ANCA Calls for Apology from Amb. Ricciardone

Demands Retraction, Correction, and Apology for Statement Covering up Ottoman and Republican Turkey’s Systematic Destruction of Thousands of Christian Churches

WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) on Aug. 15 called for an apology from U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone over his recent written response to a Senate inquiry falsely claiming that “most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches.”

Ricciardone

The letter from ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reviewed the facts surrounding the ambassador’s offensive and inaccurate comment whitewashing the vast destruction of Christian holy sites, noting that the ambassador’s remarks reflect “his eagerness to embrace the government of Turkey’s false and hateful genocide denial narrative, at lengths beyond even the administration’s longstanding and shameful complicity in Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide.”  The exchange between Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Ricciardone reads as follows:

Sen. Menendez: “To the best of your knowledge, approximately how many of the more than 2,000 Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 on the territory of present-day Turkey are still operating today as churches?”

Amb. Ricciardone: “Most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches. Some churches of significance operate as museums. The remaining have fallen into disrepair or were converted to mosques for lack of use.”

The ANCA letter (full text provided below) specifically calls for three actions:  1) an official statement by Ricciardone and the Department of State retracting his response;  2) a full and formal correction affirming that the vast majority of Christian churches on the territory of present-day Turkey were desecrated, destroyed, or stolen by the Ottoman and Republican Turkish governments, and that any surviving churches and all religious properties should be returned to their rightful Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Syriac, Pontian, and other Christian church and lay ownerships, and; 3) an apology from Ricciardone.

Church leaders offer strong defense of Armenian Church rights

His Eminences Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan and Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelates of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America Eastern and Western United States, respectively, have each issued powerfully worded spiritual messages in response to Ricciardone’s statement.

In an Aug. 15 statement, Archbishop Choloyan stressed that the ambassador’s assertion was “so blatantly false that it cannot remain unchallenged.”  Setting the record straight, he noted, “The facts are quite clear. From the massacres of Armenians in 1895-96 and the Armenian Genocide in 1915, to the decades following the establishment of the Turkish republic, Christian houses of worship were systematically destroyed or confiscated. My own church’s hierarchal see, the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia, was a victim of this process, and today is exiled in Lebanon. The archives of the Catholicosate contain hundreds of original deeds and other documentation of churches and church owned property that were confiscated.”

Archbishop Mardirossian concurred, stating, “The presence of an ambassador in Ankara who is unaware of or uninterested in the truth and the consequences of the Ottoman and Republican Turkish government’s genocide of Armenians, Assyrians, Syriacs, Greeks, and other Christians materially undermines U.S. interests, compromises American values, and weakens international efforts to defend religious freedom for peoples of all faiths.  Sadly, but unmistakably, with this hateful and hurtful statement, Ambassador Ricciardone has demonstrated that he is not the right candidate to effectively and responsibly represent the United States in Turkey.”

Whitewashing religious freedom abuses in Turkey

Ricciardone’s response to Menendez fits into a pattern of statements glossing over well-documented and far-reaching religious freedom abuses in Turkey. Earlier this year, during his July confirmation hearing, in response to Delaware Senator Chris Coons’ question as to what steps he had taken to promote religious freedom in Turkey, Ricciardone offered this evasive answer: “…very interestingly, they [the Turkish government] follow our debates about personal freedom and religious freedom and they say, ‘Here is how you can understand this, American ambassador. In your country, you have in recent years made a distinction between freedom of religion and the concept of freedom from religion. For too long in our modern republic we focused on preventing the intrusion of religion in our national life and political life. We are quite comfortable to be observant Muslims, please don’t call us Islamists, by the way,’ they tell us, ‘but to the extent someone is praying as a Christian or a Jew, it really doesn’t bother us at all-why should it? It’s no threat to the state; on the contrary, we are rather proud of our diversity and we happy to have them do it. As to their property issues, let us take a fresh look at this and make sure they get justice.’”

This assessment is sharply at odds with reports by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which raised the following alarm in its 2011 report: “The Turkish government continues to impose serious limitations on freedom of religion or belief, thereby threatening the continued vitality and survival of minority religious communities in Turkey.”

Earlier this summer, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, concerned about Turkey’s discrimination against its Christian minority, voted 43-1 in favor of an amendment to the State Department Authorization Bill calling on Turkey to allow prayer at Christian holy sites and return Christian churches to their “rightful owners.”  Additional information regarding the repression of Christian minorities in Turkey can be found at www.anca.org/return.

Reservations about Ricciardone’s willingness to accept the Turkish government’s talking points on religious tolerance at face value echo concerns expressed last fall by then-Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) who, during the last session of Congress, placed a hold on Ricciardone’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to Turkey. In an Aug. 16, 2010 letter to Secretary Hillary Clinton, Brownback voiced disapproval of Ricciardone’s tenure as U.S. ambassador to Egypt, noting, among other things, that “he quickly adopted the positions and arguments of his Egyptian diplomatic counterparts.”

In the wake of Brownback’s hold, Obama circumvented Senate objections by issuing a “recess appointment” of Ricciardone. The Senate must approve his nomination in the upcoming months, if Ambassador Ricciardone is to continue to serve in Turkey for more than one year, of the usual three-year ambassadorial term. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will likely take up his nomination upon their return from the August Congressional recess.

***

August 15, 2011
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton,

I am writing to share with you our profound reservations regarding the testimony and track record of Francis Ricciardone, our nation’s Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey.

We have been troubled by his eagerness to embrace the government of Turkey’s false and hateful genocide denial narrative, at lengths beyond even the Administration’s longstanding and shameful complicity in Turkey’s denials of the Armenian Genocide.  His verbal and written responses to questions during his Senate confirmation process, regarding the Armenian Genocide and other issues, ranged from evasive to deeply offensive.  We draw your attention, in particular, to his factually incorrect and insulting written response to Question for the Record #2 submitted by Senator Robert Menendez (8/2/2011) during the Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of his nomination.

The full exchange, which clearly disqualifies Ambassador Ricciardone as a diplomat who can serve effectively in Ankara, reads as follows:

Sen. Menendez: “To the best of your knowledge, approximately how many of the more than 2,000 Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 on the territory of present-day Turkey are still operating today as churches?”

Amb. Ricciardone: “Most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are still operating as churches. Some churches of significance operate as museums. The remaining have fallen into disrepair or were converted to mosques for lack of use.”

The Ambassador’s response, it must be stressed, was not verbal, but in writing, submitted after, we assume, careful review by the Ambassador and by a range of relevant senior officials with access to the full resources and historical record of the Department of State.

On behalf of all those who cherish religious freedom and the value the integrity of our nation’s defense of human rights, we respectfully request 1) an official statement by Ambassador Ricciardone and the Department of State retracting his response to QFR #2 from Senator Menendez; 2) a full and formal correction affirming that the vast majority of Christian churches on the territory of present-day Turkey were desecrated, destroyed, or stolen by the Ottoman and Republican Turkish governments, and that any surviving churches and all religious properties should be returned to their rightful Armenian, Greek, Assyrian, Syriac, Pontian and other Christian church and lay ownerships, and; 3) an apology from Ambassador Ricciardone.

I want to thank you for your attention to this pressing concern, and also to restate our desire to meet with you personally, as per your invitation of January of 2010, as part of a broad-based consultation with the leadership of the Armenian American community.  I remain available to discuss this matter with you or your colleagues in greater detail via phone or e-mail [email protected]

Sincerely,

[signed]
Kenneth V. Hachikian
Chairman

28 Comments

  1. Dear Mr. Hachikian, You wrote a very good letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Mr. Ricciardone must speak the truth and certainly must apologize.  I thank ANCA for reprimending Ricciardone for not speaking the truth about our 300,000 more than dilapidated Churches in today’s Turkish Republic.

  2. I know this will never make it up to your commnet box, but i try anyways,
    You Armenians should go one and get a life and move on, this issue is a loosing battle for Amenians and if you are looking to future saying Turks have enemies and one day the whole World unite and do things to Turks as they do to Iraq, Libya and other places and once more us Armenians will get an other chance to stab the Turks from back and revolt inside like 1914 this time join other forces to claim land, you are dreaming,no conventional weapons would break the will of the Turkish people, as you will see very soon PKK and its suporters will be put to test and if it creates street by street figthing PKK suporters in Turkey will be marched to north Iraq or Syria like Armenians in 1915, and if you think that neclear stand off will put Turkey in termoil think again Turkey has nuclear weapons, and if lets say your dream will show his ugly head, then when you put the mouse in the corner you know what he does to cat, total nuclear blow up , so cut the this non sense and be truthful, and balme your grandperents for starting the figth by taking arms against the host nation with its enemies and doomd the rest of the innocent armenians, take responsibility no nation will denger their national unity and if you do not belive me go watch in Netfelix, Gellipollu, and see how Turks fight for more than a year defated England,French new zeland and Australia and african asian mercineries under what conditions, than you will understand what will become of your young generation of incase of new war starts,
    please get over this and stop forming your fragile union under the hatred of Turks and making ANCA employed with this non sense will get you nothing but more distruction
    Thank you and 4 Armenian young wonderful students works for me and I love every single one of them, but this issue is wrong to fight over    

  3. Mark, what has a Turkey today said about Turkey “giving” to our USA Congresswoman Schmidt – some monies… only ONE HALF MILLION DOLLARS…. $500,000!!  (Which, of course, she denies.. ala Turk style). Obviously is not this without any doubt,  blatant evidence of pursuits and efforts of the Turk’s policies (in the USA) of an IN YOUR FACE TO THE USA GOVERNMENT – EVEN WORSE, “IN YOUR FACE TO ALL AMERICAN CITIZENS OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
    Schmidt is struggling to deny – blaming her attorneys for ‘accepting’ such monies… lying.
    Too, brings to mind the need of Turks to establish their muslim religious center (in addition to all existing muslin sites in USA) but determination that it shall been in the midst of financial district of New York city…. Imagine, their faithfuls frequent times/schedules for their daily rites.  Is this not another IN YOUR FACE, to New Yorkers, to our American values? 

  4. Mr. Ricchiardone, If you had researched, you shall have surely read the following:
      “Genocide is not only killing, is not only plunder, is not only rape; it is the condemnation to death under unimaginably inhuman conditions, and being made to witness that condemnation…
    Without food, dying of starvation, were huddled masses of dying and dead, refuse and human excrement – impossible to pick out one portion and describe it as a living person.  Carts, looking for corpses – containing 10 to 12 human bodies… emaciated… violated.” 

  5. mark, no Armenian will ever forget the planned murder and theft of property by your people. NO ARMENIAN..Just like 20 countries that officially acknowledged the Armenian genocide by you Turks, there will be others in line namely THE UNITED STATES that will eventually stop protecting turks. THERE IS NO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR MASS MURDER SO GET USED TO IT.  Also your version of history is mostly made up to avoid responsibility for the GENOCIDE and that is because your government is deathly afraid of the true label and compensations that the truth brings so they want turks to stay stupid to reality.

  6. kudos to ArmenianWeekly moderators for publishing Mark‘s post.

    ‘…Armenians will get an other chance to stab the Turks from back…’ 
    ‘…will be marched to north Iraq or Syria like Armenians in 1915,…’
     

    So much  love and friendship from our dear neighbors.
    Such deep remorse for what their ancestors did to our ancestors. 

  7. Mark:
     
    Here are some military  facts to deflate your overinflated view of the military capabilities of Turks.
     
    GALLIPOLI
    It is a fact that it was an acknowledged  Turkish victory.
    However, here are some particulars from that battle to put the Turk victory in perspective.
    Turks were fighting on their home turf (such as it is)
    Turks had the high ground at all times.
    Allies had to fight uphill at all times, sometime up very steep hills.
    Allies had to bring in troops and materiel via warships thru the heavily mined Dardanelles.
    Even given all the advantages, Turks barely won.
    Here are the losses from that battle (Source: Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs)
     
    Allied: Dead – 44,000
                Wounded – 97,000
                Total – 141,000
     
    Turks: Dead –  86,700
               Wounded – 164,600
                Total – 251,000
     
    And Turks certainly fought well. But do you know who was the overall Strategist and Commander of the battle ?
    The German Otto Liman von Sanders, although Mutafa Kemal proved to be a capable military leader in that battle as well.
     
     
    SARIKAMISH
    The Tsarist Russian Caucasian Army of 100,000 troops under Gen Yudenich, assisted by several Armenian brigades (who knew their own country inside out)
    completely destroyed the Ottoman Turks’ 3rd Army of 118,000 troops under the command of Gen(ocidal) Enver.
    The 3rd Army was completely wiped out as a fighting force.
     
     
     
    KURDS-PKK
    There are only about 5,000 PKK guerillas operating in Turkey today.
    Yet the mighty Turkish military, assisted by para-military gendarmerie, has not been able to defeat  them in the 30 years they have been battling.
    Just past couple weeks PKK has killed about 20 Turkish troops.

  8. Hello Vanoush, I believe I read the 300,000 Churches from an article written by a high ranking Armenian Apostolic priest.  You are welcomed to verify this statement.

  9. update on ‘…Just past couple weeks PKK has killed about 20 Turkish troops.’

    Both TodaysZaman and Hurriyet report that 7 Turk troops were shot dead by suspected PKK guerrillas in Hakkari’s Çukurca district, Aug 17, 2011.

    The super-mighty Turk military not doing too well against a handful of PKK  guerrillas, Mark.

  10. necati      —-We could care less about your thoughts about Armenians, but the thoughts that the civilized worild has about the Turks are well known…

  11. [‘Necati Genis August 16, 2011 
    Ms. Gayane, (or, should i call you the last samurai?) Even though you mention my name  in your every other post, i will keep silence until You or AW invites me back to  commenthere in AW .’] 

    I doubt AW invited you back. Doubt they ever would, after you insulted their honorable editor.
    I know Gayane  didn’t invite you back. In fact the Armenian Lady Samurai specifically dis-invited you:
    ‘We told YOU many times to dissapear did we not??? Why are you still here?? So why are not silent??’ (from the [Bedrosyan: Searching for…..] thread)

    So, why are you back commenting here @AW ?
    What excuse are you going to concoct now ?
     

  12. Necati, what do you stand for?  Do you not realize that at any point along the way, Turkey can change its problems with non-Turk neighbors by recognizing the abuse of power it has exerted in the past and offering apologies and fair compensations?  It is the right thing to do.  Can’t you open your eyes and help your neighbor do the same? Do you really think that Armenians and Turks can sit down and have coffee together as true friends instead of ‘polite’ secret enemies when you can’t even say, “I’m sorry my people treated your people like unwanted weeds to be plucked from the garden.  And I’m sorry we stole your garden.”

    Ricciardone must retract and correct his foolish comment or risk appearing unfit for his recess appointment.  Hope everyone writes and tells him so.

  13. Mark– No words to actually describe your Anti-ARmenian remarks…

    Necati– YOU again??? 
    I swear, you people don’t get it do you???   guess after being defeated on the battleground of words (Bedrossyan: Searching for Lost Armenian Churches) discussion tread… now you are moving to greener pastures to start another?  It is ok.. you can but know this you WILL be shut down… everywhere you go on these pages… you can count on that…

    Gayane  

     

  14. Avery jan— thank you for once again putting their own words on their face… glad you have the BEST organizational skills and keep track of such matters.. because that is a great tool to have to shut them denialists when they start on a new discussion thread.. i think they believe their lies and empty promises won’t be reminded.. poor souls…:)

    Excellent stats Avery jan about Gallipoli and Sarikamish…

    Let’s see how they will slither themselves out of this one…

    Boyajian jan– excellent post… it is that easy to do… very simple but yet instead of coming out clean and start a fresh, these denialists continue their dirty work…

    Gayane        

  15. GAYANE, For your reference

    Turkish war planes are now  bombing kandil and ZAP  area..i want 1000 terrorist life for each TURISH SOLDERS killed by terrorist.

  16. Necati-  and what do YOU want ME to do?  I am not your GOd nor your President.. You are barking at the wrong tree….

    And the attacks in Kandil and Zap and Iraq area got to do with this discussion thread?? You  have lost your minds…

    just in case my friends want to read what you have been blubering about without giving much data…
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7146567.stm

     

    Gayane   

  17. necatik-necatik,   —-Why is it when Turks come to deal with national liberation movements, self-determination movements, and freedom fighting of non-Turk peoples, you stigmatize them as “terrorists.” But when it comes to inflicting pain and indescribable mass slaughters, infants’ murders, humiliations, tortures, mutilations, mass rape, conversion to Islam, enslavement to harems, and destruction of cultural edifices of nobler non-Turk peoples, Turks act like cowards in admitting their gross guilt? Because in your sick minds you think whatever others do to the Turks is ‘bad’, but whatever Turks do to others is ‘good’, don’t you? Does this mentality characterize the primitive mindset of Turks like you?

  18. ….update to the update on ‘…Just past couple weeks PKK has killed about 20 Turkish troops.’
    Hurriyet reports that 12 Turk troops were killed by suspected PKK guerrillas in Hakkari’s Çukurca district, Aug 17, 2011. (instead of the 7 previously reported)

    Here is the headline from Hurriyet: “PM Erdoğan rages against the PKK as an attack in southeast Turkey kills 12 security forces, bringing the last month’s total death toll up to 34.”
     
    The super-mighty Turk military is not doing too well against a handful of PKK  guerrillas, Mark, is it ? Oh yeah they’ll bomb, they’ll huff, they’ll puff – same thing they’ve been doing past 30 years. How well has  it worked ? 
     
    I have a question for Turks: you feel bad that 34 Turk soldiers have been killed, yes ? Yes.
    Consider this: these men were soldiers. These men were in uniform. These men were special forces teams, professionals. These men were carrying modern automatic weapons. These men were killed in battle. Did you get the men part ?
     
     
    Ottoman Turks first, then CUP Turks exterminated 2,000,000 unarmed Armenian civilians: old men, women, children, and babies.
    Fighting age Armenian men serving in the Ottoman Army were disarmed  – so they could be safely massacred without resistance.
     
     
    When Turks like Mark openly say this today ‘… will be marched to north Iraq or Syria like Armenians in 1915,’  we know our people in RoA and Artsakh still face an existential threat from our lovely neighbors.

  19. Hi Manooshag, What can you expect from a belligerent turkish government who continues to deny the Armenian Genocide and continues to commit cultural Genocide of Christian Churches and the Monasteries and the likes in turkey.  The Armenian Genocide is still ongoing and it hasn’t stopped as you and I know it.  Since it hasn’t stopped by the turkish government, then you can expect anything from them, that they’ll commit further genocides to their minority Kurds.

  20. Karo jan– it is because they believe to be a mightier nation and people.. don’t we know already that they whine like spoiled children when they get a splinter in their finger.. that is how ridiculeous they are but they forget one small matter:  IT IS THEM to provoke such actions from others.. it has been proven from the past and it is obvious from current situation.. So Necati screaming bloody murder because few Turkish soldiers (mind they they WERE SOLDIERS.. and not regular civilians..) were killed shows how hysterical TUrkish denialist and govt are….not surprised though…thy see themselves untouchable.. HA.. guess the fire is getting closer to home huh Necati???

    Avery jan-WELL SAID my friend..WELL SAID…

    Gayane  

  21. I can’t believe how comments have gotten off tangent here. Instead of discussing the apology in question we are discussing the Turkish army bombing the Kurds. Although I feel for the Kurds from a humanistic point (despite their active involvement in the Armenian Genocide) this has nothing to do with our topic. A few despiteful Turks have hi jacked the AW site. They do get under our skin for sure but we don’t have to provide them with a forum in our newspaper. I am going to propose that AW censors all those comments that are hateful and despiteful to Armenians. We shouldn’t have to put up with their hate in Armenian institutions, period.

  22. I understand your reasoning Ani. However, I disagree. 

    ON Turks posting here: I commend AW for letting thru Turks who show their true feelings and true colors. 
    It is crucial for all Armenians to see the true face of many (not all) Turks and Azeris.
    If AW were to filter them out, it would not mean they do not exist in the real world.
    The do exist, right at the borders of Armenia and Artsakh. All of us need to be aware who and what we are facing.

    ON topic/off topic: many posters have mentioned this. it’s free form comment/posting format @AW. It goes where  the posters take it. AW moderates. If AW gets  too restrictive, people will get disinterested, stop posting.

    Let the Turks post their hate and bile: there are a lot of us countering their BS with hard facts. Third parties visiting ArmenianWeekly will readily see who has the high ground, who has the facts.  We have nothing to hide.
     

  23. Ani jan–  I hear your frustration and I would love to censor them forever; however lets not be like the Turkish sites where they do not post MOST of our comments……They may dump dirt on our pages but they may never leave these pages the same… I know they do not.. Our responses to them and the constant fight eventually breaks them down as we have seen it many times over with Ragnar, Robert The Turk, Necati, Murat and the like..

    Even though I agree they tend to stir away from the topic discussed, but that demonstrates my  point.. they feel defeated and they have nothing else to contribute to what is being dicussed.. and hence,  why either they leave or bring in other matters.. either way, we will respond…but not publishing their posts will give them something to complain and whine about.. and i can’t stand whiners…especiall Turkish denialist whiners…:)

    Gayane  

  24. Necati,

    Did you enjoy the video on youtube that I forwarded to you, about maps.  What about the music? Be honest. Common. For once try to experience the great feelings of being honest.  What if you really start liking those feelings. If you don’t like it you can always go back to your ignorant demialism.   
    I am not going to loose my hope Necati.  We Armenians want to believe in you.  Prove us you can choose the light vs dark at any given moment.  
    Give it another try!
      http://youtu.be/KsythVzQQ-U

  25. AR jan— LOVE LOVE LOVE IT…:)

    Ayo Avery jan.. you are absolutely correct…

    As suspected, our denialists friends have been brought down from their high horses…

    Gayane

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