Readers React

Turkey's sensitivity over the Armenian genocide

To the editor: The genocide of the Armenians 100 years ago is a well-known historical catastrophe. ("On Armenian genocide, go ahead and offend Turkey," op-ed, April 15)

Peter Balakian states that President Obama spoke out against the use of threats by a foreign power to inhibit free speech in the United States. Turkey is a valuable ally threatening to close U.S. military bases in that country if Congress passes a simple nonbinding statement acknowledging the events of 1915 as genocide.

Balakian lauds Pope Francis for acknowledging the historical significance of the Armenian genocide, stating that the pope refused to be intimidated by Turkey. The pope does not have the responsibility of maintaining troops in Turkey. Obama as commander in chief recognizes the necessity of maintaining a U.S. presence in Turkey.

My Armenian friends accept Obama's use of the Armenian words for the genocide as sufficient.

Gaye Rehder, Los Angeles

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To the editor: In 1915 an English soldier, Francis Yeats-Brown, was captured by Turkish soldiers near Baghdad. He soon escaped and wrote a book titled, "Caught by the Turks."

In that book he quotes a Turkish sergeant, of peasant background and education, boasting, "The English were almost defeated, the Armenians were almost exterminated, but the Greeks remained to be dealt with, and the cursed Arabs."

Interesting that in 1915 this noncommissioned soldier could boast of the impending success of the Turkish program for Armenian extermination. Yet, over a 100-year span, highly educated Turkish scholars and officials have not been able to find any evidence of the extermination.

Sydney Shiffman, Long Beach

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To the editor: Balakian's piece on the Armenian suffering during World War I is, understandably, filled with emotion. He writes, "The 'R-word' is about responsibility, social justice and repair," which is absolutely right.

However, he's referring to the wrong "R-word." He is speaking of recognition, but should be speaking of reconciliation.

The key to creating a trust and cooperation between Turkey and Armenia for the next 100 years is to stop looking backward and focus on the future. These two great nations have too much to gain — from trade to culture and security — to be held back by a century-old argument.

I encourage readers to stand with Turkish and Armenian Americans who are ready for a new era of relations between these two great peoples.

Solomon P. Ortiz, Corpus Christi, Texas

The writer, a former Democratic member of Congress, is an advisor to the Turkish Institute for Progress.

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