People Expunged: Marking the 100th Anniversary of Armenian Genocide
amid Ongoing Turkish Denials
week marks the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
24, 1915, the Young Turk government of the Ottoman Empire began a
systematic, premeditated genocide against the Armenian people — an
unarmed Christian minority living under Turkish rule. An estimated
1.5 million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing,
starvation, torture and forced death marches. Another million fled
into permanent exile.
Today, the Turkish government continues to deny
this genocide, and since becoming president, President Obama has
avoided using the term "genocide" to describe it.
joined by Peter Balakian, professor of humanities at Colgate
University and author of "The Burning Tigris: The Armenian
Genocide and America’s Response"; Anahid Katchian, whose
father was a survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide; and Simon
Maghakyan, an activist with Armenians of Colorado. We also play a
recording of Armenian broadcaster and writer David Barsamian’s
mother recalling her experience during the Armenian genocide as a
young girl. Araxie Barsamian survived, but her parents and brothers
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
I dug the bones and skulls of massacred Armenians out of the Syrian desert with my own hands in 1992
seven o’clock on Thursday evening, a group of very brave men and
women will gather in Taksim Square, in the centre of Istanbul, to
stage an unprecedented and moving commemoration. The men and women
will be both Turkish and Armenian, and they will be gathering
together to remember the 1.5 million Christian Armenian men, women
and children slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks in the 1915 genocide.
That Armenian Holocaust – the direct precursor of the Jewish
Holocaust – began 100 years ago this Thursday, only half a mile
from Taksim, when the government of the time rounded up hundreds of
Armenian intellectuals and writers from their homes and prepared them
for death and the annihilation of their people.
Pope has already annoyed the Turks by calling this wicked act – the
most terrible massacre of the First World War – a genocide, which
it was: the deliberate and planned attempt to liquidate a race of
people. The Turkish government – but, thank God, not all the
Turkish people – have maintained their petulant and childish denial
of this fact of history on the grounds that the Armenians were not
killed according to a plan (the old “chaos of war” nonsense), and
that the word “genocide” was anyway coined only after the Second
World War and thus cannot apply to them. On that basis, the First
World War wasn’t the First World War because it wasn’t called the
First World War at the time!
thoughts come to mind, then, on this centenary of the butchery, mass
rape and child killing of 1915. The first is that for a powerful
government of a strong – and courageous – European and Nato
nation such as Turkey to continue to deny the truth of this mass
human cruelty is close to a criminal lie. More than 100,000 Turks
have discovered that they have Armenian grandmothers or
great-grandmothers – the very women kidnapped, enslaved, raped or
converted on the death marches from Anatolia into the northern Syrian
desert – and Turkish historians themselves (alas, not enough of
them) are now producing the most detailed documentary evidence of the
sinister Talat Pasha’s extermination orders issued from what was
anyone who opposes the government’s denial of genocide is still
vilified. For almost a quarter of a century, I have been receiving
mail from Turks about my own writing on the genocide. It started when
I dug the bones and skulls of massacred Armenians out of the Syrian
desert with my own hands in 1992. A few correspondents wanted to
express their support. Most letters were little short of pernicious.
And I rather fear that the continued denial by the Turkish government
could be as dangerous to Turkey as it is outrageous for the Armenian
descendants of the dead. I remember an elderly Armenian lady
describing to me how she saw Turkish militiamen piling living babies
on top of each other and setting fire to them. Her mother told her
that their cries were the sound of their souls going up to heaven.
Isn’t this – and the enslavement of women – exactly what Isis
is perpetrating against its ethnic enemies just across the Turkish
border today? Denial is fraught with peril.
let’s ask ourselves what would happen if the present German
government was to claim that any demand to recognise the “events”
of 1939-1945 – in which six million Jews were murdered – as a
genocide was “Jewish propaganda” and “mutilating history and
law”. Yet that was pretty much what the Turkish government said
when the EU last week asked it to recognise the Armenian genocide.
The EU, the foreign ministry said in Ankara, had succumbed to
“Armenian propaganda” about the “events” of 1915, and was
“mutilating history and law”. If Germany had adopted such
unforgivable words about the Jewish Holocaust, you would not have
been able to see through the Berlin exhaust fumes as the world’s
ambassadors headed for the airport.
the very day after the brave little commemoration scheduled for
Taksim Square this week, the great and the good of the Western world
will be gathering with Turkish leaders a few miles to the west of
Istanbul to honour the dead of Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal’s
extraordinary – and brilliant – 1915 victory over the Allies in
the First World War. How many of them will remember that among the
Turkish heroes fighting for Turkey at Gallipoli was a certain
Armenian Captain Torossian – whose own sister would soon die in the
plan to report on the commemoration next week in the company of
Turkish friends. But the second thought that comes to mind – and
Armenian friends must forgive me – is that I’m not terribly
interested in what the Armenians say and do on this 100th
anniversary. I want to know what they plan to do on the day after the
day of the 100th anniversary. The Armenian survivors – those who
could remember – are now all dead. In about 30 years, Jews around
the world will suffer the same deep sadness as their own last
survivors disappear from the world of living testimony. But the dead
live on, especially when their victimhood is denied – a curse that
forces them to die again and again.
must surely now compile a list of the brave Turks who saved their
lives during their people’s persecution. There is at least one
provincial governor, and individual named Turkish soldiers and
policemen, who risked their own lives to save Armenians at this
gruesome moment in Turkish history. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s
triumphalist prime minister, has spoken of his sorrow for the
Armenians, while continuing to deny the genocide. Would he dare to
refuse to sign an Armenian genocide book of commemoration listing the
brave Turks who tried to save their nation’s honour at its darkest our?
been banging on about this idea to Armenians for years. I said the
same to Armenians in Detroit last week. Honour the good Turks. Alas,
everyone laps. And does nothing More from Robert Fisk about the history of the region.