on the silk road

March 24, 2009, 9:32 pm
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The Armenian National Committee of America urges you to register to vote… YOUR VOTE IS OUR COMMUNITY’S VOICE.
March 12, 2009, 12:13 am
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Gaza a Tool for Turkey’s Great Game in Middle East

Prime Minister Erdogan gets a heroes welcome at the Istanbul Ataturk airport.


For some time now, Turkey has been posturing for a more influential role in the geopolitics of its region, step by step working to recreate the Ottoman Legacy by mediating conflicts in the Middle East and establishing footholds in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

To advance its image among the Arab world and carve for itself a new and larger role in the region, Turkey has taken up the mantle of the Palestinian Cause, damning Israel at every turn for its human rights violations in Gaza.

Until recently Turkey had, by and large, tried to portray itself as a neutral arbiter of peace between Israel and Hamas, ostensibly working for the interests of regional stability. Lately, however, Turkey has taken a sharp turn from its previous position, accusing Israel of war crimes and using it to bolster its already strong diplomatic position in the region.

The latest and harshest jab at Israel’s dismal human right’s record by Turkey came Thursday when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan railed at the Israeli President, Shimon Peres, during a televised panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Erodgan blasted the Israeli President with a lengthy and prepared condemnation for his government’s inhumanity.

“I find it very sad that people applaud what you said. There have been many people killed. And I think that it is very wrong and it is not humanitarian,” Erdogan said, responding to a lengthy monologue by Peres defending Israel’s operations in Gaza. “You know very well how to kill people.”

Erdogan’s harsh criticism at Davos follows weeks of similar denunciations in which he has accused Israel of “savagery”  and “crimes against humanity.” Many analysts are predicting Erdogan’s verbal jabs have strained relations between Turkey and Israel, two countries who have close diplomatic and military ties and a long history of working together to lobby the US government against recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Sure enough, the influential American Jewish Committee slammed Erdogan on Friday for his remarks, saying his behavior was “a public disgrace that may well encourage further outrages against Israel and Jews.”

Earlier, on January 23, five major Jewish organizations called on the Turkish prime minister to “urgently address” the wave of anti-Semitism in his country manifesting through anti-israel protests. The organizations warned that Turkey’s recent condemnation of Israel will make it difficult to continue supporting Turkey’s attempts to prevent US recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the US congress.

But while some analysts predict that Turkey may have torpedoed its strategic alliance with Israel and thus the west, as well as burned its bridges with its allies in the Israeli Lobby, others see Turkey’s geopolitical position as having actually benefited from its harsh criticism of Israel.

“Turkey’s international profile has risen as a result of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s criticism of Israel in the wake of the conflict in Gaza,” said Stratfor, a Texas based Private Intelligence agency. “Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party are making use of the Gaza crisis to further their goals of reasserting Turkey’s leadership of the Arab Middle East, and of the wider Muslim world.”

With a seat on the UN Security and a lock on the regions energy supply, Turkey is begining to weild the same crafty politics that built the Ottoman Empire, using the shrewed diplomacy of the Sultans to exploit the vacuum being left in the region by the slowly departing US Army.

On the international level, Erdogan’s condemnation of Israel may harm Turkish foreign policy positions, but in the streets of the Arab world Erdogan is becoming a ‘new Nasser’,” The Jamestown analysis noted, adding that a Turkish TV channel has reported Palestinians are planning to organize rallies after Friday prayers to show their appreciation for Erdogan’s comments.

According to Stratfor, Erdogan is “gaining tremendous respect and appreciation” in the Arab world for his recent condemnations of Israel, especially “at a time when the Arab masses perceive their leaders as either actively supporting Israel or at least doing nothing to stop it.”

With its continued survival dependent on Muslim divisivness, Israel would not be keen on having to deal with a Middle East united behind Turkey against Israel.  Peres was quick to nip any speculation Friday that Turkish-Israeli relations had tanked, saying that Turkey is an ally and that the public argument with Erdogan at the World Economic Forum will neither affect the relationship between Israel and Turkey nor between Peres and Erdogan, The Associated Press reported.

Aside from the diplomatic gambit this move may have given Turkey in its dealings with the regional players, Erdogan seems to also have benefited domestically as well, arriving in Turkey Friday to a hero’s welcome from thousands of Turks gathered at Istanbul’s Atatruk Airport waving Palestinian and Turkish flags while chanting slogans in support of the prime minister. Banners proclaimed Erdogan the “delegate of the oppressed.”  The passions, the New York Times reported Friday, reflected widespread anger about the Gaza war spreading throughoutTurkey, a secular nation whose population is mostly Muslim.

“I only know that I’m responsible for protecting the honor of the Turkish Republic, the Turkish nation from A to Z,” Erdogan was quoted by the Times as saying as he returned to Istanbul in the early hours of Friday. “I am not a leader of a tribe. I am the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. I do whatever I need to, so I did it, and will continue to do so. This is my character. This is my identity.”

Where Turkish-Israeli relations will go from here is unknown, according to the Jamestown Foundation, which said Friday that Erdogan’s risky move in Davos has made him a hero to Turkey’s masses, assuring him “victory in the municipal elections in March.”

According to Hurriyet, it has been revealed that the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to arrive in Turkey on Feb. 7 at Ankara’s request. No further details have been made clear.

Turkey occupies some of the most valuable real estate on the planet, according to Stratfor. “It sits astride the land routes connecting Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East–not to mention the straits connecting the Black Sea and the Mediterranean,” a January 30 report by the intelligence agency said. “It is the only country in the world that is positioned to project influence readily into all of these regions.”

“Any time in human history that the Anatolian Peninsula has not been a leading force in geopolitics has been an aberration,” Stratfor aptly noted in its analysis. “And although the direction of its movement remains up for debate, Turkey–after more than 90 years of quiescence–is moving again.”

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Armenian Apology Causes Brawl in Turkish Parliament

Turkish politicians from the Republican People’s Party and the ruling Ak Party fight during a debate last May in the Turkish parliament in Ankara.

Turkish politicians from the Republican People’s Party and the ruling Ak Party fight during a debate last May in the Turkish parliament in Ankara.

Asbarez.com is reporting that a Turkish parliament member’s request Sunday that the legislature apologize to Armenians for the “events of 1915” has caused an uproar in parliament, with members hurling personal insults at one another.

Democratic Society Party (DTP) member Osman Euzcelik brought the matter up during parliament’s discussion of the education ministry budget and went on to recall the Armenian massacres by using the Kurdish word that describes Genocide.

The remarks prompted a member of the ruling AKP party to walk toward DTP members and begin screaming at his fellow parliamentarians. Another parliament member intervened to stop what could have become a physical altercation.

Read the full story

The AYF Inspires
December 11, 2008, 7:07 am
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“You cannot create experience, you must undergo it.”

Taking Albert Camus’ truism to heart, the Armenian Youth Federation has spent the last 75 years preparing generations of leaders, giving young Armenian-Americans the opportunity to gain real world experience through service to their communities. 

Keeping with tradition, the organization’s Central Executive kicked off this fiscal year by hosting a day of lectures, workshops and seminars on leadership development.  

The participants, newly elected executives from local AYF chapters throughout the Western US, spent the day learning a range of skills, strategies, and theories on organizational management, applying them at the end in scenario based exercises. 

But the training seminar, though extensive, is only one of many opportunities AYF members have throughout the year to cultivate skills critical to success in personal, professional, academic, and community life.  


The responsibility of having to oversee a group of people working to complete “complex tasks” within set schedules comes with great rewards and many in the AYF quickly realize the benefits that come with the long hours of work they regularly put into the organization, according to Sevag Jierian, the chairperson of the AYF’s Fresno chapter.   

“Recognizing that things depend on you and rising to that task, has taught me how to be a leader, mentor and collaborator—traits  one often needs to successfully manage a business, or any undertaking for that matter,” he explained.  

For the last few years, Vache Thomassian has been learning just that. As the editor of the organization’s quarterly publication, Haytoug, he has been responsible for everything expected from a professional magazine editor, working with a volunteer team to finance and produce a magazine that reaches tens of thousands of Armenians worldwide.   

“For over 30 years AYF members have written for, designed, published and distributed the magazine,” he explained, talking about some of the challenges he faced trying to grow the magazine. “When I was given the opportunity, we essentially had to reinvent the wheel and create a new and sustainable infrastructure for finding and managing talent for the magazine.” 

Vache, who is currently the Chairman of the AYF, described the job as an honor, noting the leap in his personal and professional growth while “learning how to delegate, organize and manage the functions of a publication.” 

“I remember the first issue of Haytoug I worked on was dedicated to examining the dire situation of the Armenian’s of Javakhk,” he said, recalling his first project as the editor. “While working on that issue I had the opportunity to interview many experts and intellectuals, locally and internationally. That experience taught me how to research effectively, setting the stage, not only, for my future work with the magazine but also in my personal and academic life as well.” 

Carnie Armenian concurred, referring to her own experience helping to establish the AYF’s newest chapter in Las Vegas. As the chapter’s first chairperson, she is responsible for not only building its foundations, but also raising awareness about the organization in community, doing outreach and getting people involved with the chapter.

“My responsibilities are endless,” she said. “But so are the benefits.”


For Levon Abrahamian, the AYF has been testing ground to develop leadership skills he always had but never explored. Currently the chairman of the AYF’s Central Fundraising Committee, Levon joined the organization to “make a difference in the community, to help it progress in any way he can.”  

“Being involved in planning some of the major events the AYF organizes has inspired me to go beyond the bare minimum, to always strive to do better than what’s expected and get the job done,” he said, describing the “profound working habits and time management skills” he has developed as a result of his involvement.  

No other organization or workplace environment gives its members as much freedom to explore and unearth hidden talents as the AYF does, Sevag Jierian noted, pointing to the many campaigns and projects he’s helped organize over the years. 

Sevag’s chapter hosted this year’s annual AYF Olympics, a massive three day sports tournament and reunion celebration for the organization. Every year responsibility for organizing Olympics passes to a different chapter, giving its members an opportunity to put into motion their ideas for the event.  

If the chapter rises to the challenge, the event easily becomes a phenomenally good time, as well as a fundraiser. As his chapter’s chairperson, Sevag, oversaw the efforts to organize the project and its various subsidiary elements. 

Another major initiative organized by the organization is an Alumni reunion hosted by the AYF’s Montebello chapter. This year was the 50th anniversary of the chapter and its chapter chairman, Zaven Altounian, oversaw a team who “worked on everything from conceptual planning to the final execution of the event,” which is the chapter’s primary means to fund its yearly activities.  

“I have learned to work on budgets and having to pick and choose different items for the event in order to stay within strict parameters in order to maintain the profitability, viability and ultimate success of the event,” he said.  


Montebello’s leadership, early on, recognized the strategic importance of long term planning, developing their reunion into a primary fundraising mechanism that would cultivate donors and patrons for the chapter, Zaven explained. “It’s vital that we create strong and lasting connections with our Alumni.” 

The reunion has been a powerful tool for showing the community that it has a vested interest in the chapter, he added. “I’ve learned that this is pivotal to the success of any non-profit.” 

Leadership requires vision and the AYF is a place to learn how to think outside the box, according to Sose Thomassian, the chairperson of the Orange County AYF.  

“Motivating people to approach new challenges in innovative ways, requires an unconventional perspective, and the AYF brings out that creative problem solver in you,” she said. 

Sose is also the director of the AYF’s Youth Corps Program, which is one of the organizations most successful ongoing projects.  

Having first occupied itself with small scale projects rebuilding damaged structures in Karabakh, Youth Corps took a bold and unprecedented step last year and opened what the AYF hopes to be a permanent summer camp for underprivileged youth in Gyumri.  

Sending a team of 7 young Armenians to Gyumri to manage a summer day camp for hundreds of children was completely new to the AYF and it “needed serious planning and bold creativity,” she explained, adding that “the program required a solid vision if it was to be successful and lasting.”  


The AYF is a chance to take hold of responsibility, to take on challenges, and make ideas happen, many in the organization often realize after completing their first fundraiser, or large scale event.  

For some members a chance at leadership is why they joined the AYF. For others, the AYF helped them see a side of themselves they didn’t know existed. 

“Being thrust into situations that require you to adapt to new circumstances changes people, and builds their capabilities,” said Hasmig Karkouzian, the chairperson of the South Bay AYF. 

Having to constantly take on new roles and responsibilities teaches you how to manage a diverse array of projects, she said. “I have been a project manager, supervisor, event planner, researcher, cook, promoter, negotiator, mentor, hostess, accountant, secretary, communicator, and educator.” 

Being involved provides you with a place to grow, agreed Saro Haroun, a former treasurer for the Crescenta Valley AYF, who described how his character had been shaped by the various responsibilities placed on his shoulders over the years. 

Saro was the chair the organization’s Central Educational Committee last year, overseeing the curriculum of over 500 members throughout the entire organization. That responsibility is “extremely empowering,” he exclaimed, stressing how his experiences in the organization shaped his trust in himself. 

Membership in the AYF, in and of itself, is a remarkable opportunity for Armenian youth to develop their character, to become confident and responsible trail-blazers in anything they take on, commented the organization’s Vice Chairman, Berj Parseghian. 

Two year’s ago Berj served as the AYF’s treasurer.  He explained how the responsibility of having to “manage the organization’s books, budget money, and spend wisely” taught him skills he never thought he would learn.  “Being in such a critical position taught me how to run a large organization, and how to achieve something greater than myself.” 

“Youth today are rarely given the kind of responsibility and level of freedom that the AYF provides,” Vache explained, noting the AYF’s unique role in the community. “It brings youth together to volunteer for the betterment of our communities, and Armenia, while also helping them become better individuals, capable of leading our people into the future.”

Responsibility inspires leadership, he stressed.

Turks and Klingons, the missing link?
November 6, 2008, 4:08 am
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Is it me or do Turks look a lot like Klingons, those evil warrior-like aliens, described as bloodthirsty militaristic monsters who drink blood, and smell like canine ass.

Turkey’s Chief Prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya

Turkey's chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya

Chancellor Gorkan of the Klingon High Command


AYF Demonstrates Event Honoring Ataturk
November 1, 2008, 7:59 pm
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