Today, we will commemorate the centennial of two events that shaped the modern history of Turks and Armenians. The first was the Battle of Gallipoli where Ottoman forces put up a heroic defence of the Strait of Dardanelles to stop the European Allied Forces after their defeat in the naval war of March 18, 1915. Had the Dardanelles been lost, the fate of World War I and the future of the new republic that was to emerge in 1923, would have been drastically different.
The second major event of 1915 was the decision to arrest and exile some Armenian leaders in Istanbul to Anatolia. Armenian circles consider this to be the date of the "Armenian genocide". But the facts say something different.
A fait accompli
In order to prevent the collapse of the eastern front, the Committee of Union and Progress Government decided to relocate large numbers of Armenians as a measure of counter-insurgency. This decision, combined with war-time politicking, lack of resources, and organizational ineptitude, led to an unfortunate period of chaos, unruliness and death. Turks, Kurds, and Armenians killed each other in the thousands, betraying their remarkable history of coexistence in Anatolia.
That Armenians suffered greatly cannot be denied. Innocent people were uprooted from their homes, sent to Syria and other parts of the empire, and lost their lives and their loved ones. But this was not genocide. The claim, promoted by the genocide industry since the 1970s, lacks two key components: historical/archival evidence and a legal basis. The claim by the pope or the European Parliament that the mass killing of Armenians is "generally considered to be the first genocide of the 20th century" is presented as a fait accompli without any historical, archival, and legal evidence. According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1948, genocide involves "... acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".
Furthermore, this claim must be proven in a court of law. International Criminal Tribunals, established for Rwanda and Bosnia, declared the massacres in both countries as genocide. No such ruling exists for the events of 1915. Religious sermons, political declarations or parliamentary votes do not make legal decisions. This claim also disregards the mass killings of Muslims, Africans, Asians and Native Americans by Western powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This double standard is not lost on many people in Turkey and around the world. Simple facts have never been so ignored and warped to support an industry that serves no other purpose than making Turks and Armenians enemies today.
Over the past 10 years, the Turkish government has taken major steps to improve the conditions of its Armenians citizens. Among others, it has returned their properties confiscated in the 1930s, restored and opened the Akhdamar Church which sits on an island on Lake Van, expanded their social and political rights to run for office, enabled them to open schools, run hospitals and so on. Turkey as a whole has recognized and cherished the contributions of its Armenian citizens in such diverse fields as diplomacy, business, sports, cinema, music, arts, architecture, and literature.
Finally, it is a pity that the successive Armenian administrations have walled themselves into a distorted construction of history, refused to end the occupation of Azeri lands, which would have allowed the implementation of the 2009 Zurich protocols to normalize relations between Turkey and Armenia, and squandered numerous opportunities to establish good relations with Turkey.
About the author
Presidential spokesperson for the Republic of Turkey