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You're talking nonsense, Mr Ambassador - Robert Fisk

The Independent, May 20 2006

Mr Ambassador All the while, new diplomatic archives are opening to reveal the   smell of death - Armenian death.

A letter from the Turkish Ambassador to the Court of Saint James arrived for me a few days ago, one of those missives that send a   shudder through the human soul. "You allege that an 'Armenian   genocide' took place in Eastern Anatolia in 1915," His Excellency Mr   Akin Alptuna told me. "I believe you have some misconceptions about   those events ..."

Oh indeedy doody, I have. I am under the totally mistaken conception   that one and a half million Armenians were cruelly and deliberately   done to death by their Turkish Ottoman masters in 1915, that the men   were shot and knifed while their womenfolk were raped and eviscerated   and cremated and starved on death marches and their children   butchered. I have met a few of the survivors - liars to a man and   woman, if the Turkish ambassador to Britain is to be believed - and I   have seen the photographs taken of the victims by a brave German   photographer called Armen Wegner whose pictures must now, I suppose,   be consigned to the waste bins. So must the archives of all those   diplomats who courageously catalogued the mass murders inflicted upon   Turkey's Christian population on the orders of the gang of   nationalists who ran the Ottoman government in 1915.

What would have been our reaction if the ambassador of Germany had   written a note to the same effect? "You allege that a 'Jewish   genocide' took place in Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1945 ... I   believe you have some misconceptions about those events ...' Of   course, the moment such a letter became public, the ambassador of   Germany would be condemned by the Foreign Office, our man in Berlin   would - even the pusillanimous Blair might rise to the occasion - be   withdrawn for consultations and the European Union would debate   whether sanctions should be placed upon Germany.

But Mr Alptuna need have no such worries. His country is not a member   of the European Union - it merely wishes to be - and it was Mr   Blair's craven administration that for many months tried to prevent   Armenian participation in Britain's Holocaust Day. Amid this chicanery, there are a few shining bright lights and I   should say at once that Mr Alptuna's letter is a grotesque   representation of the views of a growing number of Turkish citizens,   a few of whom I have the honour to know, who are convinced that the   story of the great evil visited upon the Armenians must be told in   their country.

So why, oh why, I ask myself, are Mr Alptuna and his   colleagues in Paris and Beirut and other cities still peddling this   nonsense? In Lebanon, for example, the Turkish embassy has sent a "communiqué"   to the local French-language L'Orient Le Jour newspaper, referring to   the "soi-disant (so-called) Armenian genocide" and asking why the   modern state of Armenia will not respond to the Turkish call for a   joint historical study to "examine the events" of 1915. In fact, the Armenian president, Robert Kotcharian, will not respond   to such an invitation for the same reason that the world's Jewish   community would not respond to the call for a similar examination of   the Jewish Holocaust from the Iranian president - because an   unprecedented international crime was committed, the mere questioning   of which would be an insult to the millions of victims who perished.

But the Turkish appeals are artfully concocted. In Beirut, they   recall the Allied catastrophe at Gallipoli in 1915 when British,   French, Australian and New Zealand troops suffered massive casualties   at the hands of the Turkish army. In all - including Turkish soldiers   - up to a quarter of a million men perished in the Dardanelles. The   Turkish embassy in Beirut rightly states that the belligerent nations   of Gallipoli have transformed these hostilities into gestures of   reconciliation, friendship and mutual respect. A good try. But the   bloodbath of Gallipoli did not involve the planned murder of hundreds   of thousands of British, French, Australian, New Zealand - and   Turkish - women and children. But now for the bright lights. A group of "righteous Turks" are   challenging their government's dishonest account of the 1915   genocide: Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran, Halil Berktay, Hrant Dink, Ragip   Zarakolu and others claim that the "democratic process" in Turkey   will "chip away at the darkness" and they seek help from Armenians in   doing so. Yet even they will refer only to the 1915 "disaster", the   "tragedy", and the "agony" of the Armenians.

Dr Fatma Gocek of the   University of Michigan is among the bravest of those Turkish-born   academics who are fighting to confront the Ottoman Empire's terror   against the Armenians. Yet she, too, objects to the use of the word   genocide - though she acknowledges its accuracy - on the grounds that   it has become "politicised" and thus hinders research. I have some sympathy with this argument. Why make the job of honest   Turks more difficult when these good men and women are taking on the   might of Turkish nationalism? The problem is that other, more   disreputable folk are demanding the same deletion.

Mr Alputuna writes   to me - with awesome disingenuousness - that Armenians "have failed   to submit any irrefutable evidence to support their allegations of   genocide". And he goes on to say that "genocide, as you are well   aware, has a quite specific legal definition" in the UN's 1948   Convention. But Mr Alputuna is himself well aware - though he does   not say so, of course - that the definition of genocide was set out   by Raphael Lemkin, a Jew, in specific reference to the wholesale mass   slaughter of the Armenians. And all the while, new diplomatic archives are opening in the West   which reveal the smell of death - Armenian death - in their pages. I   quote here, for example, from the newly discovered account of   Denmark's minister in Turkey during the First World War. "The Turks   are vigorously carrying through their cruel intention, to exterminate   the Armenian people," Carl Wandel wrote on 3 July 1915. The Bishop of   Harput was ordered to leave for Aleppo within 48 hours "and it has later   been learned that this Bishop and all the clergy that accompanied him   have been ... killed between Diyarbekir and Urfa at a place where   approximately 1,700 Armenian families have suffered the same fate ...   In Angora ... approximately 6,000 men ... have been shot on the   road ... even here in Constantinople (Istanbul), Armenians are being   abducted and sent to Asia ..."

There is much, much more. Yet now here is Mr Alptuna in his letter to   me: "In fact, the Armenians living outside Eastern Armenia including   Istanbul ... were excluded from deportation." Somebody here is not   telling the truth. The late Mr Wandel of Copenhagen? Or the Turkish   Ambassador to the Court of St James?

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