Letter To Mr President Barack Obama about Armenian Genocide Claim
18 April 2015
Honorable Mr. President Obama,
I am a citizen of the Republic of Turkey and a genuine Turk.
I have a request from you.
Every year, on April 24th, just as it becomes the expectation of some lobbies, some politicians, I also wish you to declare the April 24th as the day to mourn “Armenian Genocide.”
Please do not let my request surprise you, because I am a Turk. I think, my wish has some justifiable reasons.
The first foundations of these truths have been established, almost 10 years ago. Upon seeing very weighty insults against the Turks, while surfing on the internet through some social platforms, I felt the urge to dig deep into the details of the 1915 phenomenon as an objective researcher, rather than assuming an ordinary general information. I started to research original materials mostly from the US and European archives, not just Turkish.
I came across very interesting documents. Just as interesting as their contents were, the fact that historians and decision makers were all pretending that these documents were inexistent also seemed interesting to me. Deepening my research , in due time, allowed me to notice that such documents were ignored intentionally.
Dear Mr. President Obama,
This is the reason why I write this letter today.
I come to realize today, that I was such a naive ideologist that I believed until now that the law stands above all and not the politicians or lobbyists - so much so that, I was believing that the “genocide” verdict could be given by properly assigned courts in accordance with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It appears that there is no concept as supremacy of the law – and lobbyists, politicians, parliamentarians, etc. can pass such a delicate verdict headlong. (Who knows, may be in the coming years, they will also adjudge divorce cases too.)
The current ongoing impression, has lead to radical changes in my way of evaluating cultural history of humanity and its civilization(?). The declaration of independence of 1776 and human and citizenship declaration of the 1789 which are the exemplary reflections of the 18th Century’s ‘Age of Reason appear not to be declarations which can be taken as example in our fastly globalizing age. It now appears that the cultures fitting the history of humanity can take different forms in application from country to country – from culture to culture... The rights bestowed on someone because he is “human”, as declared by the philosophy of illumination, seem to have been inexistent all along. It appears that they could be applicable only when they suit political or economic interests.
Otherwise, those in search of justification for the events of 1915 would not look for it in parliaments, congresses, et al to materialize their dreams (of land and decimation of more Turks). Otherwise, they would not still keep their dignity while hiding true facts like: the “American committee of Armenian and Syrian Relief” which was active in the years 1916-1918 carried out its activities with the permission of the Ottoman Empire; over 600,000 Ottoman Armenians remained alive; during the war years; over 580,000 Ottoman Armenians crossed into the Caucasus areas under the control of Russia and the Armenian Republic. They could also follow the clues with the documents of the Near East Relief and the League of Nations which continued their activities in the following years.
Dear Mr. President Obama,
Nowadays I am aware of the political reality. I am aware of the importance if gaining Armenia’s sympathy is in terms of politics, during the encirclement of Iran which was supplying most of China’s oil demands. If the Philippines was an oil producing country, Emilio Aguinaldo could be appreciated in the Philippines to this day.
Dear Mr. President Obama,
The “genocidal” efforts continuing in the Vatikan, the French and European Parliaments as well as the US Congress, is ruining all the winnings of the illumination gained in the fields of law and philosophy. The dilemma suffered by the legal terms under the pressure of lobbyists and politicians, hinders humankind’s comprehension of the politics of “self interest and exploitation”.
For this reason, I beg you Mr. President,
Please complete the phenomenon of 1915 as “genocide”, as is expected from you.
The European Parliament and the Vatican acted as expected from them and as it suits them.
This world is horrible enough for mankind, who sees itself as very valuable in terms of material and spiritual terms. Believe me please, it does not matter to make it worse…
With all due respect,
Statement by the President on Armenian Remembrance Day
For Immediate Release
April 23, 2015
This year we mark the centennial of the Meds Yeghern, the first mass atrocity of the 20th Century. Beginning in 1915, the Armenian people of the Ottoman Empire were deported, massacred, and marched to their deaths. Their culture and heritage in their ancient homeland were erased. Amid horrific violence that saw suffering on all sides, one and a half million Armenians perished.
As the horrors of 1915 unfolded, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. sounded the alarm inside the U.S. government and confronted Ottoman leaders. Because of efforts like his, the truth of the Meds Yeghern emerged and came to influence the later work of human rights champions like Raphael Lemkin, who helped bring about the first United Nations human rights treaty.
Against this backdrop of terrible carnage, the American and Armenian peoples came together in a bond of common humanity. Ordinary American citizens raised millions of dollars to support suffering Armenian children, and the U.S. Congress chartered the Near East Relief organization, a pioneer in the field of international humanitarian relief. Thousands of Armenian refugees began new lives in the United States, where they formed a strong and vibrant community and became pillars of American society. Rising to great distinction as businesspeople, doctors, scholars, artists, and athletes, they made immeasurable contributions to their new home.
This centennial is a solemn moment. It calls on us to reflect on the importance of historical remembrance, and the difficult but necessary work of reckoning with the past. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests. Peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past. We welcome the expression of views by Pope Francis, Turkish and Armenian historians, and the many others who have sought to shed light on this dark chapter of history.
On this solemn centennial, we stand with the Armenian people in remembering that which was lost. We pledge that those who suffered will not be forgotten. And we commit ourselves to learn from this painful legacy, so that future generations may not repeat it.
Dear Pope Francis, Namibia Was The 20th Century’S First Genocide
The pope was wrong when he called the Armenian massacre the first genocide of the last century
The Namib Desert, Namibia. The systematic extermination of around 80% of the Herero people and 50% of the Nama was the work of German soldiers and colonial administrators.
David Olusoga, 18 April 2015
It is now a week since Pope Francis described the slaughter of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians, by the forces of Ottoman Turkey during the First World War, as “the first genocide of the 20th century”. The responses to the pontiff’s statement have, for the most part, been predictable. On Sunday, there was a near instant explosion of hurt outrage in Turkey. By Monday, the Turkish envoy to the Vatican had been ordered to leave and by Tuesday the pope’s words had been denounced by the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
?Across the Armenian diaspora, in sprawling communities that stretch from Paris to Milwaukee, London to Montreal, and in Armenia itself, there was a surge of optimism and even gratitude that the leader of the Catholic faith had used the “G-word” to describe the mass slaughter of their ancestors.
In the US, a nation home to a vocal Armenian community over a million strong, there have been calls for Barack Obama to follow the pope’s example and formally classify what the Armenians call the “Great Evil” as a genocide. It has been noted he was willing to utter that word in 2008 when, as a senator, he was courting the votes of Armenian Americans.
However, when the media analysts at the Vatican scrutinise the social media traffic of the past seven days, their eyes might well be drawn away from Turkey and the Armenian diaspora towards a cluster of tweets, comments and Facebook posts that emanate from Africa. There, another debate raged last week. The pope’s description of the Armenian massacre as “the first genocide of the 20th century” was simply incorrect. That grim distinction belongs to the genocide that imperial Germany unleashed a decade earlier against the Herero and Nama, two ethnic groups who lived in the former colony of South West Africa, modern Namibia.
The Namibian genocide, 1904-1909, was not only the first of the 20th century; in so many ways, it also seemed to prefigure the later horrors of that troubled century. The systematic extermination of around 80% of the Herero people and 50% of the Nama was the work both of German soldiers and colonial administrators; banal, desk-bound killers. The most reliable figures estimate 90,000 people were killed.
In the case of the Herero, an official, written order – the extermination order – was issued by the German commander, explicitly condemning the entire people to annihilation. After military attempts to bring this about had been thwarted, the liquidation of the surviving Herero, along with the Nama people, was continued in concentration camps, a term that was used at the time for the archipelago of facilities the Germans built across Namibia. Some of the victims of the Namibian genocide were transported to those camps in cattle trucks and the bodies of some of the victims were subjected to pseudoscientific racial examinations and dissections.
All of this is now well known and widely accepted in Africa and even in Germany. In 2004, the German government apologised to the Herero and admitted that what Germany had done to their ancestors constituted a genocide. As the co-author of one of the more recent histories of the genocide, I am regularly invited to attend conferences and give lectures on the subject in Germany and the word is spreading. A decade ago, my co-author and I described what took place in Namibia between 1904 and 1909 as “Germany’s forgotten genocide”. That phrase is now past its sell-by date, everywhere, it seems, other than in the Vatican.
The question now is whether the pope’s statement was made in ignorance or if the Vatican was guilty of the sin of deliberate omission. In either case, this has been a bizarre and self-defeating episode. Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than anywhere else: 200 million Africans are followers of the faith. But awareness of history is also increasing in Africa and crimes such as the Namibian genocide can no longer be ignored, whether by accident or design.
David Olusoga is the co-author, with Casper Erichsen, of The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism
More Russian Archival Documents Revealed In A New Publication By Mehmet Perinçek
Archival documents are the basic sources in understanding historical events. In the case of 1915 Relocation of Armenians Russian Archives bear particular importance. As I wrote a couple of times on this blog, Dr. Mehmet Perinçek has studied long years in these archives and brought back 800 pages with him. A number of books based on these documents had already been published by Kaynak Yayinlari to date. A new title has been published recently: Ermeni Milliyetçiliginin Serüveni: Tasnaklardan ASALA’ya Yeni Belgelerle. It is about Armenian nationalism. The author says it is not possible to comprehend the Armenian Question without the knowledge of history of the Dashnaksutyun Party.
The authentic study contains some documents published for the first time in the world. There are also some visual materials published for the first time. In a sense, the history of Armenian nationalism is also a response to genocide allegations on the 100th Anniversary of the tragic events.
Some of the topics covered in the book are as follows:
• Grigor Artsruni and Racist-Conniving Origins of Armenian Nationalism
• Foundation of the Dashnaksutyun Party and its Activities in Turkey According to Russian Archival Documents (1890-1915)
• Armenians in Tsarist Intelligence Reports at the eve of WWI
• A confidential letter of Russian Minister of Home Affairs: The "Bloody Road" to 1915
• The Report of Tbilisi Gendarmerie in Command: Lawlessness and Lies of Armenians ...
• The Carnage and Plunder Policy of Armenian Chetes During WWI in the Proceedings of Russian Military Courts
• An Armenian Agent working for the Ottomans: Artur Aseyan
• Dashnaks and the Kurdish Question
• Nazi-Dashnak Collaboration During WWII
I haven't seen the book yet, but I know earlier works of Perinçek. More unknown archival documents have been revealed. Therefore, I think this is an important study. I wish Turkish authors and publishers gave priority to translations into English to share their findings with the world as well.
Kaynak Yayinlari had earlier published Çarlik Polis Raporlarinda Tasnaklar [Dashnaks in Tsarist Police Reports] in Turkish. The report (TsGAOR SSSR - now GARF in the new Russian Federation Archive) is dated 1908 and the appendices include Armenian documents such as Dashnaksutyun Party bylaw, program and the organization chart. The report stated that Dashnaks were aggressive, they hated other nations such as Turks and Russians and they were terrorists. It was also stated that they also took aim at Armenians who did not support them.
The ideals of Dashnaksutyun Party are nowadays kept alive by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation ARF. I understand Dashnaks, Hunchaks and other revolutionaries who wanted to found their own country on that piece of land, although they did not hold majority hundred years ago, because the Ottoman Empire was expected to fall any moment, they thought they had the support of the great powers, and in a similar case in Macedonia Serbs had been able to found a country although Muslims held the majority, perpetrating an ethnic cleansing. They just followed the suit. What they didn't take into account was if Balkans was an arm of the Turkish lands Eastern Anatolia was a part of the main body and the Turks had the tenacity to protect their main homeland whatever the cost would be, simply because they had no other place to go.
What I cannot understand is to pursue the ideals of 100 years ago, which they call "the cause" even today, still finding righteous an attempt to ethnic cleansing of 80 percent of the population who have been living there for thousand years, claiming that it is their historical homeland, ignoring the fact that it was a shared homeland.
Cemal Pasa asked in his Memoirs "Are Turks and Kurds are as worthless as flies in the eyes of the civilized world as well, as they were in the eyes of Morgenthau and Mandelstram and similar politicians?" Should we still ask this question today? If relocation were not realized the Allies would insist Greater Armenia is found in Eastern Anatolia. What would happen to 80 percent of the population then? Should four million or one million be resettled? Those who do not care about for more than four million should look for genocide in their own minds, not in the decisions of the Ottoman government.
For the first time visitors of this blog, I will repeat that Morgenthau was surprised to hear about Armenians happily settled in southern cities and towns of the Empire, started their businesses or got a job. While the losses among relocated Armenians was 20 percent, it was more than 40 percent among Muslims who fled home from Eastern Anatolia in fear of the slaughters perpetrated by Armenian guerillas (chetes) with the aim of changing the ratio of population, ei exercising an ethnic cleansing.
Perinçek, Mehmet. (Mart 2015). Ermeni Milliyetçiliginin Serüveni: Tasnaklardan ASALA’ya Yeni Belgelerle [Escapades of Armenian Nationalism: From Dashnaks to ASALA with new documents]. Istanbul: Kaynak Yayinlari.
Çarlik Polis Raporlarinda Tasnaklar [Dashnaks in Tsarist Police Reports].(2007). Istanbul: Kaynak Yayinlari.
Cemal Pasa and Kabacali, Alpay (ed). (2001, 5th ed. 2010). Hatiralar: Ittihat ve Terakki, I. Dünya Savasi Anilari , [Memoirs: Memories of Union and Progress and WWI]. Istanbul: Türkiye Is Bankasi Yayinlari.
Armenia Needs To Do More To Improve Ties With Turkey, Academics Say
22 April 2015, LONDON
Two historians have called on Armenia to help normalize relations with Turkey as the 100th anniversary of the 1915 events approach.
Maxime Gauin, a PhD student at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University and a researcher at the Center for Eurasian Studies, said Turkey had made every effort to improve ties with its eastern neighbor.
“Now it is up to the Armenian government,” the French historian added.
Patrick Walsh, a research fellow at University College Dublin’s School of History and Archives, called for both sides to commemorate all Ottoman victims – whether Muslim Turks or Armenian Christians – as casualties of a “great tragedy.”
Both academics spoke to the Anadolu Agency in the run-up to the April 24 centenary of the deaths of Armenians following a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
In Gauin’s opinion, Armenian calls for the killings to be recognized as ‘genocide’ – a claim Turkey has always refuted – have been motivated by modern considerations.
“[Armenian President] Serzh Sargsyan always made clear that he wants territory,” Gauin said, referring to Armenian claims to parts of eastern Turkey.
Walsh described the events of 1915 as a tragedy for both parties. “If the event is concentrated in the word ‘genocide,’ whether it is right or not, there will never be a resolution to this,” he told AA.
Referring to the collaboration of some Armenian nationalists with Russia and the Allies during World War I, Walsh claimed they had “taken a gamble” that did not pay off.
“They were betrayed,” he said. “The Armenians were only a useful tool for these people [the Allies]. Armenian revolutionaries took their own risks.”
Walsh claimed British foreign policy also played a role in the events of 1915 through its search for an eastern ally to confront Germany.
He said the Anglo-Russian Entente of 1907 gave the Russian Tsar the “green light to move forwards.” Britain had earlier acted on a check on Russian ambitions beyond its southern borders.
Focusing on the practical problems facing those seeking to research the 1915 events, Gauin said access to Armenian documents was restricted.
“Each time I asked for the Armenian archives… they invented a pretext or said it was not possible or they did not answer at all,” he claimed. “Turkish archives can be obtained with no problem.”
Walsh said Armenian archives are “not open as the Ottoman archives,” adding that most current research had been based on British historical sources.
Following the Russian invasion of Ottoman territory and the defection of some Armenian Ottoman troops to the Tsarist army, the Ottoman government ordered the relocation of some of the Armenian population.
War-time conditions, famine, epidemics, civil war and retribution by local groups led to the deaths of Armenians. Some historical documents demonstrate the Ottoman authorities did not intend for these tragedies to take place and punished offenders.
Following Russia’s exit from World War I following the 1917 revolution, Armenian militias terrorized parts of eastern Anatolia before the present day border was established by the Treaty of Kars in 1921.
Armenia and the Armenian diaspora have demanded an apology and compensation for the 1915 incidents and lobbied for the killings to be identified as genocide.
The Turkish government has repeatedly proposed creating a joint commission to tackle the issue by using all available archives.
The most significant development in normalizing Turkish-Armenian relations came in 2009 with two protocols proposing an impartial examination of the historical record and the mutual recognition of borders. However, Armenia’s constitutional court ruled the protocols breached a constitutional clause declaring the country “stands in support of the task of achieving international recognition of the 1915 Genocide."
Five years later, the protocols were withdrawn from the Armenian parliament.
In 2014, then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences to the relatives of all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives during in 1915, including Armenians.
In a statement released on Monday, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu repeated the message and announced a ceremony to be held on April 24 at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul – the first official ceremony of its kind to be held in Turkey.
A Turkish Armenian Explains: What Really Happened?
(Translated into English by Kai Malura.)
We; four Armenian friends, were enjoying our nargile’s (water pipes) the other night in Galatasaray. After a while we started talking about the famous subject. I realized that my friends were as troubled by the subject as I was: “How can we make our voices heard in the world as Turkish citizens with Armenian roots?”
None of us was a famous artist, or a politician so that we could be interviewed. None of us was a journalist so we could write our thoughts in our little corner in a newspaper.
We are really fed up. Everyone talks about this subject on behalf of us without knowing much about it. On one side people say: “There is an Armenian genocide”. On the other side we have the ones who say: “ There wasn’t a genocide.” Then we have the third group who says “Lets leave the subject to historians.”
I look at the pro-genocide group and I either see the Diaspora Armenians filled with hatred or politicians who think of personal benefits. The one’s who are against genocide do not have a clear idea why they are against it. And the historians? What will they clarify for God’s sake! Which genocide has documents? And even if there is a document there will be another one soon that denies it. And the debate goes on forever. Only we and people like us know the truth. No one else. We are the ones who have listened to the incidents first hand.
We are the Turkish Armenians.
The Turkish Armenians are different than the Diaspora Armenians. Because we are the grandchildren of the ones who either were not deported or who came back after the deportation. We did not listen to one sided stories. The Diaspora listens only to the stories of death. They have never returned and they have not seen the troubled, embarrassed faces of their neighbors. They blame all the Turks for the killings. They label the events as genocide.
The Turkish Armenians have had access to all the diverse stories.
For example my grandfather told me that he gave a good amount of gold to a sergeant to save his brother. Neither the gold nor the brother returned.
My grandmother was telling how the Armenian youngsters were armed to fight against the Ottomans and how the foreigners brought them uniforms.
My grandfather also told me in tears the Ottoman commander’s efforts to save his family. Because of that commander no one from his family was deported. We listened to stories of massacre as well as Turks who lay themselves in front of the soldiers’ feet to save their neighbors. We also listened to stories of Turks who have embraced their neighbors when they returned. That is why I say: Ask us! No one can be more objective than us.
This thing is a long and a short story.
In short: Part of our people did collaborate with imperialists. The Ottoman Empire decided for deportation. And the deportation was hard because of the conditions of the time. People were massacred and some people also died because of illness and famine. The massacres were not done in an organized manner by the Ottomans. These killings were done by the eskiya (bandits) to steal money and goods. It is debatable whether the Ottoman soldiers who were fighting in other frontiers could pevent these attacks. Plus the Armenians in the Western part have neither been deported nor massacred. That is why you can not label this as a genocide. You can call it many other things but not a genocide. And the number of 1.5 million Armenians is the number that includes the lost Armenians. Anatolia is full of Armenians who became Muslims. These people --even though they were given the possibility- did not chose to return to their religion. And because they hid their past, they were counted as lost.
This is the short version.
We also have longer stories if necessary.
We are the best historians in this matter.
And concerning the French: Let them have their cheese with mold.
Istanbul, 6 October 2006
The link for this article
(Mr. Sevan has died. We got this article from his daughter’s Facebook page that is open to the public. We asked for permission to make her name public. Because we have not yet received an approval we will not include her name- Türkiye.Net)
Dikran Kevorkian: Let the Pope Mind His Own Business
(Translated from Turkish into English)
REACTION OF ARMENIAN ARTISTS - AS IF TEACHING
Leading artists of the Armenian Community, world famous photographer Ara Guler, lute player Yervant Bostanci and musician Garo Mafyan, criticized the Armenian diaspora and said “Turkey is the fatherland of all of us jointly”.
While controversies on decision taken by some western country parliaments about the centennial anniversary of the alleged Armenian genocide is escalating, we have a call for “sharing our joint destiny” from Turkish citizen Armenian artists.
Ara Guler, Yervant Bostanci and Garo Mafyan said, stood against “the seeds of animosity”, and added “Turkey is the fatherland of all of us.”
Ara Guler, a press photographer, said that it will be useful to forget past happenings. The world reputed photographer said that in the 21st century people should not hurt each other and added “people should love, understand and respect each other. Seeds of animosity are not something good and it never were”.
Turks and Armenians is a united body
Guler said that Armenians and Turks are old ethnicities completing each other.”Our name altogether is the Republic of Turkey. Those who live in this country are Turks irrespective of their origins or roots”.
Regarding the proposal of Turkey that the 1915 incidents should be researched by historians Guler said “free historians have to write the true history because they cannot step outside truth”
We should dress pains together
Yervant Bostanci (oude – lute player) said that he lived in Los Angeles for 21 years and he returned to Diyarbakir his home town 2 years ago and settled; he added that “I voiced all my songs in Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish throughout his life being the sound of these lands”.
Bostanci said he is conveying his feelings to the peoples who lived for centuries in these old lands next to each other as good neighbors and are sorrowed or rejoiced together and he can make his voice heard to the people who love him, in their own languages.
Bostanci said that throughout his life as an artist he always tried for togetherness instead of separation and that he never differentiated people because of their ethnicity, language and religions and he acted like an artist should do for the friendship of people.
Bostanci underlined that some incidents happened in the past history and we cannot act as if nothing happened and said, “We had neighbors of all faiths and races. I had Turkish friends I loved more than my own and I still have. But we have to heal and dress all these events and pains together”.
We breathe the same air
Bostanci said that the diaspora and Turkish Armenians are of different behaviors and added: “What others say from the outside, does not concern me. As the Turkish Republic, we have to please our sentiments. We cannot solve this with those on the outside. Mehmet, Ayse, Krikor, Hagop, Turkish, Armenian or Kurdish we breathe the same air. We share the same destiny. We have sincere friendliness that goes back to centuries. We cried together, we fought together and we shared our bread together”.
Pope’s words relates to himself
Bostanci said that in order to settle this situation between the two countries, everyone who can read and write should be more sensitive and give messages of uniting the crowd.
Musician composer Garo Mafyan, emphasized the co shared lives on these soils. Mafyan said that the 1915 incidents should be investigated by historians and added, “Researching history is not my profession or any one’s.” In reference to Pope Franciscus’ words that the “first genocide of the 20th century has been done to Armenians” Mafyan said: “The Pope is the leader of Catholics; he is not the head of the Christian world. Everyone can say something, and what Pope said concerns his own.”
Istanbul, April 22, 2015
Why Turkey’s View Of The Armenian Issue Should Not Be Suppressed
by Özdem Sanberk
When a Turk is writing about the Armenian problem from a Turkish point of view, he is conscious that he will probably not be heard by the rest of the world. Countries such as Germany have now decided to reject Turkey’s side of the story and support the “genocide” thesis, i.e. the argument that the terrible events (and no one disputes that they were terrible) which saw the end of the Armenian settlement in Eastern Turkey were pre-planned murder.
I also want to make it clear that I admire the Armenian historical, cultural and artistic contribution to the world and to Turkey and am grateful for it. I welcome very strongly the recent decision of the Turkish government to express its condolences for all the innocent victims who suffered in World War I and even earlier. I wish it had come earlier. The breakup of the Ottoman Empire was a terrible event, one whose painful reverberations we still feel today and which caused all sides to suffer grievously.
However, I am seriously alarmed at the support in the “crusade” (what else is it?) against Turkey and what it has become in recent days. It implies contempt and ignorance of the Turkish people. The decision by Western governments to do this should not be taken lightly or out of naïve distaste for what some Turks say or do. It is a fateful step which is bound to push Turkey further away from the Western world and perhaps closer to those who have no love for the West.
But that, by itself, would not be enough to condemn the political decisions taken to try and impose one partisan version of history on a nation of 76 million people who have their own memories and experiences.
The first question must be why is the Western world so eager to act on a basis of partial or even fake evidence and pass legislation which could mean that people who say forgeries are forgeries could face prosecution and punishment in countries like Switzerland, France, and Germany? Or, if that does not happen, at least suffer the insulting label of “Holocaust-denier.”
This is partly because the only consensus among Turkey’s critics seems to be that anything Turkish opponents of Armenians say – and Armenians, like everyone else, have their own variations of opinions, ideas, and attitudes - anything Armenian must be correct. Any statement by Turks in conflict with this must be false.
In the countries that pass laws criminalizing the denial of an Armenian genocide, anyone denouncing or trying to disprove this grotesque set of claims could face prosecution.
Why is this happening? Well, one reason is that many people, inside of Turkey as well as out, do not know their Ottoman history and thus, accept a fictionalized, selective anti-Turkish nationalist version as if it were the whole truth, regardless of what it omits or ignores.
Excellent academic work on late Ottoman Turkey and its internal stresses and conflicts has been done by scholars such as Heath Lowry, Justin McCarthy (practically the only reliable scholar on Ottoman population studies), Jeremy Salt and others. These men are scholars, not polemicists – but they are subjected in some places to strange academic embargos and are sometimes victims of vilification.
What is more, this onslaught against Turkey completely ignores the work of these scholars. This spring, the Oxford University Press (OUP), one of the world’s most famous academic publishing houses, published a vast book in support of the Armenian claims against Turkey, written by a Turkish American scholar. Presumably, the OUP had the book read by academic referees. So why does this book completely ignore (apart from one mention of Heath Lowry on a different topic) the work of all these renowned scholars? They are not even mentioned in the bibliography. Is there any other academic field in which the OUP would permit this kind of selectivity?
It is also impossible to discuss the weak points of the onslaught against Turkey in major Western periodicals. Their editors simply dismiss with scorn or condescension anything that does not fit in with their preconceived (but non-specialist) notions; hence, scholars making such points in Britain or America are, in effect, suppressed.
Some people might ask how much this whole controversy matters. Even though it has been politicized, the Armenian question is really only a minor item on the international political agenda, which is why some politicians are willing to agree to what ethnic lobbies ask of them.
But this isn’t the case. The ultra-nationalist, anti-Turkish movements unleashed at the end of the Ottoman Empire are still at work in the world and still doing serious damage to the international order. The Armenian dispute was not always what it appears to be today. Until the 1970s, there was close friendship and a wide overlap between Turkish and most Armenian communities in the rest of the world. That sense of shared community and friendship has been one of the casualties in the campaign against Turkey, a bloody campaign which, by the way, cost the lives of more than 40 Turkish diplomats and family members after 1974.
These latest onslaughts on Turkey, all of which depend on non-Turkish claims of cognitive and moral superiority over the Turkish people and the right to condemn them, threaten to open even deeper rifts between our country and the West, just when we need to stand together.
* Özdem Sanberk is a (Ret.) Ambassador, President of USAK.
Some Facts and Thoughts Regarding the European Parliament’s Resolution on Armenian Genocide Claims
by Dr. Onur Öymen
Turks and Armenians lived together in peace and harmony throughout many centuries. Quite a number of Armenians had important positions in Ottoman administrations. For example, at the end of 19th and at the beginning of 20th centuries, for 28 years the Ministers in charge of the personal budget of the Sultan were Armenians. An Ottoman Foreign Minister was Armenian. There were Armenian members of Parliament, ambassadors and high-level officers.
During the First World War, responding to an appeal by Tsar Nikola II, a great number of Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin joined the Russian forces invading Eastern parts of Turkey.
These Armenians, and local Armenian armed groups attacked not only supply roads and storage facilities of the Turkish forces, but Turkish towns and villages as well, killing a great number of civilians including women and children.
In 1915 Ottoman government, upon the demand of Commanders of the Turkish forces on the Eastern Front, decided to move Armenians living in combat zones to safe places of the Empire. This deportation had started after armed Armenian groups took over control of the city of Van.
A great number of Turks and Armenians had lost their lives during this period as a result of mutual killings and illnesses. There are various estimations of Armenian casualties. French writer Pierre Loti, in his letter to the French Foreign Minister, asserted that Armenian claims are grossly exaggerated.
French journalist and writer Jean Schlicklin in his book Angora published in 1922, reports that by the end of 1919, one hundred Turkish villages were burned and their inhabitants massacred by Armenians.
According to the official records of the Turkish authorities, around half a million Turks lost their lives in this period in the areas of confrontation.
During the First World War, these confrontations have been presented as Turkish atrocities by allied propaganda agencies, most particularly by the British Propaganda Ministry, Wellington House, practically without any reference to Turkish victims. These wartime propaganda materials are still in use to justify Armenian claims of genocide.
Ovanes Katchaznouni, the first Prime Minister of Armenia and the Chairman of the Dashnak Party, in a speech delivered in April 1923 at the Congress of the Party in Bucharest, blamed not the Turks, but his own party for wrongdoings during this period.
The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 sets forth the definition of genocide and specifies the legal authorities qualified to determine which acts could be construed as genocide. Nobody and no institution is authorized to decide which event could be qualified as genocide except those mentioned in the Convention. Therefore, the Armenian claims cannot be justified by the stipulations of this Convention and have not been accepted by a large part of the States or relevant legal authorities.
British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Meta Ramsey of Cartvale addressing the House of Lords on 14 April 1999 said, “… in the absence of unequivocal evidence to show that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision and action to eliminate the Armenians under their control at the time, British governments have not recognized the events of 1915 and 1916 as “genocide”.
Sixty nine American historians, including Professors. Bernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy, Stanford Shaw and Dankward Rustov published a statement in The New York Times and Washington Post on May 19, 1985, arguing that “…much more remains to be discovered before historians will be able to sort out precisely responsibility between warring and innocent and to identify the causes for the events which resulted in the death or removal of large numbers of the eastern Anatolian population, Christian and Muslim alike.”
On December 17, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland violated the right to freedom of speech by convicting Dogu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers Party, for having publicly denied the existence of any genocide against the Armenian people. The Court pointed out that a consensus was difficult to establish in relation to matters which cannot be historically ascertained with absolute certainty, especially in view of the fact that genocide is a very specific and narrowly defined legal concept requiring a high threshold of proof.
It is often suggested to Turks to face their history. As a matter of fact, all countries should do that and I believe that in the end, Turks would probably not be among those who are most ashamed of their past.
Dr. Onur Öymen is retired Ambassador, former Undersecretary of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, former M.P. and former Deputy Chairman of Republican People’s Party
The Turkish-Speaking Armenians Who Never Visited Turkey
26 March 2015
Lives and languages entwine as AA traces the Avagyan family’s journey from Anatolia via Greece and Lebanon to Armenia.
Many assume history between Turks and Armenians is black-and-white, but the story of one family in Yerevan reveals that lives and language in this part of the world can be intertwined.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink -- assassinated by a Turkish teenager in 2007 -- once described Turkey and Armenia as: "Two close nations, two distant neighbors."
One such "distant neighbor" is Hovhannes Avagyan. Born in Athens in 1920, this was the same year that the multiethnic Ottoman Empire was collapsing and Armenia become part of the Soviet Union.
Now living in Armenia, Hovhannes has never been to Turkey but his family, including his two granddaughters, speaks fluent Turkish.
The Avagyans’ story begins as Anatolian Armenians during the Ottoman era even before Hovhannes was born. His grandfather was from Ankara and his grandmother was from Turkey’s western province of Afyon.
His grandfather, Agop, was in the Ottoman army as a baker during the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Campaign in 1915.
Meanwhile Agop’s sons -- Melkon, 12, and Rupen, 14 -- lived in Ankara until the family was split up after they lost their mother to illness.
During the turmoil of WWI, the two brothers stayed in Istanbul for a time and then sheltered in a U.S.-funded orphanage in Greece.
When Hovhannes’ grandfather was discharged from the Ottoman army, Agop started to look for his children and found them by sending letters to churches and orphanages.
Agop eventually found them in Athens working as shoeshine boys.
By the time they met again Melkon was 17 and Ruben was 19. The re-united family started to live in a tent city in Athens with thousands of other ethnic Armenians.
Ruben married an Armenian girl from Turkey’s Aegean province of Usak and eventually moved to France.
Melkon also met his future partner in the form of an Armenian girl who was staying in another tent city in the Greek city of Thessaloniki and was in Athens for a visit.
When the family bought a small piece of land from a wealthy Armenian family in Athens, Hovhannes’s parents and grandfather built a simple house made of adobe brick.
They lived together in Athens, working in their own grocery store and bakery, until 1945 when an official from the Soviet Union came to talk about moving to Armenia.
At the beginning they did not want to go. The Avagyans’ eschewed the first two ships which carried away thousands of hopeful Armenian immigrants seeking a new life in their ancestral homeland.
But eventually the number of Armenians in Athens decreased so much that the Avagyans found themselves running out of customers.
The loss of their regular customers hit the business hard because some local Greeks refused to shop at an Armenian store.
"As it [our name] was written on the shop sign -- Agop Avagyan -- local Greeks did not deal with us Armenians," says Hovhannes, sitting in his Yerevan home.
In the end this led them to board a ship with around 2,700 passengers in 1947. Including the Avagyan family, this third group passed through Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait en route to a new life and an uncertain future in Armenia.
Hovhannes recalls that time: "Armenians living in Istanbul were waving white sheets to salute them."
The family arrived in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, where they still live today; Hovhannes’ father re-established his bakery while Hovhannes worked as a bus driver.
Looking at his wife Hovhannes recalls living under communism: "I can speak with you openly now but under Stalin’s rule I would not even speak freely with my wife."
Hovhannes married Pertshuhi Krepekyan -- now 83 -- in 1955.
Pertshuhi, who also speaks Turkish and whose parents were from Turkey’s southern province of Adana, came to Armenia via Lebanon.
Coming "home" was not the happy ending the Avagyan family had dreamed of: “My father always wanted to see where he was born," Hovhannes says, musing.
"But it was Soviet times and it was very difficult."
They kept speaking Turkish at home. That is why even today both Hovhannes and Pertshuhi speak fluent Turkish with an Anatolian accent.
Their first years in Armenia were not easy; they were the newcomers and they were called "ahpar" which means literally "brother" which Hovhannes’ Yerevan-born granddaughter Pertshuhi Avagyan, 24, says had a "marginalizing" meaning.
Coming from Anatolia meant a different cuisine as well as culture.
"Even eating olives was strange for the locals as they did not have it here in Armenia," says granddaughter Pertshuhi, who is a linguist and translator.
Hovhannes still misses traditional tahini halva, a dessert which is quite common in western Anatolia and Greece.
Although he and his family have never lived in Turkey, their granddaughters learned how to speak Turkish just by listening to her grandparents and watching Turkish TV.
"I was watching Turkish TV programs and cartoons since I do not even remember, maybe from when I was six years old," Pertshuhi says.
Pertshuhi -- named after her Lebanon-born grandmother -- says: "It is very difficult to comment about Turkish people without going there even once but I can say this; the people there are very warm and hospitable, just like Armenians."
Pertshuhi hopes to live together with Turks and peacefully with "doors open," a reference to the Turkish-Armenian border, which has been closed since 1993.
It is true that no member of the Avagyan family lived in Turkey at any time. But from their way of speaking to their cuisine and Hovhannes’ attitude to his granddaughter -- disapproving when she was a little late home that night -- they are Anatolian.
As Hovhannes puts it: "We are from Turkey, I never forgot this."
H.Res.226 - Calling on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations for the next 100 years based upon the two countries' common interests and the United States' significant security interests in the region.114th Congress (2015-2016)
Sponsor: Rep. Sessions, Pete [R-TX-32] (Introduced 04/28/2015)
Committees: House - Foreign Affairs
Latest Action: 04/28/2015 Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Calling on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations for the next 100 years based upon the two countries’ common interests and the United States’ significant security interests in the region.
Whereas the Obama Administration has, since early 2009, sought to improve Armenian-Turkish relations; and
Whereas at the start of this process, President Barack Obama had, on April 6, 2009, voiced the United States Government's expectation that the Armenia-Turkey dialogue would “bear fruit very quickly”, but recent attempts to reestablish diplomatic relations have been unsuccessful: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives calls on the President to work toward equitable, constructive, stable, and durable Armenian-Turkish relations for the next 100 years, based upon the two countries’ common interests and the United States’ significant security interests in the region.
Kindly provided by Okan Duru