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Today, all around the world, people will be joining together to remember the 1.5 million men, women and children who were killed in the Armenian Genocide.
This was a systematic, orchestrated massacre – which began when the Turkish Government arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and cultural leaders in Constantinople, on the 24th April 1915. By 1918, between a half and two thirds of the Armenians living in the Ottoman empire – their historic homeland – had been killed. By 1923, the two-million strong Armenian population had been ethnically cleansed; either killed or force into exile. This was the first genocide of the 20th century. Many argue that, because it was carried out with impunity, it emboldened and inspired the Nazi extermination of the Jews of Europe 25 years later. Before the invasion of Poland in 1939, Hitler is attributed as having said: “Who, after all, still talks nowadays about the extermination of the Armenians?”
However, the recognition of what happened as genocide (or lack thereof) has long been controversial.
The build up to today’s one hundredth commemoration has seen growing awareness of the events of 1915 – and growing controversy. This news round-up summarises recent events and articles.
The Guardian have written a concise briefing on the Armenian Genocide – helpful as a quick introduction. For a more in depth, historical look, the New York Times have published an archive of their coverage at the time:
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) April 17, 2015
– Last week, Pope Francis used the word “genocide” to refer to the mass killings of Armenians. He said: “In the past century, our human family has lived through three massive and unprecedented tragedies. The first, which is widely considered ‘the first genocide of the 20th century,’ struck your own Armenian people”. He has since faced a backlash from Turkey, who have summoned the ambassador from the Vatican.
– German President Joachim Gauck has described the killing of Armenians as genocide. Tomorrow, the German parliament, the Bundestag, will debate a motion on the 1915 massacres, which may lead to official recognition by Germany.
– Barack Obama has reneged on a 2008 campaign promise to recognise the genocide.
Baroness Cox, and HART intern Anna Cox, are currently in Armenia. Baroness Cox is co-chairing the Convention Against the Crime of Genocide, which is taking place in Yerevan:
Speaking at the event, she said, “Whenever I visit Armenia and Artsakh, I’m so humbled and inspired by the spirit of Armenian people. You are like a phoenix. You do not only survive, but also create beauty from the ashes of destruction here in Armenia and the holy land of Artsakh”.
On the subject of recognition, she has said, “I’m deeply sad that I am a member of a parliament, the Parliament of the United Kingdom whose Government today refuses to recognize the Armenian Genocide.” She appreciated the contribution of the speakers from Turkey at the Forum, and said, “it is in the interest of Turkish people themselves to acknowledge the truth of this part of history.”
Editorials and Articles
Armenia’s genocide: death and denial – David Gardner in the Financial Times | Link
“Personal testimony and scholarly research leave no doubt that the Ottoman-orchestrated massacre of Armenians that began 100 years ago this month was genocide” … “An array of documented accounts over the past two decades, by Turks, Armenians and western historians, have placed the nature of those atrocities beyond the questioning of the modern Turkish republican narrative.”
Turkey must end its 100 years of genocide denial – Peter Balakian in the Guardian | Link
“The pope took the moral issue even further when he addressed the corruption of Turkish denial: “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.” On the centenary of the genocide, Turkey would do its national honour well if it listened to him. There can be no reconciliation until there is truth.”
A Century After Armenian Genocide, Turkey’s Denial Only Deepens – Tim Arango in the New York Times | Link
“Turkey’s ossified position, so at odds with the historical scholarship, is a legacy of how the Turkish republic was established after World War I. Under its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, society here underwent a process of Turkification: a feat of social engineering based on an erasure of the past and the denial of a multiethnic history.”
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie – Robert Fisk in the Independent | Link
“At seven o’clock on Thursday evening, a group of very brave men and women will gather in Taksim Square, in the centre of Istanbul, to stage an unprecedented and moving commemoration. The men and women will be both Turkish and Armenian, and they will be gathering together to remember the 1.5 million Christian Armenian men, women and children slaughtered by the Ottoman Turks in the 1915 genocide.”
Fisk has a creative suggestion: “Armenians must surely now compile a list of the brave Turks who saved their lives during their people’s persecution. There is at least one provincial governor, and individual named Turkish soldiers and policemen, who risked their own lives to save Armenians at this gruesome moment in Turkish history. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s triumphalist prime minister, has spoken of his sorrow for the Armenians, while continuing to deny the genocide. Would he dare to refuse to sign an Armenian genocide book of commemoration listing the brave Turks who tried to save their nation’s honour at its darkest hour?”
Denial of the Armenian Genocide Is Brutalizing the World – Stephen Ihrig in the Huffington Post | Link
“The Armenian Genocide is a piece of history that is not allowed to be history. It continually seeps into the present and cannot find its own historical finality.”