November 25, 2002

WATERTOWN, MA — The Southern Illinoisan published a Letter to the Editor on Saturday, November 23, written by Steve Hagopian, Chairperson of the Armenian National Committee of Southern Illinois. The letter, edited by the Illinoisan staff, was written in response to a November 18, 2002 unsigned guest editorial, “Foreign elections: It’s All About Checks, Balances.” Hagopian’s edited letter is included below along with the original op-ed. For additional information, please contact Vanik Hacobian at 617-923-1918 or at The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues. #### ANC OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS LETTER TO THE EDITOR AS PRINTED There are several omissions in the Nov. 18 unsigned guest editorial, “Foreign elections: it’s all about checks, balances.” Foreign elections may be about checks and balances, but no matter how you look at it, the problem in Turkey’s case is that the checks are not balanced. The Turkish military has the final word, in absolute accordance with Turkey’s own constitution. The military has so much say that it has even pushed out the government on more than one occasion over the last century, certainly not an indication of a democratic secular state. I do agree that “Turkey cannot afford to compromise human rights.” Unfortunately, the Turkish government itself has never agreed. If Turkey did agree, it would end the state-sponsored oppression of its own Kurdish citizens. If Turkey did agree, it would immediately end torture in its prisons and police force. If Turkey had any “respect for international community,” as the article claims, Turkey would immediately withdraw from Northern Cyprus, in accordance with UN and US resolutions, and lift its illegal economic blockade of neighboring Armenia and Karabagh. Unfortunately, just last month CBS’ 60 Minutes reported that the Turkish government is operating a spy ring in the State Department and Pentagon that must be investigated. The U.S. administration might be better off investigating these reports before it engages Turkey any further. STEVE HAGOPIAN, GLEN CARBON OPINION EDITORIAL Foreign elections: It’s All About Checks, Balances [Mon Nov 18 2002] The “-ists” look like they’re winning. Fundamentalists, leftists and rightists have made strong gains in recent world elections. The trend seems threatening but need not be. That is if Americans and others help sustain democratic institutions and support the international community. Consider two recent elections in which Islamic parties dominated. In Pakistan last month, Islamists won controlling interests in two of four provincial elections. They also won enough National Assembly seats to possibly form a ruling coalition. The result raised fears about fundamentalists controlling Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. But in a democracy, even a stumbling one like Pakistan’s, compromise is demanded. Pakistan’s fundamentalists already have had to moderate. Attempting to form a coalition government, the Islamic bloc is aligning with more liberal pro-democracy groups. In Turkey this month, the Islam-rooted Justice and Development Party won a decisive victory. Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot become prime minister because of a conviction for inciting religious hatred. But his party, which won only 34 percent of the vote, gained nearly two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. The party will need only a little bit more support to change the constitution so that Erdogan can take office. Yes, Turkey looks like a problem. But Erdogan already is tempering his statements. That’s because this predominantly Muslim country is committed to being a secular state. It needs international investment. And it wants to join the European Union. To realize these goals, Turkey cannot afford to compromise human rights. Extreme voting occurs for a reason. In Turkey, voters protested Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit’s long crumbling rule. In Pakistan, voters protested Pervez Musharraf’s power and pro-Western stance. In Latin America, Colombians were fed up with insurgents and elected a hard-right leader. But then, where there is democracy and respect for international community, accommodation occurs. A nation recognizes that it needs friends around the globe. That’s why America is right to be so actively engaged internationally — and must remain so. No state can be ignored. The development of civil institutions must be supported. Moderating forces must be helped to succeed before extremists do damage. — The Dallas Morning News

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Vanik Hacobian
Email / Tel: (917) 428-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Eastern Region
PO Box 1066, New York, NY 10040
Tel. (917) 428-1918 * Fax. (718) 478-4073 * Email.
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