Introduction (100 Words)
The term “Armenian Genocide Denial” refers to the action of denying the prearranged, deliberate and systematic genocide of one and a half million Armenians by the Ottoman Government throughout the early stages of World War 1. It is has been widely considered the first modern Genocide with the term “Genocide” being created and used to describe the immense scale and accomplishment of the process to systematically eliminate the Armenian population. Revisionists have classically argued the academic labelling of the events being a genocide but instead stating that the Armenian Genocide was a conspiracy theory created by the Armenian population as well as a form of Anti – Turkish propaganda. Denial of the Armenian Genocide is a current modern historical issue within our society through the continuous discussions of the honesty of both claims with various actions undertaken by both sides to express their view on the truthfulness of the Genocide.
Efforts at rebuttal (380 words)
During its existence, the Ottoman Empire wished to remove any threat of Armenian Resistance. Currently Turkish authorities claim that the deaths sustained by the Armenian people were of a result of the chaos of World War 1. It is also claimed that the Ottoman Empire during the events of the World War were fighting against Russian Forces as well as the Armenian militia and volunteers. Contradictory to such claims the Armenian population had neither an army nor a police force let alone have access to the resources to undertake conflict against the prevalent Ottoman Empire. Heather Rae has noted that researchers and scholars have been denied access to Ottoman archives repeatedly, which Turkish researches and sources often refer in their works. 1 In the late stages of the 1980s, the Turkish Government granted access to certain archives however, the material accessed was limited in its specificity and the Turkish Government undertook an extremely selective approach to who had clearance to study the prescribed material. German – Turkish Historian Taner Akcam wrote about the careful approach undertaken towards archived materials. “While we are missing a significant portion of these papers, what remains in the Ottoman archives and in court records is sufficient to show that the CUP Central Committee, and the Special Organization is set up to carry out its plan, did deliberately attempt to destroy the Armenian population”2. American Demographer and Professor of History Justin McCarthy believes that the Genocide was two –sided stating that “when they the Armenians advanced victoriously under the protection of the Russian Army, the same spectacle occurred as in 1915, but this time it was Turks who were attacked by Armenians, aided and possibly commanded and directed by Russia.3. Turkish Scholars and other deniers of the Genocide reject the figure of one and a half million deaths credited towards the Genocide. McCarthy projected that true figure of deaths being 850,000 after calculating an estimate of Armenian population prior to the war and subtracting his estimate of survivors. Such a figure has been heavily criticized by other academics on the basis of McCarthy’s methodology, primary sources and calculations. Causality figures are still a subject of debate with academics and denialists producing varying calculations from 1.2 million deaths to over 2 million deaths with a benchmark of 1.5 million deaths.
Conflict resolution (380 words)
Relations between Armenian and Turkey are quite strained and limited. After gaining independence Turkey had interestingly recognized the existence of the Modern Republic of Armenia in 1991, however both counties due to differing perspectives and their violent history failed to establish secure relations towards diplomacy. During the outbreak of the Nagarno- Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan the Turkish Government reacted by expressing its support of Azerbaijan and closing its border with Armenia which has remained closed as the conflict has still not been resolved. In the hopes of forming increasing relations between Armenia and Turkey the Turkish – Armenian Reconciliation Commission was formed and launched on the 9th of July 2001 in Geneva. The commission consists of ten individuals from Turkey, Russia, Armenia and the United States most of whom are former high –ranking officials known for their previous diplomatic accomplishments. It was stated that the aim of the committee was “”to promote mutual understanding and goodwill between Turks and Armenians and to encourage improved relations.”4 In the hopes of further improving relations between both countries the Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited Armenian, Turkish and international historians to form a commission aimed at re-evaluating the events of 1915 through the use of Turkish, Armenian and other countries archives. In response, Armenian President Robert Kocharian stated “Your proposal to address the past can’t be effective if it does not refer to the present and the future. To start an effective dialog, we should create a favourable political environment. The governments are responsible for the development of bilateral relations, and we have no right to delegate that responsibility to the historians. Thus, we have proposed and we again propose to establish normal relations between our countries without preconditions. In this regard, an inter-governmental commission can be formed to discuss the outstanding issues to resolve them and maintain mutual understanding.”5
Denialism by Prominent figures (380 words)
The “Lewis Affair”
On the 19th of May 1985, both the “Washington Post” and the “New York Times” released an advertisement in which sixty-nine American historians called on Congress to not accept the resolution on the Armenian Genocide. Well-known historian Bernard Lewis beside with Heath Lowry was a part of the historian signatories leading the case to be named after him. The Committee of the Turkish Associations had funded the announcement. According to Professor of Sociology Eric Markusen and Author Robert Jay Lifton Lowry was instructing historians about how to avoid reference of the Armenian Genocide in works of academia. It was also discovered that Lowry undertook the task of ghost writing for the Turkish Ambassador in Washington on matters concerning the Embassy’s denial of the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Assembly of America discovered that a large number of the sixty-nine historians and academics benefited both directly and indirectly from research grants provided by the Turkish Government. Yair Auron and Israeli historian who specialised in genocide studies expressed that the advertisement was a good example of one of many Turkish attempts to influence academia, a project on which Turkey has spent enormous funds.6
Comparison with Holocaust and the Israeli Stance
In official terms, Israel neither confirms nor denies the truthfulness of the Armenian Genocide. Politicians from left wing, centrist, and occasionally right wing parties have promoted the acknowledgement and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, this cooperation is of a significant stature as it includes advocates and politicians who are primarily on the opposing sides of the political spectrum. However, the status – quo is maintained due to current political reasons. The Right Wing Party Yisrael Beiteinu that translates to Israel Our Home believes that discussions about the Genocide would endanger Israel – Turkish relations and Israel- Azerbaijan relations as well as damage the close military and economic cooperation with them. Both Israel and Azerbaijan are considered essential for Israel’s regional interests and policy opposing Iran. In 2008, Yosef Shagal, A Jew of Azerbaijani decent and retired Israeli parliamentarian in an interview with Azerbaijan media stated “I find it deeply offensive, and even blasphemous to compare the Holocaust of European Jewry during the Second World War with the mass extermination of the Armenian people during the First World War. Jews were killed because they were Jews, but Armenians provoked Turkey and should blame themselves.” Despite this reigning controversy there are many memorials dedicated to the victims of the Armenian Genocide in Israel. Additionally many historians of Jewish and Israeli descent have drawn connections between the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide
Academic consensus condemning genocide denial (380 words)
The denial of the Armenian Genocide is described as “The most patent example of a state’s denial of its past”7 According to Gregory Stanton, the president of Genocide Watch and the vice president of IAGS (International Association of Genocide Scholars),
“The genocide of the Armenians has been denied to this day by successive Turkish governments, with the exception of the short-lived imperial government that existed between the end of World War I and the ascendance of the Kemalist nationalist regime in the early 1920s”.8
Psychologist Robert Jay Lifton in 1990 acquired a letter signed by the Turkish Ambassador for the United States, which questioned his referencing of the Armenian Genocide in one of his academic works. Unintentionally the ambassador had included a letter from key denier Heath W. Lowry that instructed the ambassador on how to avoid reference of the Armenian Genocide in his academic works. Shortly after, Lowry was presented with the title of being the Chair of Ottoman studies at the University of Princeton, which had provided Lowry with a $750,000 grant from Turkey. This key occurrence has been the topic of various reports around the idea of ethics present in scholarship. On the date of June 9th 2000 The New York Times released a page long statement in which 126 academic scholars including Sociologist Irving Horowitz, Historian Yehuda Bauer and Nobel Prize winner Ellie Wiesel had signed a document which acknowledged “that the World War I Armenian genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize it as such.”9 Historians Matthew Bjornlund and Torben Jorgensen noted in an open letter by the “Danish Department for Holocaust and Genocide studies and the denial and relativisation of the Armenian Genocide” that
“When it comes to the historical reality of the Armenian genocide, there is no “Armenian” or “Turkish” side of the “question, ” any more than there is a “Jewish” or a “German” side of the historical reality of the Holocaust: There is a scientific side, and an unscientific side acknowledgment or denial. In the case of the denial of the Armenian genocide, it is even founded on a massive effort of falsification, distortion, cleansing of archives, and direct threats initiated or supported by the Turkish state, making any “dialogue” with Turkish deniers highly problematic.”10
Legislation (380 words)
Some nations have created and implemented laws and regulations, which target punishment for genocide denial. In October of 2006 despite opposition from Phillippe Douste – Blazy the foreign minister, the French National Assembly passed a bill which if accepted by the Senate would criminalise the Denial of the Armenian Genocide. French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the 7th of October 2011 stated that the continuous denial to recognise the Armenian Genocide would incentivize to criminalise such denials. The Lower house of the French legislature on the 22nd of December 2011 sanctioned a bill criminalising the public denial of the killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops as genocide, punishable by a fine of 45,000 euros and a one year sentence in prison. Shortly after on the 23rd of January 2012 the French Senate approved and accepted the criminalisation of genocide denial. In contradiction, the Constitutional Council of France invalidated the recently approved law on the basis of its restriction of freedom of Speech on February 28th 2012. After such occurrence, Nicolas Sarkozy the French president had asked his cabinet to create a new piece of legislation to punish Denial of the Armenian Genocide. The new bill was adopted in 2016 by the French Parliament however was again put down by the French Constitutional court. The council expressing that the “ruling cause’s uncertainty regarding expressions and comments on historical matters. Thereby, this ruling is an unnecessary and disproportionate attack against freedom of speech.”11
Perincek v Switzerland
The first ever individual to be tried and convicted for actions of denying the Armenian Genocide was Turkish politician Dogu Perincek. Perincek was proven guilty by the Swiss district court in Lausanne of racial discrimination in March of 2007. During the stages of the trial Perincek has denied such allegations stating, “I have not denied genocide because there was no genocide.”12 Perincek appealed his verdict of being guilty, in which the Swiss Federal court had agreed and confirmed his provided sentence in December of 2007. It was when Perincek appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in which he had his verdict retracted on the basis of his Human rights being violated (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human rights) on October 15th 2015.
Advertisement and Propaganda (380 words)
Time Europe Incident During an edition of Time Europe released on the 6th of June 2005, The Chamber of Commerce located in Ankara released an advertisement promoting Tourism in Turkey, included within was a 70-minute presentation, which denied the Armenian Genocide. Shortly after Time Europe issued an apology for the inclusion of the DVD expressing that the contents of the DVD hadn’t been adequately verified due to belief that the DVD was a promotion piece and would have had its distribution halted if the magazine had been aware of its content. Time Europe described the contents of the DVD as a “So called documentary”13 which “Presents a one – sided view of history that does not meet our standards for fairness and accuracy”14. To further express its sincerest apologies Time Europe released a page long announcement as well as a DVD Documentary detailing the Armenian Genocide.
Campaign of “Let History Decide” Prior to the 100 anniversary for the Genocide in 2015 the Turkish Government had decided that the Armenian Genocide as a historical matter should be further researched and investigated by historians, causing its sponsorship of the website www.lethistorydecide.org. The Website was a key part of a campaign formed by the Turkish American Steering Committee in the United States. The Campaign’s primary slogan was “Unite us, not divide us”
Intent to Destroy Intent to Destroy is a documentary released on the 10th of November 2017, which follows American Filmmaker Joe Berlinger’s meetings with Scholars and Historians to explore the century long actions of Denial of the Armenian Genocide, by the Turkish Government. It is advertised as a documentary, which “chronicles the diplomatic pressure, Hollywood censorship and legacy of Turkish suppression that have conspired to bury the horror of the Armenian Genocide.”15
Conclusion (100 words)
Despite the various and tactical attempts by the Turkish Government to deny and essentially mask the Armenian Genocide since its occurrence during the early stages of World War One no significant progress has been made. The continuous academic and historical war on the believability of the Genocide’s undertaking is in its essence an issue of historiography. Both sides and viewpoints are arguing for the undertaking of an action, which directly relates to the concept of historiography. One fighting for universal conformation, commemoration and belief for the historic genocide, whilst the other battling for denialism in the belief of ridding the Genocidal term from the event. The Denial of the Armenian Genocide and its history is a prime socitial example of historical inscription.
1 Heather Rae. State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 128
2 Akcam. A Shameful Act, p. 5
3 McCarthy, Justin. Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottomon Muslims, 1821–1922.
4 Nedyalkova, Yordanka (2001-07-20). “Commission Formed to Improve Armenian-Turkish Relations”. Retrieved 2009-05-11.
5 “Minister Oskanian Comments on Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s Recent Remarks”. Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 4 November 2006. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 23 April2007.
6 Yair Auron. The banality of denial: Israel and the Armenian Genocide. Transaction Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7658-0834-X, ISBN 9780765808349. p. 216
7 Imbleau, Martin (2005). “Denial”. In Dinah Shelton. Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. 1. Macmillan Reference. p. 244
8 Rae. State Identities and the Homogenisation, p. 127.
9 “Armenian genocide denial: The case against Turkey”. Cleveland Jewish News.
10 Genocide Denial in the state of Denmark. Open letter by Torben Jorgensen and Matthias Bjornlund, World Association of International Studies, Stanford University, California.
11 French Court Rules Against Criminalization of Genocide Denial. Asbarez. January 27, 2017.
12 “Turk guilty over genocide remarks”. BBC News. 9 March 2007.
13 “TIME Europe Magazine: Where the System Broke Down – Oct. 17, 2005”. 6 January 2006.
14 “TIME Europe Publishes Apology for Distributing Genocide Denial DVD – Asbarez.com”.