British historian Norman Stone, who claims the 1915 events cannot be branded as genocide said the Armenian diaspora's campaign to label the incidents as such creates a backlash against Armenia
British historian and author Norman Stone has said the intense efforts by the Armenian diaspora to label the 1915 incidents as genocide are backfiring on its own community. He claimed that the diaspora, which uses genocide claims as an excuse for a campaign against Turkey, is "only doing damage to Armenia," which he said has already lost a third of its population through emigration. Contrary to the belief that genocide claims are based on psychological and sociological reasons, Stone suggested that the issue was about 'money.'
Arguing that financial causes are the basis for the diaspora's pressure on Western countries and Turkey to brand the incidents as genocide, Stone said: "The lawyers have already done quite well in various cases involving insurance companies, and there is quite a lot of property involved. There are strange revanchists in the diaspora who even claim territorial compensation; one of their lawyers even claimed Mount Ararat as a symbol." Speaking to Daily Sabah, he said that landlocked and poor, Armenia has lost one-third of its population through emigration, some to Turkey, and is suffering the most from the diaspora's campaign for genocide recognition.
The efforts of the diaspora have already been influential, highlighted by Pope Francis's comments, branding the incidents as "the first genocide of the 20th century" in a Sunday Mass at St. Peter's Basilica to commemorate the 1915 incidents, putting the Vatican's ties with Turkey at risk. Following the remarks, the European Parliament adopted a resolution recognizing the events as genocide and urging Turkey and EU countries to do the same. The Austrian Parliament issued a declaration that labels the Armenian killings during World War I as "genocide" on Wednesday. Some U.S. representatives had previously also submitted a resolution urging U.S. President Barack Obama to categorize the events as genocide.
"The diaspora knows that if they reach a proper court of law they might be in trouble. It is easier for them to push their cause to parliaments, town councils, etc., which are simply not qualified to pronounce one way or the other," Stone said, explaining why they were politicizing the events. He continued: "I am frankly bewildered as to why people in the West get involved in talking about a historical event that occurred a thousand miles away and a hundred years ago in a country that has disappeared."
Turkey, which has been denying accusations of genocide against its Ottoman predecessors, who are blamed for destroying the Armenian community during WWI, argue that the killings of Armenians during the 1915 events were not the outcome of deliberate actions and that, void of an intention to destroy the community, the events could not amount to genocide. The Turkish government also claims the mass deportations, which is how Turkey refers to the incidents, was a decision by the government that was unable to handle the Armenian insurrection with conventional means as the government was at war, and the deaths occurred during the deportations.
The matter has two dimensions, one being the political aspect of genocide recognition and the other the psychological aspect. Turkey has been tackling the psychological issue quite well as it has begun addressing the demands of its minorities by reinstating their rights. Minorities have been given the chance for representation, which has been hailed by Armenians in Turkey. Various confiscated properties have also been returned to minority communities as part of the government's democratization efforts.
The Armenian diaspora community pays little attention to the improved conditions of Armenians in Turkey and disregards the harm it may cause Armenia by pursuing political and financial gains. The diaspora community is asking for a large amount of reparations and territorial claims, once the recognition of genocide is achieved. Critics also believe that there is a business feeding off the genocide campaign.
As a historian who denies that the events amount to genocide, Stone said: "Historians are not qualified to judge this unless they know about it firsthand. The people who do know it at firsthand are in the majority – a considerable majority – unwilling to use the word 'genocide.' Anyone familiar with the subject knows that dreadful things happened to Muslims who were ethnically cleansed from Rumelia in 1912-13 and that there was a serious armed Armenian threat, with atrocities, in spring 1915. Other historians simply do not count," Stone claimed.
He also said that the Ottomans had put about 1,500 of their own men on trial in 1915-16 for what happened and executed 50 of them, including a government official, underpinning his argument that there was no intention of genocide. He claimed: "The evidence offered at the time was forged and was discarded by the British when they occupied Istanbul."
When asked whether he has received any reaction from the Armenian diaspora for denying the Armenian genocide, Stone said: "They tried to stop a book of mine via maneuvers in an American publishing house. I won that particular battle. They had to pay $10,000 compensation, and then I sold the book very well elsewhere. It has had several editions and 13 translations including in Chinese. Gunther Lewy, a very distinguished historian faced the same problem with Oxford University Press but published through [Giulio] Einaudi in Italy, another university press in the U.S., Stanford Shaw, simply gave up trying to publish in the U.S. and published through the Tarih Vakfı in Ankara instead."
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