The construction of a Georgia's second "NATO standard" military base less than 20 miles from Tskhinvali, the capital of breakaway South Ossetia, is being protested by separatist leaders. Ossetian leaders charge that construction of the base near Gori is a sign that Tbilisi is preparing to use force in to reestablish its authority over the territory. Georgian officials deny any belligerent intentions. Georgia's first "NATO standard" base was completed last year in the western town of Senaki—close to Georgia's other separatist enclave, Abkhazia.
A one thousand year-old Armenian church on the island of Akdamar in Lake Van has been renovated and now reopened by Turkish authorities. Though Armenia and Turkey do not maintain regular diplomatic relations, a delegation of Armenian architects and government officials attended the opening ceremony. The renovation of the church is part of an effort to warm ties between the countries still divided over the massacres of Armenians during the final stages of the Ottoman Empire. (BBC, March 29)
The United Nations observer mission in Georgia has opened an investigation into missile attacks in three remote villages near the Russian border March 11, claiming initial evidence suggested that Russian helicopter gunships were involved. The military action damaged several buildings in the Kodori Gorge. Both Russia and the forces of the nearby breakaway region of Abkhazia denied involvement in the attacks. (NYT, March 14)
A disturbing consensus seems to be emerging in Europe that the best reaction to genocide denial is to ban it. In addition to the many European laws against denying the Nazi Holocaust, Bosnia is now considering such a law for its own more recent genocide. And now Switzerland is prosecuting a Turkish writer for denying the 1915 Armenian genocide. From the Turkish daily Hurriyet, March 8:
A glimmer of hope is that the outcry following the slaying of Hrant Dink is coming from Turks as well as Armenians. Perhaps his death will not have been in vain—or will there be an inevitable backlash? From the UK-based Turkish newspaper Londra Toplum Postasi, Jan. 25:
The assassination of Hrant Dink has, fortunately, sparked renewed challenges to the censorious Article 301. But the Turkish state seems to be trying to squelch the debate. Would Dink have wanted his funeral to be used in this manner? From the Turkish Daily News, Jan. 24:
Responding to calls from prominent Turks and foreign leaders to annul a controversial law immediately, Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek said on Tuesday that the last thing Turkey needed was to begin another debate on Article 301 of the penal code, arguing that the matter should be discussed after slain journalist Hrant Dink, convicted under the article last year, was laid to rest.
This is what George Bernard Shaw called "the extreme form of censorship." From the New York Times, Jan. 19:
ISTANBUL — The editor of Turkey's only Armenian-language newspaper was assassinated today on an Istanbul street.
Pretty funny that the Turkish Foreign Ministry has officially congratulated novelist Orhan Pamuk, who has just won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature, saying the prize would make valuable contributions to promotion of Turkish literature in the world. (Xinhua, Oct. 13) Meanwhile, the Turkish government, which recently put Pamuk on trial for daring to write the truth about the World War I-era Armenian genocide, seems to be doing its best to suppress Turkish literature. And just to complicate things further, France's move to make denial of the Armenian genocide a criminal offense is meeting with all the predictable reactions...