First Armenian act of murder against Turkish diplomats was committed at Santa Barbara, California, in 1973; Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadır Demir were martyred with cold blood. The glorification by the Armenians of the assassin Gourgen Yanikian went so far as to lift him to the level of a hero and, at letters they sent to newspapers, they said Yanikian’s act was the outcome of the national Armenian revival and the murder must be considered as a revenge, while the murderer should be seen as the last victim of “Armenian genocide”. During the years that followed, Armenian terrorists killed dozens of innocent Turkish diplomats and their family members, among them five ambassadors. As a paradox, every year allegations of genocide put forward by the Armenians have brought into discussion whether or not the President of the United States would accept the Armenian demands.
Armenian allegations are based on a distorted historical narrative saying the Ottoman administration committed genocide against the Armenian citizens living in Eastern Anatolia in 1915. However, the truth is quite different. Armed Armenian groups, with an aim to establish an independent Armenian state in Eastern Anatolia, despite the fact that the Armenian population did not constitute majority in any of the settlements there, incited rebellions and massacred large numbers of local people starting as early as 1870’s. As the First World War started they increased hostile activities with the support of Russia and Britain with whom the Ottoman Empire was at war. Furthermore, they expanded their assaults and captured the city of Van in April 1915, obstructing the movements of the Ottoman military by blocking the routes in the region. Under such an emergency, in order to control the situation, Ottoman authorities decided to relocate the local Armenian people from conflict areas to safer regions of the country. Due to the conditions of war, however, this relocation was carried out under extremely difficult circumstances during which tragic events could not be avoided that caused thousands of people from various groups to lose their lives. It must be noted however that the Armenian nationals living in other parts of the country remained at their homes, which is in fact another strong evidence that there was no intention whatsoever indicating any “genocide”.
Genocide, which is a legal concept defined at the Geneva Convention of 1948, is a crime against humanity with an intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. According to the Convention, the “intention” with which the crime is committed is specially important: If, for instance, a group of people is being relocated for exclusively military reasons, this would not constitute a genocide. Moreover, a resolution from an international tribunal court is needed for a genocide recognition. The Convention is also not retroactive. Naturally, what in effect counts in listing an act of crime as genocide is the relevance with regard to the historical facts and documents and not of course the number of persons asking for such a labeling. Similarly, politicians’ maneuvering in some countries to secure “Resolutions of Genocide” from parliaments in order to please their constituencies does not have any value either. It is also wrong to accuse a whole nation for a genocidal crime whose perpetrators have been clearly defined.
Therefore it is not possible to label the events of 1915 as genocide. Nor is there a political, academic or legal consensus to this end. There are a number of well known historians in the world who believe that what happened in 1915 did not constitute a genocide: Stanford Shaw, Bernard Lewis, Guenther Levy, Andrew Mango, Sean MacMeckin, Justine MacCarthy, Edward Ericson, Norman Stone, Jeremy Salt are among them. A large number of Turkish intellectuals believe that such allegations might as well be part of an international conspiracy.
Faced with unfair accusations, Turkey proposed in 2005 to establish a Joint Historical Commission to be comprised of historians and specialists in order to conduct studies in Turkish and Armenian archives, as well as in all relevant archives of the world and if necessary to open the ones which had so far remained closed. Turkey said such a move would greatly contribute to peace by bringing the Turks and Armenians together to let them look to the future through a common perspective. Basically, the main purpose was to bring into daylight the relevant historical documents by virtue of the independent studies of both Turkish and Armenian experts at archives. Especially the so far unopened archives of the Armenian Dashnak Party and of the Patriarchate had great significance. Despite various efforts, Turkey’s proposal has not been accepted until now by Armenia who has chosen to abuse this issue for propaganda purposes.
Meanwhile, by a momentous resolution, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on 15 October 2015 that the Armenian narrative would not necessarily mean the absolute truth. It agreed that this dispute is a legitimate matter of discussion. The Court also ruled that no parallel could be established between the Holocaust and the events of 1915.
It is true that the number of people who want to approach this issue through studies at archives and under the light of historical documents is still not too high in the countries of the West where Armenians try to find supportive ground. A short look at the situation in some of them would be helpful to learn the situation: Britain, for instance, could not find incriminative evidence regarding the 1915 events against the Ottoman officials it deported to Malta. The Chief Royal Crown Prosecutor declared lack of evidence in 1921. In this context, we should note that Britain is not among the states accepting the Armenian point of view. The United States of America, whose President is the center of a curious discussion nowadays on whether he will accept the Armenian discourse or not, took during the Second World War a position quite similar to what the Ottomans did in Eastern Anatolia: When it was attacked by Japan, it immediately took action under military necessities and took from homes and detained in camps 120 thousand American citizens of Japanese descent living at the Pacific coast for fearing they might collaborate with the Japanese. In Germany in 2016 the Bundestag took a resolution recognizing the so-called “genocide”, while the Federal Government preferred not to use this word. Before the Bundestag decision, German newspapers displayed not a graceful example of “press freedom” by refusing to post the paid campaign announcements of Turks. The Bundestag’s pro-Armenian resolution was also criticized for searching for a tool to “find an accomplice for its historical loss of face”. Quite naturally, there was an essential difference between the Holocaust and the events of 1915: the Jews of Germany neither tried to establish their own state nor cooperated with a foreign power.
The case of France, where from the beginning a pro-Armenian policy has been pursued, trying even to punish those claiming there was no genocide, is more of an example of double standards. Ignoring and not supporting Turkey’s proposal of Joint Historical Commission, France had agreed to establish a committee comprising of 15 historians and specialists to investigate its responsibilities during the genocide of 800 thousand Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. The Committee, founded on Mr. Macron’s consent, accepted that France indeed had a heavy and irrefutable responsibility during the genocide.
While discussions continue about what Mr. Biden will say on April 24, maybe the final and the right thing to do is to open the Armenian archives and recognize that this is an issue which should be studied by historians and researchers on genuine documents. In this regard, we would like to hope Mr Biden might encourage Armenia for the formation of the Joint Historical Commission.