Turkey Cannot Bully History - The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada May 22 2006
WHY would you resettle hundreds of thousands of people in a desert, without providing for their basic needs - unless you meant to murder them?
How could up to 1.5 million people of a single nationality - or even 500,000, if one accepts the current Turkish government's figures - lose their lives simply due to "civil unrest," as Turkey now tries to claim?
The answer, as historians from countries around the world have documented - with evidence that is simply overwhelming - is that the Ottoman governments ruling Turkey during and just after the First World War set out to exterminate Armenians as a people. The Armenian genocide - or Armenian Holocaust, as it's also known - became an international scandal when news of massacres and mass starvations of Christian Armenians inflicted by Muslim Turks in the tottering, war-ravaged Ottoman Empire first hit Western newsstands in 1915.
That Turkey continues to deny the magnitude of the slaughter, or the full complicity of the country's former governments in the mass killings, remains a scandal today. More than denial, in fact. For Turkey actively, and shamefully, continues to attack anyone who speaks the truth about what happened to the Armenians more than nine decades ago.
After Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement last month commemorating a sombre anniversary, the beginning of the genocide in 1915, Turkey recalled its ambassador to this country for consultations, and warned that Canadian-Turkish relations could be seriously damaged. It did the same to France, where lawmakers are set to pass a law making it a crime - punishable by five years in prison or a fine of 45,000 euros - to deny the existence of the Armenian genocide, similar to a current law on the books there referring to the Nazi Holocaust of about six million Jews during the Second World War.
Turkey has criminally prosecuted its own countrymen for saying the genocide ever happened. The Turks, however, cannot bully history. Dozens of countries - including Canada and France - have officially recognized the Armenian genocide. Those responsible were indicted by the international community for crimes at the end of the war.
Many were tried in absentia and found guilty. And although it is not a formal requirement, several EU officials have stated that Turkey's pending membership in the European Union may depend upon that country finally acknowledging what most of the world already knows to be true - the Armenian genocide, at the hands of the Turks. Turkey's continued defiance of history, and world opinion, is a road leading nowhere but upon itself. Mr. Harper did the right thing in acknowledging what historians note was the 20th century's first holocaust.
Turkey's butchering of the Armenians - whose pre-war population of some two million people was reportedly reduced by three-quarters - eventually led to the international community's decision to set up an independent Armenia, which, to this day, faces a completely closed border along its Turkish frontier. If Turkey wishes to move ahead in its relations with other countries, it should acknowledge what is one of the darkest stains in its history.