image of jerusalem 2013

Truth... Revivified - An Obiter Dictu
Last month, I read an advertisement in the New York Times entitled 'A Declaration on the Turkish-Armenian Problem'...

11 June   |   2001   |   Subject  Middle East & North Africa (MENA)

... Dated 19 May 2001, this document was signed by a number of historians who cast doubt on the factual realities of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. They placed the Armenian deaths during the Genocide in the overall context of Turkish and other casualties during World War I. They also called upon fellow historians to come together and study this sad chapter. In that way, they added, a line can be drawn once and for all under Armenian claims that they alone had suffered the first genocide of the twentieth century.

This month, HH Catholicos Karekin II, spiritual leader of the Armenian people world-wide, visited London in order to consecrate the newly-renovated St Yeghishe Church. During his stay in England, the highest Armenian cleric from Holy Etchmiadzin addressed also the House of Lords. He spoke of the harrowing experiences of the Armenian people during the Ottoman-led genocide, as much as the subsequent - and long - decades of totalitarianism and atheism under communist rule.

Two separate but marking events, one steeped in modern history and the other very much part of the throbbing reality of Armenians world-wide. But what is the truth behind the Armenian Genocide that claimed the lives of well over one million Armenians living in Ottoman Turkey during World War I?

For decades, the Turkish authorities have conducted a campaign challenging the authenticity of this genocide. Their chief weapon has been a wide-spread ignorance of history by most people. After all, those events happened behind the smoke screen of World War I, in an age when information was not as fluid and when one half the world was at the other half's throat. For years, the Armenian survivors were too scattered, too numbed and too silent, to call for recognition. Their pain remained only a virtual truth. But when they began to find their voices in the 1960's, the Turkish counter-claim followed them like an echo! It was a civil war, Turkey alleged, and there are after all victims on both sides in any civil war. Yet, the absurdity of such equivalence is borne out by the fact that only a handful of Armenians now live in the old regions of Turkish Armenia where there were perhaps three million before 1915. Where did all those Armenians disappear? The wide-spread accounts of mass and systematic killings, and the truncated lives that almost any Diaspora Armenian can point to in his or her family tree, help shape a clearer - and more truthful - picture today.

Much like the abhorrent Jewish Holocaust some thirty years later, the Armenian Genocide occurred as well. This unhealthy negation must come to an end - for the benefit of both peoples and nations. It is high time to estop the abuse of history. The Turkish State is doing its citizens no favours by continuing its knee-jerk reactions to the genocide. The argument has now entered a new phase! With Turkey knocking at the doors of the European Union for admission into the pan-European comity of nations, what is required now is openness.

This is why I endorse the idea of an independent team of researchers. Perhaps a university department of modern history could conduct in the near future a comprehensive examination of primary sources, summarise its findings and then record any discrepancies. It should listen carefully to the claims of Turks and Armenians alike. Such a team should be given free access to the archives in Ankara and Istanbul, as much as to those in the United States and Germany. Ignorance is no longer an excuse. Ignorance is an arch-enemy of the truth.

This year, when Armenia celebrates the1700th anniversary of its adoption of Christianity in 301 AD, it is high time to honour those Armenians who lost their lives. The greatest honour to their memory would be to help reveal the truth of what happened to them as part and parcel of other heinous crimes against humanity. Only then can both Turkey and Armenia move beyond their painful collective memories and begin to heal what have been a traumatic episode and a surreal process for far too long. Only then would the Caucasus become a safer region for geo-strategic peace. Only then would the document signed by the historians last month become an effective and credible instrument for truth. And only then would the visit of the spiritual leader of the Armenian people to England - let alone to Turkey itself - acquire its cleansing and salvific tone.

But more importantly, only then can a fresh vision challenge the status quo and enhance the reconciliation between the two peoples - both victims in their own ways - in good faith and good will ..!

© Dr Harry Hagopian   |   2001   |   11 June


Print or download a copy of this article.


Google: Yahoo: MSN: