Friday, 24 April 2015

Is the Armenian Genocide a myth?

After 100 years, (as of Friday, April 24, 2015) it is now widely accepted by the leaders and many of the people in at least 20 countries including Canada and the United States that the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.

Armenia had come largely under Ottoman rule during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The vast majority of Armenians, grouped together under the Armenian name, millet (community) and led by their spiritual head, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. They were concentrated in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The Armenians were allowed to rule themselves under their own system of governance with very little interference from the Ottoman government.

When World War 1 broke which then led to confrontation between the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and the Russian Empire in the Caucasus and Persian Campaigns, the new government in Istanbul began to look on the Armenians to their east with distrust and suspicion. This was because the Imperial Russian Army had contained a contingent of Armenian volunteers. 

The killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey followed, beginning in April, 24th 1915, when Ottoman authorities ordered the rounding up and arrest of 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders  in Constantinople (presently called Instanbul). It was the beginning of a stain of blood that grew larger and larger on the conscience of humanity.                            
The murder of millions of Armenians was implemented in two phases. The first was the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labour. The second was followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches leading into the Syrian Desert. Driven forward by Ottoman military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and wholesale murder.

The harassment of the Armenians began long before the massacres. In the eastern provinces, the Armenians were subjected to the whims of their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors, who would regularly overtax them, subject them to brigandage and kidnapping, force them to convert to Islam, and otherwise exploit them without any interference from central or local authorities. It wasn’t for reasons of religious persecution. It was because of the unutterable contempt they had for the Armenians.  As far as the Turks and Kurds were concerned, the Armenians were dogs and pigs and as Christians, to be spat upon. If their shadow darkened any Turk’s path, the Turk would be outraged and treat the Armenians as a mat on which they could wipe the mud from their feet. This was the inevitable result of centuries of slavery, of subjection, insult and scorn in which nothing that belonged to the Armenian including his property, his house, his life, his person, nor his family. Nothing that belonged to the Armenians was sacred nor were any Armenians safe from violence and for them to resist by violence meant death.

Does this ring a bell with those of us who were alive during the Nazi Holocaust in which the Jews received the same treatment from the Nazis? With this kind of mindset, it is easy to see why the Turks had no qualms about massacring over a million Armenians. Their views on that subject was no different than those of us who spray RAID on ants coming into our homes—who gives a inker’s dam that they die?  Well, the rest of us who are not deniers of the Armenian Genocide do give a tinker’s dam.

There were previous massacres of Armenians before the big one but the loses of Armenian lives were much lower, if 55,000 can be considered low as far as massacres are concerned.

On the 19th April 1915, Jevdet Bey (Turkish governor of the Van province of the Ottoman Empire)  demanded that the city of Van immediately furnish him 4,000 Armenian soldiers under the pretext of conscription. However, it was clear to the Armenian population that his goal was to massacre the able-bodied men of Van so that there would be no defenders left in the city. Jevdet Bey had already used his official authority in nearby villages, ostensibly to search for arms, but in fact he intended to and did initiate wholesale massacres. When the Armenians in Van refused his order, his men attacked the city and as many as 55,000 Armenians were massacred.

Eitan Belkind was a Nili member who infiltrated the Ottoman army as an official. He was assigned to the headquarters of Kamal Pasha. He claims to have witnessed the burning of 5,000 Armenians to death. The Commander of the Third Army General Vehib's 12-page affidavit, which was dated 5 December 1918, was presented in the Trabzon trial series (29 March 1919) was included in the Key Indictment, reporting such a mass burning of the entire population of a village near the Mus Plain. Another wrote that 80,000 Armenians in 90 villages across the Mus Plain were burned to deaths in stables and haylofts. These sort of massacres occurred in villages overrun by SS soldiers during the Second World War but nowhere near the extent as to what happened to the Armenians during the Armenian Genocide. 

The slaughter of Armenians that was brought on by the Ottoman Empire outraged much of the western world. While the Ottoman Empire's wartime allies offered little protest, a wealth of German and Austrian historical documents has since come to attest to the witnesses' horror at the killings and mass starvation of Armenians. In the United States, The New York Times reported almost daily on the mass murder of the Armenian people, describing the process as “systematic, authorized and "organized by the Ottoman government.” President Theodore Roosevelt  would then later characterize this as “the greatest crime of the war.” (First World War)

Historian Hans-Lukas Kieser stated that, from the statements of Talaat Pasha (was one of the triumvirate known as the three Pashas-leaders that de facto ruled the Ottoman Empire during the First World War) it was clear that the Ottoman officials were aware that the deportation order was genocidal. Another historian Taner Akçam  stated that the telegrams showed that the overall coordination of the genocide was taken over by Talaat Pasha. He was later assassinated with a single bullet on 15 March 1921 as he came out of his house in Hardenbergstrasse, Charlottenburg in Germany He was shot by an Armenian Revolutionary Federation  member from Erzurum named Soghomon Tehlirian.

The current Republic of Turkey's formal stance is that the deaths of Armenians during the "relocation" or "deportation" of Armenians cannot aptly be deemed "as a genocide", a position that they claim has been supported with a plethora of diverging justifications such as the killings were not deliberate or systematically orchestrated because the killings were justified since the Armenians had posed a Russian-sympathizing threat against the Ottoman Empire.

There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Armenians weren’t happy with the Turks but there is no way that I can fathom them being a threat against the Turks since they didn’t have an army of their own. Further, were the babies their ancestors slaughtered also a threat to the Ottoman Empire? They also claim that the Armenians merely starved to death, or any of various means of dying, referring to marauding Armenian gangs, Of course they starved to death when they were marched into a desert in Syria with no food by Turkish soldiers and are we to believe that Armenian gangs killed that many Armenians?  Give me a break. The historical facts are already known. There are sufficient documentary evidence to support the historical fact that the Ottoman Empire systematically slaughtered at least 1.5 million Armenian men, women, children and babies during the first year of the First World War.

For many years after the Second World War ended in which Japan was one of the three axis partners, that nation later denied much of the atrocities committed by their soldiers against the people of the countries they subjugated.  Denial, denial, denial seems to be prevalent these days.

We all know what happened to President Nixon when he denied any wrongdoing in the Watergate break in. His secret tape recordings of his audio-taped conversations in the Oval Room was what did him in when they were accidentally discovered. He couldn’t wiggle free as the evidence wrapped around him was getting tighter and tighter as the truth emerged from the recordings. Neither can the Turks wiggle free from the documentary evidence that rhetorically wraps around them until they can no longer deny, deny and deny the existence of what those before them did to 1,5 million Armenians.  

Turkey's bureaucratic elite in this current era have never really shed themselves of the Ottoman perpetrators of the Genocide because they see in their fathers, their honor they seek to defend. This tradition instills a sense of identity in Turkish nationalists—both from the left and the right, and it is passed on from generation to generation through their school system—just as the Japanese did after the Second World War.

Prosecutors acting on their own initiative have used Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code prohibiting “insulting Turkishness” to silence a number of prominent Turkish intellectuals who spoke of atrocities suffered by Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

While current members of Turkish society cannot be blamed morally for the massacre of the Armenians, the present-day  Republic of Turkey, as successor state to the Ottoman Empire and as beneficiary of the wealth and land expropriations brought forth through the genocide, is responsible for reparations to the families that came after those who were murdered as recommended  by the United Nations. Will that happen in our lifetime? Let me answer that question in a way that will put emphasis on my answer. “Will Jews and Muslims change their diets and eat pork?” 

No comments: