by Edmond Y. Azadian
Mirror Spectator– For people who have not experienced the horrors of genocide or the loss of their ancestral homeland, it is easy to advocate to the Armenians the advice of “forgive and forget.” But the genocide has shaped the history and the future of the entire Armenian people, for whom life will not be the same even if full restitution comes. The prominent writer Shahan Shahnour calls Armenians to struggle not only with the survivors but even with the martyrs. The martyrs are the witnesses of that colossal trauma.
The dispersion of the Armenians throughout the globe has brought about tremendous losses through assimilation and attrition. And that was one of the goals of the Genocide perpetrators; after the physical human losses, the target was the loss of memory. In 1922, during the negotiations leading to the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, the Turkish representative Ismet Enunu, answering Lord Curzon’s question of where to settle the Armenian survivors, cynically answered: “There are vast vacant territories in Canada and Brazil. Settle them in those countries.”
Despite the losses, Genocide recognition has taken on a life of its own and has been marching through history, even after 104 years. Therefore, the truth is more powerful than Turkey, which has become a major player in international politics, where it has invested heavily in the fight against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
The Turkish government, through its contacts and alliances, has made genocide denial a major political goal. David Swindle, writing in the American Thinker edition of April 20, states: “While Turkey has long fought the recognition of the Armenian Genocide internationally, the situation under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist ideology has led him into an alliance with the international Muslim Brotherhood and its American affiliates. One such organization officially embracing Turkey’s genocide denial is the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), an umbrella group of 30 Islamist charities and mosques, which published a ‘statement on 1915 Turkish-Armenian events’ that favors Turkey’s denialism.”
Turkey has been applying the same policy internationally, particularly at the Islamic Conference, simply manipulating the issue and capsulizing it into the context of Muslim-Christian conflict. That is why we find extremist countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh solidly behind Turkey and Azerbaijan during UN votes.
President Erdogan’s Islamist and Ottomanist ambitions not only have killed democracy domestically but they have scared and alienated major powers from China to Europe.
In addition to inciting Uyghurs in China, Erdogan is meddling into the internal affairs of European countries, where Turkish minority groups are very active. They are so active that Erdogan defiantly decided to extend his election campaign into Germany, as if that country was his own turf. He had a fallout with Holland and Austria, antagonizing those countries. His quarrel with European leaders, compounded with his authoritarian rule at home, brought Turkey’s negotiations with the European Union to a halt. That situation is playing into the hands of anti-Erdogan forces globally. Politically, one of the beneficiaries is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Germany’s Bundestag passed a strong resolution, even paving the way for seeking restitution for the Armenians. Indeed, the German resolution was not only a condemnation of the Ottoman crime, but also an admission of German collusion, which Armenians need to explore and use for restitution.
France had already passed a law recognizing the Armenian Genocide but failed in criminalizing its denial. To compensate for that failure, President Emmanuel Macron declared April 24 as a day for Genocide remembrance throughout France. The proclamation also includes the participation of a high-ranking French official in commemorative events in Armenia. Consequently, at this moment, France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is on his way to Yerevan. Ankara has angrily criticized France for the move. First, Turkey’s Speaker of Parliament Mustafa Sentop spoke but at the 99th NATO Parliamentary Assembly gathered in Antalya, Turkey, earlier in April. Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu added insult to injury, inviting France to look at its colonial past in Algeria. Sonia Krimi of the French delegation answered that Mr. Sentop’s statement had shocked her. Following that statement, the French delegation left the hall. In his remarks, Çavusoglu stated that 700,000 Turks living in France felt insulted by the French government’s action. Mr. Çavusoglu knows better than the French government that most of the Turks living in Europe do not favor Erdogan’s authoritarian rule and perhaps only a few fanatics would justify the foreign minister’s statement. Incidentally a Turkish newspaper rejoiced at the fire devastating Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, considering it as a revenge for recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The real cause appears to be either mechanical malfunction or human error.
Mr. Sentop was offered another opportunity for an outburst, this time around against the Italian government. Indeed, on April 10, the Italian parliament ratified a proposal recognizing the 1915 events in the Ottoman Empire as a “genocide.” The votes were 382 with none against, but 43 abstentions.
Turkey is a powerful country and these European countries have many interests in Ankara, particularly as a fellow member in NATO structures. But they take a resolute stand because the truth about the Genocide is gaining momentum and because Turkey is becoming an international pariah.
Besides Europe, the US and Israel taunt Turkey, from time to time with the threat of recognizing the Genocide, when they need to pressure Turkey into making concessions. However, powerful statemen and scholars in both countries strongly support the recognition of the issue.
The US has recognized the Genocide in 1951 and again by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, who officially used the word “genocide.” The presidents since Reagan have shied away from using the term but their statements are no less powerful, including George W. Bush, Obama and even Trump.
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide has been making cautious but steady inroads in the Islamic world, which Turkey claims as its own bastion. A Turkologist based in Yerevan, Prof. Ruben Safrastyan, believes that “Armenian Genocide recognition is moving into the Muslim world.”
He said he is confident that “the Muslim world will stand above the idea of having religious commonality with Turkey and will realize the gravity of this crime against humanity.”
Indeed, the crack in the wall of Muslim denial came with a statement by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, speaking on February 18, at the Munich Security Council. He stated that Egypt had hosted survivors of the Armenian Genocide after it had been perpetrated by the Ottoman Turkish government 100 years earlier. The president’s statement triggered a barrage of inquiries, TV debates, seminars and newspaper articles.
This statement is particularly notable because for many years, Turkey has been publishing and distributing distorted history books and pamphlets in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world.
There are very few Armenians living in war-town Libya and the news reports suggesting that Libya’s government was about to pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide caught the Armenian world by complete surprise.
Libya was also been under Ottoman rule dating back to the 17th century and the people there certainly have historic memories similar to the Armenians. In the current century, Libya was ruled by King Idris, beholden to Turkey, until he was deposed by Col. Muammar Qaddafy in 1968. Since the NATO powers destroyed that country in the name of restoring democracy, it has become a haven for warlords and terrorists. There are two competing governments with one advocating more devotion to Islam, supported by Turkey and Qatar, and the other run by anti-Islamist forces ruled by Khalifa Aftar, enjoying the support of Egypt and the West. Thus, we can realize where the motivation to recognize the Genocide might stem from.
Since the perpetration of the Armenian Genocide, many cases of mass murder have been recorded in modern history, from the Jewish Holocaust to the Cambodian, Rwandan, Darfur, the Balkans, Rohingya, Yezidi and others. The proliferation of those incidents may raise the question for Armenians: where do we stand in that list? Will the Armenian case be lost in the shuffle? But on the other hand, the occurrence of those atrocities raises awareness about the dangers of genocide and world powers take measures to punish those perpetrators as it happened in the case of Rwanda, Cambodia and the Balkans. There is already a legal framework in place to seek justice, the UN Genocide Convention of 1948. That can help and prevent mass atrocities if it does not become a casualty of political machinations.
History is moving in favor of recognizing the Armenian Genocide because of the political developments cited above. That is also coupled with the tremendous amount of academic publications, researched and published by both Armenian and non-Armenian scholars. Writer Artsvi Bakhchinyan has published an extensive article in the Yerevan publication Azg where he presents hundreds of literary works in 23 countries — both poetry and prose — where writers have used the genocide theme.
As history marches toward the ultimate truth, recognition will become a reality by Armenia’s rise to power and by the production of more historic and scholarly documentation.
Edmond Y. Azadian
Senior editorial columnist EDMOND Y. AZADIAN is Advisor to the Alex and Marie Manoogian Museum in Detroit, Michigan; Advisor from the Diaspora to the Ministry of Culture in Armenia; member of the Republic of Armenia’s Academy of Sciences. He served as assistant editor of the Armenian daily Zartonk and editor-in-chief of the daily Arev in Cairo, Egypt. He is a leader of the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party. Azadian has authored several books in Armenian and English, including Portraits and Profiles, Observations and Criticisms, and History on the Move; edited more than 21 books; and published over 1500 articles, book reviews, and essays in daily newspapers and literary magazines. His latest publication, a bilingual one, is dedicated to the famous Armenian poet, Vahan Tekeyan. He has been associated with the Mirror-Spectator for the last 45 years.