Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Armenian genocide, and Turkish denials

Despite the evidence, Turkey denies the genocide of the Armenians during the first World War.
Like the Germans after World War II, Turkey should accept that there was a genocide on its soil, apologize for it, make reparations where required, and move forward. Then only can it claim to be part of the civilized world.

As the successor to the Ottoman empire, the modern Turkish state has instead spent millions of pounds on public relations and lobbying to dissuade western governments from labeling the events of 1915 - 1917 a genocide, according to The Guardian. It cancelled defense contracts with France last year when its national assembly voted to make denial of the Armenian holocaust a crime.

Against the protests of US President George Bush, who is worried about retaliation from Turkey, the US Congress is planning to officially recognize as a genocide the forced deportations and massacre of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey does not accept that there was a genocide against the Armenians arguing instead that the Armenians were killed in widespread fighting.

But critics within and outside Turkey insist that the country come to terms with this gory and controversial element of its past. Turkish author, and Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted in Turkey after he referred to the Armenian issue. "What happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915 was a major thing that was hidden from the Turkish nation; it was a taboo," he told the BBC in 2005 after he returned to Turkey to face charges against him.

Turkey’s reign of terror against the Armenians was an attempt to destroy the race, and the Armenian death toll was almost a million and a half, according to Robert Fisk in his book “The Great War for Civilization.” On September 15, 1915, Fisk writes, the then Turkish interior minister Talaat Pasha, cabled an instruction, of which a carbon copy still exists, to his prefect in Aleppo, telling him that he had already been informed that the government “had decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey”.

Fisk found from eyewitness that in Margada on the Turkish-Syria border over 50,000 Armenians had been killed. Turks tied together Armenian men, women, and children, starved and sometimes naked, and pushed them off the hill of Margada into the river, and shot one of them, according to Fisk. The body of the person shot then dragged the others down into the water, at the expense of a single bullet.

There are innumerable parallel that can be drawn between Margada and Auschwitz, and between the Ottoman Empire and Nazi Germany. Where the paths differ is that while Germany acknowledges and repents for the Holocaust, the Turks insist that there wasn’t a genocide of the Armenians. It resorts to blackmail of countries that would refer to the killings as genocide.

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