By: Denise Simon
The first holocaust of the century began April 24, 1915, 100 years ago. The Turks slaughtered the Christians.
In both historical and more publicistic writing, the term “genocide” has been used rather promiscuously to apply to mass repression of political opponents, real or imagined. When the Genocide Convention was being debated at the United Nations in the late 1940s, the Soviet representatives strenuously held out against extending the term to political killings, which would of necessity have included Stalin’s purges, the millions lost in dekulakization, the Ukrainian Holodomor, the deadly settlement of Kazakhs, and the deportations of North Caucasians and other peoples during World War II. The American delegates also resisted any language in the convention that might be turned toward examination of racial segregation and the violence perpetrated against African Americans during the era of Jim Crow. In the interests of unanimity, political, social, and economic groups were not included in the protections of the convention that was adopted by the United Nations on December 9, 1948.
ISTANBUL According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916.
In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number – and its Ottoman source – has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it.
“Nothing,” said Murat Bardakci, the Turkish author and columnist who compiled the book.
The silence can mean only one thing, he said: “My numbers are too high for ordinary people. Maybe people aren’t ready to talk about it yet.”
For generations, most Turks knew nothing of the details of the Armenian genocide from 1915 to 1918, when more than a million Armenians were killed as the Ottoman Turk government purged the population.
Turkey locked the ugliest parts of its past out of sight, Soviet-style, keeping any mention of the events out of schoolbooks and official narratives in an aggressive campaign of forgetting.
At the hands of Talaat Pasha, orders were delivered to massacre entire villages. Much later when it came to surviving children, a translated and digitized cable reads as such:
January 15th, 1916
To the Government of Aleppo:
We are informed that certain orphanages which have opened also admitted the children of the Armenians.
Should this be done through ignorance of our real purpose, or because of contempt of it, the Government will view the feeding of such children or any effort to prolong their lives as an act completely opposite to its purpose, since it regards the survival of these children as detrimental.
I recommend the orphanages not to receive such children; and no attempts are to be made to establish special orphanages for them.
Minister of the Interior,
From the Ministry of the Interior to the Governor of Aleppo:
Only those orphans who cannot remember the terrors to which their parents have been subjected must be collected and kept.
Send the rest away with the caravans.
Minister of the Interior,
Historians estimate that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide. Turkey, however, has insisted that the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest, not genocide.
*** Obama agrees, as the historical slaughter of a Christian sect he ignores.
That’s prompting anger and disappointment from people who have been urging him to fulfill a campaign promise and use that politically significant word on the 100th anniversary of the massacre this week.
“President Obama’s surrender to Turkey represents a national disgrace. It is, very simply, a betrayal of truth, a betrayal of trust,” Ken Hachikian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America, said.
Officials decided against calling the massacre a genocide after some opposition from the State Department and Pentagon.