Sassounian: Turkish PM Shoots Himself in Foot Again

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan embarrasses himself and his government just about every time he opens his mouth. His angry statements, often bewildering and insulting, give Turkey a black eye internationally and provide fresh ammunition to his domestic opponents.

A year ago, the prime minister threatened to deport 100,000 Armenians from Turkey, thereby reminding everyone around the world that Ankara’s present leaders are not much different from their bloodthirsty forefathers who deported and killed 1.5 million Armenians during the genocide of 1915-23. After he was roundly condemned at home and abroad, Erdogan explained that he had meant to deport only undocumented workers from Armenia. When told that the 100,000 figure included both native and foreign Armenians, the prime minister blamed his aides for giving him faulty population figures.

Erdogan made another faux pas early this month during a visit to Kars when he called for the demolition of a gigantic monument symbolizing “Armenia-Turkey friendship.” The 100-foot, 1,500-ton unfinished statue was commissioned by the city’s former mayor who believed that reconciliation and open borders with Armenia would boost his city’s sluggish economy. The monument depicted the figure of a man sliced into two, extending a hand of friendship to his other half. Calling the statue “freakish” or “grotesque,” the prime minister urged the new mayor to have the $1.5 million monument torn down before his next visit.

By calling the Kars monument an “ugly” work of art, Erdogan unleashed a torrent of criticism and triggered a chain of events that made him the laughing stock of the world:

  • Erdogan’s political opponents accused him of pandering to the city’s Azeri voters who vehemently oppose any reconciliation with Armenia. They attributed his demolition order to crass electoral motives rather than to his artistic taste.
  • Turkey’s culture minister tried to come to Erdogan’s rescue by claiming that the prime minister had called the surrounding shanty houses “freakish,” rather than the statue itself. Undeterred. Erdogan embarrassed his minister by rebuking him and repeating his earlier statement. Next, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc jumped into the fray by wishing that “God would spare him from finding himself in the same awkward situation as the culture minister.”
  • Even Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s much-touted foreign minister, got into the act, vainly trying to make his prime minister look good. Davutoglu claimed that the real problem with the monument was that it “fails to blend into the Seljuk, Ottoman, and Russian character” of Kars. In a sarcastic retort, the Economist of London accused Davutoglu of conveniently erasing the city’s “Armenian legacy,” adding that “a long-abandoned tenth-century Armenian church recently reopened—as a mosque!”
  • Mehmet Aksoy, the well-known sculptor of the monument, compared Erdogan’s order to the Taliban’s demolition of ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan. Aksoy warned that Turkey’s image would suffer terribly should the monument be blown up. He threatened to sue the prime minister for insulting his artwork.
  • The international media excoriated Erdogan by ridiculing his artistic taste and exposing his crass political motives. The Wall Street Journal, the Economist, the Associated Press, Radio Free Europe, Reuters, BBC, the Washington Post, Liberation, and hundreds of other media outlets, condemned Erdogan’s destructive directive.
  • Several Turkish journalists questioned the prime minister’s right and authority to have a statue removed and destroyed.
  • Armenia’s foreign minister reacted indignantly to Erdogan’s statement and urged him to build a new foundation for normalizing bilateral relations, rather than damaging them. Most commentators interpreted the prime minister’s detrimental words as the last nail in the coffin of the unconsummated Armenia-Turkey protocols.

Not surprisingly, Mubariz Gurbanli, a member of Azerbaijan’s Parliament, expressed his pleasure with Erdogan’s order to demolish the “Armenia-Turkey friendship” statue. Gurbanli was correct in pointing out, “There is no need to erect a monument to the non-existent friendship with Armenia.”

Of course, tearing down monuments is nothing new for Azeri and Turkish officials. A few years ago, Azerbaijan demolished thousands of historic Armenian khatchkars (cross-stones) at a cemetery near Julfa, Nakhichevan, seeking to emulate the Turkish government’s wholesale destruction of hundreds of Armenian churches and monuments ever since the genocide. Indeed, Erdogan himself is continuing the age-old tradition of his predecessors in ordering the destruction of the Kars “friendship” statue.

If Davutoglu and Erdogan are truly sincere in promoting Armenian-Turkish friendship, they should promptly demolish the monstrous “genocide monument” built in Igdir in 1997, consisting of five 130-foot swords thrust towards the sky, intended to perpetuate the great lie about Armenians killing Turks!

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. What do you expect of a country that honors mass murderers?
    Below are places named after mass murderers in Turkey.
    Talat: a boulevard in Ankara, four avenues in Istanbul, a highway in Edirne, three municipal districts, four primary schools. Enver: three avenues in Istanbul, two in Izmir, three in occupied Cyprus, primary schools in Izmir, Mugla, Elazig. Cemal Azmi, responsible for the deaths of thousands in Trabzon: a primary school in that city. Resit Bey, the butcher of Diyarbekir: a boulevard in Ankara. Mehmet Kemal Bey (a governor), hanged for his atrocities: thoroughfares in Istanbul and Izmir, statues in Adana and Izmir, National Hero Memorial gravestone in Istanbul.

  2. Excellent article outlining the true nature of the Turkish government in relations to Armenia.  It is time for all Armenians to realize that even though there are conscientious Turks who admit the terrible injustice perpetrated against the Armenians, the Turkish government and powers to be are as hostile to Armenians as their forefathers.  This also demonstrates clearly that the Armenians have no choice but to rely on themselves and their government in Armenia.  The only salvation is to support, work and strengthen Armenia with money, intellect, connections and everything else one can muster.

  3. There are two categories of debtors in life: civil and commercial: those  with good standing,  and those with no credibilty.  When the latter goes bankrupt, he will do everything at the courts and outside of it, including threats, destroying evidences of all nature, such as witnesses and testimonials,  denying , negating, disclaiming and  refusing  the existence of  truth and the validity of  his indebtedness and commitments. Turkey’s leaders are the best example of such  bankrupt debtors.  Denying the Armenian genocide falls  in this chapter of international relations.

  4. Instead of bombing the monument, how about moving it across the border to Armenia, making sure that it can be seen from Turkey and renaming it

  5. i can’t help but get the feeling that there are people in america who solidly back erdogan no matter what he says.

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