Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

When is Genocide not Genocide? Recognising the Armenian Genocide, eighty-nine years on.

How do you feel about the refusal of the US administration to participate in the International Criminal Court: is there an obligation on Armenian lobby groups to pressure the US administration in relation to this, as a mean of preventing future crimes against civilians?

I have not given this question much thought. A strong precedent of success must be seen before the United States submits itself to some foreign authority other than the United Nations itself.


[Editor’s note: One would wonder how a strong precedent of success can be possible without the support of the United States]

There’s a flourishing of artistic activity in relation to the Genocide, from film maker Atom Egoyan’s ‘Ararat’, and the music of Diamanda Galas, through to popular rock bands such as System of a Down. Surely cultural examination, and artistic examination of the Genocide is much more important than any official recognition?

It is not so much official recognition which is desired but rather an end to official denial. The Turks have lost their propaganda battle. The controversy excited scholars to do research, and once that research was done it became obvious that there was an Armenian Genocide. Even the New York Times and the Boston Globe, two bastions of the establishment, have now made it policy to write about the Armenian Genocide without any qualifications and without the necessity of talking about the Turkish point of view.

I can only speak for myself. The recognition of the Armenian Genocide need not be too formal an event, it is just a matter of public policy. If the United States government had as its policy the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, there would be no need for formal action. The U.S. State Department could announce it in official papers as needed, as was done up until the 1920s, and the President could use the word genocide in his annual message of condolences to the Armenian people.

According to some Turkish readings of the events, prior to the First World War, the Armenians had been assimilated in the Ottoman Empire for centuries, peacefully. The conditions of war, and the threat from Russia, with whom Armenians in Eastern Anatolia were beginning to side, led to the violence of 1915. The theory is that these were extreme times, and acts of war and so, while regrettable, they can’t be referred to as Genocide.

Armenians, Greeks, and Jews were never assimilated into Ottoman society. They were dhimmi, or tolerated subject peoples, not citizens. The Turks consider them to be gavours, nonbelievers. As such, they occupied a position beneath Turkish society and there was no assimilation. It is true that a few Armenians rose to high places in the government, because of their unique talents, and were ‘ottomanized’, or accepted into Ottoman society, but still were despised outsiders. All of the sultan’s subjects were considered slaves of the Sultan, in any case, so as one of those slaves an Armenian could rise to high places.

Secondly, the Russian government was more progressive than the Ottoman government and gave Armenians more civil rights and protection of life and property. Not surprisingly, the Armenians in the Russian Empire were loyal and patriotic. While the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire were hardly patriotic, they were for the most part loyal. When representatives of the Young Turk Party went to the Congress of the Dashnaks in Erzerum, they promised the Armenians autonomy if they and the Russian Armenians would fight against the Russian Empire. In fact, the Czar made a similar promise to the Armenians. Experience had shown that neither of these promises could be believed. So, the Armenian delegates announced that Armenians in Turkey would be loyal to Turkey and Armenians in the Russian empire would be loyal to Russia.

As a matter of fact, a few prominent Armenians went over to the other side, but they were insignificant in number and certainly posed no real threat to the Ottoman government.

Armenian young men of fighting age in the Turkish army performed heroically in the two Balkan Wars and also on the Turkish Eastern front just before the beginning of the genocide. Furthermore, Armenians were not only expelled from the eastern provinces but from all of Anatolia, east, west, north, and south. The Turks depend on the absolute ignorance of Westerners of Anatolian geography to carry on that ruse. Ankara is hardly on the Eastern front, much less Brussa and Marash.

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