Basic Turkey/Armenia background

This article provides a very brief overview of the historical and current tensions between Turkey and Armenia (http://uk.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUKLT593745).

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 29 (Reuters) – Talks between Turkey and Armenia could yield a roadmap for relations between the two countries if Yerevan shows a ‘sincere’ attitude, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday.

Turkey and Armenia have no formal diplomatic relations but officials from the two sides have expressed hopes of restoring full diplomatic relations as a result of recent tentative discussions between the two sides.

“If Armenia displays a sincere behaviour in the low-level work, after our talks last night, today’s talks may somehow set out a roadmap,” Erdogan said in Davos in comments to reporters broadcast on Turkish television channels.

Foreign Minister Ali Babacan has held talks at the World Economic Forum with his Armenian counterpart Edward Nalbandian and Erdogan was set to hold talks with Armenian President Serzh Sarksyan on Thursday evening.

Relations between the two countries have been haunted by the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One, which ex-Soviet Armenia says amounted to genocide. Ankara denies there was genocide.

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 in a show of solidarity with Azerbaijan, a Turkic-speaking ally which was fighting Armenian-backed separatists over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“Armenia should show the necessary understanding,” Erdogan said.

“On the subject of Nagorno-Karabakh, we can never leave Azerbaijan on its own. Our subject is linked to Azerbaijan,” he added.

For full coverage, blogs and TV from Davos go to www.reuters.com/davos (Writing by Daren Butler)

I’ve done some extremely preliminary research about the extent to which ordinary Turks and Armenians communicate using new media. I’ve not yet found much evidence of communication between bloggers or between commenters on blogs, but there is a degree of communication amongst Facebook users. There is a Facebook group called “Peace For Armenia and Turkey” that currently has about 1,400 members and some fairly lively discussion boards. Group members appear to be mostly Turks and Armenians, or members of those countries’ diasporas. Of course, there is another group called “Recognize Armenia as the Liar” with about 1,100 members. Memers are mostly Turkish or of Turkish descent, and all are dedicated to denying that the Armenian genocide occurred. On the other side is a group called simply “Armenia” (about 2,700 members) that is dedicated to getting offical recognition of the genocide.

I definitely plan on doing more research and following more blogs, so hopefully I’ll be able to find more evidence of communication and dialogue between Turks and Armenians who use the relative freedom of the internet as a tool for discussion. Although I have no evidence to back this up, I would imagine that the internet would be incredibly useful, especially given the restrictions on ordinary media in both countries.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Turkish and Armenian blogs

I’m tentatively thinking about following bloggers in both Turkey and Armenia. The two countries have, to say the least, an antagonistic history I think it will be interesting to see the political perspectives of bloggers living in Turkey vs. bloggers living in Armenia. The two blogs I am following for the moment (although I hope to add more) are Yerevan Journal and Turkish Diary. Despite the two countries’ differences, they face similar obstacles to press freedom
For example, in Turkey “insulting Turkishness” is a serious but vaguely defined crime, and is often used to punish those who acknowledge the Armenian genocide. However, intimidation is also a problem in Armenia and comes from both the government and local thugs. The author of Yerevan Journal refers to a “certain oligarch” who frequently uses threats and intimidation. It is telling that even though this man’s identity is probably widely known to anyone living in Yerevan, the blogger will not name him.
I have initially gravitated towards this subject because I’ve lived my whole life in Fresno, CA which has a large Armenian community. There is actually a part of downtown referred to as “Armenia Town” and you can minor in Armenian studies at Fresno State. William Saroyan (the Armenian-American author and playwright) is a local hero with tons of things named after him. Basically, I’ve always been exposed to Armenian culture and viewpoints, but never to Turkish ones. So, I’d like to educate myself about both countries by researching the viewpoints of ordinary bloggers.

Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 8:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Initial Thoughts

Having never studied the Middle East before, I found a lot of the information in Lynch somewhat surprising. I’m afraid I always had the typical American perception of al-Jazeera as extremist hate media, so it was interesting to see the wide range of opinion broadcast on the different talk shows. Also interesting was the development and progression of Arab public opinion. For example, general Arab views on Saddam Hussein and American sanctions changed over time based on foreign policy developments and emerging information about mass graves and other atrocities. I think that it is often tempting to fall into the stereotype of viewing Arab public opinion as irrationally opposed to anything the West does, so Lynch’s insights as to the reasons for popular Arab views was helpful.

I’m entering this class with more of an interest in media in general than the Middle East in particular, so I’m not sure yet which geographical areas I’d like to focus on. However, I do know that I’d like to learn more about obstacles to press freedom, including outright censorship as well as more subtle means, like the intimidation of journalists.

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 3:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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