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Genocide - The Armenian Chapter

by Dr Harry Hagopian

If we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvellous victory - Professor Howard Zinn, 1922-2010.

Is the cost in spoilt relations with Turkey outweighed by respect for the memory of well over one million Armenian victims?

This was probably an overriding question in the minds of the forty-five members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on 4th March. Should they adopt a non-binding resolution urging President Obama to use the G-word on 24th April during his annual address to the Armenian American communities in Massachusetts, New York, California, and across the whole USA?

But let me first look at the dynamics of this exercise, and how did 2010 differ from those attempts in previous years?

Let me now touch upon a number of serrated issues that also flow out of this resolution.

Amongst this entire hullabaloo, my favourite comment comes from a Turkish speaker who denounces this decision: “Turkey is no longer a country that can easily be humiliated.” When a commission of the US Congress votes for “genocide”, we are “humiliated”. Do you know what humiliation is?

Turkey is not humiliated because that commission approved that resolution with a difference of one vote. Turkey is humiliated because it itself cannot shed light on its own history, has to delegate this matter into other hands, is frightened like hell from its own past, has to squirm like mad in order to cover up truths.

The real issue is this: Why is the “Armenian Genocide” a matter of discussion in American, French and Swiss parliaments and not in the parliament of the Turkish Republic? Why can we, ourselves, not discuss a matter that we deem so vital that we perceive the difference of one vote as a source of humiliation?

If you cannot discuss your own problems, you deserve to be humiliated. If you keep silent in a matter that you find so important, you deserve to be humiliated. If you try to shut others up, you are humiliated even more. The whole world interprets the killing of so many Armenians, -a number we cannot even estimate properly- as “genocide”. The history of every society is tainted with crime and blood. We cannot undo what has been done but we can show the courage to face the truths, to discuss the reality. We can give up trying to silence the world out of concern for incriminating the founders of the republic.

We can ask questions. No one dares humiliate brave people who are not afraid of the truth. If you feel humiliated, you should take a hard look at yourself and what you hide.

George W Bush called the Armenian genocide ‘historic mass killings’. Bill Clinton settled on ‘deportations and massacres’. Last year, Barack Obama used the chapter of Armenian-Turkish football diplomacy that preceded the signing of the two protocols as justification for the neutered use of the Armenian term Medz Yeghern (or great catastrophe). But as Robert Fisk wondered in his article of 6th March, what would happen today if Germany suddenly decided that the Jewish Holocaust was not genocide: would America lobby that Germany should be allowed to get away with such a travesty?

24 April 2010 is six weeks away: will the truth [not] come out? After all, did the Swedish Parliament not do so this week?

© hbv_H @ 12 March 2010

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