Thursday, May 15, 2008

Genocide Denial Robs us of our Humanity

Mayıs 15, 2008
Haber: Politika

The recent debate on Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) decision to develop a Grade 11 ‘Genocide: Historical and Contemporary Implications’ curriculum, which has been approved by the Minister of Education in Ontario, unleashed a sophisticated and deceptive campaign to discredit the curriculum and the TDSB. Any rational, responsible person would applaud the teaching of our students the catastrophic effects of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. That Turkish Government agents and lobbyists are campaigning to deter TDSB from introducing this extremely valuable course is dismaying, but not surprising. The well-funded and aggressive efforts by Turkey to deny the Armenian Genocide have been so prevalent in Turkey and around the world that they have become infamously known as “an industry of denial.” The motives and methods of these history-distorting efforts are well documented and studied by Holocaust and Genocide scholars, historians, educators and psychologists.

The Turkish denial machine employes falsehoods, innuendo, unsubstantiated accusations and revisionist historical discourse to promote its version of history.

What happened during the TDSB Program and Services Committee’s meeting in Toronto on January 16 is another demonstration of the extent the Turkish nationalists will go to silence anyone who does nor share their revisionist narrative of history. The Turkish representatives tried to intimidate and to silence such prominent Canadians as Prof. Frank Chalk, director of the Montréal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies; David Warner, former Speaker of the Ontario Legislative Assembly; Leo Adler, prominent criminal lawyer and human rights advocate; and Hon. Jim Karygiannis, MP, who attended the meeting to show their strong support for the curriculum and the inclusion of the Armenian Genocide in the Grade 11 history course.

To try to curtail freedom of expression of any Canadian and to taunt them with abuses and profanities is shameful and a threat to democracy. The scene was reminiscent of the trials of many righteous Turkish individuals who in recent years have challenged the Turkish Government for its denial of the Armenian Genocide and who have been silenced under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

It looks like The Turkish nationalists are trying to import that anti-democratic modus operandi to Canada.

Since it would take volumes to categorically reply to Turkish lobbyists’ falsehoods, I would like to address some of their revisionist historical discourse. We will note their false suggestions and then offer the factual corrections.

Introduction of the curriculum would incite hatred against Turkish children.

It is claimed that if such a curriculum is introduced it would “create hatred against Turkish children.”

Despite Turkish lobbyists’ allegations, there’s absolutely no shred of evidence from any authority–government or educational–that Turkish school children have been bullied by their Armenian classmates in Canada. Raising fears that mentioning the Genocide of Armenians would result in the persecution of Turks is a red herring intended to plant fear among educational institutions in Canada.

Most Armenians and Turks overwhelmingly distinguish between the perpetrators of the genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and people of Turkish descent today, wherever the latter may live. The January 19 commemoration of the first anniversary of the assassination Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Ottawa by a group of Armenians and Turks, who are members of the Turkish-Armenian Dialogue Group of Ottawa, is the best illustration of this attitude. Mr. Dink was assassinated in front of his Istanbul office by a member of a nationalist Turkish political group.

It is also possible to teach that genocide is wrong without teaching hatred of the perpetrators. One can explain their motivations and why they were wrong. One can explain the destruction and the suffering they caused. This is being done successfully in our current educational system where the Holocaust is taught without blaming contemporary Germany or Germans.

After a decade of teaching about the Armenian Genocide in schools in 12 American states (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia, and California), there has not been a single registered or documented incident of “bullying, hate, and racism” against Turkish children.

Many righteous Turks during the Armenian Genocide risked their lives to save their Armenian neighbours, friends, and business associates. Furthermore, we value the many Turkish intellectuals, historians, journalists and over 12,000 German-Turks who, despite death threats, persecution, and prosecution challenged the official narrative of the Turkish government on the Armenian Genocide and asked the Turkish government to come to terms with this sad chapter of its history.

Here is what the German Turks wrote:

“What we have learned at school (Turkish) is a forgery of history.” They asked the Turkish Government to repent for the crime of Genocide which “we feel morally obliged to end their (Armenians) disillusions and agony”. Furthermore, the association asked for “international condemnation of the crimes committed against the Armenians, Assyrians and Pontian-Greeks.”

While official Turkey denies its responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, Turkish intellectual Taner Akçam wrote in the Turkish newspaper Yeni Binyil (October 1, 2000):

“The manner in which the Armenian question is being discussed is in itself indicative as to what is the main problem of our country. We do not possess the culture affording open debate about mass murders. We are devoid of the moral foundations which enable us to damn such crimes. One needs to have a sense of sorrow in order to be able to speak of the great human tragedies; but we do not possess such a sense of morality. Look at the things that have been written about this topic. In them you don’t find a single sentence, a single word that recognizes the tragedy.”

When Turkish children learn about these righteous Turks, they can be proud of the way these people acted. They will be absolved of any responsibility. As renowned writer Ahmet Altan stated in May 2005: “I have nothing in common with the terrible sin of the past Ittihadists [the government of the day]… instead of justifying and arguing on behalf of the murderers, why don’t we praise and defend the rescuers’ compassion, honesty, and courage?”

Historians are disputing the Armenian Genocide.

After 92 years and numerous history books, government documents (British, French, United States, and even then-Turkish allies Germany and Austria), photographs by war correspondents, massive coverage by Western journalists, missionaries and NGOs, and documentary films, we maintain that it’s redundant to try to prove what has been proven countless times. After all, would anyone demand that a historians’ committee be formed to question whether the Holocaust took place?

The Turkish Government agents cite the same half-dozen historians and writers to back their allegations. Practically everyone listed has taught history at institutions where their chair has been funded by the Turkish government. These historians have close relationships with the government of Turkey; have privileged access to Turkish historic archives and are provided with frequent all-expense paid trips to Turkey. The publication of their books are often funded by the government of Turkey.

Many genocide scholars have questioned the credibility of these half-dozen historians.

Colin Imber, in the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, called Justin McCarthy’s work: “Junk food, junk bonds and now junk history … This is a cruel description, but one which is perfectly appropriate for a book which is carelessly written, is often misinformed, and shamelessly follows a Turkish nationalist agenda.”

Ton Zwaan, in de Volkskrant (Dutch newspaper) wrote: “Among bona fide historians McCarthy is known as one of the professional deniers, subsidized by the Turkish government.” Zwaan continued: “In a groundless, hazy and disorderly argumentation replete with half-truths and complete untruths, McCarthy attempts to persuade his readers that an Armenian genocide never transpired in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916.”

Many Turkish historians, among them Taner Akcam and Muge Gocek, also questioned McCarthy’s research and trustworthiness.

Guenter Lewy is a well know revisionist. His work–from the killing of Roma Gypsies in the Second World War to the Vietnam War–is well documented. This is what the Journal of Genocide Research wrote: “Lewy’s . . . book which seeks not only to exclude the Nazis’ Romani victims from the Holocaust-which is not anything new-but goes a step further to say that they were not even the targets of attempted genocide. . . ‘The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies’ is a dangerous book.”

After reading Lewy’s biased article on the Armenian Genocide, Prof. Gregory H. Stanton, said: “I am appalled. It is such a blatant denial article . . . As you know, the evidence for the Armenian genocide does not just rest upon the three sources Guenter Lewy attempts to discredit. (He doesn’t even do a good job of discrediting those sources.) It also rests on literally thousands of eye-witness testimonies, eyewitness reports by diplomats and missionaries, and a mountain of other data. Lewy’s article is directly contrary to the official opinion of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, passed by unanimous resolution, declaring that the Armenian massacres were genocide, and that attempts to deny that fact have no basis in sound scholarship.”

Norman M. Naimark from Stanford University recently reviewed Guenter Lewy’s latest book for the jounral Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Naimark concluded that “… if Lewy wishes to maintain his claims to historical objectivity by using accepted judicial definitions of genocide, then the difficulty of finding direct evidence for the Young Turks’ premeditated planning of mass murder should not prevent him from concluding that genocide took place. At its core, then Lewy’s argument is illogical.”

The International Association of Genocide Scholars, in a letter to the Turkish Prime Minister labelled such historians as “scholars who advise your government and who are affiliated in other ways with your state-controlled institutions are not impartial. Such so-called “scholars” work to serve the agenda of historical and moral obfuscation when they advise you and the Turkish Parliament on how to deny the Armenian Genocide.”

One of the historians Turks often cite to buttress their denialist arguments is Bernard Lewis. Mr. Lewis has been convicted in French court for denying the Armenian Genocide. His flip-flopping on the Armenian Genocide is well documented. In an earlier version of his book, “The Emergence of Modern Turkey,” Lewis wrote: “A struggle between two nations for the possession of single homeland, that ended with the terrible holocaust of 1915, where a million and half Armenians perished.”

I have no intention to enter into a “my historian is more credible than your historian” contest here, although the number of international historians who acknowledge the truth of the Genocide of Armenians exceeds the names cited by Turkish lobbyists by a hundred fold. To mention just one group of 126 Holocaust scholars, among them Elie Wiesel, Yehuda Bauer, Israel Charny, Steven Katz, Steven Jacobs, and Irving L. Horowitz, who on March 9, 2000, issued a statement declaring that “The World War I Armenian Genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of the Western democracies to likewise recognize it as such.”

The Turkish archives are open. Armenians refuse dialogue

One of the most disingenuous Turkish arguments is that Turkish archives are open and that Armenian archives are closed on the genocide issue. They use this argument to mislead and to divert attention from the real issue, the crime of Genocide. Furthermore, they try to imply that Armenians have something to hide and do not want to open their archives for inspection or to enter into a dialogue with Turks.

What is the truth?

In regard to the Armenian Genocide, there are four main Turkish sources of archives:

1–The Prime Ministerial Archives

2–The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) [the governing party in 1915] Archives

3–The Special Organization [the organization which carried out the Genocide] Archives

4–The Interior Ministry Archives.

According to the Istanbul Military Tribunal (1919 - 1921), which was established to try Turkish Government leaders who had ordered the implementation of the Armenian Genocide, most of the documents related to the latter three organizations have been either “stolen or destroyed.” During the trial, the Turkish persecutor in his indictment, stated: “Investigation of what had occurred reveals that important documents pertaining to this office [Special Organizations] …have been purloined.”

In the same indictment, he also stated that “all of the documents and ledgers of the Central Committee [CUP] have been purloined.” Furthermore, many witnesses during the trials testified that the documents of CUP had been removed by Central Committee member Dr. Nazim.

In regard to the Interior Ministry Archives, Aziz Bey (former director of General Security), revealed that Talât Pasha, the interior minister, prior to fleeing the country, took suitcases of documents, information and reports, and burned them.

The only archives which are open are the Prime Ministerial Archives. These archives are limited to a small group of selected historians who a priori have demonstrated their support of Turkish government’s genocide denialist narrative. Furthermore, researchers are allowed only 25 documents per day, which severely limits the ability to work there.

Recently, Mehmet Sait Uluisik, a German citizen of Turkish origin, was banned from entering Turkey to carry research in the Prime Minister’s Ottoman archives on the role of Circassians in the Armenian Genocide. The Circassians were armed and funded by the government of Turkey.

Thus to claim Turkish archives are open to scholars is inaccurate. The critical archives pertaining to the Armenian Genocide are not in the archives, while the available ones are of limited access.

The accusation that Armenians refuse to dialogue with Turks is another myth.

Numerous attempts have been made by the Armenian Government and the Armenian Diaspora to dialogue with Turks. These attempts have failed because of the Turkish Government’s intransigent and unreasonable conditions. The Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) is a prime example. Turkish and Armenian members of TARC agreed to submit the arbitration of the Armenian Genocide issue to a third party–the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). When ICTJ’s report concluded that what happened to the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey was a classic case of genocide and fulfilled four out of five conditions set by the UN Genocide Convention, the Turkish government pulled the plug on TARC by asking its Turkish members to withdraw from the commission.

In response to the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s letter to the President of Armenia, to establish a “joint group of historians… to study … the events of 1915,” Robert Kocharian, the President of Armenia, on April 25, 2005, replied by saying: “Your [Erdogan[ suggestion to address the past cannot be effective if it deflects from addressing the present and future, in order to engage in a useful dialogue, we need to create the appropriate and conducive political that context, an intergovernmental commission can meet to discuss any and all outstanding issues between our two nations.”

The Turkish Government did not respond to the Armenian Government’s positive approach to solve this issue. On April 11, 2006, the Foreign Minister of Armenia Vartan Oskanian, reminded the Turkish Government and the international community that “we remain amazed that a letter sent by president Kocharian to Prime Minister Erdogan… remains simply ignored because the Turkish authorities did not like the response contained therein, and do not wish to broaden the scope of dialogue beyond histology.”

More recently, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Armenian Parliament organized a conference in the Armenian Parliament on Turkish Armenian relations. Among the invitees were Turkish professor Yusuf Halacoglu (president of Turkish Historical Society), Sedat Laciner (director of International Strategic Research Institute), former Turkish Ambassador Omer Engin Lutem (head of the Armenian Studies Institute of the Eurasian Strategic Research Center), Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, and Dr. Can Paker (Turkey’s special representative for relations with the European Union). None of the Turkish invitees attended this important and unique conference. The Turkish side missed a golden opportunity to meet Armenian politicians, historians and scholars to discuss relations between the two neighboring nations.

The Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, Tigran Torosian, voiced his concern that Turkey’s decision not to participate in the discussions would not contribute to dialogue between the two nations.

The above examples clearly show that Turkish government’s manipulative offer of dialogue with Armenians is akin to the neo-Nazis’ suggestion of an independent, objective historical commission to determine whether the Holocaust took place or the Flat Earth Society’s offer to hold an academic dialogue with National Geographic about the true shape of the earth.

If the Turkish Government does not allow its citizens, historians and intellectuals to freely discuss the issue of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey, and prosecutes them under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, how can one take its offer of dialogue with Armenians and the creation of “historians commission” seriously?

The Canadian Armenian community does not bear any animosity towards the Canadian Turkish community. On the contrary, we sympathize with the members of the Turkish-Canadian community and Turks in general, particularly when they have been mislead for too long and denied their own history, by the Turkish Government.

We are hopeful the Turkish Government halts its campaign of falsification of history and focuses on the Genocide issue without hysteria, racism, nationalistic fanaticism and that the Turkish people will acknowledge the misdeeds of their predecessors and extend a hand of friendship to the Armenian people.

Ardash Amroyan

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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