Neo-Ottomanism in anti-Armenian Riots in Lebanon

Beginning on the evening of June 10, pro-Turkish elements in Lebanon took to the streets of chanting “F*** Armenia,” “F*** Armenians,” in an apparent well-choreographed operation.

The catalyst for this occurred when Nshan Der Haroutunian, the host of a Lebanese TV show, received a text from a viewer calling him “a refugee p*ssy” and other insults. This is nothing new for Lebanon’s Armenian community, whose numbers in the early 1970s accounted for almost 10% of the population. At the height of Lebanon’s Civil War, Armenians took the position of Positive Neutrality, siding with nobody. Lebanon’s Christian Phalanges leaders told the Armenians, “You came to Lebanon barefoot, you will leave barefoot,” referring the survivors of the WWI Turkish genocide of the Armenians taken refuge in Lebanon.

In response to this text, Der Haroutunian called “Turkey and the Ottomans insidious.” Within minutes, members of pro-Turkish groups and organizations took to the streets. See the one minute video with Mounir Hassan, President of the Lebanese-Arab Mardalia Union insulting Der-Haroutunian and Lebanese-Armenians. Hasan threatened to slaughter Armenians in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut, stating his Ottoman ancestors did an excellent job killing Armenians. He continued by calling Armenians, stupid evil traitors.

It is interesting how the Ottoman-Turkish revival is predicated in part on the destruction of the survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide. Then again, Turkey was not only allowed to emerge unscathed after exterminating two-thirds of its Armenian citizens, but it was also awarded the Syrian Mediterranean Region of Alexandretta by Syria’s French Mandate in 1938 as a bribe not to side with Nazi Germany during WWII. Turkey still occupies half of the Republic of Cyprus, has troops in Northern Syria, Libya, and violates Greek airspace daily. Turkey supports aggressive Azerbaijani land claims against Armenians and operates most of the Republic of Georgia’s airports. The largest mosques in the Balkans are Turkish-financed. Turkey also claims it will “liberate Jerusalem from the Jews.” Eventually, the international community will have to address Turkish expansionism.

Even though the acts of these pro-Turkish groups were condemned by various Lebanese ethnic, religious, and community groups, this may be the start of further disintegration, especially with Sunnis energized with Turkish neo-Ottoman overtones. With Lebanon in a dire economic condition, Turkey has taken it upon itself to exacerbate Sunni-Shia tensions in mainly Sunni Northern Lebanon. Turkish flags and pictures of Turkish President Erdogan plaster the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Some may wait out the reign of Erdogan, assuming Turkey will return to its “secular roots.” This policy is imprudent for two reasons. Turkey has never been internally secular; it has put on a good show for international consumption. The centrally-orchestrated accelerated growth of active Islam in Turkey, especially in its east, was in reaction to Soviet and leftist propaganda that permeated Turkey until the 1980 military coup. It should be of no surprise that Erdogan’s ascent to power was based on political Islam, and since, has morphed into neo-Ottomanism. Second, there is no precedent in history where an entrenched ideology, especially in the form of religion, is overcome without war and massive terror. Today’s Turkish Army training drills are full of phrases taken directly from the Koran.

Yerevan, Armenia

About the Author
David Davidian is a lecturer at the American University of Armenia. He has spent over a decade in technical intelligence analysis at major high technology firms.
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