06 May 2007

1655) The Road To Reconciliation

Reconciliation is not a word often heard on Capitol Hill these days. For decades now the Armenian lobby has engaged in a relentless campaign of "genocide recognition," throwing money and votes in the direction of legislators to try to get them to say the "G word." As a result, U.S.-Turkish relations have been threatened and the normalization of relations between Armenia and Turkey impeded. The Turkish and Armenian communities outside Turkey remain divided and in continual conflict. Regardless of whether or not Washington passes the Armenian genocide resolution, both sides will be losers because either way the conflict will continue. If the resolution passes, the Turkish people will not change their opinions; and if it doesn't, Armenians won't stop lobbying for another resolution next year. So how do we break the impass? . .

Answering this question requires us to first understand the extent of the problem. The problem runs much deeper than just deciding on whether genocide occurred or not. Armenians and Turks have fundamental disagreements on even the most basic aspects of history.

Both sides view Eastern Anatolia as their homeland.

Turkish tribes first moved into Eastern Anatolia during the 6th century, although large-scale settlement occurred with the establishment of Seljuk Turkish control during the Battle of Malazgirt in 1071. After the collapse of the Seljuks, smaller Turkish principalities ruled the area until Ottoman Principality unified Turkish control of Anatolia and became known as the Ottoman Empire. Thus, Anatolia has been a Turkish homeland for over a thousand years.

Armenians, however, also claim Eastern Anatolia as their homeland because of the ancient Armenian kingdoms that ruled the area from 190 BC to 66 BC. Although Armenians have not had any kind of a state in Anatolia for thousands of years, they view Turks as being "occupiers" of "their" land, since they were there "first."

Armenians claim that they comprised the majority of the population in Eastern Anatolia.

Of course, who ruled two thousand years ago is not nearly as important as who lives there now. And on this point, too, there is disagreement, as almost all Armenians I've met believe that the Armenian population was a majority in Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. Let's put this myth to rest right away: Armenians were not a majority, but a minority.

According to the 1919 King-Crane Report commissioned by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, prior to 1914, "Larger Turkish Armenia" had about a 21.5% Armenian population, a 6.5% Greek population, and a 71% Muslim population. "Smaller Turkish Armenia" had about a 23.54% Armenian population, a 7.5% Greek population, and a 68% Muslim population. Clearly, Armenians are not the majority.

In fact, prior to the 1900s, even Yerevan, today's capitol of Armenia, had at least a 40% Azeri Turkish population, according to Prof. Audrey Alstadt. Today, Armenia has a 99% Armenian population, effectively cleansed of all Azeris. I met an Armenian who claimed that "Armenia had always been completely Armenian" ? another myth. Not only was there a substantial Turkish presence, but in the 1800s, Russia intentionally brought Armenians from northern Iran to "Christianize" the region.

Nevertheless, this is an important detail, as Armenian lobbyists are trying to imply that without "the genocide," Turks would not have been able to control the region. Ironically, even the pro-Armenian King and Crane recognized that the establishment of an Armenian state would mean minority control over a majority population and require extensive Allied military and monetary support until "Armenians constituted an actual majority of the entire population, or at least until the Turks were fewer than the Armenians."

The report estimated that if all living Armenians plus the "one million dead" Armenians were all concentrated into the area, even then Armenians would only comprise at most 30% of Larger Armenia and 50% of Smaller Armenia. Thus, the report proposed supporting the establishment of a smaller Armenia: "Armenians might become the majority of the actual population within a few years?Migration of Turks and Kurds from this area can be more easily accomplished than from the larger land, inasmuch as a considerable proportion of them fled before the Russians, and thus are in a dislocated condition."

Contrary to Armenian assertions, Turks had no need to wipe out Armenians to control Eastern Anatolia, since Turks were already a predominant majority. It was the Turkish population which formed a threat or obstacle to the establishment of an independent Armenia; therefore, even American proposals for the area noted that "migration of Turks and Kurds" would be required ? although no mention was made of how such migration would be brought about. Since no population would willingly evacuate their homeland, inevitably such plans would trigger ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Turks in Eastern Anatolia. Indeed, this is probably why the ethnic Armenian former Ottoman parliamentarian and Dashnak militia leader Hamparsum Boyaciyan said, "All Turkish children should be killed as they form a danger to the Armenian nation."

Armenians themselves are not innocent of war crimes; they revolted against the Ottomans

Yet if you speak to Armenians, you will find that almost all of them believe that the Armenian population was largely innocent, and that it was an almost negligible minority that revolted against the Ottomans. They also believe that any fighting was simply in self-defense:

· "The forced death marches were a result of combat to protect the innocent Armenian men, women and children."

· "Only a small number of Armenians ever agitated anything. This was used as a pretense to wipe away their existence."

If these assertions are true, however, then I wonder how Armenians will be able to explain that before even a single Armenian was relocated, archives document that over 100,000 Muslims were massacred in eastern districts such as Kars, Van, Igdir, and Erzurum?

How do they explain the fact that Armenians lead by Antranik fought against the Ottomans even during the Balkan Wars? Or that as early as 1893, President Cleveland openly stated to congress that certain Armenian language journals in New York " openly counseled its readers to arm, organize, and participate in movements for the subversion of Ottoman authority in the eastern provinces of Asia Minor."

Armenians had been known as the "loyal community," yet even Armenian members of the Ottoman parliament were engaged in insurgencies. Hamparsum Boyaciyan was not the only one. In Europe, Gabriel Noradunkyan lobbied for the creation of an independent Armenia and Garegin Pasdermajian was one of the leaders of the armed seizure of the Ottoman Bank in 1896. Pasdermajian was pardoned for this crime by the Sultan, entered the Parliament, only to this time become a Dashnak revolutionary leader.

In 1919, Armenian General Boghos Number even boasted that over 150,000 Armenians had volunteered to fight in Allied armies and asked that the Armenians be officially recognized as a belligerent nation for the purposes of the Paris Peace Conference. Considering that the Armenian population was about 1.5 million at the most, this means that most Armenian men were involved in military actions against the Ottomans.

In light of these facts, it is hard to understand how Armenians can say that revolutionary activity was minimal and that conflicts were merely in "self-defense." While I am sure that there were average Ottoman Armenian citizens who did not desire independence or condone Dashnak attacks, there were many Dashnak Armenians who knowingly tried to provoke violence so that the Allies would intervene on their behalf.

Consider this excerpt from William I. Langer's book "The Diplomacy of Imperialism:"

"Europeans in Turkey have agreed that the immediate aim of the agitators was to incite disorder, bring about inhuman reprisals, and so provoke the intervention of the powers. For that reason, it was said that, they operated by preference in areas where the Armenians were in hopelessly minority, so that reprisals would be certain. One of the revolutionaries told Dr. Hamlin, the founder of Robert College, that Henchak bands would:

'watch their opportunity to kill Turks and Kurds, set fire to their villages and then make their escape into the mountains. The enraged Moslems will then rise, and fall upon the defenseless Armenians and slaughter them with such barbarity that Russia will enter in the name of humanity and Christian civilization and take possession.'

"When the horrified missionary denounced the scheme as atrocious and infernal beyond anything ever known, he received this reply:

'It appears so to you, no doubt; but we Armenians have determined to be free. Europe listened to Bulgarian horrors and made Bulgaria free. She will listen to our cry when it goes up in the shrieks and blood of millions of women and children... We are desperate. We shall do it.'..."

Of course, most Armenians also do not believe that Armenian militants massacred Turks.

On Armenian wrote, "Yes, Turks also died, but most of these were soldiers who died in battle with Russian troops?the time frame for this was mainly post-1915, after the Armenians had been decimated."

When the numerous mass graves of Turkish villagers found in Eastern Anatolia are mentioned, they then counter by claiming that the mass graves were probably Armenian, not Turkish. However, the fact that the location of the graves is in villages known to be Turkish, and that there are eyewitness accounts, archival reports, as well as Islamic jewelry found on the bodies proves that the victims were Turkish. Still, time and time again Armenians have refused to believe the evidence:

"If only the dead could speak we would be able to ascertain whether the mass graves in Erzerum and Van are of Turks or not. Then one could learn whether or not the Kuranic and Star-Crescent amulets found on the bodies were planted by Turkish authorities to make the bodies appear to be Turks. In view of the whole programme of the Turkish government to obliterate any record of Armenians in Eastern Anatolia, this action is definitely a possibility," wrote one Armenian. [Comment: We are supposed to use the evidence to come to a conclusion, not use a predetermined conclusion to explain away the evidence!]

Another came up with any even more poppycock explanation: "[Although] Armenians were forced to conform from Christianity to the Muslim religion, many were killed anyway. This would explain the Kuranic and Star-Crescent amulets found on the Armenian victims. Or, they may very well have been Turkish villagers killed by the Turkish Army, trying to save the Armenians."

This story then gained the approval of yet another Armenian, who wrote, "Yes, I believe the Turkish government killed ethnic Turks to keep them in line as an example to others. Nazis did it too, and it was effective. The timing of what you are alleging was in the years after the events of 1915, when no Armenians remained in Eastern Anatolia." [Comment: How can you really think that the Turkish government would murder over 500,000 Turks????]

Let me quote one final Armenian opinion: "Armenian soldiers did not rape Turkish women. It was the Turks who did this to Armenian women and worse." [Again, refusal to believe that Armenians can ever do wrong; it's always the Turks who are like "barbarians" in their minds.]

That "no Armenians remained in Eastern Anatolia after 1915" is another common fallacy.

Let's take another look at the King-Crane Report, which also provided a population estimate for 1920, assuming all refugees returned to Eastern Anatolia. In "Larger Turkish Armenia" it was estimated that 11% would be Armenian, 8% Greek and 80% Muslim. And in "Smaller Turkish Armenia" it was estimated that 16% would be Armenian, 8% Greek, and 75% Muslim. They further estimated the absolute losses over the whole are at 582,000 Armenians, 57,000 Greeks and 615,000 Muslims. These estimates are not nearly close to the 1.5-2 million that the Armenian lobby claims today. Interestingly, they are similar to the estimate of 600,000 Armenian losses made by Justin McCarthy.

Another important point often neglected is that the relocation caravans were slow, and never actually made it to their final intended destination of Syria and Mesopotamia. Furthermore, in 1918, the Ottoman government reversed its policy and actually ordered the resettlement of Armenians in their old homes. After the armistice, the French especially tried to bring back Armenians from Syria, Lebanon, and the Caucasus, deporting the local Muslim population, so that they could boost the Armenian-Muslim ratio in areas they wanted to colonize. Thus, many Armenians were still in Anatolia after 1915.

Furthermore, Armenian losses were not due to just massacre, but also to disease and hunger, which plagued everyone, including the Turks.

During this period, over 500,000 Muslims are known to have died during massacres by Armenians. But, if we are to include deaths on all fronts and due to disease and hunger, the total Muslim losses rise to a staggering 2.5 million. Thus, the Ottoman government cannot be blamed for most Armenian losses since those factors were both out of their control and affected everyone.
. . .
As can be seen, there is much that Armenians and Turks need to debate beyond the simple debate was the whether or not there was genocide. As a Turkish-American, my greatest pain comes from the fact that many Armenians flat out deny that Turks were massacred. Both sides have experienced great trauma from the violence of that period, and the first step towards reconciliation must be therefore to acknowledge the humanity of the victims. Both sides have victims. We must put politics aside and be able to jointly mourn our losses.

Both sides also have sinners. Our communities have stark discrepancies about basic facts of the period. Before any distribution of blame or judgment on who is guilty of what is made, these discrepancies must be reconciled. This is where dialogue between historians, not just the people, will be required so that all aspects of the period are accounted for. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's proposal for a joint historical commission has the potential to initiate such dialogue.

Yet, Armenia refused to participate in such a joint commission, and Armenian diaspora organizations refuse to debate or even discuss the history of the period, claiming that historians have already decided it to be genocide and thus Turks must accept their arguments. As I mentioned in the beginning, however, such as stance will never lead to reconciliation as the Armenian version of history in no way acknowledges atrocities against Turks, and even presents as heroes people known to have butchered Turkish civilians.

I have come across Armenians who feel that it would be worthwhile to "duke it out" with Turks because they feel confident in their beliefs and believe they would win such a debate. I also know many Turks who feel they can prove their case, and want to settle things "once and for all." So why is it that Armenian organizations are so opposed to such openness? Why spend such a big effort to silence anyone from voicing or debating Turkish assertions?

"I am an Armenian born in America. My parents were raised in America. I am proud to say that I am happy that we don't convert to "Americans". We preserve our culture are religion�After all, after I receive my degree I am going to live in Armenia�You made one good more, you didn't expose your identity, because I guarantee you, you would have been tortured and killed. I hate Turks, I will always hate Turks, I will teach my children to hate Turks. I will get along with those that hate Turks�For your inhuman actions you Turks shouldn't be living. It bothers me a lot knowing I breathe the same air you Turks do. I feel dirty. I encourage all Armenians to hate Turks because they are worthless people hat are just a waste of space on the world�I hope all Turkish people suffer a very tragic and brutal death�" � Natalie

Hate � a strong, destructive emotion that is the chief impediment to reconciliation. Unfortunately, Armenians like Natalie are not uncommon, especially among the diaspora Armenians. Devoid of any friendly experiences or contact with the Turkish community, Armenian youth are raised with the venom of genocide allegations. Under the name of preserving Armenian culture, youth are not raised to work towards reconciliation, but instead to exact revenge for past Turkish "crimes."

One of the largest Armenian youth groups in America is the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). As stated on their website, their primary goal is to "bring together Armenian youth, to work in cooperation with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation towards the establishment of a united, free, and independent Armenia." Of course, since the AYF is founded by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, or Dashnaks, it is not surprising that their original goals remain unchanged. Naturally, Dashnak-based organizations are not the only Diaspora organizations; however, they wield a strong ideological influence, as indicated in the comments of Armenians such as Natalie, who are dedicating their lives to Armenia even though they are 2nd or 3rd generation Americans.

In Armenia, too, the Dashnaks continue to hold the Presidency and government in their hands. Thus it is not surprising that there is no effort made towards reconciliation; only one-sided accusations, with the goal of achieving monetary and land compensation. Don't be fooled by the few who say that all they want is an acknowledgement of the "genocide." Every Armenian organization is in tandem with their demands for compensation.

In a May 3, 2005 letter to President Bush, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian wrote: "The only sound basis for improved Armenian-Turkish relations remains Turkey's open acknowledgement of its genocidal crime and full acceptance of its responsibilities to the Armenian nation."

Raffi, another Diaspora Armenian, offered the following more eloquent demands lists in an article posted to the blog, http://www.cilicia.com/2007/05/genocide-reparations.html :

"The first question is whether, when they apologize for the genocide, AND the century of denial which followed, whether they themselves will have the decency to offer up reparations. The easy ones of course are cash, Mt. Ararat and Ani. But I'm sorry, for me, that's not quite enough�

So what do I want exactly?

At this point the reparations need to be both realistic and fair (fair to us, and meaningful to Turkey). Having had this conversation with a lot of people, it seems to me, land has to change hands. We got royally screwed out of a massive homeland, which I've traveled across, and the loss is unimaginable. But, since there are now no Armenians left there, what lands are returned can be totally up for negotiations, and how much land is obviously up for negotiations. So yes, back to what most people seem to agree on. Armenians need to be given a land corridor to the sea. A port. Let it no longer be landlocked. So basically, we need the land leading to Hopa, and some coastline on either side of it.

Whatever land does change hands however, as part of the reparations, the current residents need to be given new homes in Turkey proper - a minority issue should not be created.

Aside from the lands I mentioned, they should also return the island of Akhtamar, and perhaps an enclave in Cilicia like Musa Dagh. And finally, in addition to all this, I think EVERY single Armenian monastery should be rebuilt by the Turkish government, exactly to what it was before the genocide, and a standardized monument placed where churches used to stand, as monuments to the people whose presence has otherwise been erased off the face of the earth.

So there you have it, I've listed all the minimum reparations I think are only fair.
- Mt. Ararat
- Ani
- Hopa
- Akhtamar
- Musa Dagh
- relocate current residents of the lands
- rebuilt monasteries/standardized church monuments
- and of course, cash. lots of cash to preserve much of the culture, pay the costs of Western Armenians to want to move back to the returned lands, and other similar needs."


Our friend Raffi here sounds more like a kid with free access to the cookie jar, giggling with joy as he takes what he pleases. And what is his basis for this proposal? His perception of Eastern Anatolia as being occupied/stolen Armenian land and the genocide card.

There is no desire for reconciliation, or being friends again with Turks. Only a desire to obtain a predetermined objective: as stated by the AYF, "free and united Armenia." A land only to be occupied by Armenians � oh no, they don't want to have a "minority" problem either!

This is the same Dashnak logic that drove them to massacre hundreds of thousands of Turks between the years 1914 to 1920 in the first place! It is a logic that will only lead to more war between the Armenians and Turks, because I think everyone pretty much knows that Turkey will not just give up land that has been predominantly Muslim for over a thousand years to foreign control.

As noted by another Armenian responding to Raffi:

"But all of this is unrealistic without a complete dissolution of the nowadays Republic of Turkey. Once the reparations and the land return is agreed upon, nothing will keep Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Ezidi Kurds from demanding their share of the pie for their portion of sufferings. And these may very well leave Turks with the only option of relocating themselves back to Altay, to their Eastern fraternal tribes."

Fortunately, not all Armenians are as selfish or benefit-driven. Consider the opinions of Armenian economist Aram Safaryan:

"Turkey should recognize the right of existence of Armenians who once lived in those territories. Those people should have the right to live in those territories with the condition of not seeking those territories�Those territories (Eastern Turkey) are not like we left behind. People have good dreams regarding those territories�However if they go there, they would return in 15 days. Yet a revolution would be done in Armenian mind, and the hostility era would be closed down. Thus we can protect our common history and what left behind this history."

While it is true that Armenians today would probably not want to live in the economical conditions of today's Eastern Turkey, I doubt that this would dissuade Armenians who claim those lands. After all, they could argue that with a piece for themselves and the massive aid that they would get from the West, that they could transform the region into a prosperous area, free of Turks.

Yet, the idea of facilitating a certain amount of reintegration may prove beneficial. On average, Turkish Armenians, as we know, are not as extreme as diaspora Armenians. And they definitely are not filled with hate, because they know the true character of the Turkish people. Programs for summer camps, conferences and activities to build dialogue could help the two communities to better understand each other, and at least put an end to the cycle of hatred. The Turkish Government could provide Turkish citizenship to those Armenians whose family was relocated out of Anatolia in 1915-1917. Returning Armenians could be permitted on condition that they accepted equal status with Turks as Turkish citizens. Not as a privileged minority with land claims.

Ultimately, the Armenian community will have to make a choice as to whether they want to continue the Dashnak tradition of conflict and war; or if they want to pursue a path that could truly lead to reconciliation. They need to decide what their goals truly are: achievement of a "Greater Armenia," or rebuilding the Anatolian Armenian community with amicable relations with Anatolian Turks.

Personally, I'd rather see actions made to build friendship, with no preconditions in regards to the historical conflict, and let the dialogue built up over time resolve the dispute. Perhaps then the Armenians would be able to recognize the crimes done by the Dashnaks, and Turks would stop defending the relocation decision as though it were something good. Perhaps then, victims from both sides could be jointly mourned and true reconciliation achieved.

Sevgi Zübeyde GÜRBÜZ



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