GENOCIDE OR RELOCATION?
The 1915 incidents is a troublesome legacy the Republic of Turkey inherited from the Ottomans. Interestingly enough, the founder of the Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and his brethren, who adopted secularization as a state policy and denied every component of Ottoman identity - down to its alphabet - approached the 1915 incidents as its own national issue. Since the onset, Turkish officials felt responsible to defend their ancestors against what they called "false accusations." Turkey stringently argues that the 1915 incidents do not amount to genocide.
The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group." So what is determining in an act to be considered as genocide, is to have a plan behind it.
The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), which came to power through a military coup d'etat in 1913, was the authority that led the war and ordered the deportation of Ottoman Armenians. Thousands died as result of attacks and dire circumstances of a painful journey. Based on the definition of "genocide" historians have been trying to explain whether the CUP "intended" to decimate Armenians by the deportation order or was it simply a measure to handle the Armenian rebellions under war circumstances. Since there has been no consensus, two narratives have emerged.
The Armenian narrative mostly rests on a book named "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-1916," that contains memories and documents on the incidents. Vicoun Bryce, in the preface of the book, says the content is reliable because the"evidence" that were collected were obtained by neutral sources that had a chance to observe the incidents. He also argues, the eye-witnesses accounted their stories shortly after the incident while they were still fresh in their memories. It is also asserted in the preface that the stories were told by different eye-witnesses - who could not possibly know each other.
Turkish historians consider the book as a "book of propaganda, saying it is highly biased given it excludes the atrocity Turks were subjected to by the Armenian nationalists. Professor Aysel Ekşi in the preface of the book "Historical facts with documents and witnesses," for which she is the editor, claims the stories in the book are second-hand stories and thereby cannot be counted as evidence for genocide claims.
Most Turkish historians acknowledge that during the relocation process thousands of Armenians lost their lives and that it was a big tragedy. But they argue against a purpose by the government to get Armenians killed during relocation. Ekşi says, if it were intentional, the officials responsible for the killings would not be put on trial.
The decision to relocate the Armenians was not applied to all Armenians, the former head of Turkish History Institution, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, claims in his article, "1915 genocide claims." He says it was restricted to the war zones and the document of relocation procedures order maintaining the security of Armenians and their properties.
In short, there has been no consensus for a hundred years among historians over how to brand the 1915 incidents. As such, when parliaments take one narrative for granted - which is the Armenian - and declare the events tantamount to a genocide, it not only acts partially, but also unlawfully.Thereby, Germany, as a strong state of law, has doubtfully contradicted the principles that it said it pursued.
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