Letter to New York Press


2/5/01, vol. 14 no. 4 (Internet edition)

The Mail

Fezzy Thinking

Melik Kaylanís observation of an anti-orientalist bias is true ("Takiís Top Drawer," 12/27). From The Simpsonsí stereotyped Indian 7-Eleven owner to Seinfeldís Arab "Soup Nazi" to numerous film and tv portrayals of Chinamen and unintelligible turbaned New York cabbies to a foreign policy that has regarded Arabs, Persians, Serbians and Kurds as suitable targets for American-made bombs, our subhumanization of Easterners remains a part of our Western gestalt.

Yet using this fact as a cover for genocide and in defense of a government that continues to have among the worst human rights records on Earth is reprehensible. The bias against Turkey that Kaylan laments is founded upon one of the cruelest and most repressive regimes in modern history, where the slaughter of entire populations, white slavery and the mistreatment of non-Muslims as chattel were mainstays of Ottoman and then Turkish rule.

Deniers such as Kaylan have tried to equate the considerable human damage inflicted by wars and shifting empires with genocide. Yet humanity has memorialized (in the form of the 1948 Genocide Convention) the principle that the intentional extermination of a people is a crime above all others.

Moreover, Kaylanís parroting of the Turkish governmentís selective human rights concerns regarding Muslim or Turkic peoples in Bosnia, Nagorno-Karabagh and Chechnya-while ignoring, for example, the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Turks by Albanian separatists in Kosovo-speaks volumes about Kaylanís nationalist blinders.

Those of us who have been dealing with what genocide scholar Vahakn Dadrian calls Turkeyís "industry of denial" are intimately familiar with Kaylanís strategy: revise history to portray the victimizer as the victim, and point out our hypocrisy in failing to acknowledge other tragedies in order to minimize those that Turks are responsible for.

Kaylanís central thesis, that "the cycle of violence is...perpetuated" by the recognition of genocide, goes to the very heart of why the Turksí self-image is so different from the one the rest of the world, both East and West, has of them. More so than a Third World economy or unfriendly neighbors, it is this "Turkish denial syndrome" (Dadrian) that has kept Turkey in a political and cultural black hole while much of the rest of the world struggles with genuine self-evaluation and democratization.

P.D. Spyropoulos, Esq., executive director, American Hellenic Media Project, Manhattan

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