‘Promote diversity and tolerance in our society’

I join members of the Pax Turcica Institute of America to remember the Turkish diplomats who fell victims to the hate crimes committed on our soil over 40 years ago. On Jan. 27, 1973, 77-year-old Gourgen Yanikian gunned down two Turkish  diplomats, the Consul General Mehmet Baydar and the Vice Consul Bahadir  Demir, in Santa Barbara, California. Yanikian’s simultaneous appeal “to kill Turks” resulted in over 300 attacks carried out by ASALA and JCAG Armenian terrorist groups, killing scores of Turkish civilians across the U.S., Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

Influenced by Yanikian’s appeal, on Jan. 28, 1982, 20-year-old Harry Sassounian assassinated another Turkish Consul General, Kemal Arikan, at a street intersection in Los Angeles. President Reagan described this crime as “an act of terrorism.” Sassounian was sentenced to life  imprisonment without a parole in 1984, though attempts to secure his release have continued till present.

The tragic assassinations of Turkish diplomats emphasize the importance of promoting diversity and tolerance in our society. In this light, I urge our public officials to refrain from one-sided political statements on issues related to the Turkish-Armenian historical controversy. Instead, our appreciation of differing historical narratives can help facilitate a much-needed reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.

Saadet Ceran

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