Letter to Dr Denis MacShane, MP - Minister of State for Europe - in Reponse to the Statement he made in the House of Commons - 14 October 2004
Dr Denis MacShane, MP, Minister of State for Europe, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH
Dear Dr Denis MacShane:
In an Oral Answer to a Question by Mr Angus Robertson, SNP Member for Moray, during the Debate of 12 October 2004 on Turkey, the following exchange was reported in Hansard:
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I welcome the decision on Turkey, and I also agree with the comments made so far about Kurds. I would also highlight the situation of Armenians in Turkey and of Armenia itself. Will the Minister encourage Turkey to improve Armenian relations, including making progress on resolving outstanding historical differences?
Mr. MacShane: I am a Foreign Office Minister, not an historian, and there are times when history should be left to history. Turkey wants to look to a better future in the European Union and that will require it - as it requires of all member states - to look with tolerance and sensitivity at some of the problems of the past. Sometimes the past is best dealt with by ceasing to rake it up incessantly.
CRAG - the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide, part of the Armenian Community and Church Council of Great Britain, are deeply dismayed let alone affronted by your summary response.
On the one hand, we are dismayed by the persistently standard response given by our politicians (such as yours in the House only two days ago) when addressing the Armenian Genocide. The gist of most replies is that 'history should be left to historians' in deciding on the veracity or otherwise of this tragic episode.
On the other hand, we also feel affronted that you would suggest that the past history of the Armenian people in Ottoman Turkey 'is best dealt with by ceasing to rake it up incessantly'.
For the first part, many noted and well-established British historians have often stated¸ and written, that the Armenian chapter during WWI qualified as genocide according to historical and legal benchmarks. For the other part, I wonder if you would advise a Jew, Rwandan, Bosnian or other peoples and minorities that the raw wounds of their ethno-religious suffering should be shelved because there was no point really in raising it all the time.
In order to underline the academic history let alone human reality of the Armenian Genocide, allow me to enclose herewith a booklet that includes a whole series of quotations - not least from a number of distinguished British politicians, historians and authors - emphasising the genocidal nature of the Armenian experience.
Post-9/11, and following the traumas of the world in different parts from Afghanistan to Iraq, I wonder if it is not high time to show tolerance, sensitivity and integrity when dealing with the Armenian Genocide – not least when we in the West are leading the war against terror let alone considering Turkey as a future EU member-state. Otherwise, if 'history should be left to history', why are we digging up the mass graves in Iraq?
Very Truly Yours
Raffi Sarkissian - Chair, CRAG