Sorin Vasile, the Romanian Ambassador to Yerevan, was recalled home after a scandal erupted from a series of jokes about Jews and homosexuals in a recent conference in the capital of Armenia.His rude and completely inspired jokes on a very sensitive topic for the Armenian public opinion made on that occasion sparked consternation among the audience and media being appreciated as shocking and insulting.“That an ambassador could make a joke about a religious group, namely the Jews, in response to a question about the Armenian Genocide is simply shocking and insulting,” wrote the Armenian mass media.
The film of the scandal presented by the site CivilNet.am in the article “Morality according to the Romanian Ambassador”
On November 19, Sorin Vasile, Romania’s Ambassador to Armenia, gave a lecture at the American University of Armenia. He was invited to talk about the relationship between the two countries and answer questions from the public. When an Armenian student stood up and asked him what was more important for Romania — political and economic ties with Turkey or the moral imperative of recognizing the Armenian Genocide, the Ambassador had a stunning answer:
“…[T]alking about the events that happened in the beginning of the last century, it’s very complicated…which is the morality? To recognize ok…This is a morality. Which is the morality between the normal couple…The hermaphrodite couple…yes? No, not hermaphrodite. Homosexuals and the normal…men and women, yeah? They are ok..? They are normal, they are moral. And the homosexuals are moral or? So, which is the same with…you know everything is relative you know. This is the answer to your question. For you, it’s controversial. For the gay couple, for them it’s perfect, this is the model of the family, yeah? Gay.”
“The audience remained silent. A very awkward and uncomfortable silence. What is the link between the morality of the recognition of the genocide and the morality of homosexual couples? To this, the Ambassador, questioned by email one week later with the exact transcript of his quote, replied that “It was analyzed the concept of morality and there were no comparisons made.” It is up to the readers to judge.
What he said next leaves no room for ambiguity,” wrote CivilNet.am
“Now everything is relative, it’s quite complicated. This is not the mathematic; you know the policy, the strategy, the geopolitics. You don’t have 1 + 1. You know there’s actually a good joke with the Jew[s]…the Jew, the big businessman, is looking for an accountant in his company and the first guy who is the candidate, yes, saying listen..how is 10 + 10, he’s saying 20! No you’re not good, out. The second one, 10 + 10 and he says 30. No you are not good, go out. And the third one comes: how is 10 + 10 and he’s saying, the candidate is saying, ‘how much you want it to be?’ Ok you’ll work, you’re hired, you’ll work for me. This is not… mathematics to say 1+1 is 2. …Next year will be the 100 years of commemoration….I’m not saying who is right, who is not right because I don’t have the right to say you know, but..it’s quite complicated.”
That an ambassador could make a joke about a religious group, namely the Jews, in response to a question about the Armenian Genocide is simply shocking and insulting.
Perhaps Mr.Vasile is not aware that these jokes are the ones that spread and reinforced clichés about particular groups. In this case, the Jew is associated with the “big businessman” and with greed. The same clichés were used in the press of the 1930s in Europe and even today in anti-Semitic publications. It is precisely these stereotypes, especially those that Armenians suffered through in 1915, which spread ignorance, resentment, and hate. Stigmatization and generalization always ultimately end up as acts of discrimination and exclusion.
Of course, this joke should not allow anyone to conclude anything about Mr Vasile’s view on the Jews, but the fact that he expressed it as an ambassador and in a public conference illustrates a lack of respect towards the history of Jews and Armenians.
At the end of his comment, M. Sorin Vasile added:
“And the most important thing…look at French and the Germans..the reconciliation between them. It takes some time, yeah? But finally they found a common way.”
By making another comparison, this time with Franco-German relations, the Ambassador actually brought, maybe unconsciously, Turkish propaganda to life by saying that over time the Genocide issue will cease to be a problem. The passage of time works in favor of this strategy of forgetting with the gradual disappearance of the Armenians who transmit the memories of their relatives, parents, cousins, who were subjected to Genocide. It’s a political strategy well assumed by the Turkish authorities.
But the Romanian Ambassador seems to forget one thing. The reason why France and Germany are now allies and have good relations lies primarily in the recognition by both countries of the errors and atrocities they committed in the past. Reconciliation, forgiveness, and finally cooperation between the two countries were possible thanks to lucidity on a common past.
Time alone will erase absolutely nothing. On the contrary, it can provide forgotten and denied tragedies the acrid and bitter taste of injustice and cynicism.
Mr.Vasile ended his answer in this way: “In my position, it’s quite complicated. It’s not easy, it’s a morality, economic, and it’s a political, geostrategic. There are a lot of factors that are combined, quite complicated.”
No, the question of recognizing the Armenian Genocide is not complicated. It has nothing to do with any kind morality. Or with an alleged questioning about the truth of historical facts. These facts are tragic and are recognized by all serious historians. What obscures the issue are the economic, political and geopolitical pressures that Turkey imposes on countries that would dare to recognize the Armenian Genocide, like Romania. Because despite the fact that the country hosted Armenian refugees after the Genocide and was the first to recognize the independence of Armenia in 1991, the authorities still refuse to recognize the reality of the Genocide.
Precisely because of those economic, political and geostrategic issues that the Ambassador mentioned. Romania is indeed a privileged commercial partner of Turkey, it is home to an important Turkish minority and has strong diplomatic ties with Ankara. Indeed, the Armenian student who asked the question was right. Romania prefers to focus on its present economic interests rather than accept historical injustices.
In face of the duty of memory and the necessary lucidity over history, the Ambassador chose instead to make remarks full of political cynicism and disrespect toward a people’s past, toward religious and sexual minorities and finally toward the identity of each one of us.
Questioned a week later on all of these remarks, the Ambassador wrote: “I do not have any comments to make concerning your affirmations. I have clearly said that the events in 1915 were painful and I have expressed the hope that, as Germany and France found the path of reconciliation, in a nearer or further perspective, the countries of the region will identify negotiation channels.”
He refused to apologize, underlined Civil.Net.am in its first article aimed at expressing an understandable revolt about such an unacceptable behavior and conduct on behalf of a diplomat.
After the viral spread of the article on his shocking remarks, Ambassador Vasile finally agreed to issue apology to Armenian people
“After the viral spread of the above article, the Ambassador finally agreed to apologize. Despite repeated requests during the conference and then a week later by email with the exact transcript of his remarks, he had thus far refused to apologize. This story reflects what Antonio Gramsci, an Italian journalist, said about the role of journalism that it should “invite the public to get out of its passivity by mobilizing its own emancipating force.” So, thank you to all the readers, who showed their indignation by widely sharing this article, which contributed to procuring a public apology by Ambassador Vasile,” writes Guillaume de Chazournes in CivilNet.am edition of December 5.“In connection with the article published on Civilnet on 4 December, about my conference to the American University, I want to convey my heartfelt regret that my remarks on the tragic events that caused infinite suffering to the Armenian people at the beginning of the past century have come to cause, beyond any remote intentionality, some offense to the Armenian people. It is with deep regret that I take how my comments to a question were interpreted. I am profoundly sorry for any unfortunate misunderstanding that may have any potential bearing on the solid traditional relations between the Romanian and Armenian peoples, built in centuries on mutual support and trust. It may be the case that some of my remarks have been considered misplaced and if so the case I am deeply sorry for it. I firmly underline that Armenia has a friend in me. I hold the genuine trust that my activities involving both the local authorities and the Armenian public at large, my statements and interviews testify to the highest consideration that I have for Armenia as a country with a great and rich history and for its future,” reads the message of the Romanian Ambassador issued to apologize to the Armenian People for his remarks.
Romanian MFA voices regret for Vasile’s anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks, urgently recalled him
Romania’s Foreign Ministry (MAE) ‘is voicing regret and is firmly condemning the public remarks that were anti-Semitic and homophobic in nature made by Romania’s ambassador to Armenia Sorin Vasile at a conference hosted by the American University of Yerevan, and it has urgently recalled him to explain his remarks,’ MAE reports in a press release issued on Friday. The recall was made by Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu. The release also mentions that the MAE has already instructed the ambassador to publicly apologise for his fully ‘out of place’ and his apologies were posted on Friday on the website of the Armenian publication Civilnet.am. MAE also says that it is firmly ‘condemning any behaviour or speech slippages that promote intolerance and stereotypes.’ ‘The Foreign Ministry does not tolerate and will not tolerate any behaviour or speech slippages on the part of the representatives of the Romanian diplomacy while in office, irrespective of rank, that could violate basic values, rules and principles of the contemporary international affairs, Romania’s bilateral relations with other countries or that would distort or misrepresent the principle positions of the Romanian state on relevant international issues,’ reads the MAE release issued on Friday. MAE assures that it will continue to deploy all efforts so that any similar speech may be efficiently combated in any context, irrespective of the capacity of the speaker, given that Romania will hold the chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016.