Armenian Genocide Education Initiative Center for Peace, Justice

Armenian Genocide Education Initiative
Center for Peace, Justice and Reconciliation
Bergen Community College
What Is the Armenian Genocide?
The Armenian Genocide was the deliberate and systematic destruction
of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Turkish Empire that was
carried out by the Turkish government behind the screen of World War I
between 1915-1918. It was implemented through wholesale massacres,
and deportations, with the deportations consisting of forced marches
under conditions designed to lead to either death, or in the case of many
women and children rape and abduction. Thousands of schools,
churches, and cultural monuments were destroyed underscoring the
cultural dimension of the genocide. The total number of resulting
Armenian deaths is generally held to have been between one and one
and a half million, about two-thirds of the Armenian population that was
then living on its historical homeland of 2,500 years.
(From Balakian, Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights entry, “Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire.” Oxford University Press, 2009)
The State of New Jersey Requires This Study
Social Studies
6.2 World History/Global Studies All students will acquire the knowledge and skills to think ana
systematically about how past interactions of people, cultures, and the environment affect issues a
cultures. Such knowledge and skills enable students to make informed decisions as socially and eth
world citizens in the 21st century.
A Half-Century of Crisis and Achievement (1900-1945)
By the end of grade 12
Cumulative Progress Indic
A. Civics,
6.2.12.A.4.a Explain the rise of fascism and spread of communism in Europe and Asia.
and Human 6.2.12.A.4.b Compare the rise of nationalism in China, Turkey, and India.
6.2.12.A.4.c Analyze the motivations, causes, and consequences of the genocides of Arme
(gypsies), and Jews, as well as the mass exterminations of Ukrainians and Ch
6.2.12.A.4.d Assess government responses to incidents of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
B. Geography,
People, and the
6.2.12.B.4.a Determine the geographic impact of World War I by comparing and contr
political boundaries of the world in 1914 and 1939.
6.2.12.B.4.b Determine how geography impacted military strategies and major turnin
World War II.
6.2.12.B.4.c Explain how the disintegration of the Ottoman empire and the mandate s
creation of new nations in the Middle East.
6.2.12.B.4.d Explain the intended and unintended consequences of new national boun
established by the treaties that ended World War II.
6.2.12.C.4.a Analyze government responses to the Great Depression and their consequenc
growth of fascist, socialist, and communist movements and the effects on cap
theory and practice.
Technology 6.2.12.C.4.b Compare and contrast World Wars I and II in terms of technological innovatio
industrial production, scientific research, war tactics) and social impact (i.e.,
mobilization, loss of life, and destruction of property).
Assess the short- and long-term demographic, social, ec
environmental consequences of the violence and destruc
World Wars.
Analyze the ways in which new forms of communication,
and weaponry affected relationships between governme
citizens and bolstered the power of new authoritarian re
Why Teach the Armenian Genocide?
The extermination of the Armenian population in Turkey in 1915 has
been defined by the overwhelming opinion of genocide scholars as the
first instance of modern genocide, which is to distinguish it from
genocide arried out in a pre-modern era, a human institution that goes
back to the Athenians wiping out the Melians or the Romans expunging
Carthage. (Chalk and Jonasson, 1985).
However, unlike genocidal campaigns before 1915, the Turkish
extermination of the Armenians is marked by certain salient features that
define what came to be modern genocide: the full use of government
apparatus – bureaucracy, military, and technology and communications
– in order to first target and isolate and then eliminate an ethnic or
culture group – that is, a defenseless sub-group of the larger population –
in a concentrated period of time.
It is clear as we look back at the twentieth century that the Armenian
Genocide became the template for what became modern genocide.
When Adolf Hitler said to his military advisors, eight days before
invading Poland inb 1939, “Who, today, after all, speaks of the
annihilation of the Armenians?” (Lochner, 1942), he was inspired by the
fact that Turkey’s ruling party in 1915, the Committee of Union and
Progress, had succeeded in eliminating a hated minority population from
Turkey. And he was emboldened by the fact that what, for the West, had
been the most dramatic human rights disaster of the first quarter of the
twentieth century had all but disappeared down the memory hole only
twenty years later.
So what can we learn from the Armenian Genocide all these years later?
For one, we can learn a good deal about how the systematic mass-killing
of a targeted population can happen. In the anatomy of the Armenian
Genocide plan we see the template for genocide that followed in the
twentieth century, in the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, the Balkans,
Darfur and other places. In a century that saw somewhere between 120
and 150 million lives lost to war, genocide and human rights crimes, the
significance of the Armenian Genocide is not small.
Secondly, we can see in the Armenian Genocide an extreme case of the
consequences or genocide carried out with impunity. It seems clear from
his exhortation of 22 August 1939 that Hitler was emboldened by the
Armenian Genocide and the ensuing impunity granted perpetrators,
making clear that genocide committed with impunity encourages more
of the same. The failure to bring perpetrators to justice in the aftermath
of the Genocide also has created, ninety-three years later, an
international scene of seemingly unprecedented denialism on the part of
the Turkish government and moral outrage as well as continual
wounding for the Armenian community world-wide, and a continuation
of human rights abuses and atrocities inside Turkey from 1915 until
(From Balakian, Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights entry, “Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire.” Oxford University Press, 2009)
Why Was the Armenian Genocide Perpetrated?
When WWI erupted, the Young Turk government, hoping to save the
remains of the weakened Ottoman Empire, adopted a policy of Pan
Turkism – the establishment of a mega Turkish empire comprising of all
Turkic-speaking peoples of the Caucasus and Central Asia extending to
China, intending also to Turkify all ethnic minorities of the empire. The
Armenian population became the main obstacle standing in the way of
the realization of this policy.
Although the decision for the deportation of all Armenians from the
Western Armenia (Eastern Turkey) was adopted in late 1911, the Young
Turks used WWI as a suitable opportunity for its implementation.
How was the Armenian Genocide Implemented?
(From the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute,
Genocide is the organized killing of a people for the express purpose of
putting an end to their collective existence. Because of its scope,
genocide requires central planning and an internal machinery to
implement. This makes genocide the quintessential state crime, as only a
government has the resources to carry out such a scheme of destruction.
On 24th of April in 1915, the first phase of the Armenian massacres
began with the arrest and murder of nearly hundreds intellectuals,
mainly from Constantinople, the capital of Ottoman Empire (now
Istanbul in present day Turkey). Subsequently, Armenians worldwide
commemorate the April 24th as a day that memorializes all the victims
of the Armenian Genocide.
The second phase of the ‘final solution’ appeared with the conscription
of some 60.000 Armenian men into the general Turkish army, who were
later disarmed and killed by their Turkish fellowmen.
The third phase of the genocide comprised of massacres, deportations
and death marches made up of women, children and the elderly into the
Syrian deserts. During those marches hundreds of thousands were killed
by Turkish soldiers, gendarmes and Kurdish mobs. Others died because
of famine, epidemic diseases and exposure to the elements. Thousands
of women and children were raped. Tens of thousands were forcibly
converted to Islam.
Finally, the fourth phase of the Armenian genocide appeared with the
total and utter denial by the Turkish government of the mass killings and
elimination of the Armenian nation on its homeland. Despite the
ongoing international recognition of the Armenian genocide, Turkey has
consistently fought the acceptance of the Armenian Genocide by any
means, including false scholarship, propaganda campaigns, lobbying,
Chronology of the Armenian Genocide
(adapted from Balakian, Armenian Golgotha: a Memoir of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918.
Knopf, 2009)
Sultan Abdul Hamid II wages an empire-wide campaign of massacres of the
Armenian population, in reprisal for largely peaceful protests for reform;
approximately 200,000 Armenians are killed. The Sultan was called the “bloody
sultan” in the Western press.
July 24
The Young Turks (Committee of Union and Progress, or CUP) force Sultan
Abdul Hamid II to reinstate the constitution, which leads to the promise of
reforms for Armenians and the other minorities in the empire.
April 13
A counterrevolution by the sultan’s supporters and the military in Constantinople
stirs anti-Christian feelings throughout the empire. In this context, massacres of
Armenians take place in Adana and spread throughout Cilicia, resulting in the
deaths of 15,000 to 25,000 Armenians and the destruction of the Armenian
sections of towns and villages.
April 23
The counterrevolution is quashed by the CUP’s forces and the sultan is deposed.
In the Balkan wars the Ottoman’s lose mare than 80 percent of their European
territory and suffer heavy casualties. A mass influx of muslim refugees into
Turkey creates increased political animosity toward Christians, and Turkish
nationalism intensifies.
January 26
The triumvirate of Ismail Enver, Mehmud Talaat, and Ahmed Jemal stages a
coup, taking over the government in the name of an extreme nationalist ideology.
February 8
The Armenian Reform Agreement, whose passage is overseen by the European
powers, allows European inspectors to oversee the condition of Ottoman
Armenians, angering Turkey.
August 1-4
Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia. Germany declares war on Russia
and France. Turkey signs a secret military alliance with Germany. Ottoman troops
are effectively placed under German command. World War I begins.
In the cities of the western coast, vandalism and looting of Armenian and Greek
shops takes place. Many Greeks are driven out of western Turkey.
November 5
Russia declares war on the Ottoman empire.
November 9
In Constantinople the Sheikh-ul-Islam proclaims jihad against Christians to incite
religious war against the Allies, but also igniting animosity toward the Armenians
at home.
The Russian army routs the Turkish army in the Battle of Sarikamish. The
presence of Armenian volunteers in the Russian army stirs more animosity toward
Armenians. Armenians in the Ottoman army are disarmed and put into labor
battalions, in which they will be massacred in the coming weeks and months by
fellow soldiers.
Interior Minister Talaat tells German ambassador von Wagenheim that he is going
to resolve the Armenian Question by eliminating Armenians.
Under the direction of the Interior Ministry, Dr. Behaeddin Shakir organizes
chetes (mobile killing units) of the Special Organization, mostly comprising thirty
thousand criminals released from prison. This is a major component of the
government’s plan to annihilate the Armenians.
March-April Ittihad (CUP) leaders convey through the Ittihad party network across the empire
that Armenians must be deported. Looting, rape, mass arrests, imprisonment and
executions of Armenians take place throughout the empire.
April 15
Armenian resistance to massacre begins in Van province; they will hold off the
Turkish troops for five weeks.
April 24
In Constantinople, as British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops prepare
to land at Gallipoli, some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders are
arrested and sent under armed guard to a prison two hundred miles east. Similar
arrests of Armenian intellectuals will continue in other cities throughout the year.
Fighting in Gallipoli fuels Turkish rage toward Armenians inside Turkey.
May 6
The New York Times reports: “The Young Turks have adopted the policy of
[sultan] Abdul Hamid, namely the annihilation of the Armenians.”
May 27
The Ittihad government passes the Temporary Law of Deportation, allowing the
forcible deportation of all Armenians.
June-August Armenians throughout Turkey are arrested in their homes, put on deportation
marches, tortured and massacred or abducted. Children are Islamized. Property is
confiscated. Turkish refugees from the former European territories are resettled
on Armenian lands.
July 16
U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau cables the secretary of state about
“deportation of and excesses against peaceful Armenians,” reporting that “a
campaign of race extermination is in progress under pretext of reprisal against
U.S. Consul Jesse B. Jackson reports to Ambassador Morgenthau that more than a
million Armenians are believed to be lost.
The Ittihad governement passes the Temporary Law of Confiscation and
Expropriation, allowing it to confiscate all real estate and other property
belonging to Armenians. In Musa Dagh, Armenians resist deportation and
massacre. They hold off Turkish troops for several weeks until 4,058 persons are
rescued by English and French warships. This is one of four failed resistances –
the others are at Van, Ourfa, and Shabin Karahisar.
July 15
The Russian army defeats the Turkish army in the Caucasus. Russian troops
occupy most of western Armenia.
Talaat orders a second wave of massacres of Armenians who are still alive in Der
Zor. The total killed there exceeds 400,000.
The Interior Ministry abolishes the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The United States declares war on Germany and Austria-Hungary. Turkey breaks
diplomatic relations with the United States.
The Interior Ministry orders all Armenians working on railroad lines to be
deported. In Russia, the Bolshevik Revolution ends the Monarchy, soon
beginning a civil war. Russian troops leave the Anatolian front, abandoning the
In the United States, President Wilson presents his Fourteen Points, including
assurances of security and “opportunity of autonomous development” for
nationalities under Turkish rule.
March 3
Germany, Russia and Turkey sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in which Russia
drops out of the war and, among other things, concedes three Armenian provinces
to Turkey.
The Allies capture Damascus, Beirut, and Aleppo. The surviving Armenians are
rescued. The ruling triumvirate – Talaat, Enver, and Jemal – flees the country.
February 1
Under British pressure, Ottoman courts-martial of perpetrators of the Armenian
massacres commence in Constantinople. The Ittihad leaders will be sentenced to
death in absentia in June; several convictions will result in imprisonment or
execution. Although the trials will fall apart by 1920, they will yield hundreds of
pages of confessions by perpetrators, which will be recorded in the Ottoman
Parliamentary Gazette.
May 15
Greece invades Turkey. The Allies have sanctioned the invasion in order for
Greece to take back historically Greek territories along the coast of Asia Minor.
President Wilson sends the King-Crane Commission to Turkey to assess the
viability of a U.S. mandate for Armenia. The commission will verify the
extermination of the Armenians and place the death toll at more than one million.
June 10
A military tribunal convicts Talaat, Enver and Jemal and Dr. Nazim of war crimes
and sentences them to death in absentia.
The United States recognizes the Democratic Republic of Armenia. In Ankara,
Turkish nationalists form a separate government and elect Mustapha Kemal as
their leader. The Allies, negotiating the Treaty of Sevres, ask President Wilson to
draw the boundary lines of the Armenian Republic.
Kemalist forces launch a major offensive against the Republic of Armenia. They
capture the Armenian lands formerly occupied by Russia.
President Wilson submits the boundary lines for a postwar land settlement for
Armenia. Turkey is to renounce claims to the ceded lands. The Wilson award
reiterates the award to Armenia made in the Treaty of Sevres.
March 16
Turkey and the Soviet Union sign the Treaty of Moscow, wherein they divide the
significant parts of historically Armenian lands in the Caucasus between
March 21
Soghomon Tehlirian, a young man who saw most of his family massacred in
1915, assassinates Talaat Pasha in Berlin. He is later acquitted in the
Kemalists drive the Greek army out of Turkey. In the process they burn Smyrna
and massacre the Greeks and Armenians there.
At Kemal’s insistence, the European powers sign the Treaty of Lausanne,
annulling the Treaty of Sevres. The new treaty recognizes the Republic of Turkey
as successor to the Ottoman state and establishes new borders for Turkey. The
award to Armenia is scrapped; the word Armenia does not appear in the Lausanne
October 29
The Kemalists proclaim the modern Turkish Republic.
Massacre Sites and Deportation Routes
Who Are the Armenians?
An Ancient Kingdom at the Crossroads of Civilization
Armenia dates back as far as the sixth century B.C. originating in the
cradle of civilization, the Euphrates valley, and spreading to Asia Minor,
in which it became the successor to Urartu in the eighth century B.C.
Once spanning the Caucus region from the Caspian Sea to the
Mediterranean, Armenia has stood the test of time as a distinctive
culture and a unique people, despite numerous conquests over time –
from Alexander the Great and Mark Anthony to the Syrians, Persians,
Byzantines, Mongols and many more.
The First Christian State
Because of its geographical position at the crossroads between east and
west, Armenia was introduced to Christianity early by the apostles
Bartholemew and Thaddeus. In A.D. 301, it became the first nation to
adopt Christianity as the state religion.
Centuries of Roman, Persian and Turkish Influence
Having been under Roman influence after Alexander the Great, Armenia
became a Monarchy when Nero appointed Tiridates, a Parthian prince,
king of Armenia in A.D. 66. In the third century the Persian king
Ardashir I came to power and overran Armenia, beginning several
hundred years of Persian rule of the region. Though in the tenth century
Armenia gained brief autonomy under native rulers, it again came under
outside rule when the Byzantines and later the Seljuk Turks reconquered Armenia. The last Armenian king died in 1375. Thereafter,
the Ottoman Turks ruled much of Armenia, though the territory was
constantly in dispute between the Turks and the Persians.
Armenia Becomes a Russian Province
Russia acquired Armenia from Persia in 1828 and made it into a
province. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 assigned the Kars, Ardahan
and Batumi districts to Russia. Russia later ceded Kars and Ardahan
back to Turkey in 1921.
First Genocide of the Twentieth Century
After Armenia was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, Christians became
a minority, and many were subjected to trials and persecutions. Between
1894 and 1915, the Ottomans made a concentrated effort to destroy
them. More thasn 300,000 Armenians were killed between 1894 and
1896 and more than 1.5 million were massacred in 1915, in what is now
recognized as the first genocide of the twentieth century.
70 Years Under Soviet Rule
In the aftermath of World War I, Armenia was given its independence,
which lasted only two years until it was overtaken by the Soviets and
became a republic of the USSR. In 1988, the Armenian republic suffered
a devastating earthquake, which killed more than 25,000 and left more
than 100,000 homeless.
An Independent State in Transition
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Armenia again became
an independent state, but almost immediately, it became embroiled in a
conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan, in a dispute over the Armenian
enclave of Nagorno-Karabagh in that country. A cease-fire has held
since 1994, but Armenia is still recovering from the effects of both the
earthquake and the Azeri war. An estimated 100,000 landmines and
unexploded ordnances daily kill or maim Armenian men, women and
(From the Children of Armenia Foundation, )
What Was Their Status Under Ottoman Rule?
The Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453 and controlled
Anatolia. Under the Ottoman system, Muslims were separated from
dhimmi (non-muslims such as Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, and Jews),
who lived in self-governing communities called millets. Armenians were
allowed to run their communities’ internal affairs under government
protection and rule. In this system, however, dhimmi had few legal
rights, and none in Islamic courts; thus Armenians – with no protection
from theft and extortion and the rape and abduction of women – were in
perpetual jeopardy. They were not allowed to own weapons or join the
military or civil service, which excluded them from the power structure
and made them prey, subjected to a corrupt tax-farming system wherein
they were forced to pay redundant rounds of taxes to extorting local
officials. They were required to wear distinctive dress and defer to
Muslims in public.
(From Balakian, Oxford Encyclopedia of Human Rights entry, “Armenians in the Ottoman
Empire.” Oxford University Press, 2009)
Denial of the Armenian Genocide
Genocide scholars around the world concur that the mass killing of the
Armenians in Turkey in 1915 is genocide. And, the most minimalist of
genocide scholars concur that only three events qualify as genocide in
the 20th century: the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, and the
Rwandan genocide. Only the Turkish government and a handful of
scholars who have been enlisted into supporting Turkey’s nationalist
agenda deny the Armenian genocide. Raphael Lemkin, the PolishJewish legal scholar who created the concept of genocide as a crime in
international law did so largely on the basis of what happened to the
Armenians in Turkey in 1915, and to the Jews in Europe in the 1940s.
Lemkin was the first to use the term Armenian genocide and he wrote
about the mass killing of the Armenians repeatedly in his work, and as
he put it in a letter to Thelma Stevens in the summer of 1950 as he was
working hard for the passage of the UN Genocide Resolution in the US,
“I know it is very hot in July and August for work and planning, but
without becoming sentimental or trying to use colorful speech, let us not
forget that the heat of this month is less unbearable than the heat of the
ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau and more lenient than the murderous
heat in the desert of Aleppo which burned to death the bodies of
hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenian victims of genocide in
Raphael Lemkin on the Armenian Genocide
“The precise and legally correct term for the intended group destruction
of the Armenians in 1915 by the Turkish government was first named
Armenian genocide by Raphael Lemkin, the Polish-Jewish legal scholar
who created the term genocide in 1943, and did so in good part based on
the intended group destruction of the Armenians in Turkey in 1915. In
1949, when explaining the definition of genocide, Lemkin wrote:
‘Genocide is defined in this convention as the intentional destruction of
national, racial, ethnical and religious groups. Examples of genocide are
the destruction of the Armenians in the first World War, and the
destruction of Jews in the second World War.’ To Lemkin, both cases
were unequivocally acts of genocide. Although the Holocaust had a
direct and personal bearing on Lemkin, who lost 49 members of his
family to the Nazis, Lemkin explicitly argues that there is no
hierarchical value placed on genocides. In 1948, he wrote: ‘In 1916 and
thereafter, President Wilson took a warm interest in the faith of the
Armenians, who fell victims of genocide. More than 1,200,000 men,
women and children were massacred at that time. The USA State
Department wrote ‘The government cannot be a tacit part of an
international wrong.’ The genocide convention condemns mass violence
as a system of government. This crime did not start with Hitler and did
not end with Hitler.’
1) Armenian genocide as a primary focus for Lemkin
‘Soon contemporary examples of genocide followed, such as the
slaughter of Armenians in 1915. It became clear to me that the diversity
of nations, religious groups and races is essential to civilization because
every one of these groups has a mission to fulfill and a contribution to
make in terms of culture…
“After the end of the war, some 150 Turkish war criminals were arrested
and interned by the British government on the island of Malta. The
Armenians sent a delegation to the peace conference at Versailles and
demanded justice. Then one day, I read in the newspaper that all Turkish
war criminals were to be released. I was shocked. A nation that killed
and the guilty persons set free. Why is a man punished when he kills
another man? Why is the killing of a million a lesser crime than the
killing of an individual? I didn’t know all the answers, but felt that a law
against this type of racial or religious murder must be adopted by the
2) Lemkin on Armenians and Jews as victims of genocide in the 20th
“On the 9th of December, 1948, the General Assembly of the United
Nations in Paris adopted an international convention or a treaty for the
prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. Genocide is
defined in this convention as the intentional destruction of national,
racial, ethnical and religious groups. Examples of genocide are the
destruction of the Armenians in the first World War and the destruction
of the Jews in the second World War.”
3) Lemkin on the Armenian Genocide and destruction of Armenian
“In terms of the larger issues involved, the losses in culture through the
genocide of the Armenians in Turkey were staggering. The Armenians,
as the intellectual core of Turkey, were in possession of valuable
personal libraries, archives, and historical manuscripts, which were
dispersed and lost. Churches, convents, and monuments of artistic and
historical value were destroyed…”
(Complied by Donna Lee-Frieze, Deakin University, Melbourne Australia)
World Opinion on the Armenian Genocide
In the face of Turkish denial, scholars, organizations and nations,
motivated by an ethical sense and the value of historical honesty, have
made statements of acknowledgement and affirmation of the Armenian
genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars has issued
several Open Letters which underscore that the historical record of the
Armenian genocide is overwhelming and unambiguous, and noting
Raphael Lemkin’s first use of the term genocide to describe the
Armenian case, and the applicability of the 1948 United Nations
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide
(IAGS, 2006). More than twenty countries as well as the Vatican and the
European Parliament have passed resolutions acknowledging the events
of 1915 as genocide. Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel has called Turkish
denial a “double killing” that strives to kill the memory of the event.
Deborah Lipstadt has written: “Denial of genocide whether that of the
Turks against the Armenians, or the Nazis against the Jews is not an act
of historical reinterpretation…The deniers aim at convincing innocent
third parties that there is another side of the story…when there is no
other side…Denial of genocide strives to reshape history in order to
demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators, and is the final
stage of genocide.” (Lipstadt, 2000). While Turkish denial has been
discredited by the mainstream scholarly community, students of the
Armenian genocide should be alert to the nature of denialist literature
and its connection to Turkish nationalism.
Why Does Turkey Deny the Armenian Genocide?
(From Taner Akcam, “Facing History: Denial and the Turkish National Security Concept,”
lecture at Bergen Community College 2011)
When Michael Hagopian made his first classic acclaimed documentary
on the Armenian genocide in 1975, which was nominated for two
Emmys, he called it “Forgotten Genocide.” It would be less accurate to
call it that today, though it remained forgotten and taboo in Turkey until
quite recently. Those who have made working on this topic a life long
commitment have struggled to answer the million dollar question: Why
has the genocide been buried under so much amnesia and rendered such
a taboo subject in Turkey? Undoubtedly one could cite many reasons,
but I am going to discuss just one of them and that is the ‘security
One of the main reasons why the Armenian genocide has been virtually
forgotten and the subject made such a taboo in Turkey is the fact that in
Turkey discussing it is considered a threat to national security. Anyone
who even dares bring up the subject runs the very real risk of being
labeled a traitor to the nation, dragged from courtroom to courtroom in
prosecutions, not to mention, even assassinated.
The mindset hat an open discussion of history engenders a security
problem originates from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire into nation28
states starting in the nineteenth century. From late Ottoman times to the
present, there has been a continuous tension between the state’s concern
for secure borders and society’s need to come to terms with abuses of
human rights. Within this history, security and territorial integrity of a
crumbling Empire, and human rights abuses were forged with a common
fate, they were the two faces of the same coin. It is precisely this
intertwining of the two that is the underlying cause of the amnesia and
taboo surrounding the Armenian genocide in Turkey.
When the first World War ended with Ottoman defeat, working out the
terms of a peace settlement, the political decision makers of the time
grappled with two distinct, yet related issues, the answers to which
would determine their various relationships and alliances. The first was
the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state. The second was the wartime
atrocities committed by the ruling Union and Progress party against
Ottoman Armenian citizens. The questions about the first issue were:
Should the Ottoman state retain its independence? Should new states be
permitted to arise on the territory of the Ottoman state? The questions
regarding the second issue were: What can be done about the wartime
crimes against the Armenians and the perpetrators of these atrocities?
How should the perpetrators be punished?
The fact is that the attempt at dismemberment and partition of a state as
a form of punishment for the atrocities committed during the war years
and proposed punishment of its nationalist leaders for seeking the
territorial integrity of their state, created the mindset in Turkey today
that views any reference to the historic wrongdoings in the past as an
issue of national security. A product of this mindset is therefore a belief
that democratization, freedom of thought and speech, open and frank
debate about history, acknowledgement of one’s past historical
misdeeds, is a threat to national security.
You cannot solve any problem in the Middle East today without
addressing historic wrong doings because history is not something in the
past; past is the present in the Middle East. Putting it another way, one
of the main problems in the region is the insecurity felt by different
groups and states towards each other as a result of events that have
occurred in history. When you make the persistent denial of these painfilled acts a part of your security policy this brings with it insecurity
towards the other. This is what I call the security dilemma: What one
does to enhance one’s own security causes a reaction that, in the end,
can make one even less secure. For this reason, any security concept …
that ignores and forgets the addressing of historic wrong doings is
doomed to fail in the end.
Steps to Organized Genocide
Denial of Justice
The Eight Stages of Genocide
1. CLASSIFICATION: All cultures have categories to distinguish
people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality:
German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi.
2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give names or other symbols to the
classifications. We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish
them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups.
Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not
necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage,
3. DEHUMANIZATION: One group denies the humanity of the other
group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or
diseases. Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion
against murder. At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate
radios is used to vilify the victim group.
4. ORGANIZATION: Genocide is always organized, usually by the
state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility.
Special army units or militias are often trained and armed. Plans are
made for genocidal killings.
5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive the groups apart. Hate groups
broadcast polarizing propaganda. Laws may forbid intermarriage or
social interaction. Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating
and silencing the center.
6. PREPARATION: Victims are identified and separated out because
of their ethnic or religious identity. Death lists are drawn up. Members
of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols. Their property
is expropriated. They are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into
concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.
7. EXTERMINATION begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing
legally called “genocide.” It is “extermination” to the killers because
they do not believe their victims to be fully human. When it is sponsored
by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing.
8. DENIAL is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide. It is
among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres. The
perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to
cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses. They deny that they
committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims.
(Gregory Stanton, President, Genocide Watch