Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan apologized to the Armenian community Thursday night after a video surfaced earlier in the week of her speaking with a prominent Armenian Genocide denier.
But the apology came just over 24 hours after Khan dismissed complaints against her as a political attack – and more than a month after a public commentator began pointing out their bond during her three-minute talk to the podium at council meetings.
Khan, who is up for re-election this year, did not respond to requests for comment Friday morning.
The Armenian Genocide took place during World War I in the Ottoman Empire, with the Turkish government killing between 664,000 and 1.2 million Armenians in “individual massacres and assassinations, or through systematic mistreatment, exposure and famine,” according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
Ergun Kirlikovali, former president of the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations, has repeatedly denied that the Armenian Genocide took place, including repeatedly on his Twitter page over the past week, which he called a “long discredited political claim.”
His public stance against the existence of the genocide dates back to at least 1987, when he addressed the California State Senate Education Committee, claiming that Turks and Armenians lived together in a “coexistence peaceful for 600 years”, until the end of the 20th century.
“You would laugh at some of these stories,” Kirkliovali said of the genocide allegations. “People are gullible, they take it.”
Khan and Kirlikovali were pictured together at a series of events during his tenure, including a Twitter post where she thanked him for throwing a holiday party and “always making me feel like to be with the family”.
While Voice of OC was unable to locate the tweet in question where Khan posted that Kirlikovali felt like family, when shown photos of the tweets during an Irvine City Council meeting last month, she did not deny their authenticity.
But tensions boiled over in the Armenian community after a video surfaced from November 2020 showing Khan meeting Kirlikovali and Turkey’s consul general in Los Angeles, Can Oguz.
In the clip, one of the attendees offered Khan a box of Turkish delights, at which point Kirlikovali joked that if any Armenians saw the sweets she could eat them and they would disappear, which Khan went on to say let her make sure you eat the sweets in front of the Armenian people.
But others thought Kirlikovali’s comments were aimed at the Armenian people and not the sweets.
To see the full clip which was published by Beyaz Gazete, a Turkish media outlet, click here.
The Orange County branch of the Armenian National Committee of America reposted the video last Tuesday, adding captions, calling it “unacceptable and the content (of the video) hurtful.”
On Wednesday evening, Khan posted a statement on his personal Twitter page calling the video “proof that my political opponents will do whatever it takes.”
“This video deliberately distorts a conversation about candy through fake captions to create this despicable attempt to misrepresent my point of view,” Khan wrote. “My track record of exposing racism, acts of hate and facilitating the reporting of crimes by victims of hate stands on its own.”
To view the statement and its recorded response, Click here.
Kirlikovali didn’t back down after Khan’s first video, posting several invitations to the Committee’s Twitter page inviting people to debate him on the existence of the genocide in the comments.
“Lies, slander, deception, falsification, threats, harassment, bullying, terrorism, shouting, begging. Have I covered all the Armenian traits? Kirlikovali posted. “Oh yeah, and stab in the back and murder. Did I say fraud?
Although Kirlikovali’s Tweet is no longer posted in this thread, there is a note from Twitter where it was in the thread that a tweet was removed for violating the site’s content rules.
After that, the Committee sent out a statement calling on its supporters to “take action against this hate speech and hold Mayor Khan accountable”.
Following this message, Khan sent a second video messagethis time from her story at the town hall, saying she had “learned a lot and wanted to apologize.”
“I apologize to the Armenian community for the things that were said, that were felt. My intentions were never to hurt the community,” Khan said in the video. “My door is open to learn more and build the confidence we need to move forward.”
Khan said she knew the genocide had taken place and had pledged to “sever all ties with those who deny the Armenian Genocide.”
However, Khan’s statement did not address his relationship with Kirlikovali.
Eric Neshanian, a frequent critic of Khan, has spoken out at several city council meetings and in emails to the city criticizing Khan’s ties to Kirlikovali, including photos in Twitter posts showing Khan at several events with Kirlikovali, including a meeting of his mayoral adviser. Advice.
Although Voice of OC could not find these posts since Khan’s page only contains Twitter posts dating back to April 2021, it has not publicly challenged the photos Neshanian posted during city council meetings.
Following Neshanian’s public comments on February 22 which included photos from Khan’s Twitter page, Khan made a short statement from the stage.
“Mr. Neshanian is an Islamophobe who feels good to attack me and no other elected officials. Other elected officials at the same events, meeting the same people are never targeted. It is sad and embarrassing,” said Khan.
Numerous comments under her recent apology video still called for her to resign, pointing to her earlier statement that it was a political attack as evidence that she only backed down after pressure.
Noah Biesiada is a member of Voice of OC Reporting. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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