Armenian Americans rally against Oz bid in Pennsylvania Senate

WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz has faced a barrage of questions and criticism from opponents in the Republican primary over his initial refusal to give up his dual Turkish citizenship.

Oz relented and said he would give up his official relations with Turkey.

But prominent leaders of a minority group argue that his ties to Turkey require more scrutiny as Oz, the famous doctor who earned the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, competes in the crowded Senate race.

The Allies dismissed questions regarding Oz’s Turkish heritage as racist and dog whistling. But some Armenian American leaders say Oz has failed to adequately answer questions about a 100-year-old dispute over mass deportations and massacres of Armenians in the early 20th century in the Ottoman Empire, which has been widely described as genocide, a description Turkey disputes. strongly.

“Nobody in this community will ever vote for Dr. Oz,” said Mark Momjian, a prominent Philadelphia attorney and former president of the Armenian Center at Columbia University. “We are convinced that it is part of a campaign of denial when it comes to the Armenian Genocide.”

Their opposition to Oz stems from Turkey’s insistence that what happened during World War I was not genocide. It asserts that the number of dead is exaggerated and that those who died were victims of a civil war.

It is not unusual for foreign policy disagreements to enter US political races – for example, questions about China and Hong Kong or about Israel and the Palestinian territories have been a constant in US elections – but the race stands out as the highest example of this. The fight of the old world turned into American politics.

Mamjian, who said his four grandparents were born in Turkey, said the issue was not about Oz, but his lack of public recognition that Turkey committed genocide.

“We have what our president has described as a real-time genocide in Ukraine,” Momjian said. “Having a US senator deny the reality of the Armenian Genocide should be deeply concerning to anyone who cares about human rights.”

Remember the slanders

Oz, who was born in Ohio to Turkish parents and holds dual US and Turkish citizenship, faced criticism from his rivals in the May 17 Republican primary. others about whether he hasdouble loyalties” to Turkey.

Oz dismissed the question as “reminiscent of indignities in the past against Catholics and Jews,” noting that President John F. Kennedy faced baseless accusations that he would be secretly loyal to the Pope, while Jewish politicians were occasionally exposed to similar questions about Israel.

For Armenians of Armenian descent, Oz is a famous Turkish American who, over the course of his long career, seemed uncomfortable to condemn atrocities as important to them as the Holocaust to the Jews.

“For the better part of the past 100 years, we have been trying to extricate the memory of the Armenian Genocide from Turkey’s grasp,” said Aram Hamperian, executive director of the Armenian American National Committee. “So when someone competes for a position close to the leader of that country, who has it Served in the army From that country – this is a fire of three alarms.”

It took a century before the US government officially recognized the Armenian Genocide – an atrocity Turkey denied long ago Despite the unanimity of scholars and official recognition from more than 30 countries.

Now, American Armenians worry that Turkey’s campaign to deny the slaughter of 800,000 to 1 million Armenians during World War I will have a powerful hero within the U.S. government if Oz joins the Senate.

Asked about Oz’s opinion, campaign spokeswoman Brittany Yannick said in a statement: “Dr. Mehmet Oz opposes genocide and the killing of innocent people in all its forms.

“The evils of the First World War must be commemorated,” Yannick continued. “Dr. Oz looks forward to those important discussions, as well as helping the three million people in Armenia today.”

His campaign response did not use the phrase “Armenian genocide.”

“This is personal”

while the The episode known as the Armenian Genocide Not well known to most Americans, the Ottoman Empire’s systematic destruction of Christian minorities beginning in 1915 paved the way for the creation of an ethno-nationalist Turkish state.

The killings inspired the coining of the word “Genocide“And the industrial scale sets a precedent.” Who is talking today about the Armenian genocide? “Adolf Hitler Tell His generals before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Turkey has long suppressed internal discussion of events and has diplomatically retaliated against other countries it recognizes – more than 30 do so now – despite abundant evidence and The consensus of most scholars.

The US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire at the time warned Presidents in Washington say a “campaign of genocide is underway,” but Washington has long avoided calling the event a “genocide,” with Turkey making it clear that doing so would risk its support.

Former President Barack Obama, for example, promised that he would recognize it as genocide during his campaign but I backed down as soon as he was in office. The United Nations Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, who wrote a highly influential book on genocide before the government entered, chirp“I am very sorry that in the Obama administration, during our time in office, we did not recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

It took until 2019 to pass the House and Senate decisions Recognizing the incident as genocide after previous attempts failed. President Joe Biden became the first US president to officially recognize mass murder as genocide only last year.

“After Biden finally realized that, after all these years of efforts, we are really concerned about Oz, because we know the strength of Turkish pressure and Turkish interests in American politics,” said UAF founder Harut Sassonian. , publisher of an Armenian newspaper in Glendale, California, known as “Little Armenia”.

“Dr. Oz has been on TV for years, he is a well-known and famous person, and Armenians everywhere know that he is of Turkish origin. He has attracted the attention of Armenians in all 50 states,” said Sassonian.

Sassonian and Oz are both won an award Tribute to successful immigrants in 2008. At the ceremony, Sassonian introduced himself and began to say something about how his ancestors who had been killed a century earlier would marvel to see them there, but Oz responded by shaking his head vigorously as if in disapproval,” said Sassonian.

The Oz Campaign did not respond to a specific question about the incident.

Karen Shamilian, co-chair of the Armenian National Committee of Pennsylvania, said many in the community believe Oz’s candidacy does not pose much of a threat before endorsing Trump, because his campaign appears to be fading out.

“We have republican Armenians and democratic Armenians, but when it comes to matters that affect the Armenian community and the Armenian diaspora, we come together regardless of the political party,” she said. “We feel that this Senate seat is in danger of being taken over by a foreign government, quite frankly.”

However, Marta Batmasyan, an Armenian-American real estate investor and former assistant professor of Middle Eastern studies, defended Oz.

The events carried out by the Ottoman Turks were horrific. I think the relationship between the Turks and the Armenians has improved. Dr. Mehmet Oz believes in the equality of all human beings and I respect his desire to help the people of Armenia today,” Patmasyan said in a comment relayed by the Oz Campaign.

Oz, the son of immigrants, said his upbringing is a symbol of the American dream.

He will be the first Muslim elected to the Senate. He was raised secular, played soccer, married a Christian woman, and raised their children with this belief.

He served in the Turkish military during medical school for only 60 days to meet the minimum requirements for maintaining Turkish citizenship, according to editorial He wrote, and says he continued to keep his Turkish passport to care for his ailing mother there.

There seems to be He was not a senator with dual citizenshipU.S. government employees typically have to withdraw any foreign citizenship to obtain security clearances.

Critics drew attention to Oz interactions with People and organizations associated with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been described as a dictator, and critics such as Turkish-American NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom Accused Oz is Erdogan’s “foreign agent”.

But for Shamlian, the co-chair of the Pennsylvania Armenian Community, it’s not about politics. Shamlian remembered that her grandmother was telling stories about her genocide experience until she died just three years ago at the age of 109.

“For me, that’s personal,” he said.

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