08 September 2007

1950) Robert Fisk And The Armenian Question

Robert Fisk is a renown English journalist, whose area of specialization is the Middle East in general, and the Palestinian question in particular. A while back, he was brought under the influence of the Armenians as a result of which he began writing on the Armenian question ever so often. At times he would do so without any occasional cause and would direct harsh criticisms against the Republic of Turkey which bears no responsibility for the relocation of the Armenians.

Robert Fisk wrote a long article entitled “The Forgotten Holocaust” published in The Independent on August the 28th. By way of setting forth his dialogue with Hayk Demoyan, director of the Museum of the Armenian Genocide, Fisk reiterated nearly all arguments advanced till this date in support of the Armenian genocide allegation. The task of disproving these arguments is not a difficult one.

Before turning to the two most striking issues to be found in this article, we would like to state that the Museum of the Armenian Genocide located in Yerevan is essentially dedicated to depicting how the Armenians were subjected to genocide at the hands of Turks. In this sense, it is primarily an abode of propaganda as opposed to scientific research.

Concerning Fisk’s article, the first issue which strikes one’s attention relates to the photographs handed over to Robert Fisk by Demoyan who stated that they came from the archives of the German Deutsche Bank which provided financing to support the Turkish railway system in 1915. One of these photographs reportedly displays dozens of Armenians stuffed into wagons just outside the city of Erzurum.

However, no evidence has been provided for in support of how those seen in this very picture (or the other pictures for that matter) are Armenians; nor is any proof provided for substantiating the claim that these pictures were taken in Erzurum or the surrounding area. In fact, according to Assoc. Prof. Suavi Aydın, it is not possible that the mentioned photograph could have been taken in Erzurum. At the time there was no railway reaching to Northern Syria (the area to which the Armenians were relocated) from Erzurum. There was a railway reaching to Kars (from Erzurum) however, it was not operational during the war.

It has been cited that a crescent and star appears on the wagons seen in these pictures. However, Prof. Zafer Toprak has stated that these crescent and stars do not correspond to those used during the Ottoman period but rather correspond to those used during the period of the Republic. As such it appears that the pictures in question were tampered with.

It should be made note of how this does not constitute the first such case of unauthenticated photographs having been set forth as constituting snapshots of the Armenian relocation. The best known case in this regard is the pictures Armin Wegner (of German nationality) supposedly taken by himself. According to general wisdom, these pictures were intended to be used as supporting evidence in the publications of protestant priest Johannes Lepsius endeavoring to depict that the Armenians were murdered. Cem Özgönül’s book Der Mythos Eines Völkermordes (The Myth of a Genocide) is highly recommended for those interested in gaining insight on Lepsius’s intentions and the errors as well as fraudulent alterations in his books.

Apart from the pictures discussed above, regarding Fisk’s recently published article, drawing an equal degree of attention is the claim that there exists an authentic copy of a cable sent by Talat Pasha to his prefect in Aleppo ordering the destruction of all Armenians living in Turkey.

For the Armenian relocation of 1915-1916 to classify as genocide, it must be proved that the Armenians were murdered at the behest of the Ottoman Government. As an order issued by the government or any other official authority to this end could not be found, the Armenians have been forging documents ever since. The best-known example of such forgery is the book entitled The Memoirs of Naim Bey published in English and French by an Armenian, Aram Andonian. According to this book, Andonian meet an Ottoman officer by the name of Naim Bey who gave him the telegraphs -written in cipher alongside their decoded texts- sent by Talat Pasha to his prefect in Aleppo. The book provides for pictures of these coded documents and thus those who read it end up convinced that Talat Pasha truly did give such orders. As a matter of fact, Andonian’s book was, for 60 years, used as the main evidence of the Armenian genocide allegations. In 1982, the late Şinasi Oral and Süreyya Yücel working at the Directorate of Ottoman Archives, began searching for the documents mentioned in this book, but they were never found. However, they came across certain facts which depicted how these documents were fraudulent.

Ottoman documents begin with the letter “elif” ( the first letter of the Arabic alphabet), which is the shortened version of the “besmele” ( meaning “in the name of the merciful and benevolent God”). In the documents cited in Andonian’s book, the letter “elif” was not to be found. According to the Ottoman registry, the dates on the documents in question did not correspond to those dealing with Armenians. This was also the case concerning the registration numbers on these documents. Furthermore, the style of writing used in these documents did not coincide with the official Ottoman style of writing. In the coded documents three digit groups of numbers were used, however, the Ministry of Interior utilized 4 digit numbers. Also, the person who apparently received the orders during that time was not the prefect of Aleppo. In fact, it appears that there was not even an officer who went by the name of Naim Bey in Aleppo. These findings are to be found in the book entitled The Talat Pasha "Telegrams": Historical Fact or Armenian Fiction?, published by the Turkish Historical Association in 1983 (recommended to those interested in the Armenian Question which can be accessed via our Institute’s website by going to the ‘Books Out of Print’ section).

The book in question had a resounding effect among those circles advancing the genocide allegation. In the 1980’s several writers, Vahank Dadrian taking the lead, strived to defend Andonian’s book. However, one can not forever hide the truth. In the 1990’s references to Andonian’s book to support genocide allegations decreased and thereafter was essentially no longer referred to.

At present a telegram attributed to Talat Pasha has surfaced which we believe is also fake. However, if Demoyan insists that it is authentic, we believe it would become necessary that the said document is analyzed by a Turk, an Armenian and an agreed upon third party specialist and that the outcome is published.

Omer Engin LUTEM /
04 September 2007 ERAREN

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