going on, what other, formally public, though practically largely unnoticed trends and developments are emerging? Putin recently announced that Russia-Turkey relations are back to normal (are we on the verge of a return to the immediate post-WWI era of amity between these two?). Azerbaijan just received another delivery of Russian armaments (Is this going to continue and/or grow?). There is talk of a Turkish base being built in Nakhichevan (If this happens, how badly would it impair Armenia’s ability, especially vis-à-vis Iran, to conduct operations against Azerbaijan in case outright warfare broke out?). Meral Aksener – a woman, apparently a typical Turkish chauvinist (currently she is leading a breakaway faction of the Milli Harekat Partisi- the most right of Turkey’s major parties), and potential threat to Erdoğan’s ongoing presidential ambitions – may run for that position (What happens if she is not preemptively jailed and actually wins? Will that set Turkey on the path back into the West’s good graces?).
What does all this bode for Armenian concerns and issues in or with Syria, the Kurds, Europe and North America?
Let’s all be alert and wary.