Vahan Hovannisian, who leads the nationalist opposition party’s faction in Armenia’s parliament, joined official Yerevan in condemning Erdogan’s threats to deport them en masse in response to fresh foreign resolutions recognizing the 1915 Armenian massacres in Turkey as genocide. “Erdogan unmasked himself and the world saw what kind of a country it is dealing with,” he said.
“As regards our fellow Armenians who have found themselves in Turkey for one or another economic reason, I am advising them to immediately leave that country because it’s obvious with whom we are dealing,” he told a news conference. “A threat voiced from such a high level can be deemed by some elements a signal for anti-Armenian actions.”
Hovannisian also disapproved of statements by senior Armenian officials comparing the threats with Turkish rhetoric before and during the 1915 mass killings and deportations of some 2 million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire.
“While Turkey’s prime minister is threatening to deport Armenians residing [in Turkey] illegally now, Armenians themselves were the masters of the lands they populated in the early 20th century,” he said, referring to areas in what is now eastern Turkey. “It is the Turks that had migrated there illegally and lived there as nomads.”
Galust Sahakian, Hovannisian’s opposite number from the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), disagreed, implying that the Turkish authorities are unlikely to deport Armenian migrants. He also said the number of such people is insignificant.
“I don’t think there are Armenians all over Turkey who went there for work and should not get out of there,” Sahakian told journalists. “The situation is not such that we should instill a fear syndrome in our people and [make them think] that the Turks can create a bloody environment.”
Turkish leaders have at various times spoken of between 30,000 and 100,000 citizens of Armenia allegedly residing in their country in an effort to embarrass Yerevan in the international arena and showcase Ankara’s declared good will towards Armenians.
A senior Armenian government official accused the Turks late last year of grossly inflating their number, saying that it does not exceed 5,200. Alin Ozinian, an Istanbul-born Armenian researcher who studied the issue last year, came up with a similar estimate.
The 130-page research, commissioned by the Yerevan-based Eurasia Partnership Foundation, is based on Ozinian’s interviews with 150 Armenians conducted in the course of last year. It essentially bears out the widely held belief that the vast majority of the Armenian immigrants are women from areas outside Yerevan who are aged between 40 and 60 and work in Istanbul without Turkish residency and employment permits.