Thousands of articles are posted on the internet every day. But, very few make us fall off our chairs!
Last week I came across a shocking news item posted by the Turkish Forum, the largest website for Turkish news. It was titled, “Forgotten Ambassador in Sierra Leone Uses Armenian Genocide Resolution to Solve His Problem.” Here is the translated summary of that incredible article:
“In recent years, parliaments of several countries have adopted resolutions on the Armenian Genocide. In retaliation, Turkey has recalled its ambassadors from these countries. It has been revealed that some opportunistic ambassadors exploited this situation, by abusing their position.
“According to a Foreign Ministry announcement this morning, Orhan Emin Turkone, Turkey ’s ambassador in Sierra Leone for the past 12 years, has been fired for having lobbied for the passage of the Armenian Genocide bill in that country’s parliament.
“During a press conference this morning, the Foreign Ministry’s undersecretary, Ersin Ozbukey, explained: ‘Recently, it came to our attention that the so-called Armenian Genocide bill was placed on the agenda of the parliaments of Chad, Eritrea, and Djibouti. But, when we saw that this bill was unanimously adopted by the parliament of Sierra Leone, we started suspecting that something had gone terribly wrong.’ Ozbukey added: ‘We formed an investigative committee that uncovered some interesting, but disturbing information.’
“‘We confirmed that Ambassador Turkone had carried out lobbying activities in favor of the Armenian Genocide bill,’ Ozbukey stated. ‘Of course, this can’t be excused, but the ministry also has its fault in this affair. This man was abandoned and forgotten in a far away country. He got that idea, after [Turkish] ambassadors were recalled following the adoption of the genocide resolution by other countries. Twelve years is a long time,’ Ozbukey admitted.
“Ozbukey then provided the details of Turkone’s unbelievable actions in publicizing the Armenian Genocide in Sierra Leone. Ozbukey said that whenever the ambassador visited a bar, he would write on facebook: ‘We massacred the Armenians in such a nasty way.’ He told bartenders: ‘My grandfather alone killed 100-150 Armenians whose bones are in the basement of our home.’ The ambassador made up such falsehoods and lies. He basically said whatever came to his head. Sierra Leone is a small place. Word spreads quickly. No one had ever heard of either Armenia or Turkey. But, within a month, everyone in the whole country was agitated over this issue. People were dancing in the streets when they learned that the genocide was recognized. This shouldn’t have happened, but unfortunately, it did!
“Ozbukey explained that after this revelation, the Turkish government started paying more attention to the agenda of various parliaments. In order to avoid such situations in the future, instead of recalling ambassadors, ‘we are now considering the possibility of cutting off trade relations, until the resolution is removed from the parliament’s agenda.’”
Even though this article sounded too good to be true, the amount of detail and specific names mentioned in it led dozens of Turkish websites to post it, without realizing that it was a hoax. After learning that Turkey did not have an embassy in Sierra Leone, the Turkish Forum deleted the fake news from its website. It was also not true that Armenian Genocide resolutions were being considered by the parliaments of Chad, Djibouti, and Eritrea in recent months.
It is not known who concocted this elaborate hoax. Given the extensive amount of criticism directed at Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan within Turkey in recent weeks, the author could well be a disgruntled Turk with a sense of humor who decided to take a sarcastic swipe at his Don Quixotic leader. The article was accompanied by an authentic looking photo of three African officials along with a non-African individual at a signing ceremony. The photo gave the false impression that the latter was the Turkish ambassador to Sierra Leone.
It is not at all surprising that several Turkish websites fell for this ruse, as the government of Turkey has made a practice of recalling its ambassadors from France, Canada , the United States, and other countries for having recognized the Armenian Genocide.
Namik Tan, the newly appointed Turkish ambassador to Washington, was recalled on March 4 after the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the Armenian Genocide Resolution. It was reported that he might stay in Ankara until after April 24. This is great news for Armenian American activists, as they can lobby Congress without facing any opposition from the Turkish ambassador during the crucial weeks leading to April 24, when he needs to be in Washington trying to block the genocide resolution in the House and persuade President Obama not to refer to the Armenian Genocide in his annual statement.
To the best of our knowledge, Tan did not lobby Congress for passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, as did the fictional ambassador in Sierre Leone in order to take an extended vacation with family and friends back home. However, judging from Erdogan’s recent self-defeating statements, sometimes truth is indeed stranger than fiction.