Armenian Patriarchate sues Turkey for land

March 20, 2012

Most people think the Armenian Genocide was purely about Turks killing Armenians. However, a prime motivator for the killing of 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey was greed and the redistribution of wealth. The Ottoman Turkish rulers wanted to take possession of the property belonging to  its wealthy Armenian minority. They succeeded.

Throughout the deportation, eyewitness testimonies repeat stories of Turkish officials seeking bribes in the form of gold coins, rugs, jewelry, and so on.

Talaat Pasha (one of the architects of the Armenian Genocide) had the audacity to ask the American Ambassador Henry Morgenthau for the life insurance policies of his victims, because he reasoned the Turkish Government had become the beneficiary of the policies since his victims left no heirs. 

Contrary to common belief, not all killings were perpetrated by chetes (criminal gangs) and Turkish soldiers. Townsfolk throughout Anatolia were promised the homes and belongings of their Armenian neighbors. After they were taught to hate the Armenians for being giavurs or gavoors, which means ‘infidels’ or ‘non-believers’, it was frighteningly easy to whip the people into frenzied kitchen-knife welding mobs capable of murdering their neighbors.

The Turkish government enabled and encouraged the mass looting that took place everywhere the Armenians had once lived. In many instances, Turkey’s governing leaders relocated Kurds and Muslim peoples from the Balkans and other areas to depopulated Armenian communities (immediately following their mass killing and deportation). The Ottoman Turks’ destruction of its Armenian Christian minority created an ‘instant’ Muslim middle class.

Ottoman government archives containing records of land deeds are not accessible to descendants of the Armenian Turkish citizens who were either killed or expelled from their land. One of the obstacles to Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide is its fear of reparations.

Many of the Armenian churches not destroyed by the Turks were converted to Mosques. Some Armenian churches (including the sacred Aktamar site) are profitable enterprises employed by Turkey as part of its thriving tourism industry.

Even Mount Ararat, the ancestral homeland and pride of the Armenian people, now lies within Turkey’s borders. A few weeks ago, I saw a Turkish tourism advertisement prominently featuring Mount Ararat with a depiction of Noah’s Ark. Of course, there was no mention of the Armenians, believed to be the descendants of Noah’s son, Japheth.

Related News:

Armenian Patriarchate files suit in Turkey for return of property
March 20, 2012 | Public Radio of Armenia (armradio.com)

Ervin Staub to deliver lecture at Armenian Genocide Commemoration
March 20, 2012 | Wickedlocal.com

Mr. Staub is the author of “Overcoming Evil”, a book which describes the origins or influences leading to genocide, violent conflict and terrorism. It identifies principles and practices of prevention, and of reconciliation between groups after violence, or before violence thereby to prevent violence. 

 

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Free Speech and Armenian Genocide Denial

January 31, 2012

A new development has occurred in France concerning the signing into law of a bill passed by both houses of France’s parliament. The spotlight has shifted to the question of free speech rather than the crime of genocide. 

At the moment, the most vocal defender of free speech in France appears to be the Turkish Government. This is because Turkey does not want France’s president to sign the “Armenian Genocide Denial bill” into law. One fact which seems to have been lost in the muddied waters of this spectacle is that France already has a Holocaust Denial law on its books.

France legally recognizes the Armenian Genocide (tens of thousands of Armenian survivors sought refuge in France in the aftermath of the mass deportation of all Armenians from Turkey) and the Holocaust. As the New York Times correctly points out, “the bill criminalizes the denial of officially recognized genocides…The bill does not make specific reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenians slaughtered under the Ottoman Turks, but France recognizes only those deaths and the Holocaust as genocides and already specifically bans Holocaust denial.

The same Turkish Government who is now France’s newest proponent of free speech in France, does not champion free speech in Turkey. Within Turkey’s borders, the Turkish Government censors the press and the Internet, and criminally prosecutes those who “insult Turkishness” with their words, this includes openly commenting about the Armenian Genocide. While the facts about Turkey’s human and civil rights abuses are well known, Turkey’s aggressive multi-decade, multi-national, multi-million dollar lobbying efforts aimed at blocking Armenian Genocide recognition are less frequently in the headlines.

Do we have free speech when an outside government dictates what we can and cannot say under the guise of foreign diplomacy? Questions raised about free speech are fair and essential. However, we must not limit this discussion to the passing of a law in France. Michael Bobelian’s book, Children of Armenia, which is painstakingly documented, illuminates the dark side of genocide denial and illustrates how it is possible to forget (or never learn) about seismic events in modern history.

If criminalizing genocide denial is not the answer, how do we combat hate speech and state-sponsored genocide denial?

Here are a few articles about today’s news from France:

France’s Armenian Genocide Law Put On Hold
Armenian Weekly | January 31, 2012

Top French court asked to weigh in on bill making it a crime to deny Armenian genocide
Washington Post | January 31, 2012

France Turkey row: Genocide bill faces court hurdle
BBC News | January 31, 2012

 


Passage of France’s Armenian Genocide Denial Law is an Opportunity for Education

January 24, 2012

According to the organization Genocide Watch, the last stage of genocide is denial. Seen through the prism of any Southern Poverty Law Center newsletter, yesterday’s passage of the Armenian Genocide Denial law by France’s Senate is easier to understand. Holocaust denial and genocide denial laws are not a new concept. Similar laws to the one passed yesterday in France already exist in several European countries (including France) and Israel. 

As I was seeking answers to address the multitude of questions raised by France’s historic genocide denial vote, I came across this paper, “Holocaust Denial Laws and Other Legislation Criminalizing Promotion of Nazism“, written by Michael J. Bazyler. Professor Bazyler is a von Oppenheim Research Fellow International Institute for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem, and Professor of Law, Whittier Law School. Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem is committed to four pillars of remembrance:

  1. Commemoration
  2. Documentation
  3. Research
  4. Education

Unfortunately, the Turkish Government is the primary perpetrator of Armenian Genocide denial. Its intense and emotional reaction to yesterday’s vote in France includes lashing out at France’s leaders with accusations of racism and being ‘anti-Islam’. Once again, Turkey’s elected leaders are inciting Turkish nationalist sentiment, rather than doing what is necessary as a nation to make amends for the crimes against humanity committed almost a century ago. This counterproductive behavior ensures that Turkey’s shameful Armenian Genocide history remains very much alive in the present and in our collective consciousness.

Within Turkey, a major obstacle to real solutions for moving forward is Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which is used to prosecute individuals who “insult Turkishness”. In Turkey, acknowledging and discussing the Armenian Genocide is grounds for imprisonment and large fines. Nobel Prize winning Turkish author Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted for a statement he made in an interview, which referenced the Armenian Genocide.

While it remains a challenge for Turkey to acknowledge and apologize for the Armenian Genocide, the time must come. This is necessary for Turkey to take the place it aspires to have on the world stage, and as a member of the European Union. After reading about last week’s groundswell of Turkish outrage at the outcome of Hrant Dink murder trial in Istanbul, I do believe such a time is not far off. It is also not fanciful thinking to imagine the day when Turkey passes a law forbidding Armenian Genocide denial.

France, Germany, and Spain are among the countries that have apologized for their countries’ past atrocities. They are also setting an example for Turkey to follow regarding how to educate the world about the evils of genocide, hate speech, racism, and xenophobia. In a past blog post, Armenian Genocide denial doesn’t make it go away, I mentioned seeing the topic of slavery incorporated into the educational displays at the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall historical sites in Philadelphia, which are part of the U.S. National park service.

Sadly, I do not hold out hope that Holocaust or Genocide denial will be outlawed in the United States, because the right to free speech is a value which Americans cherish more than safeguarding the rights of victims of hate speech, as the US Supreme Court 8-1 decision in the matter of Snyder v. Phelps clarified.

 


France’s Senate Passes Armenian Genocide Denial Law!

January 23, 2012

Despite aggressive threats and protests from the Turkish Government, France’s Senate passed a bill outlawing Armenian Genocide denial. In Turkey it is against the law to speak about the Armenian Genocide. Ironically, Turkey’s leaders accused the French of trying to stifle free speech.

France and several other European countries already have laws against Holocaust denial. Webster’s dictionary defines Genocide as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group.”

Extensive records documenting the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, which began on April 24, 1915 and claimed the lives of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, exist in the archives of governments including the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Turkey. Many of the world’s countries officially recognize the mass atrocities committed upon Turkey’s minority Armenian Christian population by its then ruling Ottoman Turkish government as genocide.


The late Christopher Hitchens on Turkey’s Armenian Genocide denial

January 2, 2012

In December 2011, the world lost the brilliant voice of Christopher Hitchens. Earlier this evening I came across this article Hitchens wrote for Slate Magazine (Slate.com) in April 2010:

Shut Up About Armenians or We’ll Hurt Them Again
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s latest sinister threat.
Slate.com | April 5, 2010


Yes Turkey, it was Genocide — Vive la France!

December 23, 2011

Yesterday, we received the news from around the world that France’s lower house of Parliament voted to criminalize denial of the Armenian Genocide. Of course, Turkey’s Prime Minister went ballistic. In his tirade against France, Erdogan accused the French of stifling free speech. Ironically (of course), as the New York Times correctly noted, “Turkey’s own penal code makes affirming the genocide a crime on the grounds that it is an insult to Turkish identity. In March, Orhan Pamuk, a Nobel Prize winner, was fined 7,000 lira, about $3,700, for his statement in a Swiss newspaper that ‘we have killed 30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians’.”

As new information concerning the Armenian Genocide occurs, I do my best to report it in this blog in a timely manner. However, yesterday, I was increasingly frustrated as I read articles published in the world’s leading newspapers, most using language which obfuscate the truth about the history of the first genocide occuring in the 20th century. There are official volumes (archives full) of the facts of Turkey’s systematic killing of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians under the cover of World War I.

Turkish historian Taner Akcam has documented the motivation for this genocide in his master work, “A Shameful Act“. Basically, in addition to racial hatred of the non-Turkish, non-Muslim Armenian Christian minority, Turkey coveted the land the Armenians occupied for thousands of years. The Turkish government also saw an opportunity to create an instant Muslim, middleclass by taking all of the Armenians’ properties and belongings and redistributing the ‘bootie’ (including houses) to its Muslim population.

During the genocide, the United States Ambassador to Turkey was Henry Morgenthau. In his first-person account of the Armenian Genocide, he recalls a conversation with one of the masterminds of the genocide, Talaat Pasha:

One day Talaat made what was perhaps the most astonishing request I had ever heard.  The New York Life Insurance Company and the Equitable Life of New York had for years done considerable business among the Armenians.  The extent to which this people insured their lives was merely another indication of their thrifty habits.  “I wish,” Talaat now said, “that you would get the American Life insurance companies to send us a complete list of their Armenian policy holders.  They are practically dead now and have left no heirs to collect the money.  If … all escheats to the State, the Government is the beneficiary now. Will you do so?”

This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.  “You will get no such list from me,” I said, and I got up and left him.

Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, p. 339. [Source]

In addition to the records in government archives in the U.S., France, Germany, and Great Britain, there was an unprecedented humanitarian relief effort spearheaded by Evangelical and Catholic missionaries, who went to heroic lengths to save the Armenians. Many relief workers documented what they witnessed in Turkey, in brutal detail. There are thousands of eyewitness accounts and so much scholarly work on this subject, that the veracity of the facts cannot be disputed.

However, the Turkish government spends millions of dollars each year to lobby lawmakers in the United States and countries all over the world to vote against recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Turkey has also infiltrated some of the world’s leading universities, ensuring books about the Armenian Genocide are not available in their libraries and endowing chairs. The effort and amount of disinformation Turkey continues to manufacture about the Armenian Genocide is astonishing.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to the French government for standing up and saying no to Turkey. It is unlikely the United States and Israel will suddenly become enlightened with moral clarity, but one can always hope.


News reports Turkey will return seized religious properties to Armenian, Jewish, and Greek minorities

August 29, 2011

Turkey to Return Seized Religious Properties in Effort to Join EU
Voice of America (VOAnews.com) | August 29, 2011


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