Friday, December 5, 2008

Historical Background

A short history of the Armenian Genocide of 1915

The Armenian genocide was meticulously planned by the Ottoman Turkish government—known as the Young Turks—and executed under its orders from 1915 to 1917. The aim was to clear the lands of historic Armenia from its native population in order to create a homogenous pan-turanian (pan-turkic) state extending into central Asia.

The mass deportation decree applied to Turkey’s entire Armenian population of more than 2 million people. The resulting massacres and atrocities of unprecedented cruelty claimed one and a half million lives. The survivors found refuge in countries willing to provide asylum. The genocide then led to the illegal seizure of the victims’ personal property.

An entire national group was decimated, their homeland misappropriated: more than three thousand years of uninterrupted Armenian presence in their historic homeland was brought to an abrupt end.

Judging from the news coverage of the day, the world at large had been kept informed on a daily basis of the hideous details of this crime against humanity. Eminent statesmen on both sides of the Atlantic made solemn commitments to obtain—as soon as the war would be over—justice and compensation for the Armenians. It was inconceivable that a crime of such magnitude should remain unpunished. Yet that is precisely what happened.

The victorious allies did indeed sign the 1920 Treaty of Sevres which recognized the emergence of an independent Armenian Republic on most of the Armenian historic lands affected by the 1915 genocide. Later on, in 1921 and once again in 1922, the General Assembly of the League of Nations passed resolutions calling for the creation of an “Armenian homeland” on these same territories. Both commitments were however betrayed in 1923 when these same allies signed—at the exclusion of the Armenians—the Treaty of Lausanne with the new Turkish regime. No reference was made to Armenia nor was the act of genocide ever remembered. It was as if a mere change of political colour was reason enough for the Allies to forget that a crime against humanity had just been committed … they seemed to be prepared to let the Armenian Cause to be buried under.

However, just causes cannot be disposed of that easily; if brute force can annihilate millions of lives or usurp their ancestral lands, it cannot stifle the innate quest for justice. The Cause itself will always rise from the ashes of the victims.

Following the genocide and the seizure of their lands, the Armenian survivors refused to accept the injustice imposed upon them as being the final solution. Being powerless, their voice remained unheard. However, they passed the torch to their off-springs who now continue to press for their legitimate claims on the basis of the international Charters and Conventions enacted since the end of the World War II.

In fact, the UN Convention of Genocide condemns this barbarous act, and qualifies it as being a crime against humanity, not subject to statutory limitations, especially in cases where the impact of the crime is still in effect.

Despite several appeals made in the late twenties by the Secretary General of the League of Nations, the authorities of modern Turkey have categorically refused to recognize the right of the Armenian survivors to return to their homes and properties. The current Turkish regime attempts to circumvent the issue altogether by pretending that the 1915 genocide never took place. Both actions make succeeding Turkish governments accomplices-after-the-fact of the 1915 genocide.

The present day Armenian Diaspora is the product, the living proof, and the undeniable extension of the 1915 genocide compounded by the racist attitude of Kemalist Turkey. The Turkish State cannot shirk its responsibility in this crime-laden legacy by hoping for the sands of time to cover their predecessors’ bloody footsteps.

The persistent Turkish policy of falsifying History does nothing but reinforce Armenian determination. The unpunished genocide perpetrated by Ottoman Turkey must be condemned. The right to live and prosper in peace in one’s ancestral homeland, as well as the inalienable right to self determination recognized to all people by the UN Charter, apply equally to the Armenians.

The just resolution of the Armenian Cause, as that of all oppressed people, has a universal impact. Coexistence among nations and world peace can never be achieved as long as just and legitimate causes remain unresolved. To that end, the involvement and vigilance of all is called for, because these struggles concern us all.

It is in this spirit of humanity and equal justice that the Armenian National Committee of Canada calls on its friends in the print and broadcast media to respect their pledge to uphold the truth, and asks them to finally, unambiguously qualify that most heinous of crimes committed against the Armenians as “genocide.”

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