A contribution by a security analyst who has requested anonymity
Concerned about the “historical commission” in the Armenian-Turkish protocols that may investigate the veracity of the Armenian Genocide? You should be if you are an idealist who believes that patently obvious facts should not have to be proven again and again. For many, this endeavor is as impossible – if not as pointless – as it is to enlighten someone who intransigently insists that the sun orbits around the earth, despite that fact that science proved the opposite centuries ago. That being said, I never want to give up on someone who genuinely seeks the truth.
The Armenian “case,” also known as the truth, is quite simply unassailable no matter what tactic genocide deniers may use. This article will set out to eviscerate just one possible Turkish tactic by hypothesizing that everything the Turkish government says about “Armenian rebels” is true; that these militias didn’t simply exist as means of last ditch self-defense, but were instead instruments of insurrection and secession. (Which, nevertheless, would be fully justified after hundreds of years of oppression from a government that Armenians never contested to be part of)
The most damning evidence that shows that Turkey carried out genocide against the Armenians is a comparative analysis with the Arab Revolt. Just as a reminder, during WWI many Arabs openly sided with the British. They were resentful of heavy-handed Turkish rule, and wanted to be independent. As with most nationalist movements, this revolt initially started on a smaller scale, and ultimately mushroomed into full-scale warfare between Ottoman Turkish forces and Arabs.
So where is the “damning” evidence I am talking about? The fact of the matter is that the Ottoman Empire had the military capability to conduct the same measures against the Arabs, i.e. genocide, as they did against the Armenians. The Ottoman Government could have simply cited the same reason they used to justify the Armenian Genocide, “they were siding with the enemy (which was true in the case of the Arabs), and that the homeland must be preserved at all costs.”
As indicated by the outcome, the Arab revolt was every bit as dangerous to the Ottoman Empire as was the so-called “Armenian Revolt.” Yet, in the end the Ottoman Empire did not target Arab civilians as it did Armenian civilians. While Arab lands were still under Ottoman control, Arab residents of Damascus, Aleppo, etc were not exiled into the wasteland without food, water or shelter. Instead the Empire, for the most part, restricted its violence to actual Arab militias. Certainly, skeptical readers might say, the Arab Revolt originated in the uncontrollable and wild Arab Peninsula, not domesticated Damascus. But, this same skepticism can and should be applied to the Armenian case as well. Even the most fanatical Turkish apologist will not claim that the alleged “Armenian Revolt” existed in Bursa, Konya, etc., yet the Armenians of these Anatolian cities were nevertheless marched into the desert and slaughtered en masse. So what possible conclusion can be drawn from the comparison? The Ottoman government’s policy regarding the Armenians was not just some necessary wartime contingency.
Some denialist historians might say that the Ottoman Empire was ultimately willing to lose the Arabian lands. Arabia was not vital to the empire’s existence, and its loss did not represent and existential threat. Turks did not live there in significant numbers, and they were more overseers than anything else. Conversely, these historians will claim the same is not true in the Armenian case, and that Anatolia is the heartland of the ethnic Turks. Had Armenians carved out an independent country there, or so the denialist argument goes, the existence of the Turkish people would be threatened. But this argument is not valid either. Eastern Anatolia at the time was an ethnic mosaic, and rarely did Turks constitute an outright majority. In fact, in many places such as Bitlis, Armenians were the largest ethnic group followed by the Kurds. Here and in other places in the region, Turks were actually only a small minority. Therefore, the same demographic argument that says Arabia wasn’t important to Turkey also applies to Eastern Anatolia.
To this, a denialist historian might answer, demographic reality is not as important as the perception of Turks. But again, Eastern Anatolia does not feature prominently in the hearts or lore of Turks (even till this day), with one minor exception being Alp Arslan and his battle at Manzikert in the 11th century. Instead, Eastern Anatolia has always been more like a colony, such as the Balkans, than an integral part Turkish identity. The real homeland, the real gem, to Turks at the time of WWI is further west where the Ottoman Empire actually originated, places like Eskisehir.Therefore, fear of losing Eastern-Anatolia as opposed to Arabian lands is not a justification for Ottoman policies vis-à-vis the Armenians, especially when considering that the Levant is just as close to the heart of Turkish identity, western-Anatolia, as is Eastern-Anatolia.
In conclusion, the Ottoman Empire’s brutal treatment of the Armenians, even if they were in full revolt (which they weren’t), was reserved for Armenians alone, despite other rebellions in the Empire. It is now incumbent on denialist historians to explain the huge differences in policy with respect to an identical security threat. All this being said, severe annoyance with this “commission” is justified, because denialists are most likely not really looking to debate the veracity of the Armenian Genocide, but instead are mainly interested in the mere illusion of controversy.
P.S. There is no rule that says that genocide cannot occur simultaneously with war and rebellion, as Armenian Genocide deniers would mistakenly have you believe. If anything, a genocide that occurs without the backdrop of rebellion, even rebellion committed by the victim group, represents an anomaly. I am going to give just three examples of genocides coinciding with rebellion, though many more cases exist. The Rwandan Genocide of the Tutsi people coincided with the Tutsi RPF rebellion in the same country; the Herero Genocide coincided with a rebellion in German South-West Africa by the Herero; lastly the Genocide in Darfur which coincided with the JEM rebellion in Sudan. If you were to apply the same (rebellion = no genocide) argument that denialists use against the Armenian Genocide, you would have to deny every other genocide in history.
The ongoing investigation of an ultra-nationalist gang in Turkey, Ergenekon, has made some remarkable findings. In addition to killings and more planned assassinations – with the aim to destabilize Turkey and establish a fascist regime – the group has apparently organized nationalist propaganda on the web.
A large number of professional Web sites offering nationalist content and pseudo-scientific research about Armenian genocide allegations, Turkey’s Kurdish population and Greece and Turkey’s religious citizens that have been on the Internet for a long time have been found to be operated by Ergenekon, a clandestine terrorist organization charged with attempting to overthrow the government.
These Web sites, which are updated frequently in both Turkish and English, feature extremely nationalist propaganda against Greeks, Kurds and Armenians, as well as Turkey’s own Muslim segments. They have been around for some time, standing out with their professional-looking content and design; however, these sites, rich with information, videos, photographs and documents, have never offered any contact information.
The investigation has revealed that a hub of retired and on-duty military personnel are behind a network of dozens of ultra-nationalist websites.
The Ergenekon investigation recently revealed that 35 Internet domains with similar content and design were registered with the same company.
The sites seem to have been trying to foment public opinion in line with the goals of the Ergenekon organization. The sites include www.abdullahocalanakademisi.info, apopkk.com, armenianreality.com, cameria.org, gencizbiz.net, genclik.info, gnkur.net, greekmurderers.net, irtica.net, irtica.org, naksilik.com, nursi.info, pkkapo.com, pkkgercegi.com, terorveguvenlik.net, turkatak.com and turkeyturks.com.
Despite the discovery, many of the websites are active and frequently updated. Perhaps the most famous one, http://www.armenianreality.com/, is still active. In addition to denying the Armenian Genocide, the website commonly refers to Armenians as “terrorists,” just like in the case of anti-Greek and anti-Kurdish websites operated by Ergenekon.
What is most interesting, though, is the fate of other nationalist Turkish websites who have heavily relied on Ergenekon’s internet content. One such website is Murad “Holdwater” Gumen’s http://www.tallarmeniantale.com/, where “Holdwater” says “Two Turkish sites I have borrowed material from [is] ataa.org and amenianreality.com.”
TALL ARMENIAN TALE
Claiming to present “the other side of the falsified genocide,” this website describes Armenians as lemmings and makes the argument that Armenians are inherently traitorous. Murad “Holdwater” Gumen, a Turkish-American illustrator best known for his work on Disney and Warner Bros. cartoon characters, is the webmaster for this site. “Armenians have clung to the tragic events of so long ago as a form of ethnic identity, and have considered it their duty to perpetuate this myth,” he writes. “As descendants of the merchant class from the Ottoman Empire, Armenians have been successful in acquiring the wealth and power to make their voices heard … and they have made good use of the ‘Christian’ connection to gain the sympathies of Westerners who share their religion and prejudices.”
Armenian Reality details a comprehensive alternative universe in which Muslim Turks were the victim of an Armenian-perpetrated genocide during World War I, not the other way around. The site also repeatedly characterizes Armenians as terrorists, making the outlandish claim that “Armenian crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Ottoman Turkish … have been forgotten amidst congressional preoccupation with placating the vocal and richly financed Armenian lobby.”
Another Turkish site, operated by Ergenekon members, writes about “Turkish genocides committed by Greeks.”
Turkey’s Prime Minister’s January 29, 2009 World Economic Forum confrontation with Israel’s President over Gaza offensive seems to have excited many Armenians, giving the latter hope for long-waited Tel Aviv and Washington D.C. recognition of the Armenian genocide. My friend Harut Sassounian, for instance, writes enthusiastically on the Huffington Post that “Israel May Retaliate Against Turkey by Recognizing the Armenian Genocide.” His post appeared even before Prime Minister Erdogan’s angry remarks at Davos, Switzerland. So, perhaps, there is a chance for genocide recognition.
But should Armenians celebrate a short-term conflict between conservative Turkish and Israeli forces – both up for reelection and, thus, appealing to their respective nationalist voters – just because it may result in Armenian genocide recognition?
My answer is no. My answer is no because Erdogan brought up a valid point – Israel’s actions in Gaza were disproportionate and left many civilians dead. My answer is no because the Armenian argument for genocide recognition has been on moral grounds – and should stay so. My answer is no because even if Israel recognizes the Armenian genocide out of anger, realpolitik will dictate Israel and Turkey to come back together – especially after the elections. Even if there is short-term recognition of the Armenian genocide under these circumstances, it won’t be a sustainable one. My answer is no because an unrelated genocide shouldn’t be recognized as a result of dispute over Palestinian and Israeli blood.
If you ask me, the Davos panel had an opportunity for real genocide talk. But that opportunity is not what many Armenians think. The Washington Post journalist who moderated the panel that Erdogan angrily left is of Armenian origin. Instead of not allowing Turkey’s Erdogan to react to Israel’s Shimon Peres, moderator David Ignatius should have asked the Turkish Prime Minister, “You bring up the death of Palestinian civilians, but why is your government so unwilling to recognize oppression against Kurds and admit the systematic destruction of indigenous Armenians during WWI?”
While I have received a number of personal letters from individual Turks apologizing for the Genocide, this one is addressed to all Armenians: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them.”
The thousands of Turkish signatories of the apology statement are not saying sorry for the genocide itself (which they call “the Great Catastrophe,” translating from the Armenian Metz Yeghern). The apology is for the convenient “ignorance” and “denial” about the WWI extermination of Ottoman Empire’s indigenous Armenians for about nine decades. The message, as I see it, is not recognizing a historical fact but recognizing humanity. To recognize genocide means to recognize a victim group’s humanity. The reverse can, apparently, be true as well.
What is also true is that there are thousands of Turks who are willing to risk their lives and comfort in order to break an ancient silence. As one Turkish friend told me, “[i]t’s a bit like putting your name on a ‘wanted’ list.” The “wanted list” is pretty big: over 22,000 signatures on the main website, http://www.ozurdiliyoruz.com/, by December 24, 2008, and over 3,400 on Facebook (as of Dec 20) with their real names and photographs (the Facebook event list seems to have since become a private one).
Nevertheless, Turkish media are openly calling Canan Arıtman, the female member of a social-democratic party who suggested Gul is a traitor because of his alleged Armenian origin, a “fascist” and a “racist.” Suggesting that the politician be expelled from her party, one Turkish columnist writing for Sabah says, “Arıtman is racist. What place can racism and questioning ethnic origins have in social democracy, an ideology that has freedom, equality and brotherhood as its fundamental tenets?”
Writing even harsher, a liberal Turkish columnist asks what if all Turks have Armenian origin:
“Arıtman and those like her are the strongest reason we have to apologize to the Armenian community. If these people can readily put into circulation statements that are racist, low and self-aggrandizing, the entire community is responsible for that. We all have a share in this crime. I have questions to ask people who approach this issue reluctantly and who think that it is unnecessary as an agenda item. Have you ever thought about this? Maybe we are all really Armenians. We may all have people in our lineage who were forced to act like Muslim Turks.”
A Zaman columnist says Turks “should thank the racist CHP deputy” for reminding the history of her political party. Apparently that political party is the hereditary of the chauvinist “Union and Progress” that committed the Genocide in 1915.
Furthermore, some of Arıtman’s colleagues in the parliament have compared her to Hitler: “”It was a similar stance that led German dictator Adolf Hitler to burn thousands of people of Jewish origin. Arıtman sees Armenians as enemies.”
When was the last time when any media in Turkey was outraged against insulting Armenians? Indeed this is unprecedented and demonstrates the power of the apology – no matte how vague and not-enough it may be. This maybe the reason why there is so much ultranationalist outrage in Turkey against the apology (even if some self-perceived progressives silently suggest the apology serves Turkey’s national interests). The website of the apology, for instance, was “suspended” according to a message which appeared on it around 1:30 AM standard US eastern time on December 23, 2008. Days ago it was also hacked. Furthermore, a group of nationalists have opened their own website called “I don’t apologize.” Almost 50,000 nationalists have signed it as of December 24. Another counter campaign claims twice as many supporters, although neither websites have received much – if any coverage – in Turkish or other media.
Hated by Turkish ultranationalists, the apology initiative has inspired similar (though low-profile) campaigns in the region. I have received a text that is being circulated among Cypriot Turks and Greeks asking both communities to apologize to each other:
“Initiative for Apologizing for the atrocities committed by ones’ own community
1. This is an initiative to collect signatures on a document apologizing for the atrocities committed by ones’ own community against the other. Following the initiative of 200 Turkish intellectuals, who found the courage to apologize for the Armenian genocide, we believe it is time for Cypriots to assume responsibility for the crimes allegedly committed in their name and to express regret and condemnation.
2. The initiative also aims at putting an end to the decades- long practice of concealing the truth about the events, of denying that they ever took place or attempt to justify them. This amounts to a crime of massacre denial which can no longer be tolerated. At the same time each one of us must assume responsibility for the actions we can take as parents, teachers, activists, journalists, politicians to put an end to the decades-long conspiracy of silence about our regrettable past.
3. We call on all interested persons and organizations to engage in a process of consultation on how best to promote this initiative and to formulate the text to be signed.”
Full of more potential for good than for bad, the Turkish apology is one that surprises many. In fact, it might not have been possible without one person. According to the Irish Times:
Others attribute the initiative to the shock that followed the murder of the Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink. A leading advocate of a more humane debate on the Armenian issue, Dink was gunned down by a nationalist teenager in January 2007.
“When he died, it was as if a veil had been torn from the eyes of the democratic-minded citizens of this country,” says Nil Mutluer, a feminist activist who signed the letter. “People realised there was no time to be lost.”
The road ahead looks hard. The chief organisers of the 1915 massacres continue to be commemorated in street names across the country….”
The road is a hard one, but not unprecedented. Around the globe, there is a global recognition of indigenous rights which have often been repressed through genocidal policies. One such injustice was recently corrected by the country of Nicaragua when it gave title of traditional land to a native nation. A simple apology seems to please many Armenians, though, even it comes froma group of liberal Turks who are ashamed of a 90-year-old campaign to silence and rewrite history.
When I gave my father a print-out of the apology in western Armenian, his initial reaction was: “They took all of our land and memory and all they give us is an apology by a group of small people who don’t even use the word genocide?” To my surprise, he then added, “I accept their apology.”
And earlier this April, when a group of Turkish lobbyists and community organizers denied the Armenian genocide during a commemorative lecture at University of Denver, an Armenian friend of mine (who openly calls himself a nationalist), said to the audience that if a Turk told him “sorry” for the Genocide he would give that Turk a “big, Armenian hug.”
My friend owes 20,000 Turks big, Armenian hugs. Let’s hope the number grows so big that he will never be able to give so many hugs in 90 years.
Writing at theKeghart blog, Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies researcher Vicken Babkenian argues that it is, literally, impossible to deny the Armenian Genocide. Since the word “genocide” was coined by Raphael Lemkin to specifically describe what happened to Armenians during WWI and to Jews during WWII, by using the word “genocide” one recognizes – even if saying “the Armenian Genocide was a lie” – the Armenian Genocide (and the Holocaust):
It all began when I was cutting an Orange for my niece when she asked me why the name Orange is both a color and a fruit. After doing some research, I discovered that the root of the word Orange in the English language is derived from the fruit. In other words the Etymology of the color and the fruit is interconnected. No one can argue that the fruit Orange is not Orange.
As someone who has studied the Armenian Genocide over a number of years, I could not help but familiarize myself with the etymology of the word Genocide. I discovered that the word genocide is from the roots genos (Greek for family, tribe, race, a people, a nation) and –cide (Latin – occidere or cideo – to Massacre, Kill, exterminate). I looked up the word in the Oxford dictionary and found the definition to be “the extermination of a race”. I then recalled that this definition of the word ‘genocide’ had been used by contemporary eyewitnesses, diplomats, historians, journalists to describe what was happening to the Armenians during WWI. Lord James Bryce in 1915 called it “the Extermination of a Race” in a New York Times article. If the word ‘genocide’ had been coined before WWI, then that one word would have been used, instead of the five words which mean the same thing.
I then conducted some research on Raphael Lemkin, “The founder of the genocide convention” and on the genesis of the word ‘genocide’ which he coined in 1944. In his manuscript titled “Totally unofficial”, Lemkin wrote:
“In 1915 . . . I began . . . to read more history to study whether national, religious, or racial groups as such were being destroyed. The truth came out after the war. In Turkey, more than 1,200,000 Armenians were put to death . . . After the end of the war, some 150 Turkish war criminals were arrested and interned by the British Government on the island of Malta . . . Then one day, I read in the newspapers that all Turkish war criminals were to be released. I was shocked. A nation that killed and the guilty persons were set free . . . I felt that a law against this type of racial or religious murder must be adopted by the world”
I soon reached the conclusion that the word genocide is etymologically interconnected with the tragedy of the Armenians, just like the word Orange is to the fruit of the same name. The man who coined the word genocide had in large part based it on the Armenian catastrophe. He even stated on national television “that it happened to the Armenians.”
I searched online to learn which countries had actually signed and ratified the Genocide Convention. I discovered that most countries in the world had done so, including the United States, Great Britain, Turkey, Israel and so on. I concluded that by ratifying the convention they had in fact recognized that the Armenian holocaust was in fact a genocide.
Yes, I use the word ‘holocaust’ because that word was used to describe what was happening to the Armenians during the Abdul Hamid Massacres, Adana Massacres and the Armenian genocide by contemporary writers. William Walker Rockwell in an article titled “the Total of Armenian and Syrian Dead” in the New York Times Current History February 1916, wrote “If the ghosts of the Christian civilians who have perished miserably in Turkey since the commencement of the great holocaust should march down Fifth Avenue twenty abreast there might be a million of them … for most of them will be women and children”.
The Armenian genocide has been recognized by the majority of the nations of the world and we didn’t even know it. If those countries who have ratified the genocide convention deny that the Armenians were victims of genocide, then they should either terminate their participation to the convention, or have the convention change the word ‘genocide’ to something else which is not intrinsically connected to the Armenian slaughter.
Denying that Armenians were victims of genocide is akin to denying that an Orange is Orange. It is insane and illogical. For those who believe that what happened to the Armenians should not be termed a ‘genocide’, should have convinced Raphael Lemkin not to base the word on what had happened to the Armenians. Unfortunately for them, it is too late, by signing the genocide convention; most of the world has already recognized the Armenian genocide.
A comment by a security-analyst who chooses to be ananymous
Although the vast majority of the West knows about, and acknowledges the fact that Ottoman Turkey committed the world’s first* genocide in 1915, there still remains a small cadre of individuals who desperately try and convince people otherwise. Usually, they will attempt to do so by demonizing Armenians, in essence arguing that they deserved it, or else they will claim the deaths were unintentional. However, a few Turkish agents try and use numbers to convince the uninformed reader that there was no genocide. These propagandists understand that those who use numbers often have reputations of being rational and objective, and are therefore more likely to be listened to if they do the same.
While it has become something like an endangered species when it comes to Armenian Genocide denial tactics, the notion that there are too many Armenians alive today to have allowed for a genocide still occasionally rears its ugly head at conferences and on websites; even the Turkish Foreign Ministry has used this polemical statement.*
In any case, it’s high time to obliterate this so-called argument by using rather elementary math. Wikipedia states that there are between nine and ten million Armenians alive today. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s just agree on 9.5 million. Most scholars, including Turkish and Armenian historians, agree that there were around three million Armenians in the world before 1915. Using this number one can calculate the growth rate needed to arrive at today’s figures. One set of calculations can use the communal violence theory where only 400,000 Armenians died, and the other set of calculations will use the figure that 1.2 million Armenians died in an actual genocide. Therefore, the initial population figures in 1916 are 2.6 million and 1.8 million respectively. With these numbers, one can use the equation T=Pe^(rt) to find the average growth rate, where T=today’s number, P=past number, t=time in years, and r=average annual growth rate.
T=9.5 mil T=9.5 mil
P=2.6 mil P=1.8 mil
t=92 years t=92 years
r=1.4% per year r=1.8 % per year
As compared the the CIA Factbook’s .88% growth rate for the US, a 1.8% growth rate for Armenians is quick, but not abnormally so, because there are numerous counties whose growth rate is, in fact, much higher than 1.8%. For example, according to the CIA Factbook lists Bangladesh’s growth rate at over 2% per year. Therefore, without any miracle, which Genocide deniers claim is necessary, the existence of a genocide can still allow for the present population of Armenians.
Nevertheless, it is likely that that even a 1.8% annual growth rate is higher than the actual rate, because many present day Armenians counted in the total number of 9.5 million, are 3/4, 1/2, 1/4 Armenian. Let’s then make a reasonable assumption that of the 9.5 million Armenians, that 1.5 million are half (assuming the 3/4 and 1/4 armenians counter balance and average to 1/2 as well). Reasoning that a population will grow twice as quickly if that entire populatioin breeds with external populations, one can logically divide the 1.5 mil figure in half to .75 mill. So the adjusted Armentian population today is actually 8.75 million. With this corrected number, the new post genocide annual growth rate via the T=Pe^(rt) equation, is 1.7%. A 1.7% growth rate is not unreasonable by any means, the US itself held similar growth rates earlier in the 20th cenury, and many 2nd world countries have this growth rate today.
Lastly, one can also make the unscientific observation that immigrant families often have larger families than native ones, and most Armenians outside the Republic of Armenia are immigrants themselves, or decended from them.
In conclusion, Armenian Genocide deniers should continue to use this denial tactic, because it makes them look ridiculous and ignorant.
“”It’s a tiny book, only 116 pages long, but it contains a monumental truth, another sign that one and a half million dead Armenians will not go away. It’s called My Grandmother: a Memoir and it’s written by Fethiye Cetin and it opens up graves. For when she was growing up in the Turkish town of Marden, Fethiye’s grandmother Seher was known as a respected Muslim housewife. It wasn’t true. She was a Christian Armenian and her real name was Heranus. We all know that the modern Turkish state will not acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, but this humble book may help to change that. Because an estimated two million Turks – alive in Turkey today – had an Armenian grandparent.
As children they were put on the death marches south to the Syrian desert but – kidnapped by brigands, sheltered by brave Muslim villagers (whose own courage also, of course, cannot be acknowledged by Turkey) or simply torn from their dying mothers – later became citizens of the modern Turkey which Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was to set up. Yet as Maureen Freely states in her excellent preface, four generations of Turkish schoolchildren simply do not know Ottoman Anatolia was between a quarter and a half Christian.
Heranus – whose face stares out at the reader from beneath her Muslim headscarf – was seized by a Turkish gendarme, who sped off on horseback after lashing her mother with a whip. Even when she died of old age, Fethiye tried to record the names of Heranus’s Armenian parents – Isguhi and Hovannes – but was ignored by the mosque authorities. It was Heranus, with her razor-sharp memory, who taught Fethiye of her family’s fate and this book does record in terrible detail the now familiar saga of mass cruelty, of rape and butchery.
In one town, the Turkish police separated husbands, sons and old men from their families and locked the women and children into a courtyard with high walls. From outside came blood-curdling shrieks. As Fethiye records, “Heranus and her brothers clung to their mother’s skirts, but though she was terrified, she was desperate to know what was going on. Seeing that another girl had climbed on to someone’s shoulders to see over the wall, she went to her side. The girl was still looking over the wall; when, after a very long while, she came down again, she said what she had seen. All her life, Heranus would never forget what came from this girl’s lip: ‘They’re cutting the men’s throats, and throwing them into the river.'”
Fethiye says she wrote her grandmother’s story to “reconcile us with our history; but also to reconcile us with ourselves” which, as Freely writes, cuts right through the bitter politics of genocide recognition and denial. Of course, Ataturk’s decision to move from Arabic to Latin script also means that vital Ottoman documents recalling the genocide cannot be consulted by most modern-day Turks. At about the same time, it’s interesting to note, Stalin was performing a similarly cultural murder in Tajikistan where he moved the largely Persian language from Arabic to Cyrillic.
And so history faded away. And I am indebted to Cosette Avakian, who sent me Fethiye’s book and who is herself the granddaughter of Armenian survivors and who brings me news of another memorial of Armenians, this time in Wales. Wales, you may ask? And when I add that this particular memorial – a handsome Armenian cross embedded in stone – was vandalised on Holocaust Memorial Day last January, you may also be amazed. And I’m not surprised because not a single national paper reported this outrage. Had it been a Jewish Holocaust memorial stone that was desecrated, it would – quite rightly – have been recorded in our national newspapers. But Armenians don’t count.
As a Welsh Armenian said on the day, “This is our holiest shrine. Our grandparents who perished in the genocide do not have marked graves. This is where we remember them.” No one knows who destroyed the stone: a request for condemnation by the Turkish embassy in London went, of course, unheeded, while in Liverpool on Holocaust Day, the Armenians were not even mentioned in the service.
Can this never end? Fethiye’s wonderful book may reopen the past, but it is a bleak moment to record that when the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted for insulting “Turkishness”, Fethiye defended him in court. Little good it did Dink. He was murdered in January last year, his alleged killer later posing arrogantly for a picture next to the two policemen who were supposed to be holding him prisoner. It was in Dink’s newspaper Agos that Fethiye was to publish her grandmother’s death notice. This was how Heranus’s Armenian sister in America came to read of her death. For Heranus’s mother survived the death marches to remarry and live in New York.
Wales, the United States, even Ethiopia, where Cosette Avakian’s family eventually settled, it seems that every nation in the world is home to the Armenians. But can Turkey ever be reconciled with its own Armenian community, which was Hrant Dink’s aim? When Fethiye found her Aunt Marge in the US – this was Heranus’ sister, of course, by her mother’s second marriage – she tried to remember a song that Heranus sang as a child. It began with the words “A sad shepherd on the mountain/Played a song of love…” and Marge eventually found two Armenian church choir members who could put the words together.
“My mother never missed the village dances,” Marge remembered. “She loved to dance. But after her ordeal, she never danced again.” And now even when the Welsh memorial stone that stands for her pain and sorrow was smashed, the British Government could not bring itself to comment. As a member of the Welsh Armenian community said at the time, “We shall repair the cross again and again, no matter how often it is desecrated.” And who, I wonder, will be wielding the hammer to smash it next time?””
What is quite interesting in this growing media coverage is a lesser-known mention of the firing by cartoonist Murad “Holdwater” Gumen at his tallarmeniantale.com hatesite. Back in October 2007, while mocking another piece by Inside Higher Ed on genocide denial, Gumen mentioned the following to demonstrate, according to Gumen, Turkey’s tolerance of academic diversity:
“As another example to demonstrate that the ITS [Institute of Turkish Studies] is out of the clutches of the Turkish government, not long ago its chairman was Donald Quataert, one of the 69 scholars who had signed the 1985 advertisement signifying there was no genocide. Quataert has since revised his views; one must suspect the historian has found striking new genocide evidence in order to have performed his 180 degree turnaround. From the bits and pieces I have gathered, an academician, whom I’m sure has no ties to the Turkish government, pointed out this oddity to some higher-ups, wondering why a ‘genocide advocate’ should be in charge of the ITS, and as a result, Donald Quataert was replaced.”
While the Turkish Ambassador, as quoted in the Washington Post, denies any personal or official involvement in the de facto firing, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Quataert lost his position due to his stance on the Armenian Genocide. But who are the “higher-ups” that Gumen mentions is interesting to find out. If Quataert was the chairman, who was “higher” than him in ITS?
Threatening to damage its uniquely objective reputation in the smallest of the former Soviet states, ArmeniaNow.com has published a partisan commentary on a recent Jewish-American visit to Armenia written by a member of a Diaspora organization often criticized as “soft” for its cooperation with some not-so-pro-Armenian groups. The same Armenian organization, some say, is now criticizing others for the same thing it has been doing for many years.
A two man delegation representing the American Jewish Committee (AJC), has just finished a visit to Armenia accompanied by two employees of Gerard Cafesjian (founder of the Cafesjian Foundation and long-time philanthropist/investor in Armenia), where they met with the new president, defense minister and others. Their visit to Armenia in itself is not surprising, since the AJC had sought such a trip in conjunction with the Armenian Assembly of America for the past five years, but the Assembly has repeatedly said “no.”
The Assembly told the AJC that its opposition to the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution made such a visit under Assembly auspices inappropriate. I was involved in the first rejection, as was the former Executive Director of the Assembly, Ross Vartian. Now, however, Vartian, is the Executive Director of Cafesjian’s private Washington, D.C. operation named USAPAC.
He arranged for Peter Rosenblatt, a prominent leader of the AJC and Barry Jacobs, who has the title of Strategic Studies Director, to meet with Armenia’s top leadership.
Jacobs circulates articles from various sources supporting not only Israeli positions but pro Turkish and pro Azerbaijani policies as well. Jacobs’s bias against Armenia is palpable. A New York Times photograph taken at the session of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee showed Jacobs seated among a group of Turkish protesters wearing badges saying “NO” to the pending Genocide resolution.
According to David Boyajian, an outspoken Armenian activist who sparked the recent fight against the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for its refusal to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, the controversy at stake is not as much the obvious anti-Armenian Jewish leaders’ visit to Armenia (which needs to be condemned), but that the Armenian Assembly of America – the organization that now criticizes its breakaway wing – has a long history of cooperating with deniers of the Armenian Genocide itself.
In Boyajian’s words:
It takes chutzpah AAA – long-time apologists for the very Jewish denialists that it is now criticizing – to criticize USAPAC, not that USAPAC does not fully deserve it (and I have been emailing many people the past few days and getting them to call/write USAPAC).
And where does Armenia stand on this? It’s president gave an audience to a genocide denier. Maybe Armenia deserves some criticism too.
Fact is, AAA has done next to nothing to help on ADL/NPFH issue, and we all know it.
Suddenly, AAA is now some sort of hardliner?
The main reason AAA is criticizing USAPAC now is that the latter is run by Cafesjian and Vartian, who quit AAA. Whom is the AAA kidding?
AAA would be (very) well-advised to look to its own record.
This article is also full of outright falsehoods, and I will be proving it.
Jewcy, a website by young Jewish-American bloggers, has condemned Barry Jacobs, the gentleman who was given a free ride to Armenia by USAPAC, for denying the Armenian Genocide. As a supporter of open dialogue, I myself am not outright against USAPAC’s sponsorship of Jacobs’ trip to Armenia pending on the results. If Jacobs gives up his anti-Armenian campaign, which is highly unlikely to happen, then USAPAC will be proven right in its judgment.
While Turkey says it wants to discuss “the events of 1915” with Armenia, its Ambassador to the United States has fired one of its own payroll scholars for doing the unimaginable – referring to the Armenian genocide as such.
Recounting the fiasco, The Armenian Reporter writes in its May 31, 2008 issue that a in a letter to Turkey’s government “the Middle East Studies Association [MESA] on May 27 condemned the forced resignation of Donald Quataert from the chair of the Institute of Turkish Studies after Prof. Quataert affirmed in a book review that ‘what happened to the Armenians readily satisfies the U.N. definition of genocide.'”
Expecting retaliation from at least other scholars on Turkish payroll (but apparently not from the Ambassador himself), Prof. Quataert urged pro-Turkish historians “to take their rightful responsibility to perform the proper research” on the Armenian annihilation of 1915.
The above words, mentioned in a scholarly book review by Dr. Quataert, angered Turkish Ambassador Nebi Şensoy – honorary chairman of the Institute of Turkish Studies – who requested the scholar to retract them.
“We are enormously concerned that unnamed high officials in Ankara felt it was inappropriate for Professor Quataert to continue as chairman of the board of governors and threatened to revoke the funding for the ITS if he did not publicly retract statements made in his review or separate himself from the Chairmanship of the ITS,” wrote MESA president Mervat Hatem in the letter of protest to Turkey’s Prime Minister.
The Armenian Reporter states that:
A professor of history at the State University of New York at Binghamton, Mr. Quataert chaired the ITS board of governors from 2001 until December 13, 2006. In 1985, as an associate professor at the University of Houston, he was among the 69 Ottoman, Turkish, and Middle Eastern area scholars who petitioned against a House Joint Resolution that memorialized “the one and one half million people of Armenian ancestry who were victims of genocide perpetrated in Turkey between 1915 and 1923.”
As he recalled the emerging Ottoman and Turkish area scholarship of the 1980s from a vantage point twenty years later, Prof. Quataert wrote in his book review, “the authors were not writing critical history but polemics” and “many of their works were directly sponsored and published by the Turkish government.” To date, said MESA, most of the scholarship in this area still fails to adhere to the highest professional standards “and as such serves neither the field of Ottoman-Turkish studies nor the interests of the Republic of Turkey and its citizens.”
Nevertheless, both Prof. Quataert in his review and MESA with its 2005 Academic Freedom Award lauded the new wave of critical thinking in this field – specifically mentioning a conference held at Istanbul’s Bilgi University “despite official intimidation and public harassment,” as Prof. Quataert recalled.
While it is sadenning to see an academic being de facto fired by a politician, it is encouraging that a scholar on Turkish payroll has finally realized and admitted the truth of the Armenian Genocide.
In his weekly column, California Courier publisher Harout Sassounian writes that “Prof. Quataert’s transformation from a denialist to a believer in the Armenian Genocide is based on the growing body of scholarship in recent years both within and outside Turkey. A comparison of the 2000 and 2005 editions of his book, ‘The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922,’ illustrates the gradual evolution of his position on the Armenian Genocide. In a sharp departure from the cautious language used in his first edition, Dr. Quataert… comes to the conclusion in his 2006 book review that what had happened to the Armenians in 1915 was indeed a Genocide.”
Reminding that this is not the first controversy including the Turkish-sponsored organization, College of William and Mary professor emeritus Roger Smith wrote in a discussion forum on Armenian-Turkish relations that as a de facto lobbying organization ITS shouldn’t be tax-free.
But given this latest event, in which the Turkish ambassador and the Turkish government have forced the resignation of the chair of the Institute because he refused to deny the reality of the Armenian Genocide, there are strong grounds for the IRS to revoke the tax status of the Institute. There are other grounds, of long standing: Robert Lifton, Eric Markusen, and I exposed the then executive director of ITS, Heath Lowry, for his collaboration with the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. to intimidate academics in the U.S. from writing about the Armenian Genocide as historical reality. Lowry wrote the memos and draft letters for the ambassador: for examples of this see, “Professional Responsibility and the Denial of the Armenian Genocide,” HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE STUDIES, Spring 1995; the actual documents are presented with analysis by Smith, Markusen, Lifton. The IRS status of the Institute should have been challenged then.
But now we have the Turkish ambassador being directly involved in forcing the resignation of the ITS chair for failure to follow the State’s position on the genocide, which, is political, not as it pretends, historical. This suggests that the Institute, or some of those closely associated with it, are undeclared, unregistered, lobbyists for a foreign government. This is a violation of Federal criminal law. Such persons could be prosecuted, but it is also further evidence that the tax status of ITS should be revoked.
Whatever the case, the lesson is that not every scholar on Turkish payroll is discrediting the Armenian genocide for money. Some of them have the ability to finally see the truth. That is – if they truly seek the truth in the first place.