U.S. House bills falsely accuse Turkey of genocide

BY GUEST OPINION | JUNE 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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U.S. House Resolution 304, sponsored by Reps. Robert Dold, R-Ill., and Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and HR 306, sponsored by Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Edward Royce, R-Calif., were introduced earlier this month. These resolutions accuse Turkey of the crime of genocide against Armenians during World War I and the destruction of the Christian heritage of ancient and modern Turkey as a form of genocide against Christians.

To date, there have been 12 resolutions regarding the Armenian case. Six have failed because they characterized the events of 1915 as genocide. The six that succeeded did not characterize the events as a crime. Whether the Ottoman Armenian tragedy constitutes a case of genocide is genuinely controversial.

Furthermore, it is U.S. policy not to define the Armenian case in terms of a crime but to encourage its foreign allies, Turkey and Armenia, to reach their own conclusion via the Turkey-Armenia Protocols, which the EU and Russia also support.

HR 306 is an allegation of genocide, disguised as charges that Turkey is destroying its ancient and modern Christian heritage as a part of an “intentional destruction” of Turkey’s Christian populations.

Turkish policy is to prevent or redress any violation of religious rights by accepting the absolute jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Turkish policy is also to rehabilitate and place into public service as many religious sites as is feasible.

In a country that offers more than 10,000 years of human history and even greater numbers of sacred sites, the task of restoring, protecting, and placing into public service this rich cultural heritage is expensive, time-consuming, and delicate work, and rarely assisted by others. Turkey has taken the following actions:

• In 2005, Turkey and the Landmarks Foundation restored the Akhtamar Church in Van; five years later, the Armenian church commenced services.

• Turkey and the Landmarks Foundation is restoring the Balyan Church in Istanbul.

• Turkey independently is restoring the Holy Savior Cathedral in Ani.

• In 2010, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Istanbul commenced services in the Sumela Monastery in Trabzon, and thousands of worshippers attended.

People of Turkish heritage have a tradition of protecting and accepting refugees of religious persecution, including the Armenians during Byzantine times, Jews during the European Inquisitions, Jews during the Holocaust, Bulgarian Turks in the 1980s, and Bosnians in the 1990s.

Today, the Jewish population of Turkey is the second largest in the former Ottoman lands, Israel having the highest. There are 19 synagogues in Istanbul alone.

The frequency, gross inaccuracies, and derogatory tone of resolutions such as HR 304 and HR 306 reflect an anti-Turkish and anti-Muslim prejudice and create a dangerous atmosphere of hatred directed at Americans of Turkish heritage. These resolutions deny people of Turkish and Muslim heritage fairness and justice, because they place the House, a politically motivated body, in the seat of an arbiter of ethnic disputes. Furthermore, these resolutions harm U.S. interests in an increasingly complex region by harming U.S.-Turkish relations.

Please provide no quarter to these misleading resolutions, to ethnic feuds on Capitol Hill, and to bigotry and hatred cloaked as human-rights resolutions.

Agshin Taghiyev is an Iowa City resident.

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