Caucasus Conflict Ignites Anti-Armenian Sentiment

Climate of Hatred Towards Armenians Pours Across Turkish-Influenced Areas

10/09/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that anti-Armenian sentiment has risen across Turkish-influenced areas since a large scale military operation involving Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Armenia began on September 27, 2020. This sentiment is expressed through harassment, intimidation, hate speech, threats, abuse, and other forms of violent confrontation. This climate of hatred is primarily driven by Turkey, which committed a genocide against the Armenian community in the early 20th century, displacing survivors throughout the region. Turkey pursues an anti-Armenian strategy for political and military gains in the surrounding region.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that more than 1,000 Turkish-backed militants were transferred to Azerbaijan by Turkey, which is currently preparing the second batch of fighters for transfer. These fighters are from northern Syria, which had a large concentration of Armenians, particularly in Tel Abyad. The genocide conducted as part of Turkey’s Peace Spring Operation in October 2019 led to the displacement of most Syrian Armenians.

ICC is alarmed that these are the fighters whose services are utilized by Azerbaijan towards the Republic of Armenia. The subsequent climate of hatred towards Armenians, particularly Turkish Armenians, bears resemblance to historical trends of persecution. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, HDP Kocaeli Deputy and Member of the Human Rights Inquiry Committee, tweeted the following question to the authorities: “Do you want to repeat events like the new September 6-7 incidents?” His question refers to the 1955 Istanbul pogrom against religious minorities.  

Examples since September 27 of this climate of hatred include:

  • Anti-Armenian, pro-Azerbaijani flag demonstrations in locations where the Armenian population was severely minimized by Turkey’s 20th century genocide:
    • Iğdır, Turkey (Armenian name: Tsolakert) on September 27.
    • Istanbul, Turkey (Greek name: Constantinople) on September 28 surrounding the Armenian Patriarchate.
    • Şanlıurfa, Turkey (Armenian name: Uṙha) on September 29. This city included a concentration camp (Deliller Hani) during the Armenian genocide. The city’s fire crews conducted this flag demonstration.
    • Amasya, Turkey (Armenian name: Amasya) on October 5.
    • Elazığ, Turkey (Armenian name: Harput) on October 5.
    • Diyarbakir, Turkey (Armenian name: Tigranakert) on October 6.
    • Tokat, Turkey (Greek name: Evdokia) on October 7. Previously the residential diocese of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy of Tokat.
    • Istanbul, Turkey: Demonstration convoy encircles the former Agos offices and the Hrant Dink Memorial Site, reported on October 8. Hrant Dink was the Turkish-Armenian editor of Agos assassinated in 2007.
  • Hate speech encouraging violence towards Armenians:
    • Newspaper ads published by the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies say that backing Armenia is treason. Turkish-Armenian Member of Parliament Garo Paylan was specifically named. He has since filed a criminal complaint.
    • Headlines include: “The dirty game of the Armenians has been exposed! They want to cut the throat of Turkey!” (Haber7); “Erdoğan: massacres committed by Armenians left unpunished” (Gazaterize); “Sultan II: Armenians through the eyes of Abdulhamid” (Yeniakit).
    • Historical revisionism was promoted in Erzurum, blaming Armenians for genocide. Erzurum hosts an annual celebration of the local massacre of Armenians. This city was the location of a forced labor camp.
    • The mayor of Akçakale (Turkey) distributes Azerbaijani flags to shopkeepers and citizens, asking them to stand “against the Armenian persecution.” Akçakale shares a border with Syria’s Tal Abyad, a historically Armenian area.
  • Violence directed at Armenians or regarding Armenian properties:
    • Grenade thrown at the Armenian Church in Syria’s Hasakah injures two on September 29.
    • Infighting over spoils of war breaks out between Turkish-backed jihadists in Syria’s Ras al-Ain, including over Armenian properties, leading to an escalation of tension.

One Armenian wrote in an op-ed for Agos, “I have been living in Turkey for many years, and I consider the place where I live to be my home… This is the first time I am afraid in this country, which has never been a safe place for Armenians.”

Manager of Aras Publishing in Istanbul, Rober Koptas, said, “Armenians experience this fear very vividly… When this rhetoric is expressed on social media or in other forms, these fears that already exist in Armenians are exaggerated and life gets a little more difficult.”

Armenians were one of the most targeted groups for hate speech in Turkish media, according to the 2019 Hrant Dink Media Monitoring Report. This often leads to the targeting of Armenian churches, individuals, graves, and other historic sites. Turkey is recommended by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom for inclusion on the special watch list.

Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “Turkey has ignited a climate of hatred towards all Armenians as part of its campaign in support of Azerbaijan. The repercussions are heavily felt by the Armenian community, particularly those living in areas influenced by the Turkish government. We are very worried about the current climate and its similarities to historical events which preceded severe persecution toward Armenians. We urge Turkey to protect religious-ethnic diversity and take steps to de-escalate those tensions that target the Armenian community.”

ICC is on a mission to help persecuted Christians. Will you join us?