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For The Day of Remembrance - April 24th

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 PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 8:33 pm    Post subject: For The Day of Remembrance - April 24th Reply with quote Back to top

For The Day of Remembrance - April 24th

April 24th is an important day of remembrance. It marks a moment in history of
a devastating human tragedy: the anniversary of the Genocide of 1.5
million Armenian people (~70% of total population at the time), a
political 'strategy' inflicted by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman
Empire in 1915.

Genocide has been used repeatedly as the tool of states bent on political and
social transformation, the de-humanization of victims seen as the first step
toward successful implementation. This first Genocide of the 20th century, for
many reasons, has been neither accepted by all nations, nor recalled as a
lesson about the darker side of collective denial.

That said, however, a growing number of countries and multinational
organizations, including the European Parliament and Parliamentary Assembly of
the Council of Europe, have recognized and reaffirmed the Armenian Genocide as
historical fact. In the last several years alone, parliaments of Belgium,
Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland
have passed resolutions officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide. In 2000
and 2001, Pope John Paul II issued statements condemning the Armenian Genocide
as a "prologue to horrors" that would follow in the 20th century, and the
European Parliament renewed its calls on Turkey to publicly recognize the

The United States, home to over one million Armenians today - many of whom fled
the Genocide, treats this subject with selective memory - plainly speaking - as
a result of the strategic considerations of its longstanding relationship with
Turkey. Interestingly, the U.S. has allegedly used the recognition of this
tragic event as a 'bargaining chip' with Turkey (as reported last year this
time in Turkish daily newspaper C umhuriyet), in the face of Turkish
recalcitrance to join the coalition forces prior to last year's invasion of
Iraq. (And if even half of this is true, it's already disturbing). Looking to
the massacre of over 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, we ask - "how did this
happen in our day and age?" Other examples abound - Cambodia, Bosnia. Genocide
happens because it can. It happens because there are people willing to
participate in it, stand by and watch it, and in some cases - to deny it ever

For those who are generally familiar with the historical background of the
Armenian Genocide, it will be obvious why it elicits considerable tension
between Turkish and Armenian people. In the past, I have found myself
defending that which I believe to be historical truth. I've since realized
that 'defending truth' to those who do not have the capacity to see it can be a
circuitous and so metimes fruitless effort. Truth can admittedly have many
faces, although I firmly believe that there is a line beyond which systematic
extermination of over a million people can simply not be rationally denied.
The realm beyond that line includes attempts to characterize this case as the
byproduct of a 'civil war'. As far as I know from my past 10 years of
exposure to international relations study in various institutions, civil war is
usually something that occurs when both (if not more) embroiled sides are armed
and fighting. Ample, objective (non-Armenian) historical references and news
sources exist to prove that this was not what was happening in 1915.
Certainly, anyone with a little time and inclination to utilize their access to
the New York Times Online Archives can type in the word "Armenian", select a
search criteria of 01/01/1915 through 12/01/1915, and just read for themselves
what the overwhelming majority of articles say in that year. (Note: the
word "Genocide", coined by Lemkin, did not exist before 1943.) Nevertheles
s, I
have largely ceased to defend "my" version of history vs. "other" versions of
history. Although I will add that it is curious that some of these "other"
versions of history are referred to in mainstream literature as part of a
category of "historical revisionism". Basically, I can only try to raise

In a way, it ceases to matter whose 'story' one wants to accept. In the grand
scheme of things, it is not the version of history or the number of lives lost
that is any longer at issue on days like April 24th - I think it is more how
such memorials can speak to that which is a lesson for all humanity.
Acknowledged or not, there is a price to pay for those who perpetrate such
crimes. And Turkey continues to pay that price, in part because it has a
reputation vis-a-vis its human rights record that speaks for itself. If
specific events are not acknowledged, then somewhere - patterns of behavior
are. Though this may not translate to Genocide recognition as a matter of
policy for all governments, I take comfort in the idea that simple
acknowledgement need not necessarily start from the top-down. In an age of
knowledge networks, knowledge creation, and dissemination - the realm of public
opinion continues to grow in significance. It is perhaps less important
whether one prefers one 'version' of an event to another, than to realize the
problem of there being a dispute around the virtual annihiliation of an
ethnically homogeneous population from specific geographical areas during a
specific period of time.

April 24th is an important day because it gives us an example of what we should
not accept - an unacknowledged traged y and a historical failure of
international cooperation. There have been and continue to be many such
failures since the Genocide of the Armenians. And sadly, even Armenians are not
inured to bloodshed along ethnic lines. This can be noted in the events
(albeit noting the very clear distinctions between ethnic conflict and
Genocide) that transpired in Khojaly in 1992, a conflict during which hundreds
of Azeri civilians were reportedly killed by Karabagh Armenian forces. It can
be noted also historically in some provinces of Anatolia as the Genocide
unfolded, as Armenians fought in self-defense with the support of Russia.
When the conditions are ripe, victims have the potential to become
perpetrators - and cycles of violence are re-born. We see this phenomenon in
so many contexts (other than in the manifestation of Genocide), that it becomes
almost unnecessary to mention the most obvious one s.

There is something that unites Turks, Armenians and the rest. Indeed, 'truth'
may not lie necessarily for all people in the exact number, the exact
locations, and the exact means of horrifying execution exercised in a process
of ethnic extermination (though in and of themselves these details can never
truly be compromised). Rather, I believe that days like April 24th should be
a memorial to the catastrophic failures of Humanity. These failures unite all
of us: whether we are related to the perpetrators, whether we are victims of
the perpetrators, whether we bear witness, or whether we simply deny. In the
case of the Armenian Genocide, April 24th makes reference to one of those
failures: The actions of a Turkish government hell-bent on land and power in
the early part of the 20th century as its 'millet' system for governance of
minorities deteriorates, and the subsequent failur e of the international
community to prevent what actually became the precedent for the successful
extermination strategies of Adolf Hitler himself. Was it not Hitler, reassured
by the un-learned lessons of history, who said, "Who, after all, speaks today
of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Failures continue today to be manifested in different forms, morphing in and
out of various institutions, political agendas, and
personalities. They are characterized by systematic denial and a lack of
acknowledgment of what is a sad reality. Again and again, the political and
the economic supersedes the human. History, it would seem, is intellectualized
and academicized at a rather large cost. When one denies another their story of
tragedy, particularly in the context of inextricably linked histories, hatred
and fear thrive, and cooperation is destroyed before it can be born. It is no
wo nder that some wounds never heal and are passed down from generation to
generation. I am removed two full generations from the deserts of Der Zor, but
the stories of the immense suffering and torture of my great-grandparents
remain in me. The living memory of the survivors who are with us is an even
more powerful
force than the desire to preserve cultural cohesion. All of us can learn
something from this.

Why does this matter today? Turkey still stands in a position of power and
has been regarded with considerable suspicion vis-ą-vis her intentions toward
the Kurdish populations living within Turkish borders. Turkey also stands on
the verge of EU membership - and assuming one takes the most positive de facto
facets of European identity - the question remains: should a state like Turkey
with this unacknowledged blood on its hands be considered a part of Europe? A
Europe in which o thers have been largely held accountable and paid penance for
their deeds? If history is any indicator of the justification of suspicions
about Turkey's eligibility and standing, then the story of the Armenian
Genocide is vital.

Can Armenians and Turks (as collective entities) ever get along? If perhaps
we were to applaud together the efforts of those brave Turkish people who stood
against ethnic lines to protect innocent human beings from being led to
slaughter, common ground can be found. Many Turks helped to hide and save
entire families before they could be marched off and slaughtered. These were
heroes. Some, today, still stand up to the injustice of denial, to the reality
of their history. If it were possible to celebrate the strength and humanity
of those unique individuals who resisted violence, then we can encourage
others - perhaps - to do the same. The political matur ity upon which this can
be built is contingent first upon an acceptance of ownership and
accountability. Then, there may be hope for disentangling ethnic violence and
political agendas. And in separating the two, suffering can be looked at for
what it was, what it has been, and what it should never be again.

- Audrey Selian


The Turkish government today denies that there was an Armenian Genocide and
claims that Armenians were only removed from an eastern "war zone", which
consisted mainly of Erzerum, Bitlis and Van. The Genocide, however, occurred
all over and across Anatolia (present-day Turkey). Deportations and killings
occurred in the west, in and around Ismid (Izmit) and Broussa (Bursa); in the
center, in and around Angora (Ankara); in the south-west, in and around Konia
(Konya) and Adana (which is near the Mediterranean Sea); in the central portion
of Anatolia, in and around Diyarbekir (Diyarbakir), Harpout (Harput), Marash,
Sivas (Sepastia), Shabin Kara-Hissar (žebin Karahisar), and Ourfa (Urfa); and
on the Black Sea coast, in and around Trebizond (Trabzon). (Source: Univ. of

Only one Turkish government, that of Damad Ferit Pasha (after March 1919), has
ever recognized the Armenia n Genocide. In fact, that Turkish government held
war crimes trials and condemned to death the major leaders responsible,
including Ismail Enver Pasha, Ahmed Cemal Pasha, Mehmed Talāt Bey, and a host
of others who were convicted by the Turkish court and condemned to death
for "the extermination and destruction of the Armenians". It is interesting
that the 'ju
stice' doled out by those in the process of governmental reform in
1919 could not have served as a starting point from which Turkey could have
constructively come to terms with the darker chapters of her history. As it
is, a simple historical recognition may have cost far less than the accusations
against Turkey's human rights record cost today - at least in the realm of
public diplomacy and opinion.

RECENT NEWS: New York Times Changes Policy on Armenian Genocide:

The New York Times has recently revised its guidelines for editors regarding <
BR>the Armenian genocide. The new policy notes, "After careful study of
definitions of `genocide,' we have decided to accept the term in references to
the Turks' mass destruction of Armenians in and around 1915." The guidelines
continue, "The expression `Armenian genocide' may be used freely and should not
be qualified with phrasing like `what Armenians call,' etc." The Times' new
guidelines state that: "By most historical accounts, the Ottoman empire killed
more than one million Armenians in a campaign of death and mass deportation
aimed at eliminating the Armenian population throughout what is now Turkey."

The memo notes, "While we may of course report Turkish denials on those
occasions when they are relevant, we should not couple them with the
historians' findings, as if they had equal weight."

For more information contact: Peter Balakian, pbalakian@mail.colgate.edu;
Robert Melson, me lson@polsci.purdue.edu; or Samantha Power, Samantha_Power@

For More Information, a few links... :

"The Accounts of Henry Morgenthau, American Ambassador to Turkey 1913-16",
Link: http://www.cilicia.com/morgenthau/MorgenTC.htm

"The Turkish Military Tribunal's Prosecution of the Authors of the Armenian
Genocide: Four Major Court-Martial Series" by Vahakn N. Dadrian, Link:
http://www.Genocide.am/ dadrian/content.htm

"Remembering and Understanding the Armenian Genocide", by Rouben Paul Adalian,
Link: http://www.Genocide.am/adalian/content.htm

Khojaly: "Genocide Debate Complicates Search for Karabakh Peace" by Clare
Doyle, Link:

Commemoration in the New York Times - those who have recognized the Genocide:

"Critics Accuse Turkish Government of Manipulating Scholarship", Chronicle of
Higher Education, by Amy Magaro Rubin, Link:

"Armenians say US Failed Them", by Fergal Keane, Link:

"Bitter History of Armenian Genocide Row", by Chris Morris, Link:

"Turkey angry at US Armenian Genocide move", Link:

"The Psychological Satisfaction of Denials of the Holocaust or Other Genocides
by Non-Extremists or Bigots, and Even by Known Scholars" by Israel W. Charny,
Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Genocide; Executive Director of the
Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide, Jerusalem; Professor of Psychology &
Family Therapy, and Founder and Former Direc tor of the Program for Advanced
Studies in Integrative Psychotherapy at the Dept. of Psychology & Martin Buber
Center, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Link:
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