Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Robert Fisk: The forgotten holocaust

Robert Fisk: The forgotten holocaust
The killing of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War remains one of the bloodiest and most contentious episodes of the 20th century. Robert Fisk visits Yerevan, and unearths hitherto unpublished images of the first modern genocide

Published: 28 August 2007
The photographs, never before published, capture the horrors of the first Holocaust of the 20th century. They show a frightened people on the move men, women and children, some with animals, others on foot, walking over open ground outside the city of Erzerum in 1915, at the beginning of their death march. We know that none of the Armenians sent from Erzerum in what is today north-eastern Turkey survived. Most of the men were shot, the children including, no doubt, the young boy or girl with a headscarf in the close-up photograph died of starvation or disease. The young women were almost all raped, the older women beaten to death, the sick and babies left by the road to die.

The unique photographs are a stunning witness to one of the most terrible events of our times. Their poor quality the failure of the camera to cope with the swirl and movement of the Armenian deportees in the close-up picture, the fingerprint on the top of the second lend them an undeniable authenticity. They come from the archives of the German Deutsche Bank, which was in 1915 providing finance for the maintenance and extension of the Turkish railway system. One incredible photograph so far published in only two specialist magazines, in Germany and in modern-day Armenia actually shows dozens of doomed Armenians, including children, crammed into cattle trucks for their deportation. The Turks stuffed 90 Armenians into each of these wagons the same average the Nazis achieved in their transports to the death camps of Eastern Europe during the Jewish Holocaust.

Hayk Demoyan, director of the grey-stone Museum of the Armenian Genocide in the foothills just outside Yerevan, the capital of present-day Armenia, stares at the photographs on his computer screen in bleak silence. A university lecturer in modern Turkish history, he is one of the most dynamic Armenian genocide researchers inside the remains of Armenia, which is all that was left after the Turkish slaughter; it suffered a further 70 years of terror as part of the Soviet Union. "Yes, you can have these pictures, he says. "We are still discovering more. The Germans took photographs and these pictures even survived the Second World War. Today, we want our museum to be a place of collective memory, a memorisation of trauma. Our museum is for Turks as well as Armenians. This is also [the Turks'] history."

The story of the last century's first Holocaust Winston Churchill used this very word about the Armenian genocide years before the Nazi murder of six million Jews is well known, despite the refusal of modern-day Turkey to acknowledge the facts. Nor are the parallels with Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews idle ones. Turkey's reign of terror against the Armenian people was an attempt to destroy the Armenian race. While the Turks spoke publicly of the need to "resettle" their Armenian population as the Germans were to speak later of the Jews of Europe the true intentions of Enver Pasha's Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople were quite

clear. On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists) Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. "You have already been informed that the government... has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey... Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience." These words are almost identical to those used by Himmler to his SS killers in 1941.

Taner Akcam, a prominent and extremely brave Turkish scholar who has visited the Yerevan museum, has used original Ottoman Turkish documents to authenticate the act of genocide. Now under fierce attack for doing so from his own government, he discovered in Turkish archives that individual Turkish officers often wrote "doubles" of their mass death-sentence orders, telegrams sent at precisely the same time that asked their subordinates to ensure there was sufficient protection and food for the Armenians during their "resettlement". This weirdly parallels the bureaucracy of Nazi Germany, where officials were dispatching hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers while assuring International Red Cross officials in Geneva that they were being well cared for and well fed.

Ottoman Turkey's attempt to exterminate an entire Christian race in the Middle East the Armenians, descended from the residents of ancient Urartu, became the first Christian nation when their king Drtad converted from paganism in AD301 is a history of almost unrelieved horror at the hands of Turkish policemen and soldiers, and Kurdish tribesmen.

In 1915, Turkey claimed that its Armenian population was supporting Turkey's Christian enemies in Britain, France and Russia. Several historians including Churchill, who was responsible for the doomed venture at Gallipoli have asked whether the Turkish victory there did not give them the excuse to turn against the Christian Armenians of Asia Minor, a people of mixed Persian, Roman and Byzantine blood, with what Churchill called "merciless fury". Armenian scholars have compiled a map of their people's persecution and deportation, a document that is as detailed as the maps of Europe that show the railway lines to Auschwitz and Treblinka; the Armenians of Erzerum, for example, were sent on their death march to Terjan and then to Erzinjan and on to Sivas province. The men would be executed by firing squad or hacked to death with axes outside villages, the women and children then driven on into the desert to die of thirst or disease or exhaustion or gang-rape. In one mass grave I myself discovered on a hillside at Hurgada in present-day Syria, there were thousands of skeletons, mostly of young people their teeth were perfect. I even found a 100-year-old Armenian woman who had escaped the slaughter there and identified the hillside for me.

Hayk Demoyan sits in his air-conditioned museum office, his computer purring softly on the desk, and talks of the need to memorialise this huge suffering. "You can see it in the writing of each survivor," he says. "When visitors come here from the diaspora from America and Europe, Lebanon and Syria, people whose parents or grandparents died in our genocide our staff feel with these people. They see these people become very upset, there are tears and some get a bit crazy after seeing the exhibition. This can be very difficult for us, psychologically. The stance of the current Turkish government [in denying the genocide] is proving they are proud of what their ancestors did. They are saying they are pleased with what the Ottomans did. Yet today, we are hearing that a lot of places in the world are like goldmines of archive materials to continue our work even here in Yerevan. Every day, we are coming across new photographs or documents."

The pictures Demoyan gives to The Independent were taken by employees of Deutsche Bank in 1915 to send to their head office in Berlin as proof of their claims that the Turks were massacring their Armenian population. They can be found in the Deutsche Bank Historical Institute Oriental Section (the photograph of the Armenian deportees across the desert published in The Independent today, for example, is registered photo number 1704 and the 1915 caption reads: "Deportation Camp near Erzerum.")

A German engineer in Kharput sent back a now-famous photogaph of Armenian men being led to their execution by armed Turkish police officers. The banking officials were appalled that the Ottoman Turks were using in effect German money to send Armenians to their death by rail. The new transportation system was supposed to be used for military purposes, not for genocide.

German soldiers sent to Turkey to reorganise the Ottoman army also witnessed these atrocities. Armin Wegner, an especially courageous German second lieutenant in the retinue of Field Marshal von der Goltz, took a series of photographs of dead and dying Armenian women and children. Other German officers regarded the genocide with more sinister interest. Some of these men, as Armenian scholar Vahakn Dadrian discovered, turn up 26 years later as more senior officers conducting the mass killing of Jews in German-occupied Russia.

Computers have transformed the research of institutions like the Yerevan museum. Poorly funded scholarship has been replaced by a treasure-house of information that Demoyan is going to publish in scholarly magazines. "We have information that some Germans who were in Armenia in 1915 started selling genocide pictures for personal collections when they returned home... In Russia, a man from St Petersburg also informed us that he had seen handwritten memoirs from 1940 in which the writer spoke of Russian photographs of Armenian bodies in Van and Marash in 1915 and 1916." Russian Tsarist troops marched into the eastern Turkish city of Van and briefly liberated its doomed Armenian inhabitants. Then the Russians retreated after apparently taking these pictures of dead Armenians in outlying villages.

Stalin also did his bit to erase the memory of the massacres. The Armenian Tashnag party, so prominent in Armenian politics in the Ottoman empire, was banned by the Soviets. "In the 1930s," Demoyan says, "everyone destroyed handwritten memoirs of the genocide, photographs, land deeds otherwise they could have been associated by the Soviet secret police with Tashnag material." He shakes his head at this immeasurable loss. "But now we are finding new material in France and new pictures taken by humanitarian workers of the time. We know there were two or three documentary films from 1915, one shot approvingly by a Kurdish leader to show how the Turks "dealt" with Armenians. There is huge new material in Norway of the deportations in Mush from a Norwegian missionary who was there in 1915."

There is, too, a need to archive memoirs and books that were published in the aftermath of the genocide but discarded or forgotten in the decades that followed. In 1929, for example, a small-circulation book was published in Boston entitled From Dardanelles to Palestine by Captain Sarkis Torossian. The author was a highly decorated officer in the Turkish army who fought with distinction and was wounded at Gallipoli. He went on to fight the Allies in Palestine but was appalled to find thousands of dying Armenian refugees in the deserts of northern Syria. In passages of great pain, he discovers his sister living in rags and tells how his fiancée Jemileh died in his arms. "I raised Jemileh in my arms, the pain and terror in her eyes melted until they were bright as stars again, stars in an oriental night... and so she died, as a dream passing." Torossian changed sides, fought with the Arabs, and even briefly met Lawrence of Arabia who did not impress him.

"The day following my entry into Damascus, the remainder of the Arab army entered along with their loads and behind them on a camel came one they called... the paymaster. This camel rider I learned was Captain Lawrence... Captain Lawrence to my knowledge did nothing to foment the Arab revolution, nor did he play any part in the Arab military tactics. When first I heard of him he was a paymaster, nothing more. And so he was to Prince Emir Abdulah (sic), brother of King Feisal, whom I knew. I do not write in disparagement. I write as a fighting man. Some must fight and others pay." Bitterness, it seems, runs deep. Torossian eventually re-entered Ottoman Turkey as an Armenian officer with the French army of occupation in the Cilicia region. But Kemalist guerrillas attacked the French, who then, Torossian suspects, gave weapons and ammunition to the Turks to allow the French army safe passage out of Cilicia. Betrayed, Torossian fled to relatives in America.

There is debate in Yerevan today as to why the diaspora Armenians appea r to care more about the genocide than the citizens of modern-day Armenia. Indeed, the Foreign minister of Armenia, Vardan Oskanian, actually told me that "days, weeks, even months go by" when he does not think of the genocide. One powerful argument put to me by an Armenian friend is that 70 years of Stalinism and official Soviet silence on the genocide deleted the historical memory in eastern Armenia the present-day state of Armenia. Another argument suggests that the survivors of western Armenia in what is now Turkey lost their families and lands and still seek acknowledgement and maybe even restitution, while eastern Armenians did not lose their lands. Demoyan disputes all this.

"The fundamental problem, I think, is that in the diaspora many don't want to recognise our statehood," he says. "We are surrounded by two countries Turkey and Azerbaijan and we have to take our security into account; but not to the extent of damaging memory. Here we must be accurate. I have changed things in this museum. There were inappropriate things, comments about 'hot-bloodied'people, all the old clichés about Turks they have now gone. The diaspora want to be the holders of our memories but 60 per cent of the citizens of the Armenian state are "repatriates" Armenians originally from the diaspora, people whose grandparents originally came from western Armenia. And remember that Turkish forces swept though part of Armenia after the 1915 genocide right through Yerevan on their way to Baku. According to Soviet documentation in 1920, 200,000 Armenians died in this part of Armenia, 180,000 of them between 1918 and 1920." Indeed, there were further mass executions by the Turks in what is now the Armenian state. At Ghumri near the centre of the devastating earthquake that preceded final liberation from the Soviet Union there is a place known as the "Gorge of Slaughter", where in 1918 a whole village was massacred.

But I sensed some political problems up at the Yerevan museum international as well as internal. While many Armenians acknowledge that their countrymen did commit individual revenge atrocities around Van, for example at the time of the genocide, a heavy burden of more modern responsibility lies with those who fought for Armenia against the Azeris in Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s. This mountainous region east of the Armenian state saw fierce and sometimes cruel fighting in which Armenians massacred Turkish Azeri villagers. The Independent was one of the newspapers that exposed this.

Yet when I arrive at the massive genocide memorial next to the museum, I find the graves of five "heroes" of the Karabakh war. Here lies, for instance, Musher "Vosht" Mikhoyan, who was killed in 1991, and the remains of Samuel "Samo" Kevorkian, who died in action in 1992. However upright these warriors may have been, should those involved in the ghastly war in Kharabakh be associated with the integrity and truth of 1915? Do they not demean the history of Armenia's greatest suffering? Or were they as I suspect intended to suggest that the Karabakh war, which Armenia won, was revenge for the 1915 genocide? It's as if the Israelis placed the graves of the 1948 Irgun fighters responsible for the massacres of Palestinians at Deir Yassin and other Arab villages outside the Jewish Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem near Jerusalem.

Officials later explain to me that these Kharabakh grave-sites were established at a moment of great emotion after the war and that today while they might be inappropriate it is difficult to ask the families of "Vosht" and "Samo" and the others to remove them to a more suitable location. Once buried, it is difficult to dig up the dead. Similarly, among the memorials left in a small park by visiting statesmen and politicians, there is a distinct difference in tone. Arab leaders have placed plaques in memory of the "genocide". Less courageous American congressman who do not want to offend their Turkish allies have placed plaques stating merely that they "planted this tree". The pro-American Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri left his own memorial less than a year before he was assassinated in 2005. "Tree of Peace," it says. Which rather misses the point.

And yet it is the work of archivists that will continue to establish the truth. In Yerevan you can now buy excellent witness testimonies of the genocide by Westerners who were present during the Armenian Holocaust. One of them is by Tacy Atkinson, an American missionary who witnessed the deportation of her Armenian friends from the town of Kharput. On 16 July 1915, she recorded in her secret diary how "a boy has arrived in Mezreh in a bad state nervously. As I understand it he was with a crowd of women and children from some village... who joined our prisoners who went out June 23... The boy says that in the gorge this side of Bakir Maden the men and women were all shot and the leading men had their heads cut off afterwards... He escaped... and came here. His own mother was stripped and robbed and then shot... He says the valley smells so awful that one can hardly pass by now."

For fear the Turkish authorities might discover her diaries, Atkinson sometimes omitted events. In 1924 when her diary, enclosed in a sealed trunk, at last returned to the United States, she wrote about a trip made to Kharput by her fellow missionaries. "The story of this trip I did not dare write," she scribbled in the margin. "They saw about 10,000 bodies."

Anatomy of a massacre: How the genocide unfolded
By Simon Usborne
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians died between 1915 and 1917, either at the hands of Turkish forces or of starvation. Exact figures are unknown, but each larger blob at the site of a concentration camp or massacre potentially represents the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

The trail of extermination, and dispute about exactly what happened, stretches back more than 90 years to the opening months of the First World War, when some of the Armenian minority in the east of the beleaguered Ottoman Empire enraged the ruling Young Turks coalition by siding with Russia.

On 24 April 1915, Turkish troops rounded up and killed hundreds of Armenian intellectuals. Weeks later, three million Armenians were marched from their homes the majority towards Syria and modern-day Iraq via an estimated 25 concentration camps.

In 1915, The New York Times reported that "the roads and the Euphrates are strewn with corpses of exiles... It is a plan to exterminate the whole Armenian people." Winston Churchill would later call the forced exodus an "administrative holocaust".

Yet Turkey, while acknowledging that many Armenians died, disputes the 1.5 million toll and insists that the acts of 1915-17 did not constitute what is now termed genocide defined by the UN as a state-sponsored attempt to "destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group". Instead, Ankara claims the deaths were part of the wider war, and that massacres were committed by both sides.

Several countries have formally recognised genocide against the Armenians (and, in the case of France, outlawed its denial), but it remains illegal in Turkey to call for recognition. As recently as last year, the Turkish foreign ministry dismissed genocide allegations as "unfounded".

One authority on extermination who did recognise the Armenian genocide was Adolf Hitler. In a 1939 speech, in which he ordered the killing, "mercilessly and without compassion", of Polish men, women and children, he concluded: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

Denying the Armenian genocide

By Jeff Jacoby The Boston Globe
Thursday, August 23, 2007

Was there an Armenian genocide during World War I?

While it was happening, no one called the slaughter of Armenian Christians
by Ottoman Turks "genocide." No one could: The word wouldn't be coined for
another 30 years. But those who made it their business to tell the world
what the Turks were doing found other terms to describe the state-sponsored
mass murder of the Armenians.

In its extensive reporting on the atrocities, The New York Times described
them as "systematic," "deliberate," "organized by government" and a
"campaign of extermination." A Sept. 25, 1915, headline warned: "Extinction
Menaces Armenia." What the Turks were embarked upon, said one official in
the story that followed, was "nothing more or less than the annihilation of
a whole people."

Foreign diplomats, too, realized that they were observing genocide avant la
lettre. American consular reports leaked to the Times indicated "that the
Turk has undertaken a war of extermination on Armenians, especially those of
the Gregorian Church, to which about 90 percent of the Armenians belong." In
July, U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau cabled Washington that "race murder"
was underway - a "systematic attempt to uproot peaceful Armenian
populations and . . . to bring destruction and destitution upon them." These
were not random outbreaks of violence, Morgenthau stressed, but a nationwide
slaughter "directed from Constantinople."

Another U.S. diplomat, Consul Leslie Davis, described in grisly detail the
"reign of terror" he saw in Harput and the corpses of "thousands and
thousands" of Armenians murdered near Lake Goeljuk. The mass deportations
ordered by the Turks, in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians were
crammed into freight cars and shipped hundreds of miles to die in the desert
or at the hands of killing squads, were far worse than a straightforward
massacre, he wrote. "In a massacre many escape, but a wholesale deportation
of this kind in this country means a longer and perhaps even more dreadful
death for nearly everyone."

Other eyewitnesses, including American missionaries, provided
stomach-clenching descriptions of the "terrible tortures" mentioned by
Morgenthau. Women and girls were stripped naked and raped, then forced to
march naked through blistering heat. Many victims were crucified on wooden
crosses; as they writhed in agony, the Turks would taunt them: "Now let your
Christ come and help you!" Reuters reported that "in one village, 1,000 men,
women, and children are reported to have been locked in a wooden building
and burned to death." In another, "several scores of men and women were tied
together by chains and thrown into Lake Van."

Talaat Pasha, the Turkish interior minister who presided over the
liquidation of the Armenians, made no bones about his objective. "The
government . . . has decided to destroy complete all the indicated persons"
- the Armenians - "living in Turkey," he wrote to authorities in Aleppo.
"An end must be put to their existence . . . and no regard must be paid to
either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples."

Was there an Armenian genocide during World War I? The Turkish government
today denies it, but the historical record, chronicled in works like Peter
Balakian's powerful 2003 study, "The Burning Tigris," is overwhelming. Yet
the Turks are abetted in their denial and distortion by many who know
better, including the Clinton administration and both Bush administrations,
and prominent ex-congressmen-turned-lobbyists, including Republican Bob
Livingston and Democrats Dick Gephardt and Stephen Solarz.

Particularly deplorable has been the longtime reluctance of some leading
Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American
Jewish Committee, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, to call
the first genocide of the 20th century by its proper name. When Andrew
Tarsy, the New England director of the ADL, came out last week in support of
a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, he was
promptly fired by the national organization. Shaken by the uproar that
followed, the ADL finally backed down. The murder of a million Armenians at
the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1915, it acknowledged Tuesday, was "indeed
tantamount to genocide."

Now the other organizations should follow suit. Their unwillingness to
acknowledge that the Turks committed genocide stems from the fear that doing
so may worsen the plight of Turkey's beleaguered Jewish community or may
endanger the crucial military and economic relationship Israel has forged
with Turkey. Those are honorable concerns. But they cannot justify keeping
silent about a most dishonorable assault on the truth. Genocide denial must
be intolerable to everyone, but above all to those for whom "never again" is
such a sacred principle. And at a time when jihadist violence from Darfur to
Ground Zero has spilled so much innocent blood, dissimulation about the
jihad of 1915 can only aid our enemies.

The Armenian genocide is an incontestable fact of history. Shame on anyone
who refuses to say so.

Jeff Jacoby's column appears regularly in The Boston Globe.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Turk slaughter of Armenians is little-known (Dadrian interview reprint)

Turk slaughter of Armenians is little-known (Dadrian interview reprint)


The Armenian Genocide
Original Publication Date: 4/16/2000
(c) 2007 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Original Headline: Turk slaughter of Armenians is little-known // An
author documents the overshadowed history of genocide during World War I
in the former Ottoman Empire.

By Eric Black; Staff Writer and Big Question blogger

"Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?"

That remark was uttered by Adolf Hitler a few days before Germany's
1939 invasion of Poland, which started World War II.

Hitler said he had ordered death squads to "exterminate without mercy
or pity, Polish men, women and children" who got in the way of
Germany's aims. They needn't worry about history's judgment, he said,
because history had already forgotten the massacre of more than a
million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire just 25 years earlier.

Vahakn Dadrian, who lectured in the Twin Cities last week, has made it
his life's work to keep alive the history of the Armenian genocide.

Armenians around the world commemorate the genocide every April. April
24 was the date in 1915 when about 300 Armenian intellectual and
professional leaders in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (modern
Istanbul) were rounded up, beginning a three-year killing spree.

The Armenian Cultural Organization of Minnesota will mark the tragedy
today with a lecture by Dadrian at the University of Minnesota.

The Armenian genocide ranks as one of the 20th century's biggest cases
of organized mass murder based on ethnic and religious differences. But
it is far less well-known than the biggest case - the Nazi-organized
slaughter of Jews, Gypsies and others - and several more recent ones
such as those in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

Dadrian, director of genocide research at the Cambridge, Mass., and
Toronto-based Zoryan Institute and author of a 1995 book, "The History
of the Armenian Genocide," has devoted his adult life to documenting
the tragedy. And Dadrian is among the founders of a field known as
comparative study of genocide. He spoke twice in recent days, at St.

Cloud State University and at the Jewish Community Center of
Minneapolis, on his comparison between the Armenian genocide and the

Modern Turkey, successor to the Ottoman Empire, denies that the deaths
of the Armenians were part of a program of genocide. Many countries,
including the United States, out of deference to the Turkish position,
have avoided officially recognizing the tragedy as a genocide. In April
1999, for example, President Clinton's statement on the anniversary
referred to the "deportation and massacre" of "so many innocent lives,"
but he avoided using the term "genocide."

Dadrian said a resolution pending in Congress, with more than 100
cosponsors, would recognize the genocide and authorize the United
States to create an archive to preserve materials documenting the case.

Turkish denial

In the 19th century, Armenia was part of the declining Ottoman Empire.

Anti-Armenian sentiment was a staple of Turkish politics. In 1894-96,
more than 150,000 Armenians were slaughtered, Dadrian said.

Early in the 20th century, the Ottomans lost their extensive holdings
in the Balkan peninsula in a war that started with nationalist
movements among several of the subject populations. Similar nationalist
sentiments were stirring in the Armenian regions. Dadrian said the
biggest part of the motive for the Turkish program of genocide was the
fear that Armenian nationalism would lead to the empire's loss of more

The Turkish denial that its predecessors committed genocide, Dadrian
said, relies on the argument that the government was merely trying to
relocate a troublesome population out of a war zone.

That argument was rebutted at the time by the U.S. ambassador to the
Ottoman Empire, Henry Morganthau, who witnessed much of the genocide.

In a 1917 book, he wrote: "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders
for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a
whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversation with
me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact."

The way the Armenians were killed are staggeringly grisly and provide a
macabre contrast to the relatively bureaucratic and hi-tech methods
that the Nazis would employ 25 years later.

In a policy that Dadrian said was "unparalleled in the annals of human
history," the Turks "decided to rely not on soldiers but on
bloodthirsty criminals." Dadrian said 30,000 to 35,000 convicts were
released from prison to participate in the slaughter.

With a world war raging, Dadrian said, Ottoman officials were anxious
not to waste bullets or powder on the Armenians, so they employed four
main methods to kill the Armenians:

Many were beaten to death or killed with daggers, swords and axes.

Massive drowning operations were conducted in the tributaries of the
Euphrates River and the Black Sea. Bargeloads of Armenians were
intentionally sunk. Dadrian, quoting Morganthau, said that in places
the Armenian corpses became so numerous that the rivers were forced out
of their beds, in one case changing the course of a river for a
100-meter stretch.

The method that Dadrian called "the most fiendish" was to pack Armenian
women and children into stables or haylofts and then set them ablaze,
burning the victims alive. Dadrian estimated that about 150,000 were
killed by this method.

Hundreds of thousands more died of hunger, thirst or exposure during
forced marches in the desert. Dadrian said the Armenians were told they
were being relocated but were marched along routes chosen to maximize
the chances that none of the marchers would survive.

Estimates of the number of Armenians killed vary. Dadrian said the best
figure - just for the period 1915-1918 - is between 1.2 million and 1.3
million out of a pre-war population of Armenians within the Ottoman
Empire of about 4 million.

Cases compared

In comparing the tragedies that befell the Armenians and the Jews in
the 20th century, and looking at other cases of genocide or
near-genocide, Dadrian offered these observations:

The Jews and the Armenians were historical victims of persecution. Both
lacked a state of their own and had a minority status in every country
where they lived. This combination made them "fair game" for their

Armenians and Jews were legally barred from power positions in their
societies, such as the military, government and civil service. Some
their members prospered in commercial fields, which made them objects
of envy and resentment. This element was also represented in the
Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda, Dadrian said, where Tutsis were
perceived as controlling an unfair proportion of wealth relative to

Relative wealth combined with lack of access to political or military
power is a potent combination, Dadrian said, because it makes a group
into appealing targets of persecution but leaves them essentially

Although the genocide victims were already hated groups in both cases,
they were further degraded and vilified by official propaganda before
the killing started. Dadrian said the term "vermin" was commonly used
to describe Jews during the Nazi period and Armenians during the period
leading up their genocide.

Both genocidal campaigns occurred in the context of a larger war. Both
target populations were described as a dangerous internal enemy, which
made their massacre seem justifiable as an act of national security.

One lesson the world can learn from the comparative study, Dadrian
said, is that war itself can create the preconditions for genocide.

"War provides incentives for becoming barbarous, and it presents a
cloak or a guise for that barbarity," he said.

A key similarity that Dadrian said is often overlooked is that both
genocides were committed by particular political parties: the Nazis and
the Young Turks. Those who conceive the Holocaust as perpetrated by the
German nation or the German government are missing the fact that the
nation and the government had been overwhelmed by the Nazis, he said.

The Young Turk movement filled a similar role in the Turkish case.

The same factor is present in many of the other 20th-century genocides,
he said. For example, the Kurds of northern Iraq are being persecuted
not by Iraqis in general but by the ruling Baath Party.

The "killing fields" of Cambodia were created by the Khmer Rouge
movement that took over that country. Dadrian called the Cambodian case
especially unusual because it lacked an ethnic or religious component.

The perpetrators and victims were ethnically similar but on opposite
sides of a class and ideological divide.

The Turks and the Nazis operated in "an absence of external
deterrence," Dadrian said. While some rhetorical protests were filed in
both cases, the perpetrators understood that their victims had been
abandoned by the outside world.

Timeline/Summary:Turkey and the Armenians 1915-1922

The Turks believed that the Armenians would use an Allied victory to
set up an independent state. When many Armenians openly rejoiced at the
initial Allied success at the Dardanelles, the Turks turned upon them.

Between 1915-22, more than a million Armenians were killed and another
400,000 died in prison camps.

April-November 1915: More than 600,000 Armenians killed.

November 1915: 500,000 Armenians deported to Mesopotamia (modern day
Iraq); 90,000 survive the war.

August 1918: More than 400,000 Armenians killed by Turkish soldiers
during the Turkish advance through Russia.

February 1920: More than 30,000 Armenians killed; 80,000 fled to Syria.

September 1922: Remaining 100,000 Armenians driven out by Turks. In
1931, the Turkish government confiscated their property.

Source: "First World War Atlas" by Martin Gilbert


About Eric Black

Eric Black writes about national and world news for the Star Tribune. He
specializes in pieces that try to put the news into historical
perspective. He has been a journalist since 1973, with the Star Tribune
since 1977, and is the author of 1.74 million newspaper articles and
five books.

Black launched the Big Q in December 2005 to see if he could save the
world from ignorance and error. Ignorance and error are still running
slightly ahead in the polls, so, in February 2007, Black recruited the
lovely D.J. Tice as a co-blogger.

About D.J. Tice
D.J. Tice has been Politics and Government Team Leader at the Star
Tribune since 2003, supervising coverage of Minnesota political news.

Earlier, Tice was a columnist and editorial writer at the St. Paul
Pioneer Press for 12 years.

He's also earned a paycheck as publisher of the since-vanished Twin
Cities Reader, as an inflight magazine editor for the since-vanished
TWA, and as a writer/editor for several additional enterprises that have
perished from the earth. Tice has written two hard-to-find books and
joins the Big Q in hopes of enlightening a benighted world or at least
learning to set up a hyperlink.

Sunday, April 29, 2007



BosNewsLife, Hungary
April 26 2007


ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)-- There was increased concern
Thursday, April 26, about the plight of active Christians in Turkey
after investigators revealed that three evangelical believers were
"satanically tortured" last week before being killed.

The influential American human rights group International Christian
Concern (ICC) with website www.persecution.org told BosNewsLife that
the circumstances surrounding the deaths of German Tilman Ekkehart
Geske, 45, and Turkish Christians Necati Aydin, 35, and Ugur Yuksel
,32, at the Christian Zirve publishing house were even worse than

ICC, based in Washington DC, said the troubles began on Easter
Sunday when five of the alleged killers had been to a service that
Pastor Necati arranged in the eastern town of Malatya, the capital
of Malatya province.

The men were reportedly known to local believers as searching for
the faith in Christ. The suspects, one of whom is the son of a mayor
in the Province of Malatya, are part of a tarikat, or a group of
"faithful believers" in Islam, ICC added.

Tarikat membership is "like a fraternity membership" and means that
"no one can get into public office without membership" of such
a group, ICC said. "On the day of the killing, the young Muslim
men had arranged to meet the Christians at 10:00 am [local time]
to ostensibly learn more about the Bible. They had gathered guns,
bread knives, ropes and towels [as] they knew there would be a lot
of blood, ready for their act of service to Allah," ICC stressed.


After Necati read a chapter from the Bible the assault reportedly
began. "The young men tied Ugur, Necati, and Tilman's hands and feet
to chairs as they videoed their work on their cell phones," ICC said,
adding that what "followed in the next three hours is beyond belief."

ICC said the men were "disemboweled, and their intestines sliced up in
front of their eyes. They were emasculated and watched as those body
parts were destroyed." The group added that "fingers were chopped off"
and "their noses and mouths and anuses were sliced open" as part of
what it called "satanic torture."

It added that "possibly the worst part was watching as their brothers
were likewise tortured. Tilman was stabbed 156 times, Necati 99 times
and Ugur's stabs were too numerous to count."

Finally, their throats were sliced from ear to ear, and their "heads
practically decapitated," ICC said.

Several hours later at 12:30 local time a fellow Christian reportedly
arrived at the publishing house but discovered that the door was
locked from the inside. After he called cell phones of the men, Ugur
apparently answered his phone saying: "We are not at the office. Go
to the hotel meeting. We are there. We will come there." Yet as Ugur
spoke he heard in the background weeping and a strange snarling sound,
ICC said, citing its investigation.


After he phoned police the nearest officer arrived in about five
minutes and pounded on the door shouting: "Police, open up,!" reports

Initially the officer apparently believed it was a domestic
disturbance, but when he heard another snarl and a gurgling moan he
understood that sound as human suffering, ICC explained. The officer
"prepared the clip in his gun and tried over and over again to burst
through the door. One of the frightened assailants unlocked the door
for the policeman, who entered to find a grisly scene."

Reports said the attack happened following Muslim protests against
the distribution of Bibles and other Christian literature by the
publishing house for which they worked.

One of the victims, Necati Aydin, a husband and father of two young
children, was also an actor who reportedly played the role of Jesus
Christ in a theater production that TURK-7 network aired over the
Easter holidays.


Prosecutors have asked a court to allow jailing 11 suspects, 10 young
men and a woman, pending trial over the gruesome murder of the three
Christians. A 12th suspect, allegedly the leader, remains in hospital
with a serious head injury after jumping from the third-floor office
of the Christian publishing house in Malatya where the victims were
killed, to escape arrest.

At least four of the suspects have reportedly been charged with
"founding a terrorist organization and murder within the framework of
the organization." In a first reaction, Tillman's wife publicly forgave
the those who killed her husband saying "they know not what they do."

ICC President Jeff King said he was impressed by the "contrast between
the acts of the killers and the forgiveness of Tillman's wife." He
said it was "glaring and in the end seems to be at the center of this
story for us. For in the end, these events serve as a stark reminder
of the difference between Islam and Christianity."

He added that, for "the 'faithful' Muslims, following their god meant
brutally killing three men [with the excuse] "we did this to protect
Islam". For the faithful Christians, following God meant forgiving
the men who had tortured and murdered their loved ones."

The attacks have added to concern among Turkish Christians who comprise
about 0.2 percent of the mainly Muslim nation of over 71 million
people. The murders followed the January murder of Turkish-Armenian
journalist Hrant Dink and the shooting of Italian Roman Catholic
priest Andrea Santoro in the town of Trabzon in February 2006. (With
reporting from Turkey).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Memories of Eyewitness-Survivors of the Armenian Genocide

Memories of Eyewitness-Survivors of the Armenian Genocide: "MEMORIES OF EYEWITNESS-SURVIVORS OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE"


(Born in 1901, Moosh, Vardenis village)

My grandfather's name was Hovhannes and my grandma's name was Kishmish. In the days of the Sultan they took my grandfather to Istanbul by force. They imprisoned him. My grandfather died in the prison.

I was born in 1901 in the village of Vardenis, Moosh region. There were eight hundred Armenian families in our village. Meghraget (Honey River - in Arm.) flowed through our village. When it rained, the fish came out of the water. We brought drinking water from the fountain in jugs.

The roofs of our houses were covered with earth. The tundir was in the middle of the house. We used to bake lavash (Armenian bread) every day. There was a hearth outside the house and we burned wood in it. Outside, there were two stones at the foot of the wall, upon which there was a cross-shaped iron grate to hold the cauldron.

The house, where we lived, was large. We had no garden. There was a special place in our house where we arranged the folded beds one on top of another, which reached the ceiling. There were no bedsteads. It was a dark world. We raised sheep, cows, buffaloes, horses. We sowed wheat, lentil and linseed. We had twelve buffaloes, eight cows, two hundred sheep. We had a plough. Five-six families came together and ploughed the land and sowed. We had so much wheat that there was no place to store the crop.

The land belonged to the Turks. We paid land tax. The wheat was sown, was harvested and threshed, then the bran was given to the wind. When they finished, a man came from the Turkish government together with the village chief and he brought a stick with him. He drew lines on the wheat pile. The Turk measured seven parts gave them to the owner of the wheat and took away one part. There was no tax for peas, lentil and linseed.

In our house everybody knew his work: they were divided. Seven women lived peacefully in the house, daughters-in-law and sisters-in-law; the eldest woman was the manager. Our daughters-in-law were Voski, Mariam and Naré...

In the evening and morning everyone went to church. Elderly women, young women and girls used to wear their nice clothes and went to church. On holidays we fasted. There was church service every day. Our village had two priests. The Turks killed both of them. There couldn't be any marriage without the church. The bride used to wear nice clothes made of good material, a jacket, on her head there was a head-wear made of silver. Her face was covered with yellow-green-red cloth. Her face remained closed till she had her first child born. The bride's dress was velvet. The clothes of our country were nice. The girls were married at the age of thirteen-fourteen. If she became twenty, they didn't marry her, they said: "She's old, she has remained at home." They used to have many children. They gave the girl a dowry: quilts, mattresses, pillows, shawls and stockings. The bride was given gold rings, golden necklaces as a present. On carnivals dhol-zourna (Armenian national instruments) played: they ate and drank. We made halva: gata. During the feast days we made bishi (pastry fried in oil - in Turk.).

It was hot in our country. There was a shed: in hot weather we used to sit there and talk. The women didn't work outside; they worked only at home. In hot weather we used to bathe in the river every day. We had a well. There was something like a pond where water gathered: horses used to bathe in it and then they let the water flow to the fields.

In Mush there were no doctors; there were hakeems. We were very healthy, we lived well, there wasn't much to care.

There was a school in our village. Children came from ten other villages to our village-school. The school was for boys. Girls didn't go to school; they made handiwork at home. There was a teacher in our village. There were books. The people of our village read the Bible; they read Armenian books.

Until the proclamation of Hurriyet they didn't take young men to the army. My uncle went to the Turkish army.

We had Kurd friends from Kurd villages; they used to come to our house. The plates, spoons, cups for the Kurds were washed and kept in the bread barns. We had no right to eat with them. My cousin was ten years old during the massacre; our Kurd friend took him to their place and saved him. The Kurds were better than the Turks. There are good and bad people among the Turks, there are good and bad people among the Kurds, and there are good and bad people among the Armenians. There are good and bad people among every nation.

Teacher Margar, God bless his soul, was a revolutionary; he fought with the askyars, they took him to Moosh and hanged him. The Turks cut off his head. The Armenians bought his head with gold, took it to St. Karapet of Moosh and buried it under the monastery wall. It is said that a ray of light descended every day on his grave. Margar's grave had become sacred place of pilgrimage for the Armenians.

Under the pretence of taking the youth to serve in the army, the Turks gathered them, took them away and butchered them.

My father Abraham had a rifle, the Turks came and killed him with his own gun, then tied a rope to his neck, pulled him and threw him into the fire and burned him. My mother Altoun saw it, couldn't stand it and died on the spot. My brother Hovhannes sucked his mother's milk only for ten days. My brother and I remained orphans.

On the day of Vardavar (the Transfiguration of Christ), 1915, The Turkish askyars (policemen) brought Chechen brigands from Daghestan to massacre us. They came to our village and robbed everything. They took away our sheep, oxen and properties. Those who were good-looking were taken away. My aunt's young son, who was staying with me, was also taken away, together with all the males in the town. They gathered the young and the elderly in the stables of the Avzut village, set fire and burned them alive. Those cattle-sheds were as large as those of our collective farms. They shut people in the stables of Malkhas Mardo, they piled up stacks of hay round them, poured kerosene and set on fire. Sixty members of our great family were burned in those stables. I do not wish my enemy to see the days I have seen, lao! Only I and my brother were saved. From the beginning, they took away the young pretty brides and girls to turkize them and also they pulled away the male infants from their mothers' arms to make them policemen in the future. The stable was filled with smoke and fire, people started to cough and to choke. Mothers forgot about their children, lao! It was a real Sodom and Gomorrah. People ran, on fire, to and fro, struck against the walls, trod upon the infants and children who had fallen on the ground. ...What I have seen with my eyes, lao! I don't wish the wolves of the mountain to see! They say that, at these distressing scenes, the Turkish mullah hung himself. During that turmoil the greatest part of the people choked and perished. The roof of the stable collapsed and fell upon the dead. I wish I and my little brother had been burned down in that stable and had not seen how sixty souls were burned down alive. I wish I had not seen the cruel and ungodly acts of those irreligious people. The Armenians of the neighboring villages of Vardenis, Meshakhshen, Aghbenis, Avzut, Khevner and others were burnt in the same manner in their stables. I do not wish my enemy to see what I have seen. There was a very old woman among us. Those who knew her called her Polo, Arshak's mother-in-law. She was about one hundred years old. When smoke began to enter the stable, she gathered the children and made them lie on their faces, their nose and mouth on the ground, then she made their mothers lay on them. She made my brother also lie on the ground. She took off her apron, covered him with it and pushed me to lie down on my brother and not let him get up, even if he cried. May God bless her soul. That woman said: "Lao, what's the use of crying, we must act so that from each house one boy remains alive and comes out of the fire, so that their hearth is not extinguished, so that they may tell the world the acts of these godless and ruthless Turks. People, don't get disappointed, don't lose your head, be staunch in your belief. God is great; He shall open a door." I covered my brother with my body. Fallen on his nose and mouth in the dirt of the stable, the poor boy wasn't able to breathe, he wanted to come out. He cried and cried, he cried so much that he fainted and calmed down. When the roof of the stable collapsed, the flame and the smoke escaped from the opening, and air penetrated in the stable. I and my uncle's daughter, Areg, took my unconscious brother by the arms and legs and, treading on burnt logs and corpses, we came out through the breach. There we saw the Turkish soldiers dancing in round, swinging and striking their sabers and singing merrily 'Yürü, yavrum, yürü!' ('Walk, my child, walk!'). Up to this day that song resounds in my ears. That dance, lao, should never be danced in an Armenian house; that's the dance of the ruthless, godless, wild beasts. Fascinated with the dance they didn't see us. I put my brother on my back and ran away. I escaped and entered the nearby reeds. When dark fell I took my brother and ran away. How far did I run, or where, I don't know? Suddenly I saw people coming towards us. I took my brother and hid under the shrubs. Then I heard those people speaking Armenian. I ran and joined the group. That was Andranik's group. May I die before his foot-dust! We went. Wherever we went the Turks cut our way. We went to Persia together with Andranik, on the way to Khoy, the Turks were in front of us. We ran away: we went to Nakhidjevan, Gharabagh, Ghapan, Goris, Sissian, Sevan... Eh, lao, where didn't we escape to, where didn't we suffer! From the Goris pastures we came to Talin. What days I've seen, lao, I don't wish my enemy to see!

In a village near Sissian or Goris - its name was Aghoudi-Vaghoudi - the refugees had gathered wheat ears about 5-6 kg. Together with 8-10 small children they had gone to the water mill of the valley to grind the wheat. Those children went and didn't come back. Grown-up men went to see what was the matter. What did they see? I wish my eyes had become blind, so that I wouldn't see... The Azeri-Turks had filled the children into the chimney of the mill and had burned them. Lao, the Turks here don't differ from the Turks there. To tell the truth, they are even worse, more pitiless and crueler than the Turks of our country.

They came and told Andranik that the Turks had filled the young boys into the chimney and had burned them alive. Andranik pasha took off his papakh, knelt on the ground and swore that he would avenge the young boys' massacre. He did avenge. He made short work of the Turks of that village, may I fall a victim at Andranik's feet.

In 1922 we came to the Talin region, to the Mehriban (now: Katnaghbyur) village. This village had been an Armenian village. The Turks had occupied and destroyed our churches; when they began constructing the road, they dug the ground and many khachkars were found. I married Grigor Tonoyan from Sassoun, Arpi village. My husband became the first chairman of our village-council. He had no education, but he was very intelligent. Of my ill fate, he died in 1955. I have brought up nine children. Their names are: Aghavni, Vardoush, Gulnaz, Mkrtich, Sarkis, Vachagan, Hreghen, Anahit, Shoushik. I have thirty-six grand-children and great-grand-children. They are good children. None of them became a hooligan.

My brother got his education in the orphanage of Kars, he became a well-educated teacher. I wish I hadn't given him to the orphanage, he had better stayed with me and became a choban (shepherd - in Turk.), then he would have married, have his family, his children, he would have filled what the Turks had emptied. I saved my baby brother from the Turks' sword and fire, thinking there wouldn't be other swords. I said: "This is Armenia: there aren't any Turks or fire here. I thought, let him study and become an educated person and let him tell the world what we saw. How should I know, lao, that there would be the 1937 exile [of Stalin period in the USSR] for us?"

My brother Hovhannes Abrahamian was born in 1912 in Moosh. My brother came from the orphanage, he went to Russia, Krasnodar, then he came to Meghri, Aparan as a school-inspector, then he became director of Talin - Azizbekov, Gndevaz village schools. In 1937 he was accused as a member of the Dashnak party. 1937 was a year of harvest. They took him away, they took away many, many people, they took away my only-born brother as well. They connected my brother with Yeghishé Charents and Aghassi Khandjian and they took him away: they took him away and they ruined him. I freed him from the mouth of the beast, I saved him and brought him here and I threw him into the mouth of the godless hyena. The godless and impious hyena took away my only brother; it took him away and devoured him. I cry night and day. I will cry up to my grave. I want my brother's name to be written on my grave-stone. In this big, large world I have no one else left besides my children, nothing else, I'm all alone...

My son Sarkis
1 is my sole hope and protector. God is in Heaven, here, below is Sargis. My son Sargis took me by the hand and we went to the Monument of the Genocide [in Yerevan]; mourning and crying I lay flowers there and it seemed to me all my burned ones were there. It was the Tomb of all my lost ones. I cry very much, I want to go to our land. I want to go and drink the sweet water of our Meghraget, I want to breathe the fresh air of our mountains, of my sweet land. The taste and smell of our land was different, lao. I want very much to go to our land. I hope, by God, I know, I won't see it, but my children, my grand-children shall see it, our Moosh will become Armenia, as Yerevan is our city today.

I wish all the Armenians hope, love, faith honesty and conscience. This country is good, but it doesn't believe in God. If you have conscience, you are righteous; your soul is holy.

1 Shogher Tonoyan's son, Doctor Sargis Tonoyan, has told us about his uncle Hovhannes Abrahamian's and Armenian poet Yeghishé Charents's friendship. It turned out that Charents and Hovhannes had been in the same jail in 1937. Doctor of Historical Sciences, Colonel Armenak Manoukian has discovered from the archives of the Ministry of State Security, Republic of Armenia, Y. Charents's poem "He Burned the 'Capital'," where the great poet has written about his prison life and has dedicated several verses to our tormented narrator Shogher Tonoyan:
Holding grand-son by the hand,
And a sack on her shoulder,
Poor old Shogho her head bent low,
Implored the guard of the prison:
"It is three days we have left home,
And we're waiting for our turn,
To hand over some clothes and bread."
But who was listening to her?
"The chief of guards came," they said.
Poor old Shogho ran to him.
"About meeting with him again?
Then tomorrow...!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Impressive lecture by Akcam in Amsterdam

Impressive lecture by Akcam in Amsterdam (18 December 2006)

By I. Drost


Well documented and eloquent, Turkish professor of History Taner Akcam, held a lecture at University of Amsterdam on 18 December 2006. The meeting was organised by CREA Studium Generale in cooperation with Humanist Broadcasting Foundation (HUMAN) and Dutch Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Taner Akcam was invited to give a lecture in Amsterdam because of the current debate in the Dutch media and politics on the Armenian Genocide. HUMAN wanted to contribute in a positive way to this debate by improving the knowledge on this matter. The event coincided with the publication of Akcams new book A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, which will be published in Dutch in May 2007.


Prior to the lecture the participants to this event, among whom many members of Turkish and Armenian communities of the Netherlands, watched the Dutch documentary A wall of silence by Dorothee Forma, a HUMAN production in 1997. This documentary film parallels the personal and professional lives of Armenian scholar Vahakn Dadrian and Turkish researcher Taner Akcam and their call for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.


Introducing Taner Akcam professor Erik-Jan ZՖrcher, professor of Turkish language and culture at the University of Leiden, mentioned that Akcam is one of the scholars, who presents the state of the art in his field of research. He combines in his research Armenian scientific publications, documents from Ottoman archives and Turkish Military Tribunal of 1919 as well as documents found in the German archives.


After Akcams speech many Turks stood up to protest rather than ask questions, but Akcam peacefully and effectively managed to give clear response and at the same time tried to pacify the Turks by repeating the statement: we have to learn to talk.


Akcam focussed in his lecture on his findings in Ottoman archives, especially the material available in the Prime Ministerial Archives (Basbakanlik Osmanli Arsivi) in Istanbul. According to him a number of documents can also be found online. At the same time he mentioned that lots of documents have been removed from the archives. For the cleaning itself there are more than enough evidences; lots of documents concerning Armenian deportations and massacres have been destroyed during the crime.


He explained also how total cleaning of archives is impossible, even when the government demanded to burn documents directly after reading. Orders and documents were always copied for different departments and it is impossible to retrace and destroy all of them.


Akcam said that the first deportations and forced migration already began in 1913 with the deportation of Greeks from the Aegean area. This forced migration expanded to the other minorities: Assyrians and Muslims from Bulgaria etc. whose lives were affected in different ways, depending on the intention of the government. While the goal with respect to the non-Turkish Muslims was the Turkification, in the case of the Armenians the intention to annihilate the whole population is evident from many documents. Regarding to the deportation this intention was present as the authorities were aware of the effect of these deportations, but still continued to handle in the same way. Other evident examples are the decrees issued by the government on the Armenian properties, which gives strong indications that the intention of the Young Turk rulers was the annihilation of Armenians. Akcam also explained why UN Genocide Convention (1948) is applicable to Armenian case. For example forcible transfer of Armenian children to Muslims constitutes one of elements of the UN definition of genocide. Also young Armenian girls were forced to marry Muslims. This is well documented.


Answering a question about the Turkish proposal to Armenia to form a joint commission of Turkish and Armenian historians, professor ZՖrcher said that a dialogue is necessary, but that the proposal is not as innocent as it seems, because of the conditions put forward by Turkey. Turkey wants the historians to be appointed by the governments and also all political discussion on historical subjects to be suspended during the work of the commission. It should not come as a surprise that Armenia cannot accept the proposal under such conditions.


Akcam elaborated on this issue by putting the rhetoric question how such a commission could function when there is no normal relation between the two countries. Even a letter from Ankara first has to go to Tbilisi in Georgia before reaching Armenia. Akcam agrees therefore with Armenian government that a commission is necessary to deal with all issues. He would also suggest the EU to compose a roadmap that includes a step-by-step approach for solving all problems.


When Turks who brought up a Turkish translation of a book (1923) by the first Armenian Prime Minister (1918) H. Katchaznouni, in which the author would have admitted the role of Armenian voluntary troops in the Russian army, Taner Akcam said, that even if this is corrrect, would it mean that the genocide had not taken place? And what was the culpability of Armenians living peacefully far from the Russian borders, who had nothing to do with the events in Eastern Turkey? Comparing with World War II, would the fact that one million Germans were killed after the war in several countries mean that the Holocaust did not occur?


Referring to the alleged 100 thousand Turks killed by Armenians, Akcam recalled that the figure given by Turkish Military in 1917 in this respect, is in total approximately 5000 deaths, for all the places involved. But we regret every victim, he added.


Akcam made a great impression by the way he dealt with sometimes-aggressive way of acting by Turkish audience. He asked to remain calm and show more respect towards each other, but also repeating and reassuring that Turks and Armenians are not the only two peoples in the world that have problems with each other and that there are ways to solve these problems, like it is done in South Africa, and that this process needs time and effort.


Source: Abovian Armenian Cultural Association (Netherlands)

21 December 2006


Monday, March 19, 2007

The truth should be proclaimed loudly

Nouvelles d'Arménie, France
March 17 2007

Robert Fisk : The truth should be proclaimed loudly

samedi 17 mars 2007, Stéphane/armenews

When has any publisher ever tried to avoid publicity for his book ?

Published : 17 March 2007

Stand by for a quotation to take your breath away. It's from a letter
from my Istanbul publishers, who are chickening out of publishing the
Turkish-language edition of my book The Great War for Civilisation.
The reason, of course, is a chapter entitled "The First Holocaust",
which records the genocide of one and a half million Armenians by the
Ottoman Turks in 1915, a crime against humanity that even Lord Blair
of Kut al-Amara tried to hide by initially refusing to invite
Armenian survivors to his Holocaust Day in London.

It is, I hasten to add, only one chapter in my book about the Middle
East, but the fears of my Turkish friends were being expressed even
before the Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was so cruelly
murdered outside his Istanbul office in January. And when you read
the following, from their message to my London publishers
HarperCollins, remember it is written by the citizen of a country
that seriously wishes to enter the European Community. Since I do not
speak Turkish, I am in no position to criticise the occasional lapses
in Mr Osman's otherwise excellent English.

"We would like to denote that the political situation in Turkey
concerning several issues such as Armenian and Kurdish Problems,
Cyprus issue, European Union etc do not improve, conversely getting
worser and worser due to the escalating nationalist upheaval that has
reached its apex with the Nobel Prize of Orhan Pamuk and the
political disagreements with the EU. Most probably, this political
atmosphere will be effective until the coming presidency elections of
April 2007... Therefore we would like to undertake the publication
quietly, which means there will be no press campaign for Mr Fisk's
book. Thus, our request from [for] Mr Fisk is to show his support to
us if any trial [is] ... held against his book. We hope that Mr Fisk
and HarperCollins can understand our reservations."

Well indeedydoody, I can. Here is a publisher in a country
negotiating for EU membership for whom Armenian history, the Kurds,
Cyprus (unmentioned in my book) - even Turkey's bid to join the EU,
for heaven's sake - is reason enough to try to sneak my book out in
silence. When in the history of bookselling, I ask myself, has any
publisher tried to avoid publicity for his book ? Well, I can give
you an example. When Taner Akcam's magnificent A Shameful Act : The
Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility was
first published in Turkish - it uses Ottoman Turkish state documents
and contemporary Turkish statements to prove that the genocide was a
terrifying historical fact - the Turkish historian experienced an
almost identical reaction. His work was published "quietly" in Turkey
- and without a single book review.

Now I'm not entirely unsympathetic with my Turkish publishers. It is
one thing for me to rage and roar about their pusillanimity. But I
live in Beirut, not in Istanbul. And after Hrant Dink's foul murder,
I'm in no position to lecture my colleagues in Turkey to stand up to
the racism that killed Dink. While I'm sipping my morning coffee on
the Beirut Corniche, Mr Osman could be assaulted in the former
capital of the Ottoman empire. But there's a problem nonetheless.

Some months earlier, my Turkish publishers said that their lawyers
thought that the notorious Law 301 would be brought against them - it
is used to punish writers for being "unTurkish" - in which case they
wanted to know if I, as a foreigner (who cannot be charged under
301), would apply to the court to stand trial with them. I wrote that
I would be honoured to stand in a Turkish court and talk about the
genocide. Now, it seems, my Turkish publishers want to bring my book
out like illicit pornography - but still have me standing with them
in the dock if right-wing lawyers bring charges under 301 !

I understand, as they write in their own letter, that they do not
want to have to take political sides in the "nonsensical collision
between nationalists and neo-liberals", but I fear that the roots of
this problem go deeper than this. The sinister photograph of the
Turkish police guards standing proudly next to Dink's alleged
murderer after his arrest shows just what we are up against here. Yet
still our own Western reporters won't come clean about the Ottoman
empire's foul actions in 1915. When, for example, Reuters sent a
reporter, Gareth Jones, off to the Turkish city of Trabzon - where
Dink's supposed killer lived - he quoted the city's governor as
saying that Dink's murder was related to "social problems linked to
fast urbanisation". A "strong gun culture and the fiery character of
the people" might be to blame.

Ho hum. I wonder why Reuters didn't mention a much more direct and
terrible link between Trabzon and the Armenians. For in 1915, the
Turkish authorities of the city herded thousands of Armenian women
and children on to boats, set off into the Black Sea - the details
are contained in an original Ottoman document unearthed by Akcam -
"and thrown off to drown". Historians may like to know that the man
in charge of these murder boats was called Niyazi Effendi. No doubt
he had a "fiery character".

Yet still this denial goes on. The Associated Press this week ran a
story from Ankara in which its reporter, Selcan Hacaoglu, repeated
the same old mantra about there being a "bitter dispute" between
Armenia and Turkey over the 1915 slaughter, in which Turkey
"vehemently denies that the killings were genocide". When will the
Associated Press wake up and cut this cowardly nonsense from its
reports ? Would the AP insert in all its references to the equally
real and horrific murder of six million European Jews that right-wing
Holocaust negationists "vehemently deny" that there was a genocide ?
No, they would not.

But real history will win. Last October, according to local newspaper
reports, villagers of Kuru in eastern Turkey were digging a grave for
one of their relatives when they came across a cave containing the
skulls and bones of around 40 people - almost certainly the remains
of 150 Armenians from the town of Oguz who were murdered in Kuru on
14 June 1915. The local Turkish gendarmerie turned up to examine the
cave last year, sealed its entrance and ordered villagers not to
speak of what they found. But there are hundreds of other Kurus in
Turkey and their bones, too, will return to haunt us all. Publishing
books "quietly" will not save us.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Armenian Genocide At The Berlin Film Festival

By Wolfgang Hobel and Alexander Smoltczyk

Der Spiegel Online, Germany
Feb 14 2007

'The Lark Farm' Wakens Turkish Ghosts

The film "The Lark Farm" is sure to stir up controversy at this year's
Berlin Film Festival. It takes a close look at Turkey's most sensitive
taboo -- the 1915 genocide against the Armenians. Extra security has
been brought in for the Wednesday evening premiere.

All that was missing at the Festival Palace was the wave cheer, given
the level of enthusiasm with which Dieter Kosslick, the festival's
director, staged the opening gala of the 57th Berlin International
Film Festival last Thursday. Once again, Kosslick has managed to
position the German capital as a world-class film city, and this
year's Berlinale again vies with past festivals in its relentless
determination to deliver euphoria.

Photo Gallery: Controversial Film at the Berlin Film Festival Click
on a picture to launch the image gallery (3 Photos) The French film
"La Vie en rose," the first film on the festival's schedule, matched
the effusive mood of the event. In the film, director Olivier Dahan
tells the life story of singer Edith Piaf, sumptuously portraying
her descent into drug addiction and disastrous love affairs. The
president of the festival's jury Paul Schrader -- himself a writer,
director and film critic -- has said he sees film as a kind of museum,
or cultural memory bank. It's an interpretation that clearly applies
to this year's festival.

Steven Soderbergh's black-and-white drama "The Good German," provides
a good example. George Clooney portrays an American reporter in
post-World War II Germany who is tragically in love with a beautiful
but mysterious woman (Cate Blanchett). The American thriller "The Good
Shepherd," starring Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon and Alec Baldwin and
directed by Robert De Niro, is a story about the early days of the
CIA. In the historical drama "Die Falscher" ("The Counterfeiters"),
Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky describes how inmates at the
Nazi concentration camp in Sachsenhausen were forced to print British
pound notes in a counterfeiting workshop.

Taboo in Turkey

But there is one film that will encounter little competition for
being the most important and stirring contribution to the culture of
reminiscence. It deals with the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, a
topic that is still considered taboo in Turkey. Indeed, sentiments on
the issue are so strong that representatives of the Turkish government
are still trying to convince others to avoid the topic as well. Last
week, for example, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul made it
clear that relations between his country and the United States could
be seriously jeopardized by a resolution proposed in the US Congress
that would officially condemn the 1915 genocide committed by the Turks.

"If this resolution is approved," Gul threatened representatives of
the Bush administration, which is seeking a strategic partnership
with Turkey, "why should we continue to support one another?"

FROM THE MAGAZINE Find out how you can reprint this DER SPIEGEL
article in your publication. Close to a century after the Armenian
genocide, the issue remains explosive. When Turkish novelist and Nobel
laureate Orhan Pamuk had the courage to write about the genocide, he
was promptly taken to court by ultra-nationalists. After the murder
of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, Pamuk, fearing for his
own life, fled abroad.

The Armenian genocide is sure to become a hot-button issue in Berlin
-- home to about 250,000 Turks -- where legendary directors Paolo
and Vittoria Taviani will premiere their new film "The Lark Farm"
on Wednesday evening. It is a shocking film about the genocide and
the film's distributor is nervous. The festival management, fearing
riots, has hired additional security.

Bundles of flesh

It is a film filled with vivid images and meaningful gestures. In one
scene, a Turkish soldier stands awkwardly next to an opulently set
table. He carefully picks up the soup bowl, lifts it into the air,
pauses for a moment, and then slowly pours the soup over the damask
tablecloth. The horror begins with the insignificant, setting the
stage for the unimaginable in the most polite of ways.

In another scene, Turkish servants suddenly refuse to unload the
truck belonging to their Armenian masters, saying that it's too
late in the day for work. A short time later, the masters, already
earmarked for slaughter as enemies of the people, have been reduced
to sobbing bundles of flesh as they beg for their lives. Such is how
genocide begins.

In their past masterpieces, "Padre Padrone" (1977) and "Notte di
San Lorenzo" ("The Night of San Lorenzo") (1982), Italian directors
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, both well into their seventies, dealt with
the human effects of persecution and political violence -- and with
the desire to rebel against fate. While "The Night of San Lorenzo,"
an episode from the Italian resistance movement against Mussolini's
fascist militia, managed to describe the senselessness of violence
with the tools of absurdist comedy, "The Lark Farm" is a deeply
dark melodrama.

In the political inferno the film portrays, Moritz Bleibtreu and Paz
Vega are perfectly cast as tragic lovers. "It is not a film against
Turkey, on the contrary," they say, and rightfully so. But the editors
who published the Danish cartoons that so inflamed the Muslim world
were also in the right. "The Lark Farm" could well become the political
scandal at this year's Berlinale.

Obedience, cowardice, expediencey and vileness

The screenplay, based on a novel by Antonia Arslan -- a literature
professor who now lives in Padua -- deals with the history of Arslan's
family. The novel portrays the Avakians, a respected middle-class
Armenian family that lives in a provincial city, hoping that things
will not take a turn for the worse. The film begins with intimate
scenes of beautiful faces and women wearing long dresses, filmed
in the light of a Vermeer painting. The family patriarch has died,
and even the Turkish Colonel Arkan (Andre Dussollier) bows to pay
his respects to the deceased.

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But then Arkan receives his orders from Istanbul, orders he promptly
obeys. In only a few scenes, the directors depict the mixture of
obedience and cowardice, of expediency and vileness that has always
made ethnic cleansing and pogroms possible.

The men and boys are crucified, castrated and hacked to pieces, and
the women are sent on a starvation march into the deserts of eastern
Anatolia. Nazim, a beggar (played by Palestinian filmmaker Mohammed
Bakri), betrays his masters but then regrets it and attempts to at
least help the women. Youssuf (Moritz Bleibtreu), a Turkish soldier,
is drawn to the family's proud surviving daughter (Paz Vega) and falls
in love with her. In an attempt to flee, Nunik sacrifices herself
to enable her nieces to escape. When Youssuf receives his orders --
"Throw them into the fire first, then cut off their heads" -- he
decapitates Nunik to save her from being burned alive.

The outstanding performances -- and the sheer incomprehensibility
of the events -- keep the film from descending into sentimentality,
despite the costumes and the over-abundance of stage blood. The
Tavianis have managed to produce images the film's viewers will regret
having seen, because these are the kinds of images one has trouble
forgetting. This is both the film's achievement and its curse.

Watching the film is almost unbearable. According to some eyewitnesses,
soldiers gave Armenian mothers the option of killing their newborn
boys themselves. Others say that women were forced to place their
babies in a rucksack and stand back-to-back with another woman,
their arms interlocked and... One doesn't want to know or see what
actually happened.

A muffled silence

This is what Vittorio Taviani has to say about it: "The murder of
the innocent has been a part of theater history since the Greeks,
since Shakespeare. Three years ago we discovered the Armenian tragedy,
almost by accident, when we read the book by Antonia Arslan. We wanted
to tell it with the means at our disposal."

Arsinee Khanjian, a Canadian of Armenian heritage who lost part of
her own family, plays the role of Armineh Avakian. In one scene the
severed head of her husband is thrown into her lap. "She was adamant
about acting in our film. She felt that it was a sort of obligation
to her murdered great-grandparents. We promised her that we would
only shoot this scene once, and without rehearsal," says Paolo
Taviani. "According to the script, she was supposed to scream. But
all that came out was a muffled silence. We left it that way."

The Armenians were Christians, often educated and affluent. As such,
they made for the ideal fifth column when the Ottoman Empire attacked
Russia. But the Ottomans lost the war. According to the official
version in Ankara, the Armenians had to be resettled during the war,
and most of them died as a result of disease and at the hands of
Kurdish tribes. But many contest that version.

"One million Armenians were murdered. This is something hardly anyone
dares to say," said Orhan Pamuk prior to his winning the Nobel Prize in
Literature. His words immediately made Pamuk the victim of nationalist,
hate-mongering propaganda. The persecution and murder of the Armenian
minority remains the foremost trauma of the founding of modern Turkey.

It was, in fact, the "young Turks," those who were eager to found a
new and modern state, who issued the orders which led to the deaths
of the Armenians. Recognizing the genocide as such would be tantamount
to admitting that the spiritual founders of modern Turkey were men who
today would be easily convicted of war crimes by the International War
Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. And yet the majority of officers charged
with crimes against the Armenians were promptly released after the war.

Efforts in vain

For the past 70 years, Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has had
plans to film the Armenian epic "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh," by
Czech-born poet, playwright and novelist Franz Werfel. And Sylvester
Stallone has likewise recently indicated he would be interested
in making the movie. But the project was repeatedly shelved for
political reasons. Keeping NATO's eastern flank happy was apparently
more important that bringing justice to a minority that had already
been heavily decimated.

Even today the European Union avoids using the word "genocide,"
anxious not to cast a shadow on the negotiations over Turkey's bid
for EU membership.

The film is an Italian-French-Bulgarian-Spanish co-production.

Turkey's delegate to the European film fund Eurimage attempted to
put a stop to the Taviani project. But this time Turkey's efforts
were in vain.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan