Genocide Denied, Genocide Repeated

Aris Babikian
Journalist and Human Rights Advocate
Aris is a journalist with Horizon Weekly and Nor Hai Horizon TV program. He appeared on numerous TV and radio talk shows (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio and TV, CFRB radio, Michael Coren radio and TV shows, CTV-TV, Rogers Cable, CFMT TV, CTS TV, etc..). A City of Toronto municipal elections candidate (councillor). International elections monitor representing the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe for the 2003 parliamentary elections in Armenia. Human Rights Activist. Participated in the National (Canadian) Umbrella Organizations’ roundtable on the “UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance”. Consulted with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to develop Canada’s international human rights policies. Participated in consultation meetings with high-level federal officials regarding changes to the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Act. Prepared briefs and testified at House of Commons Heritage Committee hearings related to multicultural, Canadian culture and heritage issues and the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC). Chairman, Political Affairs Committee, Canadian Ethnocultural Council. Served on media, immigration, census, redress and political action committees of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council
Awards:
* Ontario Volunteer Service Award (25 years of service)
* The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal
* The Canadian Ethnocultural Council’s Citation for Outstanding Services
* Canada’s 125th Confederation Commemorative Medal
and he is fluent in English, Armenian, Greek, Arabic

Genocide Denied, Genocide Repeated
Ninety One Years after exterminating 1.5 million Armenians, Turkey still denies responsibility

Imagine a country that denies the Holocaust. Imagine that the same country insists that Jews were killed because they were disloyal to Germany and were also guilty of killing German soldiers during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Bizarre? Fiendish? Ridiculous statements which do not deserve a response? Yet something very similar has been asserted for the past 90 years by Turkey. Despite hundreds of books by genocide scholars, tons of documents in German, Austrian, British, French, American and Russian archives, eyewitness accounts, diplomatic reports and countless Western newspaper reports, the Turkish Government inexplicably denies that, in 1915, it committed a deliberate, government-organized genocide against its Armenian minority.

It should be noted that unlike Holocaust deniers, such as Ernst Zundle and Jim Keegstra, who constitute the lunatic fringe of society, historical revisionism in the case of the Armenian Genocide is being carried out by the Turkish government.

Pre-Genocide Conditions

The Armenian Genocide was the first state-sponsored and painstakingly planned Genocide of the 20th Century. The mass annihilation of the Armenians from their 3,000-year-old ancestral homeland during the First World War was the final act in a long history of repression and massacres by Ottoman Turkish Governments. In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, the Sultan, after signing the Treaty of Berlin (1878), a peace treaty with the Great Powers (Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Austria-Hungary), promising to implement reforms to ensure the protection of Armenians, reneged on his promises and guarantees and the condition of Armenians in the six provinces of historical Armenia deteriorated even further. According to Article 61 of the treaty, the Sultan was obliged to implement reforms in the Eastern Provinces where most Armenians lived. However, Sultan Abdul Hamid (1876-1908), fearing the loss of further territory, delayed the implementation of the promised reforms, and instead between 1894-1896 unleashed unprecedented slaughters claiming 300,000 Armenian lives. In its Sep. 10, 1895 issue, one New York Times headline, among hundreds of reports that year on the massacre of Armenians, heralded, “Another Armenian Holocaust”, which showed that the massacres of Armenians in the earlier periods were but a precursor of what was to follow in 1915.

The July 1908 revolution by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), better known as “The Young Turks”, against the bloody rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid brought fresh hopes of civil and human rights reforms to the Greek, Armenian, Jewish, Kurdish and Assyrian minorities. However, the crushing military defeats (1909-1913) of the Ottoman Army in the Balkans and in North Africa, the migration of Balkan Turkic refugees to the Armenian provinces and the fear of the revival of the Armenian reform issue, aggravated the plight of the Armenians. In January 1913 a coup d’etat by nationalistic and extremist officers of the Young Turks sealed the fate of the Armenians. After the successful coup d’etat of the radical Young Turks, headed by the triumvirate of Ismail Enver, Jemal Pasha, and Mehmed Talaat, a new ideology of expanding the empire of Turkish-speaking people from Turkey to the Caucasus to Central Asia became the modus operandi of the new government in Constantinople (known today as Istanbul). The Turkish nationalists saw the Armenians as an obstacle to a Pan-Turkish Empire.

The Outbreak of the First World War

The outbreak of the First World War presented the perfect opportunity for the triumvirate to implement their “Final Solution” of “the Armenian problem” — to “cleanse” the region once and for all of Armenians to create the dream of a Turkish Empire.

The 1915 genocide was different from the previous Armenian massacres of 1894-1896 and 1909 in that it was carefully planned and organized. In July 1914, representatives of the Turkish Government attended the Eighth Annual Congress of the Dashnag Armenian party and attempted to persuade their leaders to instigate Russian Armenians to rise up against the tsar when the impending war broke out. The Dashnag leaders refused to involve the Russian Armenian people in such an adventure. They pledged that in case of war, they would ensure the loyalty of Ottoman Armenians, that they would enlist in the army to defend Turkey. At the time the area of historic Armenia was occupied by two empires–the Ottoman and the Russian.

The Dashnag’s kept their word. Twenty-four hours after a secret military and political treaty was signed by Turkey and Germany (August 2, 1914) and general mobilization was declared, 250.000 Ottoman Armenians, between the ages of 20 to 45 enlisted in the Turkish army. On the Russian side, Armenians were conscripted as well in the tsar’s army. In 1914, The Turkish government declared war on Russia by attacking the Russian fleet in the Black Sea. On the Eastern Front, Enver launched an attack on Russian forces and occupied Kars. In early 1915, the Russian Army, with the help of Russian Armenian volunteers, counterattacked and inflicted a crushing blow to Enver in Sarikmish. Enver’s humiliating defeat was the death knell for the Ottoman Armenians.

Genocide in Motion

After the Sarikmish disaster, using the pretext of Armenians’ treachery, sabotage and collaboration with the Russian army, the ruling triumvirate issued a decree to disarm Armenian conscripts in the Ottoman army and herd them into labour battalions. The 250,000 disarmed Armenian soldiers therefore became the first victims of the genocide, months before the deportations formally began. In April, just before the deportation of all Armenians, the Armenian civil, religious, intellectual and professional leaders began their death march. Over 600 Armenian leaders in Constantinople and 2,345 in the provinces were summoned, arrested and executed on the night of April 23-24, 1915.

After the Armenian elite was wiped out and the Armenian population left defenceless and leaderless to organise serious resistance, the third stage of the Genocide was set in motion. Armenians were ordered to leave their cities, villages and towns on the pretext of “military necessity.” They were not allowed to take essential goods or provisions of survival. Once the women, children and elderly were marched out of populated areas, the “Special Organization”,(known as the Teshkilati Mahsusa) or “death squads”, consisting of violent criminals released just for this duty, and irregular troops, even gendarmes who were supposed to protect the deportees, attacked, raped, starved and killed the defenceless caravans. Survivors were marched to the Syrian Dessert and were either drowned in the Euphrates River or burned alive in a series of underground caves— primitive gas chambers—near Deir el-Zor, in Syria. To cover their heinous crime from the very beginning, the Young Turks suspended the Ottoman parliament, instituted martial law, and issued, on May 27, 1915, the Temporary Law of Deportation. Furthermore, to confiscate the property and goods of the deported Armenians, the Young Turks, on September 27, 1915 issued the Law of Abandoned Goods.

Genocidal Intent

It is abundantly clear today, as it was even in 1915, that what happened to the Armenians was not the result of “civil strife”, “rebellion” or “military necessity” as successive Turkish governments continue to claim in shameful defence. The Armenian Genocide was a state-sponsored and state-sanctioned plan. At a 1910 conference in Salonika, Young Turk leader Talaat stated, “there can be no question of equality [for minorities] until we have concluded our task of Ottomanizing the empire.” Three months later the Young Turk leadership approved Talaat’s plan in a secret meeting. It is noteworthy that as early as January 11, 1915, months before the formal deportations and killings, the New York Times, in a bold headline on page two, published a blatant warning by Talaat, “Says Turks Advise Christians to Flee.” It is also not surprising to find that, two days later, on page three of the New York Times for January 13, 1915, we find another ominous warning by Turkey’s leader, “Talaat Declares There is Only Room for Turks in Turkey.” The full portent of this warning was yet to be fully understood. It was not until the spring and summer of 1915 that its full meaning became clear to all. If this does not express intent, what, pray tell, does?

The creation of the Special Organization on August 5, 1914 — killing units comprised of released violent criminals, brigands and Turkish refugees from the Balkans — is further proof of the Young Turks’ intent. Dissolving the Parliament at the start of the WW1 was another indication of the Young Turks intent to have a free hand to implement their plan. German, Austrian and American diplomats, missionaries and eyewitness reports, dispatches and other accounts further corroborate the premeditated intention at race extermination. In this regard German military and diplomatic sources are especially important. Germany was a military and political ally of Turkey and each unit in the Ottoman Army had a German military advisor. No one would question German documents or accuse Germany of war propaganda against Turkey, as the Turks do British, French, Russian and American documents.

The disingenuous Turkish argument that Ottoman Turkey had no intention or ability to carry a plan of exterminating the Armenians in a time of war when the Turkish Army was preoccupied with fighting on many fronts, has been refuted by impartial historians, even by some Turkish officials and scholars.

General Vehib Pasha, Commander of the Turkish Third Army, in his deposition read during the March 29, 1919 session of the Turkish Government court martial stated

“The massacre and destruction of the Armenians and the plunder and pillage of their goods were the results of decisions reached by Ittihad (the ruling Young Turks party) Central Committee . . . the atrocities were carried out under a program that was determined upon and involved a definite case of premeditation”

Senator Resit Akif Pasha, president of the post-war state council, declared in November 1918, during the Ottoman Parliament debate on the Armenian massacres:“ While humbly occupying my post of President of State Council, to my surprise, I came across a strange [combination] of official orders. One of them, was issued by the notorious Interior Ministry, the order for deportation. The other, however was an ominous secret circular issued by Ittihad’s (Young Turks) Central Committee. It directed the provincial party units to proceed with the execution of the accursed plan. Thereupon the brigands went into action and atrocious massacres were the result”

Mustafa Arif, Interior Minister of Turkey (1918-1919), in a Turkish newspaper interview in December 1918, stated:

“Unfortunately, our wartime leaders, imbued with a spirit of brigandage, carried out the law of deportation in a manner that could surpass the proclivities of the most bloodthirsty bandits. They decided to exterminate the Armenians, and they did exterminate them. This decision was taken by the Central Committee of the Young Turks and was implemented by the government”

Righteous Turks

Not all Turks were willing participants in the Genocide. Many righteous Turks and men of integrity saved their Armenian neighbours and friends from slaughter. Some Turkish officials, the governors of Marash and Aleppo for example, refused to carry out the central government’s orders to massacre the Armenians. For their disobedience, these governors and officials were dismissed from their posts and punished, others were even killed. The Armenian Genocide was not a religious conflict between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, even though religion was one of the tools used by the Young Turks to excite and galvanize the masses toward exterminating Armenians. The conflict, if it can be called that, was brought about because of the extremely nationalistic leaders’ ambitions of creating a new and expansionist Pan-Turkic Order.

If it were not for the Muslim Arabs in the Syrian Peninsula many Armenians would not have survived. In 1917 the Sharif of Mecca, Sharif Ali al Hussayn, issued a decree for the protection of Armenians. In his decree he stated:

“What is requested of you is to protect and to take good care of everyone from the Jacobite Armenian community living in your territories and frontiers and among your tribes; to help them in all of their affairs and defend them as you would defend yourselves, your properties and children, and provide everything they might need whether they are settled or moving from place to place, because they are the Protected People of the Muslims”

The “Malta Tribunals” and the Turkish Military Tribunal

On many occasions the Turkish government uses the so-called “Malta Tribunals”, to justify its assertion that the Allies did not find conclusive evidence to try Young Turk leaders for war crimes against the Armenians and thus released them. In fact, however, there were no “Malta Tribunals”. The British camp and affiliated residences in Malta were strictly detention centres, where the Turkish suspects were held for future prosecution on charges of crimes perpetrated against the Armenians. However, largely because of political expediency, the envisaged international trials never materialized. The victorious Allies, lapsing into dissension and mutual rivalries, chose instead to strike separate deals with the ascendant Ataturk. One such deal concerned the recovery of British subjects held hostage by Turkey who were to be released in exchange for the liberation of all Malta detainees. Commenting on this deal for the exchange, which he later deplored as “a great mistake”, British Foreign Affairs Minister Lord Curzon wrote: “The less we say about these people [the Turks detained at Malta] the better…I had to explain why we released the Turkish deportees from Malta skating over thin ice as quickly as I could. There would have been a row I think . . . the staunch belief among members [of Parliament is] that one British prisoner is worth a shipload of Turks, and so the exchange was excused.” It is, therefore, misleading to state that Turkish leaders were released because the British did not find evidence to convict them.

More importantly, and directly related to the issue of criminal intent, the Turkish Military Tribunal and courts martial (Nov 1918 – May 1919) formed by postwar Ottoman authorities to try the Ittihadist (Young Turk) leaders and cabinet ministers for war related crimes did in fact yield invaluable evidence, and enough proof, if any were needed, that led to the indictment of the Young Turk leadership. The key charge of premeditated mass murder organized by the Young Turks was fully substantiated. The tribunal cited “the massacres against the Armenians” in various parts of the Ottoman Empire. It found that these massacres were “organized and executed” by “the Ittihadist (Young Turk) leaders”, a fact which was “investigated and ascertained” by the tribunal. Among those convicted and sentenced to death were Interior Minister, later Grand Vizier, Talaat, and the two top military leaders, War Minister Enver Pasha, and Minister of the Navy and Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Fourth army, Jemal Pasha.

In its final verdict, published in the Official Gazette of the Ottoman Empire (Takvim-i-Vekayi), May 26, 1919, the tribunal concluded that “Members and leaders of the Ittihad ve Tereakki (Young Turks) Party in Istanbul and in the provinces were deeply involved in the activities of the “Teshkilat Mahsusa” (Special Organization). They used the Special Organization to carry out massacres, for setting buildings and corpses on fire, for destruction of villages, and dishonouring and torturing woman.

“. . . as is evident from the details of its correspondence, the Committee [Young Turks] had evolved and approved secret plans and special goals and had recourse to the imposition of tyrannical measures of very kind in order to have its programs accepted without exception . . . it is evident that the Committee pre-planned and organized all the crimes which were committed. So, the Committee ruled against Ottoman subject—individuals, communities and peoples without exception, in order to attain its goals . . .”

World Reaction

At the time of the Genocide, newspapers around the world were full of reports detailing what was happening to Armenians, among them the prestigious New York Times, which published more than 200 articles on the genocide between 1915 and 1917 alone. Canadian newspapers were no different. Within two days of the start of the genocide, on April 26, 1915, the Toronto Daily Star reported: “Terrible Tales of Armenian Slaughter—Ten Villages Wiped Out in Massacres by Mohamedans—Mothers Threw Their Babes in Rivers to Save Them From Death by Hunger.” The Nov. 29, 1915 issue of the Ottawa Journal headline reads “50,000 Armenians massacred by Turks—Saturnalia of Slaughter by Refined Methods as Young Turks Set Out to Wipe Armenian Race off the World.” “Threw 10,000 People into Sea to Perish—Turks Have Practically Wiped Out the Entire People of Armenia”, the October 7, 1915 issue of the Toronto Daily Star states. The Toronto Globe in its October 23, 1915 issue declared “Million Armenians Wiped out by Turkey—Only 200,000 Armenians Inhabitants of Turkey Now Remain in Country”. In addition to newspaper reports, there were thousands of American, German, Austrian, Danish, Italian, Norwegian, French, and British eyewitnesses, and countless documented reports by diplomats, military officers and missionaries.

Perhaps even more important in setting a future precedent for international law was the May 24, 1915 joint declaration by Great Britain, France and Russia in their public warning to Turkish leaders, which was also published on page one of the New York Times on May 24, 1915, “In view of those new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization, the Allied governments announce publicly to the Sublime-Port that they will hold personally responsible [for] these crimes all members of the Ottoman Government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres”. The Armenian case was later cited during the Nuremberg trials 1945-46 as the basis for the emergence of the Nuremberg Law on Crimes Against Humanity by Sir Hartley Shawcross, the British Chief Prosecutor. It was also cited in the 1948 U N War Crimes Commission Report. In its preface to the Report it stated, “. . . the warning given to the Turkish Government on this occasion by the Governments of the Triple Entente dealt precisely with one of the types of acts which the modern term ‘crimes against humanity’ is intended to cover, namely, inhumane acts committed by a government against its own subjects”

At the end of the war and as a condition of its surrender, Turkey accepted its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide when it signed the Peace Treaty with Armenia and the Allied Powers on August 10, 1920. Articles 88, 89,141, 144, were included in the Treaty of Sevres to remedy the injustice done to the Armenian people as a result of the Turkish Government’s campaign of extermination and the Turkish Government’s obligations to redress the Armenian people’s grievances.

The Great Betrayal

During the next two years two key developments in the Middle East and the Caucasus were major factors in the Allies’ betrayal of the Armenian issue and the Armenian people’s quest for justice.

The discovery of oil (the Great Came) in the Middle East and in the Caspian Sea, and the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia emboldened Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, to renegotiate the Treaty of Sevres. The disunited and squabbling Allies, who were fighting among themselves to get access to the oil fields and to stop the spread of communism, yielded to Ataturk’s demands and signed the Lausanne Treaty in July 1923. According to the treaty the Armenian issue was scrapped and the Treaty of Sevres’ commitments to the Armenian people and the creation of an Armenian homeland were excluded from the Lausanne Treaty.

Denial

Since then, for the past 85 years, successive Turkish governments have denied the genocide. The Turkish government spends millions of dollars on public relations firms, hiring top-heavy international PR firms to distort the truth about the Armenian Genocide. It also organizes junkets—in the style of the old Soviet Union—for politicians and journalists to promote its distorted version of history. Furthermore, it establishes university chairs to influence scholars to deny the Genocide. The Turkish government in its propaganda campaign uses a battery of digressions, excuses, half-truths, and obfuscations in its arsenal of denial. Let’s examine some of these claims and outline the historical reality of the Armenian Genocide by using mainly Turkish, Austrian and German sources to expose the distortions of the Turkish government. As Turkey’s allies during WWI, Austria and Germany could hardly be accused of harbouring an anti-Turkish attitude.

The cornerstone of the Turkish government’s policy of denial is that whatever happened during WWI it was inter-communal violence and the result of Armenian rebellion. It was communal infighting if an organized attack by an empire’s army on an unarmed minority can be described as such. How could an unarmed Armenian population of mainly women, children and the elderly even contemplate an armed struggle against a majority population backed by a mighty empire, an ally of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires? The consensus among German and Austrian officials who were in Turkey at the time was that there was no rebellion by the Armenian population. These documents survive and are available for all to see.

In a 72 page report to Berlin (September 18, 1916), German Ambassador Count Wolff Metternich wrote:

“There was neither a concerted general uprising nor was there a fully valid proof that such a synchronized uprising was planned or organized”

Describing the futile and spotty Armenian resistance, Dr. Max Erwin Scheubner-Richter (German vice-consul in Erzerum, in eastern Turkey), wrote in a dispatch dated December 6, 1916: “They [the Turkish leaders] were planning on fabricating, for the benefit of Allied Powers, an alleged revolution stirred up by the Dashnak [Armenian] party. They also planed to inflate the importance of isolated incidents and acts of self-defense by the Armenians and use it as an excuse to deport the targeted population which then would be massacred by escorting gendarmes and assorted gangs”

Vice-Marshall Joseph Pomiankowski, Austro-Hungary’s military plenipotentiary, who during the war was attached to Ottoman general headquarters, described the self-defense of the Armenians as follows: “The Van uprising certainly was an act of desperation. The local Armenians realized that the general butchery against the Armenians had started and that they would be the next victims”. Collapse of the Ottoman Empire (1928).

Chief among Turkish government’s distortions is the accusation that Armenians sided with the enemy–tsarist Russia. Hans Wangenheim, German Ambassador to Turkey stated: “It is obvious that the banishment of Armenians is due not solely to military considerations. Talaat Bey, the Minister of the Interior, has quite frankly said that the Turkish Government intended to make use of the World War and Deal thoroughly with its internal enemies. Turkey’s goal was to “resolve its Armenian Question by the destruction of the Armenian race”

In an Orwellian touch, Turkey calls the deportation of Armenians to the deserts of Syria as “relocation . . . for their protection, from dangerous areas.” perhaps Jews were also ‘relocated’ from Danzig to Dachau for their protection. An empire notorious for mistreating its minorities (Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbs, Arabs, Jews, and Assyrians . . .) apparently decided to ‘protect’ Armenians and send women and children, without food and on foot, to the searing desert of Syria, to die of hunger and exposure.

If Turkish Government’s concern was to move Armenians from the war front, why were countless Armenians relocated from the hinterland, thousands of miles away from the war front?

The testimony of Ali Fuad Erden, the chief of staff of Jemal Pasha, the commander-in-chief of the Fourth Ottoman Army, debunked Turkey’s lame excuse when he wrote in his memoirs:

“There was neither preparation nor organization to shelter the hundreds of thousands of the deportees”

Wolfdieter Bihl, in his 1975 book, The Caucasus Policy of the Central Powers (Part I), unequivocally proves that the Turkish government’s relocation campaign was a ruse. He wrote: “. . . [The authorities] did not bother to deport the Armenians; rather, massacres were perpetrated on the spot. In a singular bloodlust, torture and slaughter were resorted to . . . these measures were not limited to the theatres of war but were extended to the Black Sea coast, Cilicia and Western Anatolia”

To confuse people and to muddy the issue, Turkey and its apologists say that more Turks died during WWI than Armenians. The two losses are not interrelated. Armenians had nothing to do with Turkish deaths. Turks had everything to do with Armenian deaths. The majority of Turkish losses was the direct result of armed warfare, which pitted one group of armed combatants against another. The Armenian losses were the result of a government-sponsored plan of extermination of an unarmed population. Even Turkey’s friends, such as Michael M. Gunter, rejects such comparisons: Mr. Gunter wrote:

“That even more Turks [than Armenians] also died during World War I is both true, but largely irrelevant to the argument here because most of the many Turkish deaths resulted from hostilities against the Allies, not the Armenians”

Judgment of Experts, historians et al

Hundreds of historians, scholars, Holocaust and genocide experts, and statesmen have studied the relevant facts related to the events of 1915-1917 and have concluded that the massacre of the Armenians constituted genocide. Indeed, every single independent panel of experts convened to review the facts of these events has also so concluded, including the 1985 Report on Genocide by the United Nations Sub-Commission under Benjamin Whitaker, and more recently in February 4, 2003, by the International Center for Transitional Justice in its legal analysis and finding.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel

Jurist Raphael Lemkin, who drafted the U N Convention on Genocide and coined the word “Genocide” in 1948, on many occasions cited the attempt to annihilate the Armenians as a clear case of genocide as defined by the U N Convention on Genocide. In his autobiography, Professor Lemkin wrote:

“I identified myself more and more with the suffering of the victim, whose numbers grew, as I continued my study of history. I understand that the function of memory is not only to register past events, but to stimulate human conscience. Soon contemporary examples of genocide followed, such as the slaughter of the Armenians in 1915”

Elsewhere in the book he says: “. . . A bold plan was formulated in my mind. This consisted [of] obtaining the ratification by Turkey [of the proposed UN Convention on Genocide. Ed] among the first twenty founding nations. This would be an atonement for [the] genocide of the Armenians”

Non-Armenian and non-partisan historians have verified the reality of the Armenian Genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars, an eminent body of scholars who study Genocide, at its 1997 convention, adopted a resolution unanimously reaffirming that, “The mass murder of over a million Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is a case of genocide which conforms to the statutes of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It further condemns the denial of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government and its official and unofficial agents and supporters”

On April 23, 1999, more than 150 distinguished scholars and writers (among them Nobel Laureates Seamus Heaney, Wloe Soyinka and Derek Walcott, in addition to Deborah E. Lipstadt, Norman Mailer, Helen Fine, Robert Melson, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Harold Pinter, Roger Smith, Daniel Goldhagen, Susan Sontag, William Styron, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates, Alfred Kazin, Grace Paley, D. M Thomas,) published a declaration in the Washington Post stating: “ We denounce as morally and intellectually corrupt the Turkish Government’s denial of the Armenian Genocide.” They went on to ask governments around the world “to refer to the 1915 annihilation of the Armenians as genocide”

On June 9, 2000, 126 Holocaust scholars (among them Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, Professor Yehuda Bauer, Professor Israel Charny, Professor Irving L. Horowitz, Professor Steven Jacobs, Professor Steven Katz, Dr. Elizabeth Maxwell, Professor Saul Mendlowitz, Professor Jack Needle, Professor Samuel Totten) published a statement in The New York Times: “. . . affirming that the World War I Armenian Genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize as such”

Conclusion

The Turkish government’s policy of denial reminds one of Orson Welles’ hall of mirrors in “Lady From Shanghai”, where a single image is reflected ad infinitum, without adding anything new. No credible historian gives credence to the Turkish government’s propaganda and insistence on the same revisionist views. The historical reality of the Armenian Genocide is well documented. It is not what the “Armenians say” but what international historians, statesmen of repute, and genocide experts have said repeatedly. The Canadian Senate (June 2002), the House of Commons (April 2004), and the two largest provinces in Canada (Ontario and Quebec) have already recognized the Armenian Genocide.

The Canadian Armenian community does not bear any animosity towards the Canadian Turkish community. On the contrary, we sympathize with the Turkish people. They have been misled for too many years by their own government. We are confident that once the Turkish government halts its campaign of falsification of history and focuses on the genocide issue without hysteria and paranoia, the Turkish people will be able to acknowledge the misdeeds of their predecessors and extend a hand of friendship to the Armenian people.

In recent years many righteous Turks—particularly scholars and journalists—have spoken against their government’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide.

In an interview with France’s L’Express (November 11, 2000), Halil Berktay, Professor of history at the University of Sabanci in Istanbul, said, “I believe that we must rid ourselves of the taboos that surround the events of 1915 . . . for decades we have been putting Turkish opinion to sleep with the same lullabies. Meanwhile, there are a ton of documents proving the sad reality: diplomatic reports and their personal notes, testimonies that went West from intermediaries from Christian schools established in the Ottoman Empire, photos . . . I even cried upon discovering certain clichés”. In a response to a question if the taboo of the Armenian question will fall in Turkey, Professor Berktay stated, “We will get there when we live in a free society. It is only under these conditions that we would be able to face the reality of the horrors of 1915”

Significantly, over 12,000 Turks, members of the German-Turkish Association Opposed to Genocide, signed a petition (December 2000) stating: “what we have learned at school [in Turkey] is a forgery of history”. They asked the Turkish Government to repent for the crime of Genocide which “we feel morally obliged to end their [Armenians] disillusions and agony”. Furthermore, the association asked for “international condemnation of the crimes committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian-Greeks”

The intention of reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide is to address the injustice that took place 90 years ago and to play a positive role in the healing process for survivors and their descendants. The reaffirmation by Turkey and its people is about joining the international community and sending a message to despotic regimes that the civilized world will not tolerate crimes against humanity, no matter when or where they happened. The reaffirmation is about condemning any attempt to rewrite history, and finally, it’s about learning from the mistakes of the past to prevent future genocides. The reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide is a moral and ethical imperative. We owe it not only to the victims and survivors of the Genocide but to all mankind.

Because of the Turkish Government’s refusal to face its dark past, the process of healing— so essential to international peace and harmony—has not even begun for Armenians. As genocide scholars have shown, the last act of genocide is denial of the crime, for it seeks “to rehabilitate the perpetrators and demonize the victims”

The denial of the Armenian Genocide is also an encouragement for the repetition of genocide, as it eventually did happen in the Ukraine, Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda. Yesterday Armenians, who tomorrow?

We should not allow Hitler’s contemptuous remark, “who remembers nowadays the Armenians?” to haunt us forever. What people of good will choose to forget, tyrants seldom do

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