Sassounian: What Should Armenians Learn from Prime Minister Erdogan?

The purpose of this column is to draw lessons from the recent attacks on the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria.

Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took two bold actions: 1) he blocked Twitter, a social media site with 12 million users in Turkey, to cover up revelations of corruption about himself and his inner circle; and 2) he aided and abetted the Jihadist fighters’ invasion of Kessab, located in the Northwest corner of Syria, bordering Turkey!

What do these two seemingly unrelated events have in common?

Erdogan himself indirectly answered this question, during a campaign rally on March 20: “we will wipe out Twitter. I don’t care at all what the international community says. Everyone will see the power of the Turkish Republic.”

Clearly, the Prime Minister does not care that he would be criticized for violating the democratic principle of freedom of expression and acting as an autocratic thug. He says and does whatever he thinks is in Turkey’s or his own best interest!

US officials reacted by paying mere lip service to Erdogan’s internet crackdown. Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted the following message: “Deeply troubling that Turkey blocked Twitter. Shutting down free access to info inconsistent with democracy; support citizens’ call to unblock.” Douglas Frantz, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs and former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, who was forced to resign after blocking publication of an article on the Armenian Genocide, described Erdogan’s anti-Twitter action as: “21st century book burning.” Similar benign criticisms were voiced by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, and European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Did Erdogan care about these verbal lashings? Absolutely not! He didn’t give a damn! He had already blocked YouTube for two years, because the website carried videos deemed insulting to Kemal Ataturk. The Turkish Prime Minister now threatens to ban both facebook and YouTube after the March 30 elections.

Why don’t Armenian leaders — in Armenia and Diaspora — act more boldly, similar to Erdogan, especially when the survival of Armenians is at stake? It is most appropriate to raise such a question after the invasion of Kessab by Jihadists, taking Armenian hostages, pillaging their homes, and desecrating their churches.

Regrettably, repeated pleas by Armenian-American organizations to US officials, to help protect Armenians and other Syrian Christians, have fallen on deaf ears. On March 24, the ANCA sent another strongly-worded letter to Pres. Obama, demanding immediate White House and congressional intervention to stop the attacks on Kessab. The US government does not seem interested in the tragic fate of Syrian-Armenians and other minorities, since Washington is hell-bent on toppling Bashar al-Assad’s regime, ignoring the loss of innocent lives.

Armenians should not be content by merely shaking their heads and complaining to each other about the tragic news emanating from Syria. They must wake up from their collective coma and take bold action. Daily demonstrations must be held in major U.S. cities and in front of American, British, French, Saudi, and Turkish embassies and consulates around the world to protest their arming of so-called rebels who are kidnapping and murdering Syrian Armenians, among many others.

Urgent meetings should be held with top US, British and French officials, demanding that they immediately halt deliveries of all weapons and financial assistance to ‘rebels’ in Syria, until they cease attacks on civilians!

I wrote a column back in 2002 with the following headline: “The Armenian ‘Mouse’ Needs to Roar More Often.” Basically, it was a call for bolder action. I had referred to the short story written by William Saroyan, titled: “The Armenian Mouse,” in which a brave mouse, by its aggressive behavior, manages to defend itself from more ferocious beasts.

Remaining silent and inactive are no longer viable options, while our compatriots are getting slaughtered in Syria. Sheepish behavior only serves to embolden the enemies of the Armenian nation.

Armenians need to be proactive rather than reactive. On the eve of the Genocide Centennial, they cannot be silent bystanders while the Turkish government and its allies are directly or indirectly embarking on a new campaign of exterminating Armenians in Syria.

Armenians must speak up, protest, and take effective action to defend their countrymen in all corners of the world. They need to become the ‘mouse’ that ROARS!


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 $917 million 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. Dear Harut,

    I read extracts from your article in and finally find it here.

    Fully agree with you. These attacks on Kessab against Syrian armenians and christians mustn’t remain unaddressed.

    But… do you really think that protests are the only valid solution to counter erdogan’s agressive and arrogant posture and policy? I think (and you also said) they actually don’t care…

    I don’t know more about armenian organizations in Syria but I hope they will be as efficient than armenian defense milicia during the civil war in Lebanon. So I’m ready to support them creating/strengthening selfdefense milicia in order to counter such coward attacks and erdogan. I guess it will be much more effective rather than protests.

    Parev tsez from France

  2. Just like Mr. Sassounian stated earlier, the Armenian people need to start roaring. Our people have been victims of human rights abuse and injustice for too long! In addition to April 24th, we need to be roaring the other 364 days of the year as well. Aren’t you all fed up with how so many of the issues relating to the Armenian people are persistently being ignored by these western power countries? The latest example, of course, are the numerous armed attacks combined with looting, which have been taking place within Syria’s Armenian community. These western power countries, who happen to be providing military and financial support to those particular Islamic terrorists engaged in war with the Syrian leadership, have totally ignored the brutal acts of violence being directed at the Armenians of Syria. By now, it’s quite clear that one of the main objectives for these Islamic terrorists is to erase the Christian communities of Syria. As a result, Syria’s Armenians have suffered enormously. Up to about five years ago, with a population of over 150 thousand, Syria’s Armenians were the tightest and most thriving Armenian community in the Middle East. Five years later, the Armenian population of Syria has been reduced to less than 60 thousand, along with a large amount of damage to their churches, schools, and community centers. In addition, many of their homes have been robbed and taken over by the Islamic terrorists. As we all observed, the latest attack against Armenians was perpetrated by terrorists coming from the Turkish side of the border, who happened to also receive support from the Turkish military. This obviously means that the Turkish leadership is assisting these Arab Muslim Terrorists in committing attacks against Syria’s Armenians. And, what is the United States doing about all this? The answer as usual, is nothing. The United States, obviously, will never go against the wishes of the criminal Turkish nation. In addition, isn’t it rather astonishing that those very same Arab Muslim terrorists whom the United States declares to be its enemy, happen to also be the very same enemy that the United States provides military assistance to? Once again, exactly what sort of “War on Terror” is this supposed to be?

    As concerned Armenians, both in the diaspora and in our Fatherland, we need to address the issue on how to find a way to provide protection to the Armenians in Syria. They need guns! They need to defend themselves! They need to create a well-armed, self-defense unit that will protect their community. It’s time for them to pull out some firepower and blast those Islamic terrorists with an all-out blizzard of bullets and grenades.

    As you all know, April 24th will be arriving in less than a month. When it arrives, in addition to the usual roaring we do on that day, it’s also necessary that we roar about the injustices that Syria’s Armenians are being subjected to. And, we shouldn’t limit it to just that. We should continue roaring about all this after April 24th as well. We need to hold demonstrations in the city squares and colleges of the heavily populated Armenian cities throughout the diaspora, as well as in front of those particular embassies and consulates which Mr. Sassounian pointed out in the above article. Hey, it’s time for the world to hear the Armenian people roar! If there was ever a better time for the Armenian people to firmly unite and fight for the Armenian Cause, the time is right now! Let’s do it!

  3. I would like even Russia to involve condemning turkey for ther help to the extremist attacking on kessab( the Armenian town )

  4. Ironically of course, these are all words. Again. Our inability to match our words with actions is the fruit of a spineless self serving institutions in Armenia and in the diaspora.


    Can 10,000 families put in $100 monthly till the syrian war ends for the self defense of Armenian neighbourhoods? If 10 people agree with me on this site, i will set up the infrustructure to organise the rest. Can we be bothered? Or are we too bothered about how much our house prices rise in LA, London, Paris, Moscow? Decide.

    • Why is it necessary for at least 10 people to agree with you? Who cares if the other people agree or not. If you seriously have a plan in setting up a self-defense unit which will protect the Armenian community of Syria, then feel free to describe your plan to all of us. Do you actually live in Syria?

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