Monday, April 24, 2017

The Turkish Armenian Genocide

"Until recently, the smoking gun was missing. This is the smoking gun; an earthquake in our field [historical genocide. The discovery of which should remove] the last brick in the denialist wall."
"My firm belief as a Turk is that democracy and human rights in Turkey can only be established by facing history and acknowledging historic wrong-doings."
"The past is not the past in the Middle East. This is the biggest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East."
Taner Akcam, Turkish historian, Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts
Picture of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey
The archways of the crumbling Surp (Saint) Garabed Church in Çüngüş, eastern Turkey, hint at the former heights of Armenian culture here. Many old churches have fallen to ruins or been converted into mosques in the former Armenian heartland. But grassroots attempts at reconciliation, often led by Turkey’s minority Kurds, have also helped rebuild one of the largest Armenian churches in the Middle East, in the city of Diyarbakır.

As a prelude to the Armenian genocide, hundreds of thousands of Armenian men, women and children were murdered between the two years of 1893 to 1896 by the military of the Ottoman Empire tasked by their leaders to rid the world of Armenians who would not accept Turkish demands that they must integrate themselves completely into all aspects of Turkish life and identity, surrendering their entire heritage; geography, language, religion, social customs and aspirations for an independent Armenia.

There is a startling resemblance between the Turkish-Armenian polarization of over a century earlier to that which now faces Kurds living in Turkey whom the government of Turkey has for generations insisted they surrender their identity, culture, heritage, geography, language to that of Turkey. The current Islamist government of Turkey following in the tradition of an earlier era arrests, charges and imprisons political Kurds as enemies of Turkey, while attacking and killing militant Kurds who return deadly fire. And in the tradition of the Ottoman war on civilian Armenians, the Turkish military targets civilian Kurds.

When Turkey committed in the First World War alongside Germany it was with a declaration that they were engaged in jihad against the infidel and mass arrests of the Armenian intelligentsia and professionals took place with many being hanged. Systematic death marches were carried out killing Armenian men, woman and children, marched into the Syrian desert to die of exhaustion and starvation and disease. An estimated one and a half million Armenians died during these death marches or were executed en route.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam published The Young Turks' Crime Against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire, in 2012. Accessing Turkish archives he was able to prove the deliberate, planned, coordinated genocide of the Armenian people for which the government and military of Turkey were responsible. Over the decades since, Turkey has always denied anything remotely resembling a deliberate genocide took place, insisting that during the war years, unfortunate deaths on a wide scale, simply occurred.

Turkey may have joined Germany in its conflict against Allied nations, but Turkey's exploit in slaughtering a million and a half of Europe's Armenians, killing children, raping women, executing their men, and generally leading them toward certain, excruciating death by whatever means were possible, most certainly must have impressed Adolf Hitler who had his own extermination plans for the near future in the elimination of European Jewry. Building on Turkey's exploit, Germany ambidextrously waged a massive war effort and launched an equally massive genocide.
Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922
A group of Armenian orphans evacuating from Turkey, 1922 - See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_18.php#sthash.LMWEOylL.dpuf

Historian Akcam has studied the Armenian genocide for decades, patiently putting together a damning jigsaw of documents sourced from around the world to prove state complicity in the killings. An original telegram that came out of an archive held by the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem from the post WWI trials came into his possession recently. Which elaborated on a Ottoman Empire official in the Turkish city of Erzurum sending a telegram in secret code to a colleague.

Details were asked relating to the deportation and slaughter of Armenians in eastern Anatolia. Eventually a copy of the telegram, deciphered, helped in the conviction of the official, Behaeddin Shakir, who was involved in planning what historians have acknowledged and Turkey continues to deny, as the well organized extermination of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Empire leaders, representing the first 20th Century genocide.

Mr. Akcam, diligent scholar and historian that he is, argues that attribution for a great deal of the chaotic misery roiling the Middle East of today resulted from distrust between the various communities relating to historical wrongs no one is interested in admitting to, much less to confront, discuss and understand. Which is certainly a refreshing change from the usual claims made by self-interested Middle East entities who trot out continually the accusation that the existence of Israel is to blame for all that goes awry in the Middle East.

"He has piled clue upon clue upon clue", stated Eric D. Weitz, history professor at City College of New York. Naming Mr. Akcam as "the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide". Turkey will never, certainly never under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accede to an admission of responsibility. Genocide is not a word nor a concept that Turkey is prepared to admit to; for as they insist, the chaos of a world war produced the Armenian deaths, and the Turks suffered difficulties, as well.
Near East Relief Society Armenian Orphans
Children taken in by Near East Relief
Collection of Near East Relief Society
Maria Jacobsen, DIARY 1907-1919, KHARPUT, TURKEY
Tessa Hofmann & Gerayer Koutcharian
Armenian Review, Spring/Summer, 1992, Vol. 45, No. 1-2/177-178, p. 119, Fig. 56
- See more at: http://www.genocide-museum.am/eng/online_exhibition_3.php#sthash.aYj0TVVa.dpuf

The Armenians were traitors, as Turkey would have it, planning to fight Turkey in concert with Russia. This is a version that Turkish culture values, long a standard explanation published in Turkish school curricula, supported by a vast majority of the Turkish population. "My approach is that as much proof as you put in front of denialists, denialists will remain denialists", stated historian Bedross Der Matossian, at the University of Nebraska, author of Shattered Dreams of Revolution: From Liberty to Violence in the Late Ottoman Empire.

Picture of villagers picnicking at the border town of Bagaran, Armenia
Picnicking at night beneath apricot trees—and a giant cross shining defiantly into Turkey—villagers in the border town of Bagaran, Armenia, belt out songs of memory, cultural endurance, and survival. The bitter dispute between Armenia and Turkey dating back four generations has paralyzed economic, diplomatic, and political progress in the region. The ancient crossroads between Turkey’s eastern highlands and the Caucasus remains in the thrall of ghosts.

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