Turks deny genocide on Armenians
Through the ages Armenian people travelled around the world as traders en businessman and setlled themselves everywhere. After the genocide by the Turkish army in 1915 there came a massive migration, which spread the Armenians all around the world. Approximately 5000 of the 4 million Armenians living in the diaspora live in The Netherlands, with Almelo as 'capital'. In the town of Assen history became painfully present last year, when an Armenian initiative for a memorial statue for the genocide met with very angry Turkish reactions from The Netherlands and abroad. We wrote this reconstruction and translation because we think it is important to show how the arguments from the Turkish mobilisation work and the Armenian Issue is nowadays a very actual matter in other European countries as well. The recognition of the Armenian genocide by the Turks and their government we see as crucial in the proces of reconciliation and living together in harmony in a multicultural reality.
Point of argue: 1915-1916
The Armenian community exists of migrants and refugees from Turkey, where they are still being treated as second-range citizens, and second-and third generation Armenians, children of the victims of the Turkisch genocide on the Armenians. Armenians are mainly christian and, according to researchers, well-integrated in the dutch society. (1)
Turkey removed the genocide of 1915-1916 from the history-books. The Turkisch authorities deny every responsability for the systematic murder on 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey rather talks about human displacement, or about wardeaths, and emphasizes that there were also Turkish casualties and deaths. The Ottoman regime in those days feared that Armenians and Kurds could occupy the eastern provinces of the empire. The solution for this problem was in their eyes to 'Turkify'. Turks and muslims-immigrants came from Bulgaria and Macedonia – expelled as a result from earlier wars at the Balkan – were forced to settle in the east. That was only possible when there was some space created for those groups. Armenian property massively was seizured and the genocide was bureaucraticly organised. For the genocide existed special army-forces. Nobody was to kill Armenians without permission, who killed them at the wrong place was to be punished. (2)
Two million Armenian christians were deported to concentrationcamps along the river Eufraat in the Syrian desert. During these transports most of the people died. Beside denying the genocide, Turkey is constantly questioning the amount of victims. Scientist estimate the figures of victims between 800.000 and 1.5 million. Turkey denies also that it was a political target, the systematic killing of Armenians. The last critical point is that Turkey, founded as a republic in 1923, doesn't wants to be responsable for the deeds of the Ottoman empire. According to Turkey-expert Zurcher is the denial the same as Germany would state not being responsable for the crimes of the Third Reich. Anyway, the first claims for compensation by Armenians are presented to the Turkish government. (3)
The Armenian Nicolai Romachuk from Assen initiated the plan in the summer of 1999 to raise a memorial statue. It will be a cross, made out of stone from the mountains of Armenia, to be placed along the public way. Romachuk wants to commemorate his parents, grandparents and countryman at the annual memorial-day, the 24th of april. (4) At the town-hall of Assen they refuse the application, but the wrong letter is sent out to Romachuk and he gets permission. After a strong conversation between Romachuk and the town-hall, Romachuk agrees with a much smaller memorial cross, a place on a grave-yard and an inscription in which nothing refers to the genocide.
A storm of protests from within the Turkish community is the result. The local Turkisch centre, which is full of nationalists, mobilises strongly. Even the Turkisch embassy and consulate protest. A country-wide Turkish organisation wants to take juridical action against the statue. They even threat to take the case as high as the International Court of Justice in The Hague. (5) The Turkish-dutch magazine Dunya speaks of the 'Hate-monument' and mobilises for a big demonstration at may the 13th 2000. (6)
Town Hall Assen
The formal objections from the Turkish community are not taken into account because they were presented too late. The mayor of Assen then makes new rules for monuments for etnic minorities in her town. Furthermore she longs the time for objections with four weeks. A protest-petition is handed over by the Turkish community, which says: "The society of Assen is a modern community, in which a discussion about the past doesn't fit." (7)
The Armenian Sosi Bayatian, member of the Armenian comite 24 april, is angry: "Without the passage about the genocide, the monument doesn't mean anything to us. Why say it didn't happen? The Netherlands have enough evidence and documentation about it. In Brussel, France and England, everywhere the term genocide occurs on the Armenian monuments. I don't see why the mayor of Assen is so afraid."
Assen is worried of attacks at the monument, which will be carried out by the Turkish fascist Grey Wolves. Untill now nothing happened, the demonstration of the 13th may was cancelled. In the magazine Dunya there are threats to remove the stone, if it is ever placed. Other organisations also say there will be violent actions when the monument is rised. (8)
At the 24th of april the monument is blessed in the Armenian church in Almelo. Again there are protests, now from Grey Wolves in Almelo. According to them this monument will disturb the relations between Turks and Armenians. (9)
In the meantime 994 appaels are deliverd at the Town hall of Assen, but also 903 appeals in favour of the monument. In august Turks from the Netherlands and abroad sent mail-bombs to members of the parliament, news-papers and the city-council. The town-hall and some members of the city-council had to change their electronic adresses.
At the 18tg of august 380.000 autographs are presented by the Turkisch community to the loco-secretary of council of Assen. Also Turks from Austria and the United States came to Assen to hand over autographs. At the end of oktober, the city-council gets an advise of a commission which researched the case. It says that there must be a new apllication for the monument and it is forbidden to have commemorations at the statue. Furthermore wants the commission researched whether the parents of Romachuk really died in the period 1910-1920. At the end of november fortunately common sense rules and the city-council decides that it is allowed to place the monument at the grave-yard and that the appeals are not be honoured. The country-wide organisation Turkish Forum is very angry and wants to battle the decision 'by all democratic means'. They also want to see evidence from the mayor of Assen for the genocide. And last but not least, he raises the plan for a Turkish monument for the Turkish victims during the period 1906-1922, killed by Armenians. At the 21th of december an apllication is officially delivered at the Town hall of Assen.
In other parts of the world
In the United States the recognition of the Armenian genocide is also a hot item. When the Commission of Internal Relations and Human Rights of the house of Parliaments signed a resolution to recognise the genocide, Turkey reacted furious. She threatened to withdraw the rights of the US army to use the bases at Incirlik in Turkey, from which the US bombs Irak, and to break the oil-embargo against Irak. It worked, Bill Clinton and the US congres blokked the resolution. In the state of California however, it is now possible to file claims against insurance-companies in Europe and Asia, who sold property of Armenians during the genocide.
The European Parliament also didn't bring a similar resolution into practise, however they agreed on it in 1987, but with a small majority they decided at the 15th of november that Turkey should recognise the genocide on the Armenians if it wants to be member of the European Union. This will definitely be continued.
Halfway oktober at least 5000 Turks demontrated in Berlin against the various resolutions. An other reaction of the Turkish state was the founding of a so-called study-centre on the Armenian claims. Hilmar Kaiser, a german researcher, who held various lectures about the Armenian genocide and the systematic charactre, was banned from the Ottoman archives in Istanbul.
Vice-prime minister Devlet Bahceli, a Grey Wolf, declared: "We will never forgive those who criminalise and slander Turkey in front of the world. (…) The problems we face when the claims are filed are desastrous. We have to take strong measures." (10)
In the meantime in Sydney, Australia, a genocide monument was opened. At the 11th of november the French Senate recognised the genocide, despite a heavy Turkish delegation and a letter from Turkish president Sezer. In Italy something similar is ocurring at the moment.
NAVO-ally and candidate-member of the European Union Turkey is not to be insulted, as stated by spokesman De Bruin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "We have to consider the advantages against the disadvantages. We surely have a disadvantage if we take stand for recognition of this genocide." This is not according the European Resolution of 18 july 1987, in which Turkey is very explicited condemned for the genocide. (11)
Turkey proves time on time that she not able to counter the facts about the genocide on the Armenians. Turkey only reacts with power and threatens to cut off military and economic ties with countries who are willing to recognise the genocide.
The intolerant and irreconcilable attitude of parts of the Turkish community in the Netherlands is unacceptable, even when it is Turkish government policy. De present government in Turkey, the so-called 'social-democrates' of prime-minister Ecevit (responsable of the invasion of Cyprus in 1975) en the MHP-Grey Wolves of Bahceli, are very afraid of the claims by the Armenian genocide-victims and future claims of for example Kurds. On top of that, a recognition of the Armenian genocide, is against the proud, chauvinist and nationalist feelings of most of the Turks, a result of the indoctrination of the teaching of Ataturk.
Nowadays the scientific and historic proves of the existence of the genocide are sufficient enough. If people want to work on reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, Turkey will have to recognise the genocide and maybe this recognition will have a democratic effect on the Turkish government. The Turkish community in the Netherlands can contribute to this proces, instead of being stucked in hatred, conservatism and ultra-nationalist policies and continues to let themselves be lead by the Turkish government. A powerful protest of anti-racism organisations in the Netherlands, and elsewhere in the world, may contribute to an open discussion about this subject, without hatred and threats.
(1) Onze Wereld januari 2000
(2) NRC 27/5 2000
(3) Volkskrant 9/5 2000
(4) At the 24th of april 1915, the Turkish government of Enver Pasja executed between 600 and 1500 Armenian intellectuals (ND 12/5 2000)
(5) DC 7/3 2000
(6) Dunya 8-14 april 2000
(7) ND 12/5 2000
(8) KN 26/5 2000
(9) Tubantia 26/4 2000
(10) TDN 11/10 2000
(11) KN 26/5 2000