Thursday, July 31, 2008

In 1915 alone, the New York Times Published 145 Articles About the Armenian Genocide.

Why Doesn’t the U.S.Recognize the Genocide and Hold its Perpetrators Responsible?

Due to Turkish threats, every U.S. administration since 1982 has feared that properly recognizing the Armenian Genocide would offend the Turkish government. As a result, the executive branch has consistently opposed the passage of Congressional resolutions commemorating the Genocide and has objected to the use of the word “genocide” to describe the systematic destruction of the Armenian people.

Genocide Denial Campaign

The Republic of Turkey, which, in spite of the overwhelming evidence documenting the Armenian Genocide, continues to pursue a well-funded campaign - in Washington, DC and throughout the world - to deny and ultimately erase from world history the 1.5 million victims of Ottoman Turkey's and later the Republic of Turkey's systematic and deliberate massacres and deportations of the Armenian people by between the years 1915 and 1923.

Governments that Recognize and Condemn the Genocide

Several countries have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide through legislation and state declarations. Some of the more recently prominent legislative bodies to pass such resolutions include the Dutch Parliament, Swiss National Council, Canadian House of Commons, Argentinean Senate, and the French National Assembly.

Why is Genocide Recognition So Important?

The first step in stopping future genocides from occurring is to acknowledge past crimes against humanity. It is only then that we can unequivocally condemn all genocidal campaigns and take a stand against them. By recognizing and officially commemorating the Armenian Genocide, the United States would be ensuring that the lessons of this terrible crime against humanity are never forgotten. In addition, proper recognition would encourage Turkey to finally come to terms with its own history and eventually improve relations with Armenia.

Who Remembers the Armenians?

By Christine Thomassian and Shabtai Gold
Fri. Apr 29, 2005

Adolf Hitler was confident that the world would remain indifferent to the plight of the Jewish people he was planning to exterminate. After all, he reportedly told Nazi commanders before the outbreak of World War II, who remembers the Armenians?
The answer to Hitler’s rhetorical question remained much the same as the 90th anniversary of the Turkish genocide of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians was commemorated last weekend.
Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and the world’s central address for commemorating the horrors of genocide, recently opened a new wing to its museum, with much international fanfare. There is not a single mention in the new museum of the Armenian genocide, which paved the ideological way for the Jewish genocide perpetrated by the Nazis.
For its part, the Turkish government — much like today’s Holocaust deniers — continues to disclaim its involvement in the genocide and the very occurrence of such a horror, expending large sums of money in this campaign. Some in Turkey admit that a few “individuals” committed massacres against the Armenians, but they are quick to assert that these acts were provoked by the Armenians themselves in order to receive aid and sympathy.
Not satisfied with this accusation, this week the Turkish State Archives announced that more than a half million Turks were killed by Armenians. True, many Armenians collaborated with the Russians as irregular fighters against Turkey in World War I, and they may have killed as many as 75,000 Turks. But given the anti-Armenian pogroms initiated by Turkey during the 1890s that set the stage for the full-scale genocide in 1915, Armenians’ partaking in the fighting is easily understood — no one should be expected to go like sheep to the slaughter.
Sadly, the Turkish government is not alone in its campaign. Indeed, it is receiving support from some very odd sources, including a number of prominent Jewish organizations in Washington and the Jewish state itself. Noble Peace laureate Shimon Peres, while serving as Israeli foreign minister in 2001, called the Armenian genocide nothing more than a “tragedy,” saying “nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred.”
Much energy, effort and money is justifiably spent on attempting to ensure that the world will never forget the Holocaust. Wouldn’t it meet our standards of morality to include all such horrors?
What about the Assyrian Christians murdered along with Armenians by Turkey? What about the Roma, homosexuals and other “undesirables” massacred by the Nazis? And what of the more recent killing fields in Cambodia, Rwanda and now Darfur?
Shouldn’t “never again” be applied to all men, women and children who are starved, beaten, obligated to undergo torturous medical experiments, marched through forests or deserts, forced to dig their own mass graves or herded into gas chambers? Is “never again” an admonition over which the Jewish people can maintain a monopoly?
Shouldn’t the American Jewish community be doing more to help gain recognition for the Armenian genocide, 90 years after the fact? After all, the first American human rights movement to focus on issues overseas was founded to stop the travesties being committed against Armenians. And it was Henry Morgenthau, America’s Jewish ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, who led the campaign to alert the world to the horrors being perpetrated by Turkey.
Denial is, without a doubt, the final stage of genocide. It murders the memory of the horrors, and of the dead. We must always guard against denial becoming accepted as legitimate discourse, let alone as fact. Will we allow Turkey to successfully continue its campaign of denial?

If we do, we will be condemning our children to repeat these horrors and to have these horrors repeated unto them, as American philosopher George Santayana famously warned a century ago. But if we act now, if we insure that our children and our children’s children are properly educated about the Armenian genocide, then just maybe we can prevent “never again” from becoming an empty saying.

Christine Thomassian and Shabtai Gold are university students who lost members of their family in, respectively, the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust.

Turkey’s Choice: Europe or Amnesia

The Continental Divide
By Eric FreyFri.
Oct 27, 2006

On October 12 Europe sent two powerful messages to Turkey about the way it should deal with the crimes of the past and the civil liberties of the present: The Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize for literature to dissident Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk, and the French National Assembly passed a bill making denial of the Armenian genocide during the First World War a crime punishable by several years in prison.
The first message was an appropriate honor for a wonderful writer and a fighter for free speech and tolerance. The second one was a misguided attempt to legislate historical truth. Ironically, the French bill resembles the Turkish law under which Pamuk was charged last year for speaking up about the Armenian genocide. Even though the French bill will probably never become law, it may backfire by strengthening nationalist forces in Turkey.
Turkey is a torn country that stands at several crossroads. The mildly Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to take his country into the European Union and has pressured the union to open formal membership negotiations last year. But that prospect faces broad opposition from the European public and growing resistance within Turkey.
The main foes of Erdogan’s European strategy are not the Islamists, but the country’s secular, radically nationalist forces. This grouping includes most of the military and a powerful lobby of lawyers and state prosecutors. They push for a hard line on Cyprus, the Mediterranean island that has been split into Greek and Turkish sectors since the invasion of Turkey’s armed forces in 1974. And they continue to deny the genocide against the Armenians and make sure that this view remains the law of the land. Intellectuals, journalists, writers and scholars are systematically charged with “denigration of Turkishness” if they dare to speak up on that historic crime (though they are usually acquitted).
The Armenian genocide has a special relevance for Jews. The systematic deportations and killings of around a million Armenians from 1915 to 1917 offered a blueprint to the Nazis. And just as Jews insist that the memory of the Holocaust be kept alive, today’s Armenians demand that Turkey at least acknowledges the horrible injustices committed against them 90 years ago.
Unfortunately, the modern Turkish state seems unable to do so. Even though its founder, Kemal Atatürk, was not personally implicated in the genocide, too many of his key aides were. The denial of that crime thus became a pillar of Turkish national identity. The issue also poisons the relationship with neighboring Armenia, a poor former Soviet republic to which Turkey has closed off all border crossings.
A growing number of Turkish intellectuals, with Pamuk in the lead, consider that attitude a disgrace. And they are encouraged by recent signs of softening by the Erdogan government, including its decision to allow a congress of independent scholars to meet in Istanbul to discuss the Armenian issue and its support for a mixed Turkish-Armenian commission of historians to study the events. But Pamuk and others are highly critical of the French efforts to make genocide denial a crime. For good reasons, they see in the French obsession with the massacres against Armenians a thinly veiled attempt to refuse an Islamic country membership in the European Union...
...Still, Turkey’s inability to face up to the Armenian genocide, just like its refusal to grant cultural rights to its huge Kurdish minority, demonstrates how far the country still has to go before it can be said to have reached European standards of democracy. Turkish nationalism may be the biggest obstacle to E.U. membership, more so than religion or its comparatively low income levels. There is no way that Turkey will ever join the E.U. if it continues to prosecute its brightest minds for demanding historical honesty...
...Whether Turkey ever joins the E.U., the road to membership should be kept open. It is up to Turkish society to banish its ghosts from the past and contain the radical nationalist forces that want their homeland to remain separate from the West. The Nobel Prize for Orhan Pamuk gives the country’s liberals much-needed encouragement. Now it’s up to Pamuk and his allies at home, and not French parliamentarians, to teach Turks that saying “we’re sorry” to Armenians after 90 years is no disgrace.

Eric Frey is the managing editor of the Vienna daily Der Standard

On Armenian Genocide, Politics Trumps Truth

The Hour
By Leonard Fein
Wed. Aug 15, 2007

On the surface, it should be an easy call. Here, for example, is the text of a cable that Henry Morgenthau, Sr., then America’s ambassador to Turkey, sent to the State Department on July 10, 1915: “Persecution of Armenians assuming unprecedented proportions. Reports from widely scattered districts indicate systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian population and through arbitrary arrests, terrible tortures, whole-sale expulsions, and deportations from one end of the Empire to the other accompanied by frequent instances of rape, pillage and murder, turning into massacre, to bring destruction and destitution on them. These measures are not in response to popular or fanatical demand but are purely arbitrary and directed from Constantinople in the name of military necessity, often in districts where no military operations are likely to take place.” And then, on August 11, his cable back home referred to “this effort to exterminate a race.”
Morgenthau couldn’t use the word “genocide”; it wasn’t invented until 1944. But today, the overwhelming majority of scholars around the world are in agreement: The first genocide of the 20th century was committed by Turkey, and the Armenians were its victims.
But Turkey disagrees, labors mightily to impeach the scholarship, to expunge the term, to establish its claim that Armenians were mere casualties of war. Unlike the many nations that have established commissions of truth and reconciliation, that have looked fearlessly into their own past crimes against humanity (most notably, Germany itself), Turkey hires K Street lobbyists to persuade the American public and the U.S. Congress that its hands are clean, its heart is pure. (See, for an example, the statement of former Congressman Bob Livingston, who has been paid at least $700,000 by Turkey, here.
It is doubtful that many people are persuaded by the Turks and their lobbyists. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recognizes the Armenian genocide, as does the Reform Jewish movement, as, one assumes, do most Jewish leaders, at least privately — perhaps even the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and B’nai B’rith International. Yet the leaders of these organizations have steadfastly refused to endorse a bill currently before Congress that would formally acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.
How can that be? Why do they shy away from using the word “genocide” to describe the tragedy of the Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey?
The answer is unsettling. It has nothing to do with history or truth; it has everything to do with the strategic interests of Israel, as also, to a lesser degree, of the United States.
Turkey is a Muslim country that maintains cordial and strategically important relations with both Israel and America. That is presumably why, in 2001, Shimon Peres, then Israel’s foreign minister, could say, “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. What the Armenians went through is a tragedy, but not genocide.”
The Peres dismissal led Professor Israel Charny, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, to write to Peres: “Even as I disagree with you, it may be that in your broad perspective of the needs of the State of Israel, it is your obligation to circumvent and desist from bringing up the subject with Turkey, but as a Jew and an Israeli I am ashamed of the extent to which you have now entered into the range of actual denial of the Armenian Genocide, comparable to denials of the Holocaust.”
The matter has suddenly become a volatile disruption. In Watertown, a suburb of Boston that is home to some 8,000 Armenians, a challenge has been mounted against ADL’s “No Place For Hate” program, a popular anti-bigotry campaign in which hundreds of communities around the nation participate. And cyberspace is filled with criticism of Abe Foxman, the ADL’s chief, who recently said, “This [the genocide] is not an issue where we take a position one way or the other. This is an issue that needs to be resolved by the parties, not by us. We are neither historians nor arbiters.”
It is true that Foxman is neither a historian nor an arbiter. But it is not possible to believe that he is unaware of the relevant history. And that raises a number of pressing questions:
At what point do we allow Israel’s raisons d’etat to override the sober and sobering truth? There’s a long record on this one, going back to Israel’s efforts to impose silence on American Jews regarding the plight of Soviet Jewry, regarding our views of the junta in Argentina, even regarding the war in Vietnam. Israeli officials will necessarily act in what they perceive as their nation’s interests, but is there no way for Israel’s friends to express their own considered views without impinging on those interests?
Does not the outrageous stubbornness of Turkey require that Turkey’s friends and allies seek to persuade the Turkish government that this abrasive issue will continue to foul Turkey’s reputation, that it would be a mature and cleansing act for Turkey at long last to lay open the record and deal frankly with its past, as so many others have done and are doing? Would not such candor raise Turkey’s reputation in the family of nations?
And a question for the authors of HR106, the House bill that would formally recognize the genocide: Have you no shame? The resolution “calls upon the President… to recall the proud history of United States intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.” But America’s record was not proud; it was shameful, as Samantha Power carefully documents in her masterful “A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” We, too, ought be honest about the past.
The Jewish Daily


Before the genocide

The Armenians are an ancient people whose home has been in the southern Caucasus since the 7th century BC. Mongol, Persian, Russian and Ottoman (Turkish) empires have fought on and over this region for many centuries. In the 4th century AD one of Armenia's kings became a Christian(in 301, the king Tiridates established Christianity as a sole religion of Armenia-H.A.-, and Christianity has been the Armenian state religion ever since. After Islam was founded in Arabia in the 7th century AD, it became the state religion in all the countries surrounding Armenia (including Iran, which was the strongest influence on Armenian culture). But the Armenians continued to cherish their Christian church, although politically they lived under a series of foreign regimes and as a result often experienced hardship, persecution, discrimination and abuse.
At the end of the 19th century, Turkey and Russia were recovering from a war with each other. In the west, 2.5m Christian Armenians were governed by the Turks; eastern Armenia was in Russian hands. A surge in Armenian nationalism gave the Armenian leaders confidence to demand political reforms. This was unwelcome to both Ottoman and Russian powers, afraid of armed partisan resistance or even the revival of interstate war. They began to repress Armenians even more harshly. In some Turkish Armenian provinces large-scale massacres were carried out from 1894 to 1896. In Russian Armenia, the Tsar closed hundreds of Armenian schools, libraries and newspaper offices, and in 1903 confiscated the property of the Armenian church.
In 1909 the Ottoman Sultan was overthrown by a new political group: the 'Young Turks', eager for a modern, westernised style of government. When the First World War broke out, the Young Turks supported Germany, which brought the country into conflict with Russia once again. It was easy for the Young Turks to expect Turkish Armenians to conspire with pro-Christian Russians against them (though many Turkish Armenians denied any such intention). As far as the Young Turks were concerned, what had long been 'the Armenian Question' had to be answered, now.

The genocide

In 1915, under the cover of the war, the Ottoman government resolved to expel Turkey's Armenian population (at the time about 1.75m) entirely. Their plan included deportation to the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were driven out of their homes and either massacred or force-marched into the desert until they died. The German ambassador to Turkey wrote home: 'The government is indeed pursuing its goal of exterminating the Armenian race in the Ottoman Empire'. Between 1915 and 1923 the western part of historic Armenia was emptied of Armenians. The death toll is reliably estimated to be over a million. Those who did not die fled to the Middle East, Russia or the USA.
The genocide was conducted in a well-organised way, making use of new technology available. Orders to begin the operation were sent to every police station, to be carried out simultaneously at the same time on the same day: April 20, 1915. Once it had begun, the perpetrators kept in touch by telegraph. They also made use of the Istanbul- Baghdad railway: the new line had already been laid as far as the Syrian desert. Tens of thousands of Armenians were packed into railway wagons and sent down the line into the desert, where they were left without shelter, water or food. Many of the workers laying the railway were Armenian, and thought they would escape; their turn for the death trucks came in 1916.
Genocide in wartime is relatively easy to conceal. When Hitler was planning the invasion of Poland in 1939, he gave the order to 'kill without mercy men, women and children of the Polish race or language. Only in this way will we get the living space we need. Who after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?'

After the genocide

After the First World War efforts were made to restore Armenian territory, but without success. Even USA's President Wilson did not stop the Turks from ignoring all treaties and hanging on to the Armenian provinces it had cleared. In 1920 Armenia finally renounced its claim to them. It took some time for the political status (and the boundaries) of Armenia to be sorted out. In 1922 Armenia became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, under central Soviet rule, where it remained for 71 years. During this time Armenia was protected from hostile neighbouring countries, but the Soviet government (especially under Stalin) was harsh. Politicians, intellectuals and churchmen were suppressed. Workers on the land were forced to take up the communist 'collective farming' policy, becoming badly-paid labourers on the land they were no longer allowed to own individually.
In the 1920s, despite overwhelming evidence of the genocide provided by Western and Armenian eyewitnesses, Turkish officials effectively created a fog of denial. After a surge of American interest in the fate of Armenia during the 1914-18 war, there was post-war international reluctance to rock the boat, even when treaties were broken - after all, the Ottoman Empire had just been dismantled, and modern Turkey was not created until 1923.
One determined American nurse did persist in making her experiences known; she also exposed the new callousness at Istanbul's American Embassy (which in 1915 had tried hard to intervene). The new ambassador, driven 'obsessively' by commercial interests, was willingly colluding in Turkish denial. Allen Dulles, US Eastern Affairs chief (later to become director of the CIA), had a problem meeting the ambassador's urgent desire for cover-up. 'Confidentially,' said Dulles, 'the State Department is in a bind. Our task would be simple if the reports of the atrocities could be declared untrue or even exaggerated but the evidence, alas, is irrefutable. We want to avoid giving the impression that while the United States is willing to intervene actively to protect its commercial interests, it isn't willing to move on behalf of the Christian minorities.' But few moves were made beyond offering a refuge for dispossessed Armenians.
Armenia has persistently called for the massacres of 1915 and after to be acknowledged as genocide. They have also asked Turkey to apologise for it. Turkey, however, has continued to deny genocide, claiming that the figures given are false: instead, 300,000 Armenians (and many thousands of Turks) were killed in the general carnage and turbulence of internal fighting during the First World War, with local massacres carried out by both sides. Both Armenia and Turkey have collected extensive documentary evidence to support their respective cases (with mutual accusations of forgery).In 2001, when the first Holocaust Day took place in the UK, the national Assembly of France formally decided to acknowledge the Armenian killings as genocide, though not mentioning Turkey by name. All the same, it provoked a substantial row with Turkey, which suspended diplomatic relations, called off trade deals, toyed with imposing sanctions, and contemplated formally accusing France of genocide during Algeria's 1955-1962 war of independence.
The 70,000 or so Armenians who live in Turkey today have distanced themselves from the arguments, saying that the dispute should be left to historians.


from a letter sent by an American observer in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1915:

' "Armenia without the Armenians" - that is the Ottoman Government's project. The Muslims are already being allowed to take possession of the lands and houses abandoned by the Armenians. The exiles are forbidden to take anything with them. In the districts under military occupation there is nothing left to take, as the military authorities have carried off, for their own use, everything that they could lay hands on. The exiles have to traverse on foot a distance that involves one or two months' marching and sometimes even more, before they reach the particular corner of the desert destined to become their tomb. We hear, in fact, that the course of their route and the stream of the Euphrates are littered with the corpses of exiles, while those who survive are doomed to certain death, since they will find in the desert neither house, nor work, nor food. It is simply a scheme for exterminating the Armenian nation wholesale, without any fuss. It is another form of massacre, and a more horrible form.
All the men between 20 and 45 have been sent to the front lines. Those between 45 and 60 are working for the military transport service, or have been exiled or imprisoned on one pretext or another. The result is that there is no one left to deport but the old men, the women and the children. These poor creatures have to travel through regions which, even in times of peace, were dangerous. Now that Turkish brigands, as well as the police and civil officials, enjoy the most absolute licence, the exiles are robbed on the road, and their women and girls dishonoured and abducted.
About a million Armenian inhabitants have been thus deported from their homes and sent southwards into exile. These deportations have been carried out very systematically by the local authorities. In every village and every town, the population was disarmed by the police (and by criminals released from prison for this purpose. On the pretext of disarming the Armenians, these criminals committed assassinations and inflicted hideous tortures.). Next, they imprisoned the Armenians en masse, on the pretext that they had found something incriminating in their possession. After that, they began the deportation. Any men who had not been imprisoned were massacred. The remainder - old men, women, and children - were placed at the disposal of the Muslim population. The highest official as well as the most simple peasant chose the woman or girl who caught his fancy. The rest were marched away. An eye-witness reports to us that the women deported from Erzerum were abandoned, some days ago, on the plain of Harpout, where they have all died of hunger (50 or 60 a day). The only step taken by the authorities was to send people to bury them, in order to safeguard the health of the population.
We are making great efforts to save at any rate the Armenians of Constantinople from this horrible extermination of the race, in order that, hereafter, we may have at least one rallying point for the Armenian cause in Turkey. The whole Armenian population of Turkey has been condemned to death, and this decree is being put into execution energetically in every corner of the Empire, under the eyes of the European Powers. So far, neither Germany nor Austria has succeeded in checking the action of their ally and removing the stain of these barbarities, which also attaches to them. All our efforts have been without result. Our hope is set upon the Armenians abroad.'


When nation oppresses nation, it stores up a future of oppression. It may well become oppressed itself. Here's an account of the attempt in Bulgaria to erase everything Turkish from its history:
'If there is one thing missing in Bulgaria, it is any sense of the country's Ottoman past. Even the word "Ottoman" is "not really one to use in Bulgaria". The centuries of Ottoman rule (1393-1878) are portrayed as Bulgaria's dark ages, "slavery under the Turkish yoke". This emotive, nationalistic spirit takes stone form at the Freedom Monument, which commemorates the decisive victory over the Turks at Shipka Pass. It can be seen for miles around from the surrounding plains, and it is here that we begin to understand how historical hatreds can be kept alive.
Nothing Ottoman has been preserved in the museums, and relics have been smashed. Turkish towns and villages were given Bulgarian names in 1940. From 1972 fierce campaigns were waged to make Turks adopt Bulgarian names - at least 50 Turks were killed. Muslim traditions were discouraged, mosques closed down, and speaking Turkish in public was prohibited. The few remaining mosques (as well as synagogues) are a target for skinheads.'
The denial of people's language, as a means of oppression, has been practised officially and unofficially in many other places - including the UK (Ireland and Wales).
No act of oppression is without long-term effects, including prejudice and tension between nationalities. This means that the chances of different national, religious and cultural groups living together are much lower, the likelihood of tension much higher. Consider what conflicts are taking place between Muslim and Christian communities in European countries today.
Mutual tolerance is threatened wherever there is a history of mutual conflict. There's a difficult balance to be reached: if people are 'assimilated' in a country not their traditional home, is there a line to cross beyond which their individual histories and heritage are, in effect, exterminated? How far can racial, religious, national observances be maintained without seeming defiant and aggressive?
People also become victims of conflicts between wider communities, as the Armenians became the victims of conflict between two rival empires, both requiring Armenian loyalty and support. On a small scale, in local communities, it is the same. Allegiances to factions and power groups always carry risks of bitter hostility that may break out in violence and the use of force.