Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Turkey Persists in Denying the Armenian Genocide

The first well-documented genocide in modern times took place in the Ottoman Empire. Turkey, as a successor state, persists in refusing to acknowledge that genocide almost one hundred years after it took place. Not only that, but it pressures world bodies to refrain from admitting those horrible events that took the lives of one and a half million Armenians in 1915.

In mid June, I noticed an item about this subject in a French language web site. The following is my English summary of the report, "The German Parliament and the Armenian Genocide."

Turkey has criticized a German resolution that almost recognized the Armenian genocide during the First World War, describing it as 'irresponsible' and manifesting a 'narrow spirit.' The Turkish Foreign Minister commented, "The German Parliament has adopted a resolution regarding the events of 1915 that we deplore and strongly reject." Should this resolution be adopted by Germany, he added, "it will sow chaos in our relations."

This condemnation of Turkey took place when the Bundestag voted Thursday [June 16] on a historic resolution affirming that the government led by the Young Turks [Party] had almost destroyed the totality of the Armenian people; and [(the resolution] regrets the German responsibility in this extermination. This motion, as submitted by all the parliamentarian groups, was unanimously adopted. Furthermore, it pointed to the fact that it is still impossible to conduct a discussion of this extermination in Turkey today. Various terms were used in this resolution to describe the genocide, such as "mass murder," "extermination," "destruction," "deportation-displacement," and finally, the very word "genocide."

After reading that report in the French web site, I reflected on the fact that the Armenian genocide of 1915 was to become the first in a series of unimaginable horrors that took place in the 20th Century. I thought of the crimes of Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, and Pol Pot. Those horrific events are acknowledged now in Russia, Germany, and Cambodia. The books of Alexander Solzhenitsyn tell of the tortures and deaths that occurred in the Gulags of the USSR. Museums dedicated to those who perished in the Holocaust exist in Jerusalem, Washington, and elsewhere. The movie "The Killing Fields" chronicles the savagery of the Khmer Rouge. So why does Turkey continue to deny a historical fact witnessed by many, including American missionaries?

As a child, I met survivors of the Genocide and their children. From them, I learned the Turkish words "sefer berlik." Literally, these words translate into "travels or wandering in the wilderness." Actually, they refer to the enforced deportation, and subsequent elimination of millions of Armenians. It is high time that Western political leaders, on both sides of the Atlantic, insist that if Turkey is to be counted as a truly democratic nation, it may no longer deny the Armenian Genocide. A confession of such a national sin is long overdue.

No comments: