FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Confronting Turkey’s Armenian Genocide

by ROBERT FISK

This has been a bad week for Holocaust deniers. I’m talking about those who wilfully lie about the 1915 genocide of 1.5 million Armenian Christians by the Ottoman Turks. On Thursday, France’s lower house of parliament approved a Bill making it a crime to deny that Armenians suffered genocide. And, within an hour, Turkey’s most celebrated writer, Orhan Pamuk–only recently cleared by a Turkish court for insulting “Turkishness” (sic) by telling a Swiss newspaper that nobody in Turkey dared mention the Arm! enian massacres–won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In the mass graves below the deserts of Syria and beneath the soil of southern Turkey, a few souls may have been comforted.

While Turkey continues to blather on about its innocence–the systematic killing of hundreds of thousands of male Armenians and of their gang-raped women is supposed to be the sad result of “civil war”–Armenian historians such as Vahakn Dadrian continue to unearth new evidence of the premeditated Holocaust (and, yes, it will deserve its capital H since it was the direct precursor of the Jewish Holocaust, some of whose Nazi architects were in Turkey in 1915) with all the energy of a gravedigger.

Armenian victims were killed with daggers, swords, hammers and axes to save ammunition. Massive drowning operations were carried out in the Black Sea and the Euphrates rivers–mostly of women and children, so many that the Euphrates became clogged with corpses and changed its course for up ! to half a mile. But Dadrian, who speaks and reads Turkish fluently, ha s now discovered that tens of thousands of Armenians were also burned alive in haylofts.

He has produced an affidavit to the Turkish court martial that briefly pursued the Turkish mass murderers after the First World War, a document written by General Mehmet Vehip Pasha, commander of the Turkish Third Army. He testified that, when he visited the Armenian village of Chourig (it means “little water” in Armenian), he found all the houses packed with burned human skeletons, so tightly packed that all were standing upright. “In all the history of Islam,” General Vehip wrote, “it is not possible to find any parallel to such savagery.”

The Armenian Holocaust, now so “unmentionable” in Turkey, was no secret to the country’s population in 1918. Millions of Muslim Turks had witnessed the mass deportation of Armenians three years earlier–a few, with infinite courage, protected Armenian neighbours and friends at the risk of the lives of their own Muslim families–and, o! n 19 October 1918, Ahmed Riza, the elected president of the Turkish senate and a former supporter of the Young Turk leaders who committed the genocide, stated in his inaugural speech: “Let’s face it, we Turks savagely (vahshiane in Turkish) killed off the Armenians.”

Dadrian has detailed how two parallel sets of orders were issued, Nazi-style, by Turkish interior minister Talat Pasha. One set solicitously ordered the provision of bread, olives and protection for Armenian deportees but a parallel set instructed Turkish officials to “proceed with your mission” as soon as the deportee convoys were far enough away from population centres for there to be few witnesses to murder. As Turkish senator Reshid Akif Pasha testified on 19 November 1918: “The ‘mission’ in the circular was: to attack the convoys and massacre the population… I am ashamed as a Muslim, I am ashamed as an Ottoman statesman. What a stain on the reputation of the Ottoman Empire, these criminal people..! .”

How extraordinary that Turkish dignitaries could speak such truths in 1918, could fully admit in their own parliament to the genocide of the Armenians and could read editorials in Turkish newspapers of the great crimes committed against this Christian people. Yet how much more extraordinary that their successors today maintain that all of this is a myth, that anyone who says in present-day Istanbul what the men of 1918 admitted can find themselves facing prosecution under the notorious Law 301 for “defaming” Turkey.

I’m not sure that Holocaust deniers–of the anti-Armenian or anti-Semitic variety–should be taken to court for their rantings. David Irving is a particularly unpleasant “martyr” for freedom of speech and I am not at all certain that Bernard Lewis’s one-franc fine by a French court for denying the Armenian genocide in a November 1993 Le Monde article did anything more than give publicity to an elderly historian whose work deteriorates with the years.

But it’s gratifying to find French President Jacques Chi! rac and his interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy have both announced that Turkey will have to recognise the Armenian death as genocide before it is allowed to join the European Union. True, France has a powerful half-million-strong Armenian community.

But, typically, no such courage has been demonstrated by Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, nor by the EU itself, which gutlessly and childishly commented that the new French Bill, if passed by the senate in Paris, will “prohibit dialogue” which is necessary for reconciliation between Turkey and modern-day Armenia. What is the subtext of this, I wonder. No more talk of the Jewish Holocaust lest we hinder “reconciliation” between Germany and the Jews of Europe?

But, suddenly, last week, those Armenian mass graves opened up before my own eyes. Next month, my Turkish publishers are producing my book, The Great War for Civilisation, in the Turkish language, complete with its long chapter on the Armenian genocide entitled “The ! First Holocaust”. On Thursday, I received a fax from Agora Books in Is tanbul. Their lawyers, it said, believed it “very likely that they will be sued under Law 301”–which forbids the defaming of Turkey and which right-wing lawyers tried to use against Pamuk–but that, as a foreigner, I would be “out of reach”. However, if I wished, I could apply to the court to be included in any Turkish trial.

Personally, I doubt if the Holocaust deniers of Turkey will dare to touch us. But, if they try, it will be an honour to stand in the dock with my Turkish publishers, to denounce a genocide which even Mustafa Kamel Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state, condemned.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk’s new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.

 

 

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
Julian Vigo
The Hijos of Buenos Aires:  When Identity is Political
Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
By Way of Prologue: On How We Arrived at the Watchtower and What We Saw from There
Dave Lindorff
Is Trump’s Idea To Fix the ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?
Aidan O'Brien
Fidel and Spain: A Tale of Right and Wrong
Carol Dansereau
Stop Groveling! How to Thwart Trump and Save the World
Kim Nicolini
Moonlight, The Movie
Evan Jones
Behind GE’s Takeover of Alstom Energy
James A Haught
White Evangelicals are Fading, Powerful, Baffling
Barbara Moroncini
Protests and Their Others
Joseph Natoli
The Winds at Their Backs
Cesar Chelala
Poverty is Not Only an Ignored Word
David Swanson
75 Years of Pearl Harbor Lies
Alex Jensen
The Great Deceleration
Nyla Ali Khan
When Faith is the Legacy of One’s Upbringing
Gilbert Mercier
Trump Win: Paradigm Shift or Status Quo?
Stephen Martin
From ‘Too Big to Fail’ to ‘Too Big to Lie’: the End Game of Corporatist Globalization.
Charles R. Larson
Review: Emma Jane Kirby’s “The Optician of Lampedusa”
David Yearsley
Haydn Seek With Hsu
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail