BY HARUT SASSOUNIAN
In a lengthy interview last week with Agence France Presse (AFP) on the tragic situation in Syria, Pres. Bashar al-Assad made an unexpected reference to the massacres of 1.5 million Armenians. This is the first time that any Syrian head of state has acknowledged the Armenian mass murders and identified the perpetrator as Ottoman Turkey.
During the interview, Pres. Assad compared the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to the brutal killings of civilians by foreign fighters nowadays in Syria: “The degree of savagery and inhumanity that the terrorists have reached reminds us of what happened in the Middle Ages in Europe over 500 years ago. In more recent modern times, it reminds us of the massacres perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians when they killed a million and a half Armenians and half a million Orthodox Syriacs in Syria and in Turkish territory.”
Not surprisingly, two days later, Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, made a similar remark: “How about the Armenian Genocide where 1.5 million people were killed?”
The only other high ranking Syrian official who has acknowledged the Armenian Genocide was Abd al-Qader Qaddura, Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, when he inscribed a poignant statement in the Book of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide Monument and Museum in Yerevan on July 16, 2001: “As we visit the Memorial and Museum of the Genocide that the Armenian nation suffered in 1915, we stand in full admiration and respect in front of those heroes that faced death with courage and heroism. Their children and grandchildren continued after them to immortalize their courage and struggle…. With great respect we bow our heads in memory of the martyrs of the Armenian nation — our friends — and hail their ability for resoluteness and triumph. We will work together to liberate every human being from aggression and oppression.”
While the Parliament Speaker’s 2001 statement was a candid and heartfelt message with no political overtones, the same cannot be said about Pres. Assad’s words on the Armenian Genocide as he clearly intended to lash back at the Turkish government’s hostile actions against the Syrian regime. It is well known that Turkey has played a major role in the concerted international effort to topple Pres. Assad, by dispatching heavy weapons and arranging the infiltration of foreign radical Islamist fighters into Syria.
Relations between Syria and Turkey were not always hostile. Before the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the two countries were such close political and economic allies that the Assad regime banned the sale of books on the Armenian Genocide, and did not permit foreign film crews to visit Der Zor, the killing fields of thousands of Armenians during the Genocide. Mindful of possible Turkish backlash, Pres. Assad’s staff cancelled my courtesy meeting with the President in 2009 after they discovered on the internet my countless critical articles on Turkey. Moreover, during the honeymoon period between the Syrian and Turkish governments, Pres. Assad advised the visiting Catholicos Aram I that Armenians should maintain good relations with Turkey and not dwell on the past!
In his recent interview with AFP, Pres. Assad also complained about the failure of Western leaders to comprehend developments in the Middle East: “They are always very late in realizing things, sometimes even after the situation has been overtaken by a new reality that is completely different.” Frankly, one could make the same criticism about Pres. Assad for realizing at his own detriment only too late the dishonesty and duplicity of Turkey’s leadership.
Regrettably, the Syrian President is not the only head of state who has failed to decipher the scheming mindset of Turkey’s rulers. Countless Middle Eastern, European, and American leaders have made the same mistake, trusting Turkey’s feigned friendship, only to be let down when the time came for Turkey to keep its end of the bargain.
In recent months, with the increasing dissatisfaction of the international community with Prime Minister Erdogan’s autocratic policies and belligerent statements, it has become crystal clear that no one knows the true face of Turkey better than Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Kurds, who have suffered countless brutalities, massacres and even genocide under despotic Turkish rule.
Despite Pres. Assad’s political motivations, Armenians should welcome his belated statement on the Armenian Genocide. After refraining from acknowledging the Genocide for all the wrong reasons for so long, at least now the Syrian President is on record telling the truth about past and present Turkish atrocities!
the Syrian president spoke out about the genocide but does that count as an official recognition or does some kind of legislature need to pass? now is the time to lobby for official recognition and possibly designate april 24 as a mourning day for the Armenian genocide
Very well done President Bashar, may Syria surmount the present crisis under your leadership.
So you mean to tell us that Armenians until now were supporting a Genocide denier? No!
Don’t be fooled by this fool. He is using the Genocide as leverage against Turkey. Where was he until now? This guy is taking us for a ride. As desperate as we are, we must not fall for the trap. Let him sort out his differences with the Turks. This recognition changes nothing, he is still a brutal dictator saying and doing whatever it takes to survive.
Honestly what does it matter what anyone else, whether Syrian or American or British or Israeli “recognize” the Armenian Genocide or not. Not “recognizing” the Armenian Genocide is like not “recognizing” the Sun – it does not change that the fact that the Sun exists. Keep in mind that Pakistan officially refuses to recognize the existence of the Republic of Armenia as a sign of Islamic support for Azerbaijan against Artsakh, and Armenia is doing just fine without “recognition” by the Pakistani jackals in Islamabad. We’ve seen the US and France effectively turn the Genocide into a tool of pressure against the Turks, which is the ultimate insult to the memory of Armenia’s martyrs. We’ve seen Muslim Arab countries like Egypt and Syria choose to recognize the Genocide when they realize turkey’s imperialistic ambitions against them. Over the past five years we’ve seen Israeli officials pull out the Armenian Genocide card whenever they had a tiff with their genocidal brothers in Ankara. As an Armenian, what happened to my great grandparents and to my Nation is too sacred to be allowed to become a cheap western bargaining chip used for political gains against Turkey.
Instead of wasting time chasing “recognition” by the biggest war criminals in the world, whether western governments or Arab dictatorships, the Armenian Diaspora needs to focus on investing in Armenia and securing and strengthening the strategic Russian-Armenian alliance which is Armenia’s only hope to improve its economic, geopolitical and military situation. That will in the long run benefit the Armenian Nation infinitely more than achieving “recognition” by yet another government. What good has recognition by Canada or France or Lebanon or even Russia done for the Armenian Cause? Instead of pretending political prostitutes in foreign parliaments hold the key to Armenia’s future through empty declarations or toothless treaties of the past, we Armenians need to focus on the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh as the only hope for the continuing survival of the Armenian nation – and the two pillars on which Armenia’s future is based are the Russian-Armenian alliance and the Armenian Military.
Of course Armenians should not forget that the Syrians were kind enough not to finish off the surviving Armenians that were stranded there in 1915. Nor should we forget that in today’s political climate President Assad and his Alawi government are the only thing that stands between the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their final obliteration at the hands of the US-EU-Israeli-Turkish-Sunni terrorist unholy alliance of today. But “recognition” or non-recognition are essentially a meaningless thing for Armenians to waste their limited time and resources worrying about.
And I understand criticizing President Assad for trying to appease the Turks at the expense of the Armenians before the current phase of western-Turkish subversions began in Syria. He’s certainly paying for his miscalculations, frankly he’d be dead if not for President Putin’s aid. But I think that when American, European and Israeli leaders move to appease Turkey, Mr. Sassounian should focus on educating his audience on how such actions clearly prove that the west has fundamentally different strategic national interests than Armenia. But instead, while he pointed out that recognition by the US is redundant given past Congressional reaffirmations of the Armenian Genocide, Mr. Sassounian at the end of the day ultimately conveyed the message that what the jackals in Washington, Brussels, Paris and Tel-Aviv had to say about the Armenian Genocide mattered in some way and therefore Armenians should sink time and money into these anti-Armenian, turcophile viper’s dens.
And on this note it is worth mentioning the only country which has not backtracked on recognition of the Armenian Genocide or made statements to appease the turks is the Russian Federation, despite the fact that both turkey and azerbaijan are gigantic trading partners with Russia, dwarfing exponentially the size of Russian-Armenian economic relations. Most recently President Putin paid a very respectful visit to Dzidzernakaberd, one that got very little attention in the English-language press. Had a war-criminal like Obama made a similar visit, even if he was clear it was only a “personal visit”, the Armenian Diaspora and the English-language media would have reached a state of Nirvana.
Ps Mr. Sassounian writes “the Turkish government’s hostile actions against the Syrian regime.” Why refer to the genocidal, imperialistic autocracy in Ankara as a “government” but refer to the non-warmongering, sovereign autocracy in Damascus as a “regime”. Don’t let yourselves fall into the western mental traps that automatically prejudice against the enemies of the west. Turkey is run by a criminal NATO puppet regime, Syria is run by an Armenia-friendly and Armenian-friendly legitimate government.
I agree with most of your points, especially the part where you say “Instead of wasting time chasing “recognition” by the biggest war criminals……Armenian Diaspora needs to focus on investing in Armenia and securing and strengthening the strategic Russian-Armenian alliance which is Armenia’s only hope to improve its economic, geopolitical and military situation.”
However, these I must clarify:
1. “Instead of wasting time chasing “recognition” by the biggest war criminals in the world.”
Assad should also be included on the list
2. “Of course Armenians should not forget that the Syrians were kind enough not to finish off the surviving Armenians that were stranded there in 1915.”
Only that the Assad clan was not in charge back then. They should not be given credit for protecting the Armenians.
3. “Nor should we forget that in today’s political climate President Assad and his Alawi government are the only thing that stands between the descendants of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and their final obliteration at the hands of the US-EU-Israeli-Turkish-Sunni terrorist unholy alliance of today.”
Only because we decided to take sides and created unnecessary attention. If we had kept silent, we would have been in a position to work with whichever side wins in the future.
Fair enough, I’m not particularly interested in painting Assad as a great leader. He’s just the best, and only, choice in a bad situation.
It remains questionable at best whether the opposition, now heavily intertwined with foreign Jihadists shipped in by the west through turkey, would ever tolerate Armenians or Christians under any circumstance. The domestic Syrian opposition had their cause hijacked long ago, there’s no turning back now. You may find this reading interesting:
You are very articulate and to the point. You seem very well ready on this subject.
Thank you for the link.
I agree except for your opinion about not pursuing recognition of the AG. You made valid points about Russia, however, as welcomed as Russian support for Armenia is, what is your guarantee that it will remain that way? The recent “join the customs union or pay for our gas through your noses” makes this question even more valid. That is a dangerous game for us to stick to “our savior” and give everyone else the middle finger. It does not work that way. We Armenians must stick together and pursue every one of our rights in every corner of the Earth, no matter what. It is simple as that.
I base it on geopolitical calculations, of course nothing is ever guaranteed. The west wants to control the oil and gas reserves in Central Asia, the key to Central Asia for NATO is through the South Caucasus and the Middle East. In the South Caucasus Armenia remains Russia’s only ally – Azerbaijan is Islamic and pan-turkist at the core, while Georgia is a western pawn overly saturated with western agents. Russia needs Armenia, otherwise NATO’s minions in the region turkey would turn the South Caucasus into an Islamic cesspool. Russia and Turkey are and remain historic rivals, and turks have an instinctive fear of Russians (and with good cause because Russia has defeated turkey in every major war between the two).
Naturally Russia wants to keep Armenia in its orbit and away from the west, so they put pressure on Yerevan to speed its ascent to the Customs Union. Russians know as well as we do that a lot of Armenia’s leadership, not all but a lot, are available to the highest bidder, and want to extract maximal concessions both personal and for the Armenian state, from all sides. Russia was acting in its own interests, reminding us all that there’s no free lunch in politics. Still there is a qualitative difference between the vital aid Russia gives Armenia economically, militarily and protection from turkey, and the poisonous socio-cultural ideas and would-be revolutionaries that the west has pumped into Armenia over the past twenty years.
I agree with you Armenians need to work together for Armenia, I’m just saying since we have the opportunity right now to ally with a regional superpower, we should do so and EXPLOIT Russia’s “good graces” and develop Armenia economically and militarily (ie Customs Union and CSTO). Kind of how Jews have exploited the West. If you’d like a more in depth analysis please visit:
Since it’s located in the south Caucasus, Armenia has no real choice in the matter. Being with Russia is a matter of national interest. Russia is the main power broker in the region. We need to play its game. And as long as Turks, Persians, Islamists and Western oil interests have designs for the south Caucasus, Armenia will be look upon by Russia as a strategic ally and Armenia will be protected as if it’s Russia. With the exception of the early Bolshevik era in Russia’s history (which was a time period when the territories of the former Russian Empire were begin governed by non-Russians), Russia has been closely protecting Armenia for the past two hundred years. Being allied to a massive superpower that is next door to us and a power that is expected to continue rising in influence in the 21 century is a historic opportunity Armenia has not had in over one thousand years. As long as it lasts, and it should for several decades at least, I think Armenians need to put aside their Cold War phobias and misplaced nationalism and take advantage of the Russian factor in the region for the long term betterment of Armenia.
Took the words right out of my mouth, honestly couldn’t have said it better myself. I’m very relieved to see there are people around with realistic perspectives like your’s. It gives me hope that not all is lost.
Don’t people understand that the only thing that matters in this world is strength! We need to stop being weak beggars pleading for the world to acknowledge us. This waste of time and resources only weakens us. What’s next, Justin Beaber tweets about the genocide and we rejoice for a month? I understand that recognition is the first step, but that will naturally comes once the Armenian nation is in a position not be ignored and can force others like Israel does.
Thanks! I believe there are plenty of Armenians who look at the Armenian Cause rationally, they just don’t raise their voices as much, nor do they receive coverage from the Armenian media. The best thing to do to improve the situation is to utilize forums like this and try to get your ideas across, the interested segments of the Armenian community will pick it up sooner or later.
LOL about justin bieber and celebrity worship in general.
So in your view, banning genocide books and preventing documentation of evidence were not actions of a “Turkophile” but miscalculations? “Armenia-friendly and Armenian-friendly legitimate government” is a laughable statement to say the least. Who do you think you’re fooling you ignorant hypocrite?
Armenia partakes in NATO. What relation do you think you have with Armenia?
If my only two choices are to be either an “ignorant hypocrite” or to be a worthless tool of NATO and the US/EU/turkey alliance, then yes by all means I’d prefer being classified as the former any day.
-I called Assad’s actions appeasement, I called his foolishness of appeasing the turks a miscalculation.
-Armenia is a member of the Russian-led CSTO and in the process of joining the Russian-led Customs Union. It “partakes” in nato in limited engagements. Turkey is the one that “partakes” in NATO.
-My relation to Armenia is one of a Diasporan Nationalist fighting the infowar for my Nation.
Any other questions, misrepresentations, or insults you’d like to throw my way?
You are right!! Congratulations for your note.
perfect.thank YOU Mr. SARKIS
Very well said. I agree with you.
Sarkis, excellent response. You nailed it!!
Well said. Keep on your real Armenian point of view.
God bless you. Abres.
Wow, nicely said to the point
THANK YOU Mr. PRESIDENT. You took to long to to realize that Turkey is not trustworthy, betrayal is in their Genes, they can’t help it, they will betray in every opportunity that may arise. .
It is wery obvious – I Quote –
Assad’s words on the Armenian Genocide as he clearly intended to lash back at the Turkish government’s hostile actions against the Syrian regime. It is well known that Turkey has played a major role in the concerted international effort to topple Pres. Assad, by dispatching heavy weapons and arranging the infiltration of foreign radical Islamist fighters into Syria.
– that Assads words are not more worth than that.
If Hitler recognized the Genocide, would you jump to embrace him too? Do you people seriously have no moral compass? A man who uses MIG’s to bomb and massacre his own people, who has created millions of refugees forced to live in deplorable conditions, has the audacity to talk about the Genocide? The same man who years ago, led the first Syrian effort for reconciliation with Turkey, who embraced Erdogan multiple times, who flooded the Syrian economy with Turkish products, who forced Armenians to scale back their Genocide commemorations in Syria, now wants to come out and talk about the Armenian Genocide, and you are all eating up this garbage.
You are absolutely correct !
Your nonsense is so off on so many levels that I will refrain from wasting any of my time with the likes of you.
@Harutik: Great strategy to avoid the issue…..If you can’t win the argument, discredit the opponent.
Recognition in third countries doesn’t really change much for the Armenian cause. Indeed, if one day the Turkish government does recognize the genocide, I personnally hope their decision comes solely from themselves rather than overwhelming political pressure from third countries.
My solution: We should spend more effort in sensibilizing the Turkish population about 1915 (You might say this is impossible, but today, more and more Turks are willing to talk about it without throwing insults, and every year, on April 24, in Istanbul, tens of thousands of TURKS commemorate the Genocide) If Turks learn the truth, then the government is unable to keep up the lies. This will happen sooner than you think.
Bashar al Asad does not recognize the Armenian Genocide; he says the Armenian massacres. He does NOT say the word GENOCIDE. Up to now no Arab state has recognized the Armenian Genocide, except Lebanon; in those days when Lebanon recognized the Armenian Genocide it named one of its city squares Abdul Hamid!
Bashar Assad knows that his Grand Faher in 1915 and aftewards helped the survivor Armenians of he Genocide that arrived to the Syrian western parts. He knows the story from first hads tesimony. HisGrand Faher was a righteous Man, he tookless from him sncehe didnot have the courage to admit the Genocide wen his country was an alley of Turkey. To use or tragedy for hisown advantage now makes no honour to him neithe joy for us, It is too late. eventhough itis never late to condemn the Armenian Genopcide as any another Genocide.