A hundred years ago today, amid the upheaval of World War 1, countless villages across the Ottoman Empire became killing fields as the desperate leadership of this region, having lost the Balkans and facing the prospect of losing its territories as well, saw an imagined threat at home.
Worried that the Christian Armenian population was planning to align with Russia, the then primary enemy of the Ottoman Turks, officials embarked on what historians have called the first genocide of the 20th Century.
Nearly 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed, becoming tragically part of one of the biggest atrociies of the Great War. Initially intellectuals and community leader were rounded up, one by one, then thousands were instantly slaughtered, there were reports of mass burnings, others put in concentration camps, to be tortured and gassed, others left to die of starvation, exhaustion and disease. Rape was frequently reported too. All this occurred between 1915-1923, to further add to this misery, the great bulk of the Armenian population were forced from Armenia to Syria, where the vast majority were sent into the desert to die of thirst and hunger.
This horrific moment in time has since with great shame been bitterly contested by Turkey, under President Erdogan the successor of the Ottoman Empire, who has consistently denied the word genocide, as an accurate term for what happened. Years later the issue of whether to these killings a genocide remain raw and emotional, both for the Armenians, who are descended from those killed, and the Turks, the heirs to the Ottomans. For both, the question touches as much on national identity, as it does on historical facts.
Whilst at the same time for geopolitical reasons the U.S.A too, has never labelled the atrocities committed by Turkey as genocide, being close friends with Turkey, their allies in the NATO alliance. It should be noted that Robert Dole in the Senate introduced a mild resolution commemorating 1990 as the 75th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, at the time the Israeli government worked with the Turkish government to lobby against it. ( The resolution was subsequently defeated in the Senate) Obama himself, pledged in his Presidential campaign to call it genocide, but two terms into to his Presidency , he remains silent. The fact that Israel has been very strongly opposed to efforts being made to recognise the Armenian genocide, for me is really quite astonishing. Especially from a country founded in the aftermath of its own genocide, holocaust. There are growing calls from within Israel for them to finally recognise this historical fact , and not to be in denial, which would be good, since both peoples, the Armenians and the Jewish people having suffered the same fate, the same terrible tragedies. But at the end of the day the Turks are their allies, and you don't want to alienate allies, do you, because that's much too important. Israel thinks it's not their business, lets simply not talk about the Armenian holocaust, but any conciliatory offerings, I am sure will be welcomed. Sadly , too, the British government will not recognise it. Despite , that during the time of Lloyd George, in fact even Churchill himself wrote "There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political purposes." He also used the phrases "Administrative Holocaust" and "clearance of race".
Yet countries like Canada, Argentina, France, Greece and Russia, Poland and Switzerland where the survivors of the Armenian genocide and their descendents live have officially recognised the Armenian genocide, thus helping the process of healing.
I believe the voices of the people killed and those haunted should not be forgotten, we should mark their identity, and the psychic wounds that have passed through generations.
Today the anniversary will be commemorated, the date the Ottomans rounded up groups of Armenians in 1915, as the first step in what many agree was a wider plan for annhiliation.
Armenians from Turkey and the diaspora are preparing to gather in Instanbul's central Taksim Square to honor the dead. A concert will feature both Armenian and Turkish musicians.
Years later Hitler would use this model of genocide for his own tools for a Holocaust. Hitler and Himmler, guided by the same evil, were inspired by the Ottoman Empires own methods of quiet extermination. Mass genocidal maniacs since like Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot followed suit with their own reigns of terror and slaughter of millions.
We should recognise the sad fact that Turkeys lack of contrition leaves descendents struggling to reconcile loss and renewal. It is simply implausible that we should still question the reality of this appalling terrible injustice.
It is a moral necessity that we continue to condemn these massacres and ethnic cleansing of Armenians, that began on this day. To continue to deny this truth amounts to a criminal lie. We need to enshrine in our collective memory this crime against humanity, so as to ensure that it is understood, learnt and transmitted to future generations. We need to recognise the wounds that have never been able to be healed.
Armenian refugee children 1915
Please consider signing the following Armenian Genocide petition
There is no time for music today,
realities tears flow, that cannot be denied,
remembering children, mothers,
who were taken, and dragged away,
words to be silenced forever,
the scattering of bones.
The Armenians memory, still suffering,
choking, in bitter frustrated rage,
echoes still screaming out over the age,
the sorrow and the sadness,
continuing to burn today,
as people seek recognition,
some form of reconciliation.
thanks to Mr P James and Mr chomsky ........