Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan continues to partner with Armenian Genocide deniers

Farrah N. Khan, Mayor of the City of Irvine

In an act of contrition, Mayor of the City of Irvine, Farrah Khan, recently donated campaign contributions she received from a prominent Turkish-American businessman who was sitting on her Consultative Committee and is known to harbor close links to the Turkish government. Khan was responding to public outrage during a November 2020 video supposedly showing the mayor and his donor Ergun Kirlikovali joking about making the Armenians “disappear” – or perhaps their historical claims of genocide.

Khan’s political career has been hampered by allegations of patronage towards Turkey and his allies, often to the detriment of Irvine’s own Armenian American community. However, if she wants to make peace with her Armenian voters, Khan should review her campaign finance. recordings.

As he ran to become California’s first Muslim mayor in 2020, Khan accepted money from a Political Action Committee funded largely by alleged Turkish government proxies and registered foreign agents. The California branch of Turkish Coalition of America PAC (TC-USA), which donated $500 to Khan’s campaign, appears to be part of an effort to sway US politicians and encourage support for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey used subversive methods to meddle in American politics, creating think tanks, paid publicists, and English-language media to supplement its traditional lobbying efforts. Alarmingly, Turkish propagandists are now funding candidates in a small town races promote Erdogan’s priorities in the United States.

This includes fighting the recognition of the Armenian Genocide: the large-scale massacre of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman authorities during World War I. Congress and President Joe Biden officially acknowledged the tragedy, groups like TC-USA could look to state capitals and city governments to challenge Historical Armenian Genocide Allegations, for which there are strong scientific and political arguments consensus.

TC-USA and its regional PACs, collectively organized under the “Ten Thousand Turks” campaign, claim to represent Turkish-American interests and work to improve American-Turkish relations. However, the Armenian weekly reported on the activities of the PACs and noted that they are “openly committed to Turkey’s goal of rolling back US recognition of the Armenian Genocide.” The newspaper highlighted nine members of Congress out of a total of 11 who voted against recognizing the genocide in 2019 and received funding from Turkey’s PAC.

“Naturally, Turkish Americans have the right to contribute to political campaigns in the United States like any other American,” wrote Harut Sassounian, editor of the California Courier. “The only problem is that they use their political influence to spread lies about the Armenian Genocide. [Ten Thousand Turks’] The political fundraising website is full of misinformation about the genocide committed by Ottoman Turkey against the Armenians.

As deplorable as it may be for TC-USA to fundraise around genocide denial, that’s not the “only problem” with PAC. At least four of his donors were investigated by the FBI for “attempting to infiltrate the circles of American politicians on behalf of President Erdoğan”, according to a leaked email sent to Erdoğan’s son-in-law.

In 2015, two additional TC-USA donors caught the attention of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign advisers, who warned that “Erdoğan’s team is also trying to make inroads via donations to Democratic candidates”. four more donors are so closely tied to the Turkish state that they are listing as registered foreign agents of Turkey.

Following the 2020 election cycle, Turkish PACs bragged about their success in funding races across the country, highlighting their support for Khan, whom they called “a popular friend of American Turks from Southern California.” Indeed, as a member of Irvine City Council since 2019, Khan has quickly established herself as a consistent supporter of Turkey’s anti-Armenian agenda.

In fact, Khan regularly assists and commemorates Turkish and Azerbaijani holidaysand she surrounds herself with diplomatic and the community leaders of these countries, which are known as Armenia’s historical adversaries. In 2019, Khan was a guest speaker at the Second Annual Azerbaijan-Pakistan-Turkey Brotherhood Celebration in Los Angeles.

In 2020, the Fair Political Practices Commission launched a investigation in Khan after visiting Azerbaijan in 2019 at the country’s expense. Khan, who was on the Irvine City Council at the time, claimed she had traveled to Azerbaijan as a “private citizen, not in an official capacity”. Ironically, the commission ends up erased Khan because his trip was “reasonably related to a legislative or governmental purpose”.

While Khan praised Turkey and Azerbaijan in proclamations and speeches, she was the only member of the Irvine City Council to speak out against a November 2020 resolution recognizing Artsakh’s self-determination, despite unanimous support from citizens of Irvine commenting on the bill. The Republic of Artsakh, an Armenian-majority breakaway state, was forced to cede territory to Azerbaijan in 2020 after a Turkish-backed offensive.

In the end, Khan did not vote on the measure, although it was revised to simply note that Irvine’s “violence has increased in Artsakh, causing concern and concern to Armenian Americans.”

The latest controversy involving Khan occurred during a November 2020 meet and greet with members of the Turkish community, including Can Oguz of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles. Towards the end of the meeting, which was first shared online by Turkish-language media, Khan received a gift of Turkish Delight sweets from a supporter.

At this point, Kirlikovali interrupted to say that on “Armenian occasions” Khan could eat the sweets and “it will go away”.

“I’ll make sure to eat it in front of them,” Khan replied with a laugh.

Although Kirlikovali later mentioned that he was referring to “Armenian claims” that they invented Turkish Delight, members of the Armenian community in Irvine are skeptical. After all, Kirlikovali, who is known for to consult with AKP leaderspassed a lifetime lobbying to erase all mention of the Armenian Genocide. He is one of two American Turks who until recently sat on Khan’s mayor’s advisory committee.

For his part, Khan first claims one video of the exchange shared by the Orange County chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) contained “fake captions”. Soon after, she changed her mind and apologized to the Armenian community.

‘I pledge to cut all ties with those who deny the Armenian Genocide,’ mayor says mentioned.

Khan reaffirmed this commitment during an April 12 city council audience discuss “Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day” on April 24. “I made sure that I had no limbs [of the mayoral administration] it is denying the Armenian Genocide,” the mayor said.

[RELATED From the Desk of the ANCA-Orange County: Armenian community meets with Irvine Mayor Farrah N. Khan]

“In addition to that, I donated $1,500 to the Genocide Education Project,” she added, referring to Kirlikovali’s contributions to her campaigns.

However, if Khan wishes to disassociate herself completely from genocide deniers, she must also cut ties with TC-USA.

First of all, Kirlikovali was one of the most generous supporters of the PAC, make a donation nearly $23,000 to the California branch of TC-USA, including $1,500 as recently as the 2019-20 election cycle. Therefore, Khan remains an indirect beneficiary of Kirlikovali’s political contributions.

Second, taking money from TC-USA makes Khan appear beholden to Turkish foreign agents and alleged proxies. Until the mayor returns or donates the TC-USA money she received, the people of Irvine are justified in questioning her impartiality.

So far, Khan doesn’t seem interested in making amends. The mayor declined to respond in substance to an email describing Turkey’s PAC and noting its past as a genocide denier.

However, she may be willing to listen to her constituents. To contact Mayor Khan, call 949-724-6233 or email him at [email protected]. Tell the mayor that taking money from Turkish agents and genocide deniers sows division in the community and prolongs the pain and hardship experienced by the Armenian Diaspora.

Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is the director of Islamism in Politics, a project of the Middle East Forum.

Benjamin Baird


Comments are closed.