Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Eurasia Daily Monitor
By Fariz Ismailzade

Recent statements by Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian at the Armenian National Assembly have raised hopes in Azerbaijan that a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict is near. Specifically, Oskanian said, “We will discuss the return of all territories after the agreement on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh is reached.” The key word in this sentence is “all.”

Until now, the barrier to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict has been the unwillingness of the Armenian side to return all occupied regions outside of Karabakh. Official Yerevan has long insisted that only five out of seven regions would be returned, and Kalbajar and Lachin would be kept until the final resolution of the conflict. Both of these districts have special importance from a geostrategic perspective, as Kalbajar, with its high mountains, forms a natural defense system for Karabakh and Lachin provides a land corridor between Armenia and Karabakh. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan has insisted on the liberation of all territories, with the possibility of providing joint usage to the Lachin corridor.

Oskanian’s statement indicates a possible change of attitude inside the Armenian political establishment and a small hope for the resolution of the conflict. Both sides are aware that the year of 2006, considered by local observers and international community as a “window of opportunity” due to the absence of elections in both countries, is rapidly coming to an end. The independent daily Zerkalo in Baku has even speculated that the Armenian authorities have started to lay the foundations for explaining the terms of the settlement to the Armenian public, as the “tone of Oskanian was more that of calming the members of Parliament.” Zerkalo compared this act by the high-level government official with the attempt by former Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosian to sell a “step-by-step” proposal to the Armenian public.

Prior to Oskanian’s statement, he met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Paris on October 24 to discuss “additional elements of the basis of settlement” suggested by the OSCE’s Minsk group co-chairs: Russia, the United States, and France. Mammadyarov also visited Moscow several weeks ago to separately discuss the settlement package with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Many in Azerbaijan believe that Moscow, Armenia’s closest military and political ally, holds the key to resolving the Karabakh conflict.

Both foreign ministers have agreed to further negotiate the offers by the international community in Brussels on November 14. They are using the current break in the talks to discuss these new proposals with their respective presidents and other domestic actors. Neither Oskanian nor Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov have ruled out a meeting between Armenian President Robert Kocharian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in late 2006, after the November meeting of the foreign ministers and the co-chairs’ subsequent visit to the region. Taken together, these statements are positive signs, as they indicate that the positions of the two sides are slowly approaching each other, rather than widening the long-standing gap.

Commenting on the statements by Oskanian, Tahir Tagizadeh, head of the Information and Press Department of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, said that Azerbaijan considers these statements to be very positive. “The liberation of the occupied territories and the return of the [internally displaced persons] to their homes is an unavoidable fact for the Armenian side.”

Still, many analysts in Baku doubt that the recent positive statements by both sides will end up with the final settlement of the conflict. Indeed, the underlying problem is not the dispute over the return of the occupied territories, which many assume would be returned anyway, but rather the final status of Karabakh itself. The idea of a referendum as a means to resolve the “status” problem seems vague, and it is not clear if both communities would participate in it with equal power to vote no. Should the referendum idea be coupled with the agreement to give the majority ethnic group (Armenians) more power over the minority ethnic group (Azeris), it will be extremely difficult for the Azerbaijani president to accept this decision.

As the next two years will be consumed by elections in both countries, it will be almost impossible for both presidents, having internal threats from both the opposition and from within the ruling elite, to agree on the painful concessions. Thus, despite the high optimism generated by the recent rapprochement of the positions of two sides, the picture remains bleak for the next several years.

(Trend News Agency, Sherg, ANS TV, Zerkalo, Echo, October 25-27, 2006)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.



Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Eurasia Daily Monitor
By Emil Danielyan

Vartan Oskanian, a former U.S. citizen who has served as Armenia’s foreign minister since 1998, is increasingly signaling his intention to contest the presidential election of 2008. There is mounting speculation in Yerevan that it is he, rather than the powerful Defense Minister Serge Sarkisian, who is President Robert Kocharian’s preferred successor. Sarkisian’s allies exposed their unease over Oskanian’s possible presidential ambitions by attacking him in parliament last week.

In recent months Oskanian has repeatedly and pointedly declined to rule out his participation in the presidential ballot, which would hardly sit well with either Sarkisian or Armenian opposition leaders. The suave 51-year-old minister, who rarely commented on domestic politics until recently, is now taking every opportunity to publicly deplore chronic vote rigging, government corruption, and mismanagement.

Oskanian first dropped a hint about his presidential run at a news conference last July, calling for urgent “second-generation reforms” in Armenia that he said would “hit the economic and political interests of the [ruling] elite.” He said he is ready to help implement such reforms and warned against a repeat of the serious fraud that has marred almost every election held in the country since the Soviet collapse in 1991. These remarks followed media reports that Kocharian might be grooming him for the presidency.

That Kocharian, who is expected to quit after completing his second five-year term in office in 2008, would like to hand over power to his longtime defense minister and most powerful lieutenant has long seemed a given. However, there are growing indications that the Armenian leader is keen to counterweight the influence of Sarkisian and his governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). The HHK is still considered the favorite to win next spring’s Armenian parliamentary elections by again making the most of its grip on many government bodies, its vast financial resources, and Sarkisian’s clout.

Oskanian underscored his increasingly outspoken stance in an extensive interview with the Haykakan Zhamanak daily published on October 19. He sought to distance himself from the Armenian government, citing an “abyss” separating it from the people and stressing the fact that he has not attended 80% of cabinet sessions due to his frequent trips abroad. Furthermore, he implied that only a new government equipped with a “right agenda” could meet key challenges facing the country. One of those challenges, in his words, is the proper conduct of the next parliamentary and presidential elections.

“Everyone must realize that we simply have no more room for holding bad elections because this time the damage to our people would be not only moral but also material,” he said before issuing what appeared to be a thinly veiled warning to the HHK: “If there are violations and if there are [negative] consequences as a result, it will be obvious who those people are and they must be really held answerable before the people.”

The government’s response was not late in coming. A young HHK lawmaker, whose main job is to publicly pour scorn on the party’s detractors, accused Oskanian on the parliament floor on October 25 of “forgetting his main functions and external challenges facing the country.” “He is unhappy with the government’s policies but remains in office,” said Armen Ashotian. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, the nominal head of the HHK, added that Oskanian should not be surprised by such attacks.

Oskanian, meanwhile, only added to talk of his presidential designs by stating in the Haykakan Zhamanak interview that he will resign as foreign minister in 2008 in any case. He claimed that he still has not decided to run for president. Whether he would stand a good chance of winning the presidential election is a separate matter.

Born and raised in Syria, Oskanian was still a Syrian national of Armenian descent when he graduated from Yerevan Polytechnic Institute in 1979 before moving to the United States to study international relations at Harvard and two other top universities. He returned to Armenia in 1992 to work, as an American citizen, at the former Soviet republic’s newly established Foreign Ministry. Oskanian surrendered his U.S. passport to obtain Armenian citizenship when Kocharian appointed him as foreign minister shortly after coming to power in early 1998. He has since been largely unaffected by the dramatic political battles in Yerevan, carrying out Kocharian’s “complementary” foreign policy and representing Armenia in peace talks with Azerbaijan.

Oskanian’s knowledge of international affairs has earned him the kind of respectability in the West that few other Armenian politicians can boast. Also, unlike most other members of the ruling regime, he has not been implicated in corruption scandals. His main weakness is a lack of a power base and the fact that, in many ways, he is still an outsider in the Armenian political scene.

Yet assuming that Kocharian is encouraging his presidential bid, Oskanian can count on the backing of a new but extremely ambitious party led by Gagik Tsarukian, the country’s top “oligarch” close to the Armenian president. The party, Prosperous Armenia, is already busy preparing for the parliamentary polls, having embarked on a massive distribution of agricultural aid to impoverished farmers across the country. The unprecedented campaign, heavily advertised by Tsarukian-controlled TV channels, has already prompted serious concern by the Republican and other mainstream political groups.

Some local observers have speculated that Prosperous Armenia’s most likely presidential candidate is none other than Oskanian. The latter has also been linked with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, an influential member of the ruling coalition that has already indicated that it will not endorse Sarkisian for the presidency.

(Aravot, October 26; Hayk, October 25; Haykakan Zhamanak, October 19; RFE/RL Armenia Report, July 14)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


This was genocide, but Armenians were not its only victims

Tuesday October 31, 2006
The Guardian
Thea Halo

Forgetting the Christians who were slaughtered is nearly as bad as denying it happened

Timothy Garton Ash mockingly suggests bills to criminalise the denial of genocides committed by other countries, including France (This is the moment for Europe to dismantle taboos, not erect them, October 19). And he's right. Let's mention the absurdity of enforcing the bill except against the powerless. Would France jail the prime minister of Turkey?

But the double standard Garton Ash mentions should include the mind-boggling omissions by the Armenian drafters of the bill, who make no mention of the co-victims of the Armenian genocide: the Pontic Greeks, who lost 353,000 out of their population of 700,000 in Turkey; and the Assyrians, who lost three-quarters of their population - some put the figure at 750,000.

There is also the matter of the other Asia Minor Greeks. At the Lausanne conference in 1923, Lord Curzon stated that 1 million Greeks had been slaughtered and 1 million more were exiled. These genocides took place at the same time and place as that of the Armenians: in Turkey between 1914 and 1923. The genocide was of the Christians of Ottoman and Kemalist Turkey. By age 10, my Pontic Greek mother had lost everyone and everything she had ever loved, including her name, on her own death-march to exile from Turkey in 1920. My father was Assyrian.

The precursor to the Nazi Holocaust was not just the Armenian genocide of 1915-16, but the pogroms, or early stages of what would become a genocide, against the indigenous Greeks of Asia Minor in 1914. According to US Consul General George Horton, Greek businesses were boycotted and Turks were encouraged to kill Greeks and drive them out, reminiscent of Kristallnacht in Nazi Germany 24 years later. Thousands were slaughtered or sent to islands in the Aegean Sea. According to the US ambassador to the Ottoman empire, Henry Morgenthau Sr, the Young Turks were so successful in their campaign that they decided to target the other Christian "races" as well. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) picked up where the Young Turks left off.

The Armenian people are part of my extended family. My aunt was Armenian, as was the family who rescued my mother in Turkey. In Armenia, all victims of the genocide are honoured: Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians. But the framers of the French bill, along with numerous Armenian-descended historians in the US and elsewhere, prefer exclusivity.

Thus, if the bill passes the upper house of the French parliament, perhaps we should first jail its Armenian drafters, as well as those who actively deny the other genocides.

These co-victims had inhabited the territory of what became Turkey for three millennia. One must ask which is worse: genocidal denial, or being invisible as if one never existed? At least with denial, there is the possibility of debate. The expropriation by a single group of such a monumental evil serves to strip the other, "nameless" victims of that same evil of their rightful place in history - thereby assuring that their genocide is complete.

· Thea Halo is the author of Not Even My Name, a memoir of her Pontic Greek mother, and has lectured for the International Association of Genocide Scholars

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Why France shouldn't legislate Turkey's past

Why France shouldn't legislate Turkey's past
Historical Crimes
by Philip H. Gordon & Omer Taspinar

As European nations debate the idea of accepting Turkey into their ranks, vestiges of the country's authoritarian nationalism--particularly its tendency to constrain free speech in the name of national honor and unity--have antagonized proponents of the European Union's accepted liberal values. For example, when Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk was recently prosecuted for claiming that a million Armenians were massacred by the Ottomans during World War I--in violation of a Turkish law that prohibits "insulting Turkish identity"--Europeans howled in protest until the charges were finally dropped. In recognition of his politics and his writing, Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

More recently, the Turkish stance on the Armenian massacres themselves is becoming an obstacle to its entry into the EU. On a recent visit to Armenia, for example, French President Jacques Chirac suggested that Turkey should not be allowed to join the EU until it recognizes the Armenian genocide. The European Parliament has similarly requested that Turkey "acknowledge" the genocide, although it has so far avoided making that a formal condition for membership.

But, while liberal states that demand accountability for the past are usually well-intentioned, they can also go too far--as new legislation in France clearly shows. In a blatant ploy to win over France's 500,000 residents of Armenian origin, the lower house of France's parliament passed a bill on October 12 that, if agreed to by the Senate, will make it illegal to deny that the 1915 massacres of Armenians constituted genocide. The Socialist-proposed bill, which gives sentences of up to a year in jail or up to a €45,000 fine, passed by a lopsided vote of 106-19, and it was supported by the two leading candidates in the presidential election scheduled for next spring, Nicolas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal. The parliament even rejected a proposed amendment to exempt scholarly research from the reach of the bill.

Not surprisingly, the reaction in Turkey to all of this has been furious. Well beyond the extremists demonstrating in the streets, nearly all Turks--including the most liberal and pro-European ones--resent seeing one of the most sensitive issues in their history being used as a pawn in French politics. Pamuk himself, no flack for the Turkish government, has criticized the French legislation. Turks rightly see the legislation as a cynical ploy not only to win Armenian votes but to put one more obstacle on the path to Turkey's EU membership, which France has formally, if unenthusiastically, promised to negotiate. The backers of the new law claim that its purpose is to facilitate Turkish-Armenian reconciliation; its effect will likely be the opposite.

Worse, the French parliament's vote is a dangerous step down a slippery slope. If it is a crime to disagree that what happened to Armenians 90 years ago should be considered genocide, why stop there? Shouldn't it be a crime to minimize the impact of other historical tragedies, such as colonialism or the slave trade? Should the Turkish parliament pass a law making it a criminal offense to deny that France practiced torture in Algeria or that a million Muslims were killed there? Should African governments make it illegal to deny that genocide took place in Rwanda? Once you go down that road, it is hard to see where the line should be drawn.

Indeed, the new French legislation is just the latest illiberal policy in Europe masquerading as liberalism. Since the end of World War II, a number of European countries, including Germany, Austria, and France, have passed laws against Holocaust denial. Proponents of the laws argue that they allow these nations to atone politically for their past sins, while working to ensure that Holocaust deniers could not foster the same sort of anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust in the first place. Now, however, they could also serve as inspiration to scores of different ethnic and religious groups that wish to win legal acknowledgement of their own past suffering and historical grievances, as the Armenians have. But parliaments across Europe would be better off taking the current legislation off the books than giving equal treatment to every group's claims. Do we really want the government to start deciding that some historical views are acceptable but others merit prison sentences? And would the historical narratives that won legislative protection be those most clearly supported by "the facts" or those which had the most powerful political support?

Moreover, though the laws against Holocaust denial were--emotionally and politically--difficult to oppose, the consequences of compromising free speech are becoming clear. This February, for example, several months after European leaders defended the right of a Danish newspaper to publish a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad that offended Muslims, an Austrian Court sentenced historian David Irving to prison for Holocaust denial. The trial exposed European free speech advocates to charges of hypocrisy and undermined their efforts to convince Muslims that their tolerance of the cartoons was based on principle--and not a double standard.

To his credit--and despite his wish that Turkey acknowledge the Armenian genocide--Chirac and his government opposed the new legislation, arguing that history should be left up to historians, not lawmakers. He took the same principled stance last year, when he successfully opposed a law, backed by a majority in his coalition, that praised the "positive role" of colonialism.

As Pamuk's prosecution reminds us, Turkey's own record on free speech is far from pristine, and Turks would do well to be more open about their past. Instead of prosecuting those who challenge the official history, Ankara should support debating it openly and accepting its scars. Already, there are signs that this is taking place. Last year, Istanbul's Bilgi University held a conference on Armenian history at which a range of views were presented. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported that conference, and he has also come out in favor of a joint Turkish-American committee of historians to study and report on the issue.

Turks should keep moving in this direction and do more to acknowledge that atrocities--however characterized--occurred. But these initiatives need to come from Turks themselves in a spirit of reconciliation, instead of being imposed from the outside under threat of prosecution. Ultimately, historians, not governments, should be the ones to decide these sensitive issues. The response to illiberalism in Turkey must not be illiberalism in France. What an irony if Turkey is kept out of the EU because of its position on free speech by a country that would put historians in jail for questioning the official line.
And how long do the authors think that we should let Turkey take for the reconciliation without any external pressure to do so? After initially recognizing the massacres Turkey put its nationalism ahead and not only ignored the massacres but revised its history while the world was watching in silence. The enemy of good is not the evil it is the indifference that the world has shown. At least some European countries France and Switzerland in particular are doing something. What is the United States doing so that you have the temerity to tell the Armenians that their fate still falls in the hand of Turkey to right their historical wrong.
Philip H. Gordon is a senior fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution. Omer Taspinar is a professor at the National War College and a research fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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READING ROOM: What it takes to be Armenian

Mon 30 Oct 2006
Sophia Echo
READING ROOM: What it takes to be Armenian
09:00 Mon 30 Oct 2006 - A report by Dafina Boshnakova.

PRESERVANCE: Priest Kusan from Holy Virgin Mary church keeps
faith and language alive for the Armenians in Sofia.A look at the past, present and future of a community that has become an integral part of Bulgarian life.

“I remember my childhood days in Varna when my family visited relatives. Having guests is a ritual for Armenians. There would always be a meal prepared and everybody would sit at the table eating, drinking and talking. Sometimes we would go there at noon and leave at late evening.

“The funniest part of the visit would start when someone would say it was about time we had left. Then, all of a sudden, the hosts would bring one more dish or start pouring coffee. In this fashion we would spend another hour. When we would manage to get up and start for the door, our relatives would stop us at the top of the staircase (for the dining room in their house was on the first floor) and everybody would continue chatting as if they hadn’t met for ages. Half an hour more would pass.

“When we would finally get to the door on the ground floor, our hosts would keep us there 30 minutes more, talking incessantly. So traditionally it would take us about two hours to be actually able to leave our relatives’ house.”

This story is one of the numerous memories of Mishel Gutsuzian, 27, a representative of the youngest generation of Bulgarian Armenians. Despite that his mother is a Bulgarian and that he presently lives in Sofia, away from his relatives, Mishel feels proud of his Armenian origin.

But what does it mean to be Armenian in Bulgaria? One general thing could be said – Bulgarians don’t consider them different. They are so well integrated, that usually only their surname ending with the typical -ian gives them away. It strange but true – Bulgarians don’t fancy Turks too much and they quite dislike Roma people. At the same time, Bulgarians feel Armenians to be part of their nation and have no negative stereotypes about them.

It could be the result of the hundreds of years of peaceful co-existence. Protobulgarians and Armenians had their first interaction 1900 years ago, and Armenians have lived on the Balkans for more than 1500 years. Throughout this time, political changes have obviously strengthened all the more the relationship between the two nations.

Armenians have a unique fate that probably could be likened only to that of Jews. This talented nation has put its grandest historical achievements not in its own state and culture, wrote English Byzantologist R Genkins.

Centuries of trial
Although Armenia is one of the most ancient and still-existing countries, it has suffered numerous dominations and vast parts of its territory were torn apart by its neighbours. In 387 the Roman Empire and Persia finally divided Armenia in two parts. Since then, over 1600 years now, the state of existence of two Armenias – East and West – has continued. Their sovereignty and their belonging to one or another foreign country changed through the centuries depending on the geopolitical situation in the region and the world as a whole. One sole fact speaks for itself – the present Armenian country is fully within the borders of East Armenia. The rest of the historical Armenian lands are in Turkey.

Armenians might very well be called a nation of fugitives. Today there are about three million people living in Armenia, and another 10 million scattered all around the world. Migrating has become their fate – Armenian mercenary armies were first settled in the lands of nowadays Bulgaria by the Byzantine emperors in the sixth century. With each new conqueror, new groups of Armenians were displaced and very often sent to the Balkan Peninsula. Armenians left their lands not only because of the oppression of foreign rulers. The unfavourable natural resources and conditions in their territory were one more reason that besides foreign occupations that urged Armenians to find other places to live.

Even bigger were the migration waves during the period of Ottoman domination. At that time, both Bulgaria and Armenia were within the borders of the Turkish empire. Travelling for the purposes of trade and crafts fostered the relations between the two peoples. Probably that is the time when the Armenians realised they would stay in Bulgarian lands for good. So they started building churches and founding schools. The common faith – Christianity – also helped Bulgarians and Armenians to grow closer.

The sad events in the history of the Armenian nation at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20 century turned Armenians and Bulgarians into close friends once and for all. Armenians still fight for a worldwide recognition of the genocide inflicted on them. Bulgaria is one of the few countries that openly accepted the refugees from that period, and that is why Armenians are ever thankful to the Bulgarians.

A nation of fugitives
But let’s give it a clear explanation. By the end of the 19th century, Bulgaria was already a free country. Its liberation had been acquired through a war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the battles held on Bulgarian lands with the active participation of many Bulgarian volunteer detachments. Although unstable and just starting to make its way through the complicated situation of the day, Bulgaria was free. At the same time, the Ottoman Empire was already on the deathbed, striving to survive and crumbling under the pretence of its own ruler.

The sultan Abdul Hamit II feared to death that someone might undermine his unlimited authority. Hence he had become hostile to every kind of national-liberation movement in the empire. Armenians were first on his list of culprits. During the 1880s, a vast plan for their genocide was developed. It included depriving Armenians of the protection of law, seizing by force of Armenian property, organisation to systematically massacre them. Of course, everything was carried on unofficially. The aim of the sultan was that Armenians revolt against such treatment, which reaction would be the perfect pretext to officially use armed force against them.

The result of the sultan’s 1894-1896 campaign: 300 000 victims and 500 000 refugees. Bulgaria reacted immediately: the ships Bulgaria, Knyaz Boris and Istanbul transported Armenians to the Bulgarian Black Sea ports for free. The government granted the refugees money and exempted from taxation all petty tradesmen, craftsmen and those who had managed to receive agricultural land.

Like everybody, Armenians hoped that the downfall of the Ottoman Empire would mean end to the oppression. Wrong. The Young Turks proved to be more barbaric even than the retrograde sultan had been. Only one generation, 20 years, had passed. Armenians had fresh memories of the loss of friends and relatives. And everything repeated all over again, but on a grander, more horrifying scale, from between 1915-1916 and until there was mass Armenian deportation to the most distant desert parts of Turkey. People were simply left out there and were told they had to find a way to survive. Men, who were more likely to fight against the Turks, were collected from around the towns and shot.

That period saw the loss of 1.5 million Armenian lives and the flight of another 800 000 people. The fact that Bulgaria officially opened its borders for the refugees is a credit to the state. Actually, Bulgaria had just gone through three wars (two Balkan wars and World War 1) that had exhausted its resources to the utmost extent. Nevertheless Knyaz Boris III ordered with a decree that all Armenians should be accepted into the country. They numbered about 20 000.

Nowadays, Armenians from all over the world celebrate April 24 as a memorial day to the victims of the genocide. The date is used to launch campaigns for recognition of the genocide, appointed by the respective country’s parliament. Although the UN had acknowledged the genocide back in 1945, many states still have no official standpoint on the topic. The greatest problem probably is with Turkey, which stubbornly continues denying that something like that had ever happened.

According to the official census from 2001, presently in Bulgaria there live about 13 000 Armenians. Unofficial data of the Armenian church gives even a larger number – about 20 000. Almost all of them (about 95 per cent) live in towns and their occupation is very often connected on trade, crafts or arts. There even exists such a stereotype in Bulgarian minds about Armenians – that they are goldsmiths (or other craftsmen, who are skilful in producing exquisite things), and that they have never practiced hard physical work.

“Usually when I say my name, people recognise my Armenian origin,” Anton Hekimian, 22, a student at Sofia University, explains. “Next thing that happens is that everybody starts talking about us being goldsmiths and so on,” he smiles. As a matter of fact, his grandfather, one of the refugees from 1915-1922, had been a shoemaker. The other curious fact is that only when his father married a Bulgarian, did he “discover” the difference between the various agricultural implements. “So it’s not true that Armenians never worked in the fields. My farther did. Because of his love for my mother,” said Anton.

The role of faith
There is one thing most characteristic of the Armenian communities outside their home country. They keep tight relationships, support each other and do their best to preserve their cultural identity. Their solidarity is so popular that Bulgarians started joking that all you need is put three Armenians together and they will immediately build a church, found a school and start publishing a newspaper. At the same time, Armenians are not insular and they actively co-operate to establish connection between themselves and the “host” peoples.

That is how Armenians in Bulgaria have both managed to keep their traditions and still be active citizens, bringing prosperity to the country. According to Kusan Hadavian, a priest at Sofia’s Holy Virgin Mary church, the Armenian minority alone stand closest to the Bulgarian nation. And that is why they have never created problems for the government. “We have come here knowing clearly that we need to obey local laws. But meanwhile we are called to preserve our language, religion and culture. We shouldn’t allow what we call ‘djermak chart’ to happen – that means we shouldn’t give our traditions up,” Father Kusan explained.

In the past, because of the numerous dominations that the people of Armenia had suffered, the church played the role of a uniting centre for all Armenians. It substituted the government, the court, the schools. Today, with Armenians living abroad, the church again plays as the centre of their universe.

It is at church service where most of the Bulgarian-Armenians talk their native language. There people meet not only to pray to God, but to socialise and to find out what’s new with their friends. “Conditions of life have changed,” admits Father Kusan, “and they have become more difficult”. That’s why the regular-goers have grown fewer. But at least for tradition’s sake, the temple fills up on Sundays and major feasts like Easter and at the Nativity.

Maybe preserving the Armenian consciousness is truly in their genes, as a man from the congregation said. Religion, Christianity to be exact, is a vital part of that consciousness. It is very unlikely that you meet an Armenian who doesn’t know how Christianity was spread in his country. Everybody you ask surely takes pride in the fact that the religion had been widely popular in Armenia from the very beginning of its existence in the first century CE. Another thing that you might hear very often is the fact that the country officially accepted Christianity even before the Roman Empire did, in 301.

Even though, at present, the Armenians in Bulgaria are less religious than they were some 20 years ago, they still feel hurt if you neglect the ancient history of their church. They also insist on making its actual name clear. Officially it is the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, and they call it such because the first people to spread Christianity in the lands of Armenia were two of Jesus’ disciples – Thaddeus and Bartholomew. One other name for it is Lusavorchagan, after the most-honoured Armenian saint. He is Krikor Lusavorich (257?-337?), or Gregory the Illuminator, a reformer of the church during whose time Christianity was proclaimed the official religion of the country.

Unfortunately, a misunderstanding about these names appeared. In the 19th century Echmiadzin – the spiritual centre of Armenia – fell within the borders of the Russian empire. The Russian constitution demanded that the church bear the name of its founder. That’s why Armenians started calling it Lusavorchagan, Russians – Enlightener’s, and in Western Europe it became popular as Armeno-Gregorian. In truth, the last name created a lot of confusion. Although it was attributed to Gregory the Illuminator, Western people tend to believe it has a relation to the Roman Catholic pope Gregory. Armenians deny this concept as absolutely untrue. Actually this is one main reason why they insist hard on the name Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church. The other reason, of course, is the fact that they want to uphold their 2000-year-old heritage, starting with Thaddeus and Bartholomew.

Language during service turns out to be both a privilege and a problem. For many Armenians, the church is the only place where they can speak it in their otherwise Bulgarian habitat. On the other hand, it’s so rich and complicated that sometimes it’s hard to understand the words and chants of the priest. “In order to make ourselves clear and to attract more pilgrims to service, we ought to use plainer vocabulary,” Father Kusan admits. In his view, another tactic that could bring more people to the church is publishing a booklet with the order and texts of service in both Armenian and Bulgarian. That could also stimulate people to learn the Armenian language better.

Recent challenges
During the communist period, in the 1960s, Armenian schools in Bulgaria were closed. The effects were all negative. The interest in the study of Armenian language was lost to a great extent. Twenty years later, when teaching could be resumed, there were neither qualified professors, nor adequate books, which created a lot of problems. The contemporary young prefer to study Bulgarian because they live and work among Bulgarians. While in past years, 76th elementary school William Saroyan in Sofia has had classes full of Armenian children, now things have changed: “There are more than 300 kids here,” said Headmistress Stefanova, “but out of them only about 20 study Armenian language. I believe the reason is the difference between the generations. The grandparents insisted much more on knowing the traditions and language. Nowadays parents are not so much up to that”. And there are some the adults, too, who don’t speak Armenian even at home with their relatives.

It all seems to be connected – the young Armenians in Bulgaria tend to break the dogmas of their ancestors. You should go to church, you should speak Armenian, you shouldn’t marry a person who is from a different nationality… Keeping the “purity” of the blood used to be an obligation out of question for every Armenian in the country. But some of its validity was lost 30 years ago, when intermarriages started.

“A cousin of my father’s fell in love with a Bulgarian girl,” gave Anton as an example. “After the wedding his parents didn’t speak a word to him for 10 or more years. They were really mad that he neglected the tradition.”

You might think that that’s the natural way for a development of a nation – where young people revolt against the rules created by their predecessors. And still there are interesting exceptions from that like mixed families, where the Bulgarian partner speaks Armenian perfectly. Anyway, the Armenian people have been put to the test of time and have survived, keeping their identity intact. Massacres, emigration, insecurity and assimilation proved weak and couldn’t wipe them out. In spite of their having lived in Bulgaria for so long, they keep their face and traits. But then again, they have managed to integrate so well that no one considers them foreigners. That is a life approach worth envying.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


The Armenian genocide and the politics of silence.

Issue of 2006-11-06
The New Yorker
The Armenian genocide and the politics of silence.
Posted 2006-10-30

On September 14, 2000, Representatives George Radanovich, Republican of California, and David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan, introduced a House resolution—later to be known as H.R. 596—on the slaughter of the Armenians. The measure urged the President, in dealing with the matter, to demonstrate “appropriate understanding and sensitivity.” It further instructed him on how to phrase his annual message on the Armenian Day of Remembrance: the President should refer to the atrocities as “genocide.” The bill was sent to the International Relations Committee and immediately came under attack. State Department officials reminded the committee that it was U.S. policy to “respect the Turkish government’s assertions that, although many ethnic Armenians died during World War I, no genocide took place.” Expanding on this theme, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, in a letter to Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, wrote that while he in no way wanted to “downplay the Armenian tragedy . . . passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region.” After committee members voted, on October 3rd, to send H.R. 596 to the floor, Turkish officials warned that negotiations with an American defense contractor, Bell Textron, over four and a half billion dollars’ worth of attack helicopters were in jeopardy. On October 5th, the leaders of all five parties in the Turkish parliament issued a joint statement threatening to deny the U.S. access to an airbase in Incirlik, which it was using to patrol northern Iraq. Finally, on October 19th, just a few hours before H.R. 596 was scheduled to be debated in the House, Hastert pulled it from the agenda. He had, he said, been informed by President Clinton that passage of the resolution could “risk the lives of Americans.”

The defeat of H.R. 596 is a small but fairly typical episode in a great campaign of forgetting. Like President Clinton, President Bush continues to “respect the Turkish government’s assertions” and to issue Armenian Remembrance Day proclamations each year without ever quite acknowledging what it is that’s being remembered. If in Washington it’s politically awkward to refer to the genocide, it is positively dangerous to do so in Istanbul. Last year, Turkey’s leading author, Orhan Pamuk, was prosecuted merely for having brought up the subject in a press interview. “A million Armenians were killed and nobody but me dares to talk about it, ” he told the Sunday magazine of the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. Pamuk, now a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was accused of having violated Section 301 of the Turkish penal code, which outlaws “insulting Turkishness.” (The charge was eventually dropped, on a technicality.) A few months later, another prominent Turkish novelist, Elif Shafak, was charged with the same offense, for having a character in her most recent novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul,” declare, “I am the grandchild of genocide survivors who lost all their relatives at the hands of Turkish butchers in 1915, but I myself have been brainwashed to deny the genocide.” The charges were dropped after Shafak argued that the statement of a fictional person could not be used to prosecute a real one, then reinstated by a higher court, and then dropped again.

It is in this context that Taner Akcam’s new history, “A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility” (Metropolitan; $30), must be considered. The book is dryly written and awkwardly translated, but nevertheless moving. Akcam grew up in far northeastern Turkey and was educated at Ankara’s Middle East Technical University, where he became the editor of a leftist journal. In 1976, he was arrested and sentenced to ten years in prison for spreading propaganda. Using a stove leg to dig a tunnel, he managed to escape after a year, and fled to Germany. Akcam is one of the first Turkish historians to treat the Armenian genocide as genocide—he now lives in exile in Minnesota—and in “A Shameful Act” he tries to grapple both with the enormity of the crime and with the logic of its repression.

Any writer who takes on genocide as his topic accepts obligations that, if not exactly contradictory, are clearly in tension. The first is to describe the event in a way that is adequate to its exceptionality. (The original U.N. resolution on the subject, approved in 1946, describes genocide as an act that “shocks the conscience of mankind.”) The second is to make sense of it, which is to say, to produce an account of the unspeakable that anyone can understand.

Akcam begins his history in the nineteenth century, when roughly two million Armenians were living in the Ottoman Empire, some in major cities like Istanbul and Izmir, and the rest in the provinces of central and eastern Anatolia. Already, the Armenians were in a peculiarly vulnerable position: Christians living in the heart of a Muslim empire, they were subject by law to special taxes and restrictions, and by tradition to extortion and harassment. As the century wore on, the so-called Sick Man of Europe kept shedding territory: first Greece, in the Greek War of Independence; and then, following the Russo-Turkish War, Serbia, Montenegro, Romania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. These humiliating defeats eroded the Ottomans’ confidence, which, in turn, Akcam argues, “resulted in the loss of their tolerance.” Muslim assaults on Christians increased throughout the empire, and the ancient prejudices against the Armenians hardened into something uglier.

In 1876, Sultan Abdülhamid II came to power. Abdülhamid, who ruled the empire for thirty-three of its last forty-six years, was a deeply anxious man, perhaps paranoid. He maintained a vast network of spies; turned Yildiz Palace, overlooking the Bosporus, into a ramshackle fort; and demanded that each dish be tasted by his chief chamberlain before being served. Abdülhamid soon took anti-Armenianism to new heights. (It was rumored that the Sultan’s own mother, a former dancing girl, was Armenian, but he always denied this.) He shut down Armenian schools, threw Armenian teachers in jail, prohibited the use of the word “Armenia” in newspapers and textbooks, and formed special Kurdish regiments, known as the Hamidiye, whose raison d’être appears to have been to harass Armenian farmers. Encouraged by American and European missionaries, the Armenians turned to the outside world for help. The English, the French, and the Russians repeatedly demanded that Istanbul institute “reforms” on the Armenians’ behalf. Officially, the Sultan acceded to these demands, only to turn around and repress the Armenians that much more vigorously. “By taking away Greece and Romania, Europe has cut off the feet of the Turkish state,” Abdülhamid complained. “Now, by means of this Armenian agitation, they want to get at our most vital places and tear out our very guts. This would be the beginning of totally annihilating us, and we must fight against it with all the strength we possess.”

In the mid-eighteen-nineties, tens of thousands of Armenians were murdered. The slaughter began in Sasun, in eastern Anatolia, where Armenians had refused to pay taxes on the ground that the government had failed to protect them from Kurdish extortion. The killings in Sasun provoked an international outcry, which was answered with the Sultan’s usual promises of reform, and then with a string of even bloodier massacres in the provinces of Erzurum, Ankara, Sivas, Trabzon, and Harput. In the wake of the killings, William Gladstone, the former British Prime Minister, labelled Abdülhamid “the great assassin.”

Finally, in 1909, Abdülhamid was pushed aside. The coup was engineered by a group composed, for the most part, of discontented Army officers—the original Young Turks. The Young Turks spoke loftily of progress and brotherhood—on the eve of the revolt, one of their leaders is said to have declared, “Under the blue sky we are all equal”—and the empire’s remaining Christians celebrated their ascendancy. But the logic of slaughtering the Armenians had by this point been too well established.

When the First World War broke out, the Young Turks rushed to join the conflict. “That day of revenge, which has been awaited for centuries by the nation’s young and old, by its martyrs and by its living, has finally arrived,” the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies asserted in a letter to the armed forces. By 1914, the empire was being led by a troika—nicknamed the Three Pashas—composed of the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of the Navy, and the Minister of War. In December, the War Minister, Ismail Enver, decided to lead the Third Army in an attack against the Russians on the Caucasian front. Enver planned to press all the way east to Baku, in present-day Azerbaijan, where he hoped to incite the local Muslims to join the Ottomans’ cause, and, as a first step, he ordered his forces to divide up and follow different routes to Sarikamish, a Russian military outpost. The idea was for all the troops to arrive at the same time and surprise the enemy with their strength; instead, they straggled in over a period of several days, with devastating results. The Ottomans lost about seventy-five thousand men at Sarikamish, out of a total force of ninety thousand. A German officer attached to the Third Army described the defeat as “a disaster which for rapidity and completeness is without parallel in military history.” The Russians had encouraged the Armenians to form volunteer regiments to fight against the Ottomans, and some (though not many) had heeded this call. The Armenians’ role in the disaster became one of the pretexts for the genocide.

On April 24, 1915, some two hundred and fifty prominent Armenians—poets, doctors, bankers, and even a member of the Ottoman parliament—were arrested in Istanbul. They were split up into groups, loaded onto trains, shipped off to remote prisons, and eventually killed. (The Armenian Day of Remembrance is marked each year on the anniversary of these arrests.) Around the same time, orders were issued to begin rounding up Armenians wholesale and deporting them. “Some regional variations notwithstanding,” Akcam reports, the deportations “proceeded in the same manner everywhere.” Armenians would be given a few days or, in some cases, just a few hours to leave their homes. The men were separated from the women and children, led beyond the town, and either tortured or murdered outright. Their families were then herded to concentration camps in the Syrian desert, often bound by ropes or chains. Along the way, they were frequently set upon by Kurdish tribesmen, who had been given license to loot and rape, or by the very gendarmes who were supposed to be guarding them. A Greek witness wrote of watching a column of deportees being led through the Kemakh Gorge, on the upper Euphrates. The guards “withdrew to the mountainside” and “began a hail of rifle fire,” he wrote. “A few days later there was a mopping-up operation: since many little children were still alive and wandering about beside their dead parents.” In areas where ammunition was in short supply, the killing squads relied on whatever weapons were at hand—axes, cleavers, even shovels. Adults were hacked to pieces, and infants dashed against the rocks. In the Black Sea region, Armenians were loaded onto boats and thrown overboard. In the area around Lake Hazar, they were tossed over cliffs.

At the time of the deportations, the U.S. had not yet entered the war. It maintained an extensive network of diplomats in the region, and many of these provided detailed chronicles of what they had seen, which Henry Morgenthau, the United States Ambassador in Istanbul, urgently forwarded to Washington. (Other eyewitness accounts came from German Army officers, Danish missionaries, and Armenian survivors.) In a dispatch sent to the State Department on November 1, 1915, the U.S. consul in Aleppo wrote:

It is extremely rare to find a family intact that has come any considerable distance, invariably all having lost members from disease and fatigue, young girls and boys carried off by hostile tribesmen, and about all the men having been separated from the families and suffered fates that had best be left unmentioned, many being done away with in atrocious manners before the eyes of their relatives and friends. So severe has been the treatment that careful estimates place the number of survivors at only 15 percent of those originally deported. On this basis the number surviving even this far being less than 150,000 . . . there seems to have been about 1,000,000 persons lost up to this date.

An American businessman who made a tour of the lower Euphrates the next year reported having encountered “all along the road from Meskene to Der-i-Zor graves containing the remains of unfortunate Armenians abandoned and dead in atrocious suffering. It is by the hundreds that these mounds are numbered where sleep anonymously in their last sleep these outcasts of existence, these victims of barbary without qualification.” Morgenthau repeatedly confronted the Ottoman Interior Minister, Mehmed Talât, with the contents of these dispatches, telling him that the Americans would “never forget these massacres.” But the warnings made no impression. During one session, Morgenthau later recalled in a memoir, Talât turned to him and asked if he could obtain a list of Armenians who had purchased life-insurance policies with American firms. “They are practically all dead now, and have no heirs left to collect the money,” the Interior Minister reasoned, and therefore the unclaimed benefits rightfully belonged to the government.

The official explanation for the Armenian deportations was that they were necessary for security reasons, and this is still the account provided by state-sanctioned histories today. “Facts on the Relocation of Armenians (1914-1918),” a volume produced by the Turkish Historical Society, was published in English in 2002. It begins with an epigram from John F. Kennedy (“For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived, and dishonest—but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic”) and the reassurance that it is “not a propaganda document.” The book argues that Russia and its allies had “sown the seeds of intrigue and mischief among the Armenians, who in turn had been doing everything in their power to make life difficult for Ottoman armies.” Deciding that “fundamental precautions” were needed, the Ottoman authorities took steps to “relocate” the Armenians away from the front. They worked to insure that the transfer would be effected “as humanely as possible”; if this goal was not always realized, it was because of disease—so difficult to control during wartime—or rogue bands of “tribal people” who sometimes attacked Armenian convoys. “Whenever the government realized that some untoward incidents had taken place . . . the government acted very promptly and warned the local authorities.” In support of this “Arbeit Macht Frei” version of events, “Facts on the Relocation of Armenians” cites the very Ottoman officials who oversaw the slaughter. Turkish officials, in turn, now cite works like “Facts” to support their claim that the period’s history remains contested. In March, 2005, just before the commemoration of the ninetieth anniversary of the Day of Remembrance, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called for an “impartial study” to look into what had really happened to the Armenians. The International Association of Genocide Scholars responded that such a call could only be regarded as still more propaganda. “The Armenian Genocide is abundantly documented by thousands of official records . . . by eyewitness accounts of missionaries and diplomats, by the testimony of survivors, and by decades of historical scholarship,” the association’s directors wrote in a letter explaining their refusal to participate. An academic conference on the massacres planned for later that spring in Istanbul was banned by a court order. (After much maneuvering, it was held at a private university amid raucous protests.)

The Ottomans formally surrendered to the Allies on October 30, 1918. The Paris Peace Conference opened the following year, and it took another year for the Allies to agree on how to dispose of the empire. The pact that finally emerged—the Treaty of Sèvres—awarded Palestine, Transjordan, and Mesopotamia to the English, Syria and Lebanon to the French, Rhodes and a chunk of southern Anatolia to the Italians, and Izmir and western Anatolia to the Greeks. Eastern Anatolia, with a prize stretch of Black Sea coast, was to go to the Armenians. The Bosporus and the Dardanelles were to be demilitarized and placed under international control. From an imperial power the Turks were thus transformed into something very close to a subject people. This was the final disgrace and, as it turned out, also the start of a revival.

As the rulers of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks had been fighting against history; they had spent more than a century trying—often unsuccessfully—to fend off nationalist movements in the regions they controlled. Now, in defeat, they adopted the cause as their own. In the spring of 1920, the Turkish Nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal—later to be known as Atatürk—established a new government in Ankara. (The government’s founding is celebrated every April 23rd, one day before the Armenian Day of Remembrance.) During the next three years, the Nationalists fought a series of brutal battles, which eventually forced the Allies to abandon Sèvres. A new treaty was drawn up, the Treaty of Lausanne, and the Republic of Turkey was created. The big losers in this process were, once again, the Armenians: Lausanne returned all of Anatolia to Turkish control.

In Akcam’s view, what happened between 1920 and 1923 is the key to understanding the Turks’ refusal to discuss what happened in 1915. The Armenian genocide was what today would be called a campaign of ethnic cleansing, and as such it was highly effective. It changed the demographics of eastern Anatolia; then, on the basis of these changed demographics, the Turks used the logic of self-determination to deprive of a home the very people they had decimated. Although the genocide was not committed by the Nationalists, without it the nationalist project wouldn’t have made much sense. Meanwhile, the Nationalists made sure that the perpetrators were never punished. Immediately after the end of the war, the Three Pashas fled the country. (The Interior Minister, Talât, was assassinated in Berlin by an Armenian who had been left for dead in a pile of corpses.) In an attempt to mollify the Allies, the Ottomans arrested scores of lower-ranking officials and put some of them on trial, but, when the Nationalists came to power, they suspended these proceedings and freed the suspects. A separate prosecution effort by the British, who were keeping dozens of Ottoman officers locked up in Malta, similarly came to nothing, and eventually the officers were sent home as part of a prisoner-of-war exchange. Several went on to become high-ranking members of Mustafa Kemal’s government. For the Turks to acknowledge the genocide would thus mean admitting that their country was founded by war criminals and that its existence depended on their crimes. This, in Akcam’s words, “would call into question the state’s very identity.” And so the Turks prefer to insist, as “Facts on the Relocation of Armenians” puts it, that the genocide is a “legend.”

It is, of course, possible to question Akcam’s highly psychologized account. Turkey has long sought to join the European Union, and, while a history of genocide is clearly no barrier to membership, denying it may be; several European governments have indicated that they will oppose the country’s bid unless it acknowledges the crimes committed against the Armenians. Are the Turks really willing to risk their country’s economic future merely in order to hide—or pretend to hide—an ugly fact about its origins? To believe this seems to require a view of Turkish ethnic pride that gets dangerously close to a national stereotype. In fact, many Turkish nationalists oppose E.U. membership; from their perspective, denying the Armenian genocide serves an eminently practical political purpose.

That being said, Akcam clearly has a point, and one that Americans, in particular, ought to be able to appreciate. Before the arrival of the first Europeans, there were, it is estimated, at least forty million indigenous people living in the Americas; by 1650, fewer than ten million were left. The decline was the result of casual cruelty on the one hand—diseases unwittingly spread—and systematic slaughter on the other. Every November, when American schoolchildren are taught about Thanksgiving, they are insistently told the story of how the Pilgrims, in their gratitude, entertained the kindly Wampanoag. We now know that the comity of that original Thanksgiving was entirely atypical, and that, by 1621, the Wampanoag were already a dying nation. While it was cowardly of Congress to pull H.R. 596, passing it would, in its own way, also have been problematic. We may side with the Armenians, but, historically speaking, we probably have more in common with the Turks.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Chris Hedges: Coveting the Holocaust

Posted on Oct 23, 2006
By Chris Hedges

Editor’s Note: The former Middle East bureau chief for The New York Times and author of the bestseller “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” takes a hard look at the political capital of suffering.

I sent my New York University journalism students out to write stories based on any one of the themes in the Ten Commandments. A woman of Armenian descent came back with an article about how Armenians she had interviewed were covetous of the Jewish Holocaust. The idea that one people who suffered near decimation could be covetous of another that also suffered near decimation was, to say the least, different. And when the French lower house of parliament approved a bill earlier this month making it a crime to deny the Armenian genocide I began to wonder what it was she, and those she had interviewed, actually coveted.

She was not writing about the Holocaust itself—no one covets the suffering of another—but how it has become a potent political and ideological weapon in the hands of the Israeli government and many in the American Jewish community. While Armenians are still fighting to have the genocide of some 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks accepted as historical fact, many Jews have found in the Nazi Holocaust a useful instrument to deflect criticism of Israel and the dubious actions of the pro-Israeli lobby as well as many Jewish groups in the United States.

Norman Finkelstein, who for his writings has been virtually blacklisted, noted in “The Holocaust Industry” that the Jewish Holocaust has allowed Israel to cast itself and “the most successful ethnic group in the United States” as eternal victims. Finkelstein, the son of Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, goes on to argue that this status has enabled Israel, which has “a horrendous human rights record,” to play the victim as it oppresses Palestinians or destroys Lebanon. This victim status has permitted U.S. Jewish organizations (the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and others) to get their hands on billions of dollars in reparations, much of which never finds its way to the dwindling number of Holocaust survivors. Finkelstein’s mother, who was in the Warsaw ghetto, received $3,500, while the World Jewish Congress walked away with roughly $7 billion in compensation moneys. The organization pays lavish salaries to its employees and uses the funds to fuel its own empire. For many the Nazi Holocaust is not used to understand and deal with the past, and more importantly the universal human capacity for evil, but to manipulate the present. Finkelstein correctly writes that the fictitious notion of unique suffering leads to feelings of unique entitlement.

And so what this student, and those she had interviewed, coveted was not the actual experience of the Holocaust, not the suffering of Jews in the death camps, but the political capital that Israel and many of its supporters have successfully gleaned from the Holocaust. And while I sympathize with the Armenians, while I understand their rage toward Turkey, I do not wish to see them, or anyone else, wield their own genocide as a political weapon.

There is a fine and dangerous line between the need for historical truth and public apology, in this case by the Turks, and the gross misuse of human tragedy. French President Jacques Chirac and his interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said this month that Turkey will have to recognize the genocide before Turkey is allowed to join the European Union. Most European nations turned their backs on the French, with the EU issuing a statement saying that the French bill will “prohibit dialogue.” But the French move is salutary, not only for the Armenians who have been humiliated and defamed by successive waves of Turkish governments but for the Turks as well. Historical amnesia, as anyone who has lived in the Middle East or the Balkans knows, makes reconciliation and healing impossible. It fosters a dangerous sense of grievance and rage. It makes any real dialogue impossible. Nearly 100 years after the murderous rampage by the Turks it can still be a crime to name the Armenian holocaust under Law 301, which prohibits anyone from defaming Turkey. One of the most courageous violators of that law is the writer Orhan Pamuk, who has criticized his country’s refusal to confront its past, and who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But he is a solitary figure in Turkey.

Historical black holes also empower those who insist that the Nazi Holocaust is unique, that it is somehow beyond human comprehension and stands apart from other human activity. These silences make it easier to minimize, misunderstand and ignore the reality of other genocides, how they work and how they are carried out. They make it easier to turn tragedy into myth. They make it easier to misread the real lesson of the Holocaust, which, as Christopher Browning illustrated in his book “Ordinary Men,” is that the line between the victim and the victimizer is razor-thin. Most of us, as Browning correctly argues, can be seduced and manipulated into killing our neighbors. Few are immune.

The communists, not the Jews, were the Nazis’ first victims, and the handicapped were the first to be gassed in the German death factories. This is not to minimize the suffering of the Jews, but these victims too deserve attention. And what about Gypsies, homosexuals, prisoners of war and German political dissidents? What, on a wider scale, about the Cambodians, the Rwandans, and the millions more who have been slaughtered by utopian idealists who believe the eradication of other human beings will cleanse the world?

When I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington I looked in vain for these other victims. I did not see explained in detail the awful reality that Jewish officials in the ghettos—Judenrat—worked closely with the Nazis to herd their own off to the death camps. And was the happy resolution of the Holocaust, as we saw in images at the end of the exhibits, the disembarking of European Jews on the shores of Palestine? What about the Palestinians who lived in Palestine and were soon to be pushed off their land? And, as importantly, what about African-Americans and Native Americans? Why is the Nazi genocide, which we did not perpetrate, displayed on the Mall in Washington and the brutal extermination of Native Americans ignored? Why should billions in reparations be paid to Jewish slave laborers and not a dime to those enslaved by our own country?

These questions circle back to the dangerous sanctification of any genocide, the belief that one ethnic group can represent goodness, solely because its members are the victims, and another evil because from its ranks come the thugs who carry out mass slaughter. Once these demented killing machines begin their work the only thing unique is the method of murder. The lesson of any genocide is not that one group of human beings is better than another, but that in the intoxication of the moment, gripped by the mass hypnosis of state propaganda and the lust for violence, we can all become killers. All the victims must be heard. None are unique. And all of us have to be on guard lest we be seduced. We carry within us—German, Jew, Armenian or Christian—dark and dangerous lusts that must be held in check. I applaud the French. I hope the French action pushes the Turks toward contrition and honesty. But I do not wish for the Armenians to covet the Holocaust, to begin the process of sanctifying their own suffering. When we sanctify ourselves we do so at the expense of others.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

How the Turkish Parliament Should React to France

Zaman online
10.28.2006 Saturday - ISTANBUL 15:36

The adoption of the Armenian “genocide” bill by the French parliament was met with expected reactions from Turkey. Boycotting French products (apart from those of OYAK-affiliated French companies), deporting Armenian citizens working in Turkey and even passing a counter bill were among the steps taken.

Certain people who support anti-democratic laws in Turkey said they would go to France and violate the bill, which was a good sign of how valor can be rendered valueless. During those days, a psychological movement was initiated to make the society react “sensitively.” Familiar Stereotypical “information” was relayed to the media under the label of “archives revealed by the Turkish chief of staff.” I think the “documents” claiming Armenians committed massacres in 1915 in Diyarbakir were a pleasing surprise to researchers who deal with that period of time. However, the intention was not actually to inform, but to foment our heroic sensitivity. Meanwhile, Turkey ignored the fact that Armenian President Robert Kocharian was against the bill and claimed that Armenia stipulated recognizing the genocide as a prerequisite without questioning the argument’s objectivity. During such a volatile atmosphere, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “There is no legal basis to penalize those who call a lie a lie,” which was very pleasing to nationalists. Our failure to realize that such attitudes legalize the “genocide” conviction worldwide shows the problem is a deep-rooted one. Fortunately, it was again the prime minister who prevented our natural reflexes from stretching to meaningless points by saying, “We use clean water to clear away dirt.”

How should the Turkish parliament react to the French move? The parliament consulted the Turkish Institute of History (as if it was the first time it had heard such allegations) and agreed that the institute should conduct a comprehensive research on the so-called Armenian genocide allegations. The parliament also agreed to investigate the history of countries which recognize the Armenian “genocide” and prepare a list of shame.

The aim was to reveal how foreign countries that have their own checkered past throw mud at Turkey, with a clean history, in an effort to conceal their past misdeeds.

If only the Turkish parliament had looked at its institutional structure before making such a decision. If only the head of the history institute had also touched on such issues. If only a few deputies had remembered Ayse Hur’s article in the daily Radikal.

Then they would have learned that in 1923, as envisaged in an agreement prior to the Lausanne Agreement, it was legal to confiscate the properties of Armenians who were not living in Turkey at that time; and in September of the same year, Armenians who fled from Kilikya and the eastern Anatolia regions during the war were barred from returning.

They would have learned that according to a decision made in August 1926, the properties acquired before the Lausanne Agreement came into effect could be confiscated and that in May 1927, Turkish citizenship for Armenians who were abroad between 1923 and 1927 was revoked. They would also have recalled that travel restrictions imposed on Armenian Turkish citizens during those years made them lose their jobs and they were forced to migrate because they had to share their homes in Anatolia with immigrants.

Those willing could also recall the wealth tax and the issue of the properties of non-Muslim associations. All these decisions were made by the Turkish parliament and none of them were gloated over. It is not wrong to make others remember their past; however, to achieve our goal we should also look at our history from the same perspective.

October 27, 2006

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Turkish businessmen invite Armenian counterparts to Istanbul

Saturday, October 28, 2006
Turkish Daily News

Following the approval of a bill on Oct. 12 in the lower house of the French parliament to criminalize denial of an alleged Armenian genocide, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) invited Armenian businessmen to Istanbul.
This may be the way to overcome the differences. But with the Turkish-Armenian borders closed for commerce by Turkey, and the diversion of the rail connection to Georgia and Azerbaijan from passing through Armenia, what business will the Armenian and Turkish industrialist discuss? The author is attempting to give credit to Turkey on an empty gesture.
The TÜSİAD-led Union of Black Sea and Caspian Confederation of Enterprises (UBCCE) will hold its first general assembly on Nov. 27 to which executives from the Armenian Industrialists and Businessmen's Association have been invited.

TÜSİAD President Ömer Sabancı initiated the establishment of the union with the aim of developing economic and commercial relations among neighboring Black Sea and Caspian countries. A decision was made at preparatory meetings in May and June of this year to locate the headquarters of the 12-member UBCCE in Istanbul.

The union was formed with the participation of several TÜSİAD counterparts from member countries. Armenia became a member of the union with the Armenian Industrialists and Businessmen's Association.

The UBCCE general assembly will be held at Istanbul's Sail Halim Paşa Yalısı on Nov. 27, at which Armenia will be represented by Arsen Gazeryan, head of the Armenian Industrialists and Businessmen's Association and also co-chairman of the Turkish-Armenian Business Council.

Continuous contact:

TÜSİAD's Brussels representative, Bahadır Kaleağası, said the UBCCE was formed after intensive studies around the Black Sea and Caspian region. “The preparatory meetings of the confederation have been completed. Armenia is a member of the union, and they have been invited,” he said.

Turkish-Armenian Business Development Council deputy head Noyan Soyak said TÜSİAD and the Turkish-Armenian Business Council had been exchanging views since 2000. Gazeryan served as a bridge between the business worlds of the two countries, both in his capacity as head of the Armenian association and as co-chairman of the council, he noted, adding that Gazeryan and TÜSİAD were in constant contact with each other.

“Armenian businessmen are informed of every development in TÜSİAD. When Sabancı was elected president, Armenian businessmen congratulated him. We, as the council, also organize meetings where Turkish and Armenian businesspeople come together,” said.

The meeting in November aims to develop Turkey's relations with its neighbors, Soyak said. “Armenia is invited within this context. We see this as the continuation of previous meetings. In the upcoming meeting, the launching of bilateral talks between the two countries may come up,” he said.

Karen Mirzoyan, Armenia permanent representative at the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) said the new union was not directly related to BSEC but that members of BSEC were also members of the union. "As a matter of fact, all of our members have been invited to this meeting. I know about the preparatory meetings. The real union will be formed at the November meeting,” said Mirzoyan.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Romanian nominee for EU commission job sparks questions

27.10.2006 - 09:29 CET | By Lucia Kubosova
EU Observer

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has postponed confirmation of Romania's surprise nominee to join his team, with socialist MEPs warning they would be "tough" in screening the candidate they say is known for being "on the payroll of big economic tycoons."

Both candidates for new EU commissioners from the newest member states met Mr Barroso on Thursday (25 October) but only Bulgaria's Meglena Kuneva, currently the country's Europe minister, received the official green light.

Ms Kuneva will be responsible for the consumer protection portfolio in the 27-strong college, an area which Cypriot commissioner Markos Kyprianou oversees at the moment along with health issues which will now become his sole task.

"Consumer protection is central to the European citizen's agenda and while we have achieved a lot for Europe's consumers already, there is a substantial work ahead which I am sure Ms Kuneva can take forward," Mr Kyprianou said.

However, after Thursday's discussions, Mr Barroso said talks with Bucharest on its nomination of Varujan Vosganian - a liberal senator and keen free market promoter - were "ongoing."

The commission was reportedly taken aback by the surprise nomination as Mr Vosganian did not previously feature among the mooted candidates and is currently linked to an internal Romanian government row, according to the Financial Times.

The tension has also risen a notch following a statement by two prominent socialist MEPs - Hannes Swoboda and Jan Marinus Wiersma - who argue that the Romanian nominee is "unknown" in European circles and his background should be closely "explored."

"What is known is that he has been very much on the right-wing of politics and on the payroll of big economic tycoons," said the deputies, referring to Mr Vosganian's business contacts and noting that they would strive to prevent the commission's push to the right.

But Romanian leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu defended his candidate for the Brussels job and pointed out that the socialists' claims were pure speculation.

"They said they will have a fair attitude towards all candidates for the position of European commissioner and there is no need to view this matter from the perspective of political groups within the European Parliament," said Mr Tariceanu.

Mr Vosganian's nomination has also been marred by Romanian media speculation he collaborated with Soviet-era secret police, the Securitate, while Turkish press writes the ethnic Armenian's prominent role in recent Armenia genocide memorials is causing ripples in Ankara.

The European Parliament will be involved in confirming the two new commissioners, with the date of the vote on their nomination - before or after the countries' January 2007 accession - remaining unclear.

The plenary vote will be preceded by hearings where MEPs will grill the would-be commissioner on issues both directly connected to their portfolios and their general opinions and political and economic thinking.

Tough screening by MEPs in 2004 lead to a couple of nominee changes before Mr Barroso's commission was approved, with the most notorious case being the removal of the Italian candidate, Rocco Buttiglione, for his controversial statements on the role of women in society and on gays.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Armenian parliamentarian’s remarks cause storm

Friday, October 27, 2006
Israel Today
by Staff Writer

Vartan Ayvazian, a member of the Armenian parliament, caused a political storm when he made anti-Semitic statements concerning a drilling company in Armenia.

“Do you know whom you defend?” he was quoted by Armenian newspapers as angrily telling reporters. “You defend Jews. Why don’t you go and find out who’s behind Global Gold? Instead of preventing them from violating our country’s laws, you want to defend them?”
There is an Armenian saying "Think five times and only speak once" obviously this hot headed MP did not follow this time honoured advice.
His remarks were a result of a bitter dispute between Armenia and the American mining company “Global Gold” that was jointly administered by Jews and Armenians. Ayvazian has made anti-Semitic comments in the past.

The Jewish community of Armenia was quick to publicize his latest remarks. The president of the Armenian Jewish community, Rimma Varzhapetian said Ayvazian’s statements were insulting and hurtful.

“A man in this position should not express himself in this manner. He should first think. What was said was very hurtful. There is no anti-Semitism in Armenia and the Jews live in a nice atmosphere,” she said. “We think there are personal interests involved, which in no way extend to the Armenian people and government,” so we don’t want to make a fuss about that.”

The dispute between Ayvazian and Global Gold arose when the Environment Ministry’s decided to revoke the company’s license to carry out exploratory work at one of its Armenian gold mines saying it failed to honor its investment commitments. The company denies the accusations and will not leave before a court ruling.

Global Gold is run by Van Krikorian, a prominent American Armenian and former chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

The accepted genocide of Kurds in Turkey

26 October 2006
By Dr Rebwar Fatah

Since the Armenian genocide, Turkey has done very well to hide and disguise its dark history from the international community. But a shady past rarely dawns a bright future.

Instead, Turkey is re-branding itself with Europe-friendly terms to essentially get rid of what it has always wanted to be rid of. Turkey’s tidy up of its language: words with a distinct Kurdish origin wiped out and replaced. Indeed, anything that is not strictly Turkish has been linked to “terrorism” – a trigger word guaranteed to win the sympathies of the international community.

The Turkish constitution does not recognise Kurds in Turkey, and so often labels them as terrorists, providing a convenient scapegoat for military uprisings and other political issues. Thus,“terrorist” becomes a synonym for Kurds.

Turkey frequently argues that the PKK is a terrorist organisation; hence all Kurdish organisations are banned for what they may imply.

Turkey is desperately in need of an imaginary threat to its “national security”, “territorial integrity” and “sovereignty”, achieved by “separatist/terrorist” Kurds. The scale of the suffering Kurds and destruction of Kurdish homeland does not fit into any “terrorist” definition. In 1999, the death toll of Kurds killed in Turkish military operations increased to over 40,000.

According to the figures published by Turkey’s own Parliament, 6,000 Kurdish villages were systematically evacuated of all inhabitants and 3,000,000 Kurds have been displaced. This sounds like an elimination of a people, a culture and a homeland.

If Turkey is genuine in its elimination of terrorism, it must take brave steps, accepting Kurdish people and their homeland, Kurdistan, and ending its history of oppression.

Professor Noam Chomsky called the Turkish response to Kurds an “ethnic cleansing”, resulting in the death of thousands, the emigration of over two million people and the destruction of approximately 6000 villages.

In fact, these methods by which Turkey has sought to oppress the Kurdish people are similar to those used by Saddam Hussein in the recent past, including the destruction of Kurdish land, mass evacuation and deportation. In some other areas, Turkey has used more oppressive methods to achieve its “Final Solution” of the Kurdish Issue. Some have found this unsurprising, given Turkey’s Ottoman ancestry. During World War I, for example, the Ottoman Empire allied itself with Germany, and in the conflict’s immediate aftermath conducted a programme aiming to exterminate the Armenians, Greeks, Yezidis and Alwis. To date, however, Turkey denies these genocidal campaigns.

The oppression of Kurdish people within Turkey can be defined as genocide in various ways; cultural, linguistic and physical all play a part in the cleansing of Kurdish ethnicity from Turkey itself, and are still embraced by the Turkish constitution.

The head of the British Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, Lord Avebury, said of Turkish atrocities in 1996 that, "Just as many people in western Europe turned a blind eye to Hitler's preparations for the Holocaust in the thirties, the democratic world ignores the evidence of incipient genocide against the Kurds in Turkey today."

As history has shown in Iraq, Turkey cannot attempt to solve the Kurdistan issue with violence and oppression; the days have well passed in which campaigns of genocide can be “successfully” conducted, and Turkey must look to the future, realising that modern Kurds are not as Kurds from the dark ages.

Examples of atrocities by Turks

The history of Turks from Ottoman Empire to the Turkish State is a continuous attempt to eliminate any ethnic and religious group that come in contact with them.

1821, April 22 - Execution of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregorios and loosing of Turkish mobs on the Greek inhabitants of the cities and towns of the Turkish mainland, as a reprisal for the Greek upraise in Peloponisos.

1822 - The Sultan takes new reprisals to terrify the Christians on the Island of Chios. 50,000 Greeks are murdered.

1850 – 12,000 Armenians and Nestorians are massacred by Turkish government.

1860, April 7 - The Sultan orders a massacre of the Maronite villagers in Lebanon.

1860, July 6 - Syrians are massacred under the direction of Ahmed Pasa in Damascus. 11,000 killed.

1876 - Turkish authorities suppress an uprising in Bulgaria. 15,000 people are massacred in the area of Plovdiv in Bulgaria, among them are a number of Armenian members from the local colony. 58 villages and 5 monasteries are destroyed.

1877, June 28 – After the Russian retreat during the Russo-Turkish war, the Turkish army and Kurdish Guerrillas destroy Christian villages. Roughly 6,000 Armenians die.

1892, Summer – 8,000 Yezidis, near Mosul, are massacred and their villages are burned by orders of Ferik pasha for refusing to accept Mohammed.

1894, September to 1896, August - Sultan Hamit applies the policy of genocide to Armenians.

1894, August and September – 12,000 Armenians are killed in Sassun.

1895, October - The first organised genocide takes place in Constantinople and Trebizond.

1895, November and December - The Turkish authorities organize a large massacre throughout the country.

1896, June - Massacre of Armenians at the city of Van.

1896 – 300,000 Armenians are massacred in Constantinople.

1896, May 12 – 55,000 Greeks are murdered in the island of Crete, while the conflicts between Greeks and Turks in the island continue.

1909, March – 30,000 Armenians and some American missionaries are massacred in Adana, Tarsus and other towns of Cilicia by the Young-Turks.

1909 – Revolt of the Arabs in Yemen is suppressed by the Young-Turks.

1911, October 1 - Emilianos, Bishop of Grevena, is assassinated by the Turks.

1912 - The Turkish army retreat from East Thrace and loot the villages of the Didimoticho and Andrianopole districts. Villages in the Malgara district are burnt. The same happens in Kessani. Assassinations and massacres accompany the destruction and looting in this predominantly Greek region.

1913 - The re-occupation of Eastern Thrace by the Turkish army leads to atrocities against Greeks. 15,690 are massacred.

1913, February - The Greek inhabitants of Crithea are compelled to leave their village in East Thrace by the Turkish authorities. A brutal looting follows.

1914, January to December - More than 250,000 Greeks are exiled from East Thrace and the region of Smyrna. Their properties are confiscated.

1914, May 27 - The Christian population of Pergamum is ordered to leave the town within two hours by the Turkish authorities. The terrorized inhabitants take refuge in the Greek island of Mytilini.

1914, May and June - The Turkish authorities enact all kind of persecutions in the Greek region of west Asia Minor. The coast of Asia Minor is devastated. In Erithrea and Fokea Greeks are massacred.

1914, July and August - The Turkish government creates "the forced labour battalions". It is a new scheme for the extermination of the Greek-Ottoman citizens drafted in the Turkish army. By this method 400,000 Greeks are exterminated through hunger, hardship, maltreatment and deprivation.

1914, August – 12,000 Assyrians are murdered by Djevdet Khalil Bey. The number of Assyrians of all faiths, massacred by the Turks since 1895 is up to 424,000

1914, September - Greeks of the Makri region are killed by the Turks.

1914, November - By orders of the Turkish government many villages of Eastern Thrace are forcibly evacuated (Neochorio, Galatas, Callipoli etc.). Thousands flee from their ancestral homes to Greece.

1914, November and December - By order of the Turkish government, the region of Visii and part of the Saranda Eklisiae is evacuated. 19,000 Greeks are exiled in Anatolia and their properties looted. According to the Ecumenical Patriarchate records, 119,940 Greeks were expelled from East Thrace.

1915, April - Organized arrests of a large number of Armenian intellectuals and prominent national leaders in Constantinople and the provinces. They are deported to Anatolia and are killed on the way. The Armenian soldiers of the Turkish army are disarmed and massacred by the thousands. The Armenian population is exiled to the Syrian Desert and massacred.

1915 - The Turks initiate a fierce persecution campaign against the Syrian Orthodox and Nestorian inhabitants of Hakkari, Mardin and Midyat regions. One of the first victims was Adai Ser, Archbishop of Sert. This annihilation campaign which included large scale massacres and destruction continued till the end of World War I.

1915, August 20 to 1916, May 6 - The Ottomans hang 35 Lebanese and Syrian national leaders in Al Burj square in Lebanon and Al Marja square in Syria, with the charge of "struggling for freedom". Under Ottoman rule, a total of 130,000 Lebanese and Syrians are killed.

1916 - The Turks force the inhabitants of different regions of Pontus to immigrate to Sivas. Only 550 survived out of 16,750 inhabitants of the Elevi and Tripoli regions. Of the 49,520 inhabitants of Trebizond only 20,300 remained alive.

1916 - Destruction of the region Riseou-Platanou of Pontus.

1917, Spring – 23,000 Greeks, inhabitants of Cydoniae, are deported.

1917, November - 400 Greek families are expelled from S.W. Asia Minor. Their properties are looted.

1918, April - Another 8,000 Greek families are expelled from S.W. Asia Minor.

1920 - Chrisanthos, Bishop of Trebizond, is condemned to death in Absentia by the Court Martial of Ankara. The Bishop of Zilon dies in jail.

1920 – 30,000 Armenians are massacred in the areas of Kars and Alexandropole by Kemalists.

1920, September - Kemalist Turkey attacks Armenia. The Armenians fight against the Turkish army, but finally they succumb on the 2nd of December 1920. The Turkish victory is followed by a massacre of the Armenians and the annexation of one half of Armenia's Independent Republic of May 28, 1918, to Turkey.

1920 to 1921 - Another 50,000 Armenians are executed by Kemalists.

1921, June 3 – 1,320 Greeks, inhabitants of Samsus, are arrested by Kemalists. The next day 701 of the detainees are killed. The victims are buried in mass graves behind the house of Bekir Pasha. The rest are exiled to the interior of Anatolia.

1922, September 9 - The Turks enter Smyrna and ignite it. Massacres of Greeks and Armenians are organized. The death count is around 150,000 persons.

1924, July 10 - The Turkish army suppresses the Kurdish revolt in Hakkari. After 79 days, 36 villages are vandalized and destroyed, and 12 others are erased.

1925, February – 30,000 Kurds are killed during a revolt against the Turkish authorities. It is estimated that the Kurds have suffered the loss of 500,000 people by massacres and displacements by the Turks over the years.

1925, March 3 - The great Kurdish revolution bursts out at Elazig under Seyh - Sait 10.000 Kurds seize Harput and attack Diyarbakir, the Capital of Kurdistan After the complete destruction of 48 villages. The revolution was suppressed at 7/10/1927 drowned in Kurdish blood.

1927, May 30 - 2,000 Kurdish fighters are killed in Amed (Diyarbakir) and Agri. For many days, the waters of the Murat river are turned red by blood.

1937, May 23 - The Turkish government forbids the edition of the newspaper of Constantinople "Son Telegraph", because it has referred to the Kurdish sufferings.

1938 - Turkey annexes the Sanjak of Antiohie-Hatay. Armenian and Arab population is exiled.

1942, November 11 - The law of taxation on property of the non-Muslims of Turkey (Varlik Vergisi) is voted. It is an attempt of economic extermination of the Greek, Armenian and Jewish communities economic authorities.

1955, September 6 - The Turkish authorities organize a great pogrom against the Greeks of Constantinople. 29 churches are burnt and 46 are looted. The graves of the Ecumenical Patriarchs and Christian cemeteries are vandalized. Thousands of shops are destroyed. Hundred of women are raped.

1963 - 1967 - Turkey provokes the instability of the newborn Republic of Cyprus by using agents.

1964 - Turkey unilaterally denounces the Convention of Establishment of Commerce and Navigation of 1930 (between Venizelos and AtaTurk). The Greek citizens are forced to leave Turkey immediately. Their relatives are obliged to expedite their departure from the country. A secret law is issued denying Greek citizens all their property rights in Turkey.

1964 - The Turkish government expels 12,000 Greeks of Constantinople declaring them as spies. Their properties are confiscated.

1964 - All minority schools on the islands of Imvros and Tenedos are closed while Turkish jails are established. The properties of the Greek population are expropriated. The Greek minority flee the islands. It is noteworthy that both the Greek island Sof Imvros and Tenedos are ceded to Turkey according to the Treaty of Lausanne because they lay at the entrance to the Dardanelles. According to Article 14 of the aforementioned treaty the protection of person and property of the native non-Muslim population is guaranteed. However, the intransigent Turkish policy of uprooting and annihilation of non-Turkish ethnic groups, and the systematic efforts to Turkify the islands with mass settlings of Turks are the reasons that today, from the 12,000 Greek inhabitants only 300 elderly people remain, for whom emigration would be pointless.

1967 - Vandalism in St. Anna's church in the village of Agridia in Imvros, another example of the Turkish policy of "national purification".

1973 - 1974 - De facto questioning of Greece's sovereign rights over the Aegean continental shelf, through the granting of research licenses to the Turkish government petroleum company (TRAO) and the sending of the research vessel "CARDALI" to conduct research in the area.

1974 - De facto questioning of Greek air space of 10 n.m., for the first time since 1931. Continuous and massive violations of Greek air space (over 500 in 1995 alone). Over 80 percent of violations occur at less than 6 n.m. from the Greek coast and even over the Greek islands. De facto arbitrary rejection by Turkey of Athens F.I.R. (until 1980).

1974, July 20 - The Turkish army invades the independent and unarmed island of Cyprus, a sovereign member of the U.N. and seizes the 40% of its territory, on the pretext that is necessary for the security of Turkish-Cypriot minority, which comprises the 18% of the whole population. In this campaign called "operation peace" by Ankara, 5,000 Cypriots are killed, 1,619 are kidnapped, hundreds are tortured, raped and exiled to Turkey.

1978, December 25 - Turkish fascists massacre hundreds of Kurds in Marash.

1978, December 28 - Proclamation of Martial Law in 15 provinces of Northern Kurdistan prohibiting for years any information about the suffering of the Kurdish people.

1978, December - 110 Kurds are massacred in the Northern Kurdistan, city of Kahramanmaras.

1979, December to 1980, September - Conflicts between the PKK and the Turkish state provided a distinctively ethnic source of violence. Few thousands Kurds were killed (mostly civilians) in different incidents.

1980, July - An outbreak of violence erupts in Corum, central Anatolia, causing 30 deaths and a mass exodus of terrified Alevis from the region.

1983 - A law banned the use, either in speech or in writing, of any language not recognized as the official language of another country (in effect, Kurdish).

1984 - Turkey shuts off the supply of water from the Alkuwik river which originates from Turkey and reaches the south of Allepo, Syria, leading to the desertification of the area after its plains dried out.

1988, February - A pogrom night is organized to Armenian population in Baku and Sumgait regions with a replica organization of the terror night of Constantinople in 1955.

1989 - Passage of arbitrary Turkish law establishing Turkish "Search and Rescue" rights over half of the Aegean, in direct violation of ICAO rules.

1991, August to December - The Turkish Air Force and Army attacks the PKK groups in Southern Kurdistan with continuous bombing of Kurdish villages. More than 100 Kurds, including women and children, perished and 150 were injured.

1992 - Ankara builds the "Ataturk" dam on the river Euphrates and severely decreases its flow to Iraq and Syria, thus threatening the agriculture and economic survival of both nations.

1992, January to 1993, October - Turkish bombing of Kurdish villages. 4,800 are injured among which 2,000 eventually perish.

1994, May to August - Renewed Turkish raids on Kurds claim the lives of 400 Kurdish villagers and injure more than 200.

1995 - A pogrom night is organized by the Turkish government at Gari Osman Pascha district in Istanbul against the Alewi, a religious population.

1995, March 20 – 35,000 Turkish soldiers enter Southern Kurdistan under the pretext of fighting the PKK groups that, according to Ankara, had taken refuge there. Through indiscriminate bombing, torture and forced marches on PKK minefields, 200 Kurds are killed, most of whom were non-combatants. More than 50,000 Turkish troops moved into Southern Kurdistan. Along four routes, a 335 kilometres long border was breached and eyewitnesses noted that advanced Turkish teams were sent some 40 kilometres inside South Kurdistan. Civilian Kurds have been killed and refugee camps have been bombarded from the air.

1996, January 31 - The Turkish army lands some of its men on the smaller of the Imia islets which constitutes an integral part of Greek territory according to international treaties and agreements dating back to 1923. It is the first time that Turkey openly lays claims over actual Greek territory.

1996, May 6 - After a renewed, intensive six-week military campaign, Turkey withdraws its last soldiers from southern Kurdistan. The final number of the Kurdish casualties is more than 400. The injured are even more.

1996, August - During a week of peaceful demonstrations on the borders of occupied Nicosia, the Turkish troops opened fire on the demonstrators killing two people and injuring forty.

1997, February - Ankara responds to the Cypriot government's plans to purchase air-defence systems by threatening to invade and occupy the free areas. A threat often adopted since 1974.

1999 - The death toll of Kurds killed in Turkish military operations rises to over 40,000 and according to the figures published by Turkey's own parliament, 6,000 Kurdish villages were systematically evacuated of all inhabitants and 3,000,000 Kurds have been displaced.


Chomsky, Noam, ‘Alpaslan Isikli to Noam Chomsky – Email Conversations’ archived at: http://www.universite-toplum.org/text.php3?id=61 (22nd October 2006)

Levene, Mark, Creating a Modern "Zone of Genocide": The Impact of Nation- and State-Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878–1923, Holocaust Genocide Studies 12: 393-433. Archived at: http://hgs.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/12/3/393 (22nd October 2006)

Koivunen, Kristiina, ‘The Invisible War in North Kurdistan’, p.27 archived: http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/val/sospo/vk/koivunen/theinvis.pdf (22nd October 2006)

Lord Avebury, House of Lords, 22nd January 1996

occidentalis.com, The Turkish crime of our century, 22 October 2006, http://www.occidentalis.com/article.php?sid=1939&thold=0

The chronology of the events is taken from a number of sources.

My thanks to Michelle Johnson and Chris Lacey.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.