August 20, 2013
Mayor Chris Friel of Brantford, Ontario has obviously a determining say in how the people buried a century ago in the "Muslim" corner of his city's Mount Hope Cemetery are memorialized. Unfortunately, the mayor has been less than receptive to the justified input of the Alevi and Armenian communities in Ontario as to how the unidentified dead should be remembered.
While in recent months he has frequently met the Turkish consul general, the mayor has come up with lame excuses not to meet Alevi or Armenian representatives. Two weeks ago, after he had promised to meet Armenian representatives who wanted to express their point of view with the plans to memorialize the "Turks" buried in the cemetery, the mayor suddenly canceled the meeting claiming he was going on holiday.
Why the sudden holiday when everyone knows a mayor's daily schedule is rarely sudden or unplanned? And while excusing himself by claiming he would be out of town on holiday, Mayor Friel attended, on August 9, a reception in Brantford, accompanied by the Turkish consul general. The reception was hosted by the Armenian Genocide-denying Turkish "Interfaith" organization, the brainchild of Fathillulah Gulen, the secretive Turkish religious leader who operates a multimillion dollar global empire from his Pennsylvania hideaway.
A few days ago, when Suleyman Güven, editor of the Alevi "Yeni Hayat" newspaper tried to arrange a meeting with Mayor Friel, one of the mayor's aide's told Mr. Güven that the mayor was again on holiday.
It's obvious to anyone following the issue that the Mayor Friel is playing "footsie" with the Turkish consul general. The mayor is also upset that his collaboration with the Turkish consul general has become a controversial issue.
Mayor Friel has expressed his distress that the plaque has become an international issue. Perhaps while he was having his frequent tete-a-tetes with the foreign diplomat, the mayor was unaware that by doing so he had began to swim in "international waters". Is the mayor being disengenous? Or is he naive? It's hard to believe that the mayor of a Canadian city would assume his collaboration with a Turkish government agent would go unnoticed by the people who have elected him or by Ontario Alevis and Armenians who have every reason to condemn the Turkish-engineered falsification of the identities of those buried in the cemetery. They were Alevis; not Turks. And although those buried were members of a minority who have been persecuted by the Ottoman Empire and its successor Turkish Republic, the Turkish government agent, in an incredible demonstration of nerve, wants to label them Turks and see them identified as such on the plaque marking the cemetery were Alevis are buried. This week the Turkish agent met with researcher William Darfler to finalize the plaque text. What happens after they finalize a text agreeable to Ankara's man in Ontario? We don't know. Nobody knows. You see, the mayor is on holiday.
Below is the letter Mr. Güven sent to the mayor on August 5. The Alevi journalist is still waiting for an answer.--Editor.
Mayor, Brantford City
100 Wellington Square,
P.O. Box 818,
Ontario, N3T 5R7
As publisher and the editor of “Yani Hayat”, the largest-circulation Turkish-Kurdish newspaper in Canada and as a Canadian-Alevi, I am writing to you to express my grave concerns in the recent news which a number of media outlets, including the "Brantford Expositor", have carried about the plan of the Turkish government and its representatives to place a monument/plaque in the Muslim section of Mount Hope Cemetery, in the memory of people buried there and the 100-plus citizens of the Ottoman Empire who were interned in Kapuskasing.
This plan is a politically-motivated project to tarnish the image and reputation of Canada and brand it as a human rights abusing country and to erase the Turkish Republic's record as a genocidal state. This project is not only an insult to the Alevi community in Canada, Turkey and everywhere else, but also to the Alevis interned in the cemetery and the Alevi internees in Kapuskasing.
According to a Canadian-Turkish monthly, a Turkish delegation, headed by a senior advisor to the Turkish prime minister, plans to attend the inauguration.
The Library and Archive Canada website states: “There were no Turkish prisoners in Canada.”
What's the connection of the Turkish consul general and the Turkish prime minister’s advisor to a relatively obscure cemetery in a Canadian city? Why do the Turkish consul general and his cohorts continue this farce? What is the agenda they are pursuing?
This is the acme of dishonesty, not only to the Ottoman internees but also to other internees. The overwhelming majority of the Kapuskasing internees were Alevis. The remaining were Armenian, Greek, Kurd, and Syriac. The Turkish consul general is disdainfully exploiting the identity of the internees for crass political reasons. Even though he knows the internees weren't who he claims they were, the consul general willfully victimizes the internees for a second time by asserting that they were Turks. The first victimization occurred when the internees fled the Ottoman Empire to escape persecutions "Bloody Sultan" Abdul Hamid II. But the victimization of minorities, such as the Alevis, Armenians, and Kurds began long before that. Suleiman I (1494-1566) of the Ottoman Empire massacred more than a million members of the Alevis and the Kurds. That official policy of persecution against the Alevis and the Kurds continues to this day. Even now Turkish imams consider it a sin to conduct the funeral ceremonies of Alevis in a mosque. Alevis are labelled "heretics" in Turkey. And while Alevis continue to be considered outcasts by official Turkey, Ankara has the chutzpah to appropriate the long-buried Alevis to enhance Turkey's image in Canada.
The Alevis and Kurds do not have the same culture, religion or traditions as Sunni Turks. Since this story broke, many of my community members have expressed their anger with the political project. Even Alevis in Turkey contacted me to relay their disapproval of the project.
The whole "Turkish internment" issue is a charade. Under no circumstances should the internment issue be linked to or mentioned on any monument/plaque. There is no link between the internees and those unidentified Muslims buried in the Brantford cemetery. Without a shred of evidence, the Turkish consul general is shamelessly claiming that the Muslims buried in the cemetery were Turkish internees. His motives are as transparent as colorless glass: he and his government want to portray Canada as a racist country which supposedly mistreated Turks during WWI.
To discuss this issue in detail, I would appreciate if you could grant me and my colleagues an opportunity to elaborate our concerns with you in person.