After the adoption of the resolution 106 on Armenian Genocide at the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the US House of Representatives there is much talk about the value or danger of third parties engaging in what are said to be old historic issues. The article Lacking moral tenet to right the wrong by Alon Ben-Meir published in distinguished Daily News Egypt (October 20-21, 2007) forced me to respond.
Let me start with a reminder that the post-World War I Turkish government indicted the top leaders involved in the organization and execution and in the massacre and destruction of the Armenians .
Moreover in a series of court-martials, officials of the Young Turk regime were tried and convicted, as charged, for organizing and executing massacres against the Armenian people. The chief organizers of Armenian massacres, the Ministers of War, Interior and Navy were all condemned to death for their crimes, however the verdicts of the courts were not enforced.
The Armenian Genocide is well documented in the national archives of Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, US (National Archives and Record Administration, Record Group 59 US Department of State, files 867.00 and 867.40), Vatican and many other countries.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars and the International Center for Transitional Justice have established the historical veracity of Armenian Genocide.
Raphael Lemkin, who coined the term genocide in 1944 and who was the earliest proponent of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, invoked the Armenian case as the definitive example of genocide in the 20th century.
There Armenian Genocide has been acknowledged by the European Parliament and by the parliaments of more than 25 countries.
The international community not only recognized the already proven fact of genocide against Armenians, but also revealed political common sense. The main message of Armenian Genocide recognitions on the part of foreign countries is that Turkey must view history for what it is – the product of political and social tensions of the time – and it must accept its own role in that history, learn from it and move forward.
Turkey ignored that message. When independence came to all the Soviet republics in 1991, including Armenia, Turkey ignored a huge opportunity for a new start. Turkey refused to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia, and two years later closed the border, hoping perhaps that Armenia’s vulnerability and fragile statehood would force it to renounce its past and with it, any possible claims for compensation.
In the mentioned article Mr. Ben-Meir said that labeling the events of 1915 as genocide is an insult to the Turkish people. But as a descendant of genocide survivors, I have the right to ask: is it not an insult to the memories of 1.5 million perished Armenians to question the mere fact of genocide? Is it not an insult to all those who were forced to leave their historical homeland and dispersed all over the world becoming a Diaspora-twice bigger than the very population of the Republic of Armenia? When Turkey instead of confronting its history, putting excuses aside and entering into normal relations with a neighbor, spends untold amounts to deny, dismiss, distort history it is indeed insulting to all those who care about truth and historical justice, who put human dignity and values above all other interests.
The adoption of a resolution in the US came at the very moment of the peak of Turkey s rejectionist activities. One genocide scholar has said that denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide because it strives to shape history in order to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators . That is what Turkey – not the people, but the government – is trying to do.
There are no time limits for condemning the crimes against humanity. The international community can indeed carry on its business, develop coalitions, fight off threats and dangers, including the threat of genocide, and none of this should come at the expense of recognizing and condemning genocide anywhere, anytime – in Darfur in the 21st century, or in the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century.
In that context we, Armenians, are grateful to those who recognized the immense moral and political value of rejecting genocidal behaviors and criminal policies which are not in anyone’s national interest nor in humanity’s international interest.
During the recent debate in the Committee on Foreign Affairs of House of Representatives, its members were not questioning the fact of the Armenian Genocide but the possible repercussions of the adoption of the resolution on US-Turkish relations. This time strategic implications of Turkish-American relations and Turkish blackmailing were overmatched by the implications of higher moral values. The US Congress did not do a political favor to Armenians , it rather confirmed the continuity of the US’s longstanding proud policy of intervention in opposition to the Armenian Genocide.
For the country actively participated in rescuing hundreds of thousands of Armenians under the hell of the Turkish yataghan , whose ambassador Henry Morghenthau called what he witnessed that days, the Murder of a Nation , which gave a refuge to about a million Armenians, the country whose presidents every year on April 24 address the Armenians by pausing in remembrance of one of the most horrible tragedies of the 20th century, the annihilation of as many as one and a half million Armenians through forced exile and murder , the adoption of the resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide has come even after slight delay.
Parliaments and congresses must continue to insist that there be morality at the starting line and the goal line of all our foreign policies and foreign relations. It is essential that administrations and executive bodies not bend the rules, nor turn a blind eye or lower standards. Instead, let the international community consistently extend its hand, its example, its own history of transcendence, in order all of for to move on to making new history.
Dr. Rouben Karapetianis the Ambassador of Armenia to Egypt, as well as author of four books and many articles on the modern history of the Middle East. He is also a Member of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Oriental Studies, Academy of Sciences of Armenia.