ARMENIA RESOLUTION

Police Protection after Genocide Vote

BERLIN, GERMANY - JUNE 02: Cem Oezdemir, co-head of the German Greens party and himself of Turkish descent, speaks during discussions at the Bundestag prior to its passage of a resolution to recognize the 1915-1916 Armenian genocide on June 2, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. According to media reports on June 6, 2016, Oezdemir has received numerous death threats from people suspected to be ultra right-wing Turkish nationalists for his support of the resolution and he is now under police protection. The Turkish government has opposed any labeling of the Armenian deaths as genocide and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan has lashed out at Germany and particularly against the Bundestag members of Turkish descent who supported the resolution. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Cem Özdemir, co-head of the Greens, is under police protection.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Turkey sees the German parliament’s decision to support a move that recognises the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 19516 as a genocide, as a hostile act. It comes at a moment when Germany’s relations with Turkey are going through a sensitive phase, as Chancellor Angela Merkel needs the country’s help to stem the flow of refugees into Europe.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenians died toward the end of World War I at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.
    • Many of the victims were civilians deported to barren desert regions where they died of starvation and thirst. Thousands also died in massacres.
    • On June 2, the German parliament backed a resolution declaring the massacre “genocide.”
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    Audio

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Even in Germany, it’s dangerous to speak out about the massacres of the Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks at the end of World War I.

Eleven parliamentarians of Turkish descent have been placed under federal police protection after receiving death threats for supporting a German parliamentary resolution that recognized the massacres as genocide.

“Last Friday, we received detailed information about how we should behave, how to categorize hate mail and the special protection we will receive during sessions,” Cemile Giousouf, a parliamentarian with the center-right Christian Democrats, told Handelsblatt.

Five Social Democrats, three Greens and two Left Party members are also under protection. The foreign ministry has warned the parliamentarians against traveling to Turkey, saying their security could not be guaranteed.

It’s unclear how long the security measures will be in effect for, Ms. Giousouf said.

The mayor of Ankara, Turkey's capital, posted a tweet with a picture of the 11 parliamentarians and a caption saying they had "stabbed us in the back."

Cem Özdemir, co-leader of the Green Party, is considered by police to face a particularly serious threat and has received a personal security detail. Mr Özdemir was one of the initiators of the resolution, which the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, passed with an overwhelming majority, on June 2.

The Federal Criminal Police Office declined to comment, citing security concerns. But a spokeswoman said they evaluate each threat individually and decide on a course of action.

The parliamentarians started receiving threats after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan verbally attacked them for supporting the resolution.

Die Bundestagsabgeordnete Cemile Giousouf (CDU), Vorsitzende Netzwerk Integration, spricht am 22.10.2014 bei der CDU-Konferenz zum Thema "Zugewandert - Angekommen?! - Chancen der Vielfalt" in Berlin. Foto: Lukas Schulze/dpa [ Rechtehinweis: (c) dpa ]
Cemile Giousouf, a CDU parliamentarian. Source: DPA

Mr. Erdogan said their “blood is impure” and called them “the long arm of the separatist terrorists placed in Germany,” a reference to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The mayor of Ankara, Turkey’s capital, tweeted a picture of the 11 parliamentarians and a caption saying they had “stabbed us in the back.” The image was retweeted thousands of times with some users making death threats.

Sevim Dagdelen, foreign policy spokeswoman for the German Left Party, responded on Twitter saying anyone who calls for violence against German parliamentarians “should be banned from entering the country.”

Turkey denies that genocide was committed against the Armenians, saying 200,000 died from disease and the confusion of war. Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians perished in death marches and massacres by the Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1917.

Straight after the vote, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Berlin and Mr. Erdogan threatened Germany with further consequences.

The vote came during an already tense period in German-Turkish relations. The European Union and Turkey reached a deal in March to stop the refugee flow to Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is under intense domestic pressure to drastically reduce the number of refugees entering Germany, lobbied hard for the deal. Critics say she has become politically dependent on Mr. Erdogan.

In April, Ms. Merkel allowed German comedian Jan Böhmermann to be prosecuted for reading a poem on national television that insulted Mr. Erdogan. The Turkish president had called for the German government to prosecute Mr. Böhmermann under an archaic German law against insulting foreign leaders.

And although Ms. Merkel and Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel both expressed support for the Armenian resolution, they missed the vote – apparently due to scheduling conflicts.

 

Heike Anger is a parliamentary correspondent for Handelsblatt, based in Berlin. To contact the author: anger@handelsblatt.com

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