WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and an outspoken advocate of Armenian Genocide recognition, slammed the Woodrow Wilson Center’s controversial decision to honor Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The New York legislator, in a sharply worded letter to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars President and Director Lee Hamilton, noted that Davutoglu’s leadership is “rife with illegality, irresponsibility and hypocrisy” and “stand[s] in sharp contrast to the legacy of Woodrow Wilson. His letter also expressed his “deep concern and dismay” regarding the Center’s decision, noting that “Turkey continues to not only deny the Armenian Genocide, but also to criminalize recognition of it in Turkey.” He went on to cite Turkey’s ongoing occupation of Cyprus, its blockade of Armenia, and support for the genocidal regime in Sudan.
Rep. Ackerman, who serves as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, called Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s recent statements comparing the recent flotilla incident to the 9/11 terrorist attack which claimed 2976 innocent lives in his hometown of New York “sickening,” noting that Turkey’s actions have “fanned the flames of instability in the Middle East.”
“We join with Armenians from the 5th district, across the Empire State and around the nation in thanking Congressman Ackerman for standing up against the Woodrow Wilson Center’s controversial decision to honor Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu,” stated Armenian National Committee of New York chairman Raffi Mahserdjian. “In defending the legacy of President Woodrow Wilson, Congressman Ackerman is also protecting the American taxpayer from the misuse of U.S. funds to reward Turkey’s genocide denial.”
Citizens from across the United States are asking their Members of Congress to look into the controversial decision by the Woodrow Wilson Center to award Armenian Genocide denier, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, with their public service award, scheduled to be bestowed on June 17th.
Through an ANCA Action Alert, Armenian American and other anti-genocide activists have, for the past several weeks, been expressing their “profound anger and disappointment” over the Woodrow Wilson Center’s plans to travel to Turkey to bestow the award on Davutoglu, who had recently openly threatened the United States against speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide.
The Woodrow Wilson Center receives one-third of its annual funding from Congress. Senators and Representatives are being encouraged to “formally investigate this matter and to share [their] concerns on this deeply troubling development directly with the leadership of the Woodrow Wilson Center.”
Last week, Donald Wilson Bush, a direct descendant to President Wilson, chastised the Woodrow Wilson center for its pending award to Davutoglu. His complete commentary is available here.
The full text of Rep. Ackerman’s letter is provided below.
June 15, 2010
The Honorable Lee Hamilton
President and Director
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20004-3027
I write to express my deep concern and dismay regarding the intention of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWC) to honor Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu with the WWC Public Service Award. I am keenly aware of the need for greater cooperation and understanding in the world arena, and I applaud the invaluable work the WWC has done to build ties between America and intellectual and political leaders from around the world.
These efforts truly celebrate the life and work of President Wilson, and the United States benefits greatly from the WWC’s success in promoting effective international dialogue about vital issues and building essential strategic relationships. The Congress has wisely supported the WWC, contributing about a third of its annual revenue, and I am committed to sustaining that effort.
I am, however, very strongly of the view that publicly honoring Foreign Minister Davutoglu at this time is absolutely inconsistent—absolutely inconsistent—with the mission of the WWC and the ideals that animated President Wilson’s administration and foreign policy. The actions and statements of Foreign Minister Davutoglu stand in sharp contrast to the legacy of President Wilson.
Turkey’s foreign policy under Foreign Minister Davutoglu’s leadership is rife with illegality, irresponsibility and hypocrisy. Turkey continues to not only deny the Armenian Genocide, but also to criminalize recognition of it in Turkey. Worse, Ankara threatens to break relations with states that acknowledge the role of the Ottoman Empire in the deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians as a matter of state policy. Turkey continues to militarily occupy Cyprus and to work against U.S.-backed efforts by the United Nations to resolve the conflict on that island. Turkey maintains a closed border with Armenia and has made improved relations with Armenia a political hostage to the conflict in Ngorno-Karabagh and denial of the Armenian genocide.
Turkey recently voted against sanctions on Iran by the UN Security Council despite clear evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has violated numerous UN Security Council resolutions, and both Iran’s nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards agreement obligations. Turkey has politically backed both the genocidal regime in Sudan and the genocide-denying regime in Iran.
Turkey has fanned the flames of instability in the Middle East by rejecting Israeli efforts to channel humanitarian aid to Gaza through Israeli ports in order to ensure weapons were not going to be shipped to Hamas. Rather focusing its efforts on helping the people in Gaza, Turkey has focused on demonizing the State of Israel.
Foreign Minister Davutoglu personally described the recent flotilla incident as Turkey’s 9/11, a sickening comparison of the unfortunate deaths of nine radical anti-Israel activists who died while assaulting Israeli commandos performing a legal blockade enforcement mission, to the worst terrorist attack in history, which claimed 2,976 innocent lives in my hometown, New York City. And, despite Turkey’s own bitter history fighting against Kurdish terrorism, which has led to Turkish military operations well inside of Iraq, the Turkish government insists that Hamas, a State Department designated terrorist organization known for indiscriminate rocket fire on Israeli cities and suicide bombings in Israeli restaurants, is not a terrorist organization at all.
A foreign leader who represents and defends this kind of foreign policy, one who has championed Turkey’s most odious efforts to deny to others the human dignity that Turkey rightly expects for its own people, is not a worthy recipient of the WWC Public Service Award.
In the interest of preserving the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars mission, namely, “advancing the ideals and concerns of Woodrow Wilson” I strongly urge you to rescind the decision to present Foreign Minister Davutoglu with the WWC Public Service Award.
Gary L. Ackerman
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia