WASHINGTON–Speaking at George Washington University Wednesday–Turkish Ambassador Nuzhet Kandemir went from exasperated to belligerent in response to questions about Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide–blockade of Armenia–illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and repression of the Kurdish community. These concerns were raised by GWU students and Armenian–Greek and Kurdish American community members during a question and answer period following the Ambassador’s prepared remarks.
GWU Armenian Student Association members–working with the Armenian National Committee of Greater Washington and the GWU Hellenic Student Association–alerted Armenian–Greek and Kurdish American community activists about Kandemir’s lecture–which was part of the ongoing George Washington University Ambassadors Lecture series–organized by GWU President Stephen Trachtenberg and the GWU Program Board. The lecture marked Kandemir’s last official public appearance as Turkish Ambassador to the US. His replacement has not yet been announced.
During the question and answer period–GWU undergraduate Aram Zamgochian called on Kandemir to explain the continued denial of the Armenian Genocide–"in spite of the 1919 Turkish Military Tribunal which sentenced the Committee of Union and Progress triumvirate to death for ordering and overseeing the extermination of the Armenian people–the New York Times articles which quotes German and Turkish statistics pointing to the massacre of over 1.3 million Armenia’s by 1916 alone–and hundreds of consular–missionary and eyewitness reports archived in our Library of Congress…"
Kandemir–using his standard revisionist rhetoric–criticized Armenian American community efforts to pass legislation commemorating the Armenian Genocide and urged steps to "induce love" between the two peoples. In response to a follow up question by GWU economics doctoral candidate Alis Asadurian–in which she cited the dates–sources and titles of US newspaper articles documenting the Armenian Genocide–Kandemir became patronizing and rude–and tried unsuccessfully to disallow her question altogether.
In response to a question by ANCA Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian regarding deteriorating Turkish-American relations–as evidenced by the drastic reduction in US assistance to Turkey and the vocal Congressional and State Department criticism of ongoing human rights violations–Kandemir described US-Turkey relations as "really excellent" and blamed the negative image of Turkey on the efforts of the "Armenian–Greek and Kurdish lobbies–which are working hand in hand whenever there is an anti-Turkey issue in this country," specifically citing the efforts of the Armenian National Committee.
"While we appreciate Amb. Kandemir’s recognition of the ANC’s efforts in the American political arena–the fact is that Turkey’s negative public image stems from his Government’s shameless denial of the Armenian Genocide–illegal blockade of Armenia–brutal repression of the Kurdish minority–and occupation of Northern Cyprus," stated ANC Greater Washington member Nazan Armenian. "The only way to improve Turkey’s image is to resolve these problems directly instead of paying public relations companies millions of dollars each year to cover them up."
Audience members also asked questions about the Turkish Government’s repression of various political parties in Turkey–the occupation of Cyprus and Turkey’s military build up. During and after the lecture–GWU-ASA–ANC Greater Washington–and AYF Ani Chapter members passed out leaflets documenting the Armenian Genocide. The organizers of the program attempted–without success–to stop the leafleting–calling on campus security to escort individuals out of the building.
"We looked Nuzhet Kandemir in the face and let him know that we won’t let him get away with distorting the past–and that we have not forgotten the great crime that was perpetrated on our ancestors," stated Aram Zamgochian.