Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Forgotten Genocide

Abdullah Gul, the AKP candidate from Turkey, flew to Washington to convince Condoleeza Rice and George Bush that there was never a genocide in Turkey. But historians around the world disagree. In the years the Young Turks were fighting the Great War, a decision was taken by the Ottoman government to deport the ethnic Armenians; over a million were murdered. And it is widely acknowledged to be the first modern genocide. Historians have found archived plans laid by the Young Turks in Constantinople that had the explicit aim of killing Turkey’s ethnic Armenians, and the sheer size of the death toll is evidence of a systematic effort by the government to permanently remove the Armenians.

Even though this is the second most-studied genocide in history, inside Turkey it is an offence to talk about the mass-slaughter of the Armenians. High school textbooks in Turkey dismissively denies the event. A number of writers have been prosecuted. An ethnic Armenian newspaper editor, Hrant Dink, was gunned down in January on his own doorstep in Istanbul. Elsewhere, it can be an offence to deny that this was a genocide. The UN Convention on Genocide considers this genocide. The International Association of Genocide Scholars formally recognize the Armenian Genocide and consider it to be undeniable. The French National Assembly recently passed a bill to this effect, and there is one before the American Congress, which Abdullah Gul is trying to curb. Its the Armenian Nuremberg all over again, and with laws like these flying around, whatever happened to free speech and the disinterested unearthing of historical truth?

Some argue that the reason why it wasn't designated as genocide after the War and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 is that Adolf Hitler was influencing Western powers not to cover the event. Perhaps he had secretly planned in 1919 to exterminate millions of Jews thoughout Europe. In speeches before invading Poland and several speeches in 1943 (at the height of the Jewish extermination campaign) he refers several times to the Armenian massacre. He calls the Persians a bunch of Armenians because they didn't finish the job.

During some of the Turkish EU entry talks, several calls were made to consider this genocide. It was initially part of its conditions to join the EU, but that was dropped. The French have now made it illegal to deny that this is genocide. And as history unfolds, this wasn't the first time the Turks massacred Armenians. In 1896 nearly 300,000 were terrorized and murdered by the Turkish government. The Young Turks, the revolutionary rules who originated from secret societies of students and military cadets and overthrew the sultan, also murdered the same number of Pontic Greeks in the years following the Great War. The Turkish minister of war declared that they were going to "solve the Greek problem during the war... in the same way he believe[d] he solved the Armenian problem."

Here are a list of documentary films about the Armenian genocide. There is also significant trivia in the Wikipedia entry.

  • 1975 - The Forgotten Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 2003 - Germany and the Secret Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 2003 - Voices From the Lake: A Film About the Secret Genocide (dir. J. Michael Hagopian)
  • 2006 - The Armenian Genocide (dir. Andrew Goldberg)
  • 2006 - Armenian Revolt (dir. Marty Callaghan)
  • 2006 - Screamers (dir. Carla Garapedian)

1 comment:

Ortho said...

Good post. Have you seen Atom Egoyan's "Ararat"? I thought it was a great film. It's a poignant meditation on the memory, history, and trama of the Armenian Genocide told through the lives of four families.