genocides

 

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TALKING ABOUT GENOCIDE - GENOCIDES

 
 


ARMENIA 1915

- before the genocide
- the genocide
- after the genocide
- witness
- issues

GENOCIDES
NAMIBIA
ARMENIA
UKRAINE
the HOLOCAUST
CAMBODIA
GUATEMALA
RWANDA
BOSNIA

after the genocide

After the First World War efforts were made to restore Armenian territory, but without success. Even USA's President Wilson did not stop the Turks from ignoring all treaties and hanging on to the Armenian provinces it had cleared. In 1920 Armenia finally renounced its claim to them. It took some time for the political status (and the boundaries) of Armenia to be sorted out. In 1922 Armenia became part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, under central Soviet rule, where it remained for 71 years. During this time Armenia was protected from hostile neighbouring countries, but the Soviet government (especially under Stalin) was harsh. Politicians, intellectuals and churchmen were suppressed. Workers on the land were forced to take up the communist 'collective farming' policy, becoming badly-paid labourers on the land they were no longer allowed to own individually.

In the 1920s, despite overwhelming evidence of the genocide provided by Western and Armenian eyewitnesses, Turkish officials effectively created a fog of denial. After a surge of American interest in the fate of Armenia during the 1914-18 war, there was post-war international reluctance to rock the boat, even when treaties were broken - after all, the Ottoman Empire had just been dismantled, and modern Turkey was not created until 1923.

One determined American nurse did persist in making her experiences known; she also exposed the new callousness at Istanbul's American Embassy (which in 1915 had tried hard to intervene). The new ambassador, driven 'obsessively' by commercial interests, was willingly colluding in Turkish denial. Allen Dulles, US Eastern Affairs chief (later to become director of the CIA), had a problem meeting the ambassador's urgent desire for cover-up. 'Confidentially,' said Dulles, 'the State Department is in a bind. Our task would be simple if the reports of the atrocities could be declared untrue or even exaggerated but the evidence, alas, is irrefutable. We want to avoid giving the impression that while the United States is willing to intervene actively to protect its commercial interests, it isn't willing to move on behalf of the Christian minorities.' But few moves were made beyond offering a refuge for dispossessed Armenians.

Armenia has persistently called for the massacres of 1915 and after to be acknowledged as genocide. They have also asked Turkey to apologise for it. Turkey, however, has continued to deny genocide, claiming that the figures given are false: instead, 300,000 Armenians (and many thousands of Turks) were killed in the general carnage and turbulence of internal fighting during the First World War, with local massacres carried out by both sides. Both Armenia and Turkey have collected extensive documentary evidence to support their respective cases (with mutual accusations of forgery).

In 2001, when the first Holocaust Day took place in the UK, the national Assembly of France formally decided to acknowledge the Armenian killings as genocide, though not mentioning Turkey by name. All the same, it provoked a substantial row with Turkey, which suspended diplomatic relations, called off trade deals, toyed with imposing sanctions, and contemplated formally accusing France of genocide during Algeria's 1955-1962 war of independence.

The 70,000 or so Armenians who live in Turkey today have distanced themselves from the arguments, saying that the dispute should be left to historians.

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Turkish soldiers holding up severed heads

next witness

 

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