UN official deletes Armenian Genocide tweet, after pressure from Turkey

The Turkish government used its usual bullying tactics last week to force a senior United Nations (UN) official to delete his tweet about the Armenian Genocide.

On July 27, UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid posted a tweet with four photos showing him laying a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. He wrote in his tweet: “Laid a wreath at the Memorial to the Victims of the Armenian Genocide. Special thanks to the director of the museum-institute Harutyun Marutyan and Hasmik Martirosyan for a visit to the museum.” Maroutian introduced visitors to books on the Armenian Genocide and showed them the three stone crosses dedicated to the memory of Armenians killed by Azerbaijan.

The wreath placed by the President of the UN General Assembly had white and blue flowers and was decorated with a blue ribbon on which was written “United Nations”. Other photos in his tweet show him observing a minute’s silence in front of the memorial’s eternal flame, walking around the Armenian Genocide Museum, and signing the guestbook in which he writes: “I am very moved by my visit to this museum. Thank you for having warmly welcomed me during my visit to Armenia.

During his three-day visit to Armenia, the President of the United Nations General Assembly met with various Armenian officials, including Armenian President Vahagn Khachatryan, Deputy Prime Minister Hambardzum Matevosyan, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ruben Rubinyan and female diplomats. of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also spoke at the graduation ceremony of the Diplomatic School of the Armenian Foreign Ministry.

UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid speaks to graduates of the Diplomatic School of the Armenian Foreign Ministry on July 28, 2022 (Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia)

Shortly after Shahid’s visit and tweet, the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued an official statement condemning him for visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial and alleging that his trip “to Armenia was exploited for the purpose of exposing unilateral Armenian claims and it was in this context that he visited the so-called genocide memorial. The Turkish Foreign Ministry added: “We would have expected him to act fairly and impartially, to be more careful and responsible in this regard. Representatives acting on behalf of authorized UN bodies shall exercise their functions in accordance with the legal instruments of the UN and relevant norms and rules of international law, in particular the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 We condemn and reject attempts to distort historical facts and international law through political manipulation. Türkiye is of the opinion that the facts regarding the events of 1915 should be dealt with in a comprehensive, fair and honest framework.

Shahid, who is also the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Maldives, immediately deleted the tweet about his visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial, succumbing to Turkish pressure.

While the Turkish government had managed to impose its will on the UN official, not a single Armenian official who met with the president of the UN General Assembly bothered to ask him why he removed his tweet, let alone criticize it.

Of course, nothing can excuse the submissive behavior of the senior UN official who yielded to the directive of a dictatorial regime, contrary to the UN principles he had sworn to defend. Two sources confirmed some of the actions of the Turkish government. The Passblue.com website revealed that Turkey had rescinded its invitation to Shahid to visit Ankara. Turkish channel Superhaber.tv further revealed that Turkey has withdrawn Shahid’s invitation to attend the ambassadors’ conference to be held in Ankara from August 8-12. Turkey likely used other behind-the-scenes measures to pressure Shahid.

It is very offensive that Shahid, by deleting his tweet, disrespected the Armenian Genocide which was corroborated by the UN itself. On August 29, 1985, the “UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities” adopted a report on the genocide by a vote of 15 for, 1 against and 4 abstentions. The “Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” was prepared by British Special Rapporteur Benjamin Whitaker. Paragraph 24 of this report states: “The Nazi aberration was unfortunately not the only case of genocide in the 20th century. Other examples that can be cited as qualifiers include the German massacre of the Hereros in 1904, [and] the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915-1916…” The report also includes an extensive bibliography on the Armenian Genocide. An earlier version of this report, prepared by UN Special Rapporteur Nicodeme Ruhashyankiko of Rwanda, included in its paragraph 30 a reference to the Armenian Genocide which was later removed after undue pressure from the Turkish government. I know these facts first hand because I spent from 1978 to 1985 at the UN in Geneva as a representative of a non-governmental human rights organization, countering repeated Turkish attempts to remove the reference to the Armenian Genocide.

The Armenian government may not be aware of these facts. I suggest that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia file a strong complaint with the Secretary General of the United Nations to have the deleted tweet reinstated and apologize to the Armenian nation.

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Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, California. He is the chairman of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated $917 million in humanitarian aid, mostly medicine, to Armenia and Artsakh since 1989 (including his predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He was decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also an Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient.

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Sharon P. Juarez