Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

Yesterday I noticed there was a lot of chatter on the internet about the Armenian genocide which took place in 1915. Denial of the Armenian genocide is a criminal offence in France, and I’m not about to get myself chucked in jail, deported, or ceremoniously guillotined in front of the offices of Turkish Airlines by doing any such thing. And the same goes for the comments: when the blade is about to be dropped, my bleatings that “It was my commenters!” will fall only on the deaf ears of the man about to cut the rope, so behave you lot. (Especially you, TNA!) Besides, regardless of the law I am woefully ill-informed to comment on the matter of what occurred, when, and how.

What I want to say is that the issue has come down to a solitary word – genocide. Armenia and a good few other nations want Turkey to acknowledge that genocide took place, whereas the Turks themselves take issue pretty much only with the use of this particular word. The problem is, even moderate Turks aren’t much in the mood to concede on this point, it’s not just the raving, ultra-nationalist fans of Erdoğan who are being stubborn. From what I understand, the issue holds such significance that any politician willing to concede on this particular word would be committing political suicide: Turkey has staked its national pride on it, and it’s not going to budge.

Part of the problem is there isn’t really a solution. In the case of other seemingly intractable issues (Northern Ireland, Crimea, etc.) there is always a compromise involving power sharing, land swaps, etc. as well as formal apologies and acknowledgements. On the issue of the Armenian genocide and the use of that particular word there is not much room to compromise. No acknowledgement from Turkey that does not include the word “genocide” will be accepted, and Turkey won’t acquiesce to using the term. There is no more room to meet in the middle.

Often these things are solved with the passage of time. I am reliably told that the animosity between Greeks and Turks has lessened considerably as the older generations died out and the younger ones weren’t sure what all the fuss was about. But a hundred years on and the Armenian genocide isn’t going away, in part because Armenia defines itself so much on this issue and they have a powerful lobbying ability (I’m not saying these are bad things, I’m simply pointing out facts). The Armenians aren’t going to drop the subject, and the Turks aren’t going to concede.

Perhaps in a few more generations Turks will have evolved politically and socially to the point where they no longer consider this a trench worth fighting to death in, but the way things are moving with Erdoğan I expect things to get worse before they get better. Either way, it’s not going to be resolved any time soon.

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13 thoughts on “Turkey and the Armenian Genocide

  1. The instant the say the word genocide then they will be looking at funding for the offspring of the people and some wrist slapping and concessions.

    It is the same in many areas. First one to cave loses.

    In all these old cases both sides should move on and put this into the history books but nobody ever does anything sensible nowadays.

  2. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to be a bigot and wrong.

    I really take issue with these laws which prevent people from saying words. Sure, shouting “Fire” in a crowd, “kill all cyclists” or “I’m going to kill you” are the exceptions but everything else should be allowed.

    If you’re wrong, it should be a fairly simple task to prove how and make the alternative case.

    Without freedom of speech, William Wilberforce would not have been able to campaign against slavery; it was a message the elite didn’t want to be heard.

  3. As I understand the moderate Turk position, they needed to deport the Armenians because they were a potential 5th column for the Russians.
    Some unfortunates (an insignificant number, less than a million) died on the journey, of natural causes.

    Odd that they did not deport the Orthodox Christian Greeks, but chose the Armenians who had their own church, but there you go.

  4. @TNA “I really take issue with these laws which prevent people from saying words.”

    Europe in my experience is pretty dam poor on this score and the UK is becoming just as bad. I remember a few UK elections back the BBC introducing a candidate as a Global Warming Denier. You can also be arrested in France for denying that it was the Nazis that shot the Polish Officers at Katyn. This form of political correctness is a form of state and elite coercion that deflects away from inconvenient discussions and boosts the esprit de corps.

    I remember quite clearly during a Hitler walking tour of Munich a few years back almost inducing a cardiac arrest in our tour guide. It was inside the Fuhrerbau the nazi headquarters, the acoustics inside provided an almost perfect setting for a heel click and salute with my polished brogues and he said quite seriously if I did he would have to report me to the police. I didn’t, and it spoiled my tour slightly. We did have robust discussion on whether or not he topped himself in the bunker. He took me aside from the others for that discussion to be had one on one.

    And don’t get me started on the French view on taxation, all taxation, including income taxes as just like the Englanders they have been well and truly brainwashed on that score as well.

  5. This guy nails it here.

    “In France, political correctness is more than a ridiculous set of opinions; it’s also—and primarily—a tool of government coercion. Not only does it tilt any political discussion in favor of one set of arguments; it also gives the ruling class a doubt-expelling myth that provides a constant boost to morale and esprit de corps, much as class systems did in the days before democracy.”

    http://www.vdare.com/posts/christopher-caldwell-on-a-new-french-theory-of-political-correctness

  6. I really take issue with these laws which prevent people from saying words.

    So do I. I disapprove of the Austrian law banning Holocaust denial, the French ban on Nazi symbols, and indeed this law regarding the Armenian genocide. In fact, I have no idea how and why France thinks it is able to rule on this matter, but Bardon has shed some light on it with his comments.

    Unfortunately, I still must comply with those laws I disagree with. If I didn’t, I’d be able to do the drive from Paris to Annecy a lot more quickly.

  7. “Unfortunately, I still must comply with those laws I disagree with”

    Okay I just looked it up and the French Gayssot Act only applies to Nuremberg findings such as that the Nazis murdered Polish Officers but it appears that the Armenian Genocide Denial Law may be unconstitutional.

    “The French Constitutional Court’s ruling that the Gayssot Act is constitutional but that the 2012 Armenian Genocide Denial Law was unconstitutional because it violated freedom of speech, has been challenged.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gayssot_Act

    But that challenge aside, it could be argued that if you did deny the Armenian Genocide on this blog then the denial would have been made outside of French jurisdiction given that this is a UK blog and subject to UK jurisdiction and laws.

  8. But that challenge aside, it could be argued that if you did deny the Armenian Genocide on this blog then the denial would have been made outside of French jurisdiction given that this is a UK blog and subject to UK jurisdiction and laws.

    I don’t think it works like that: the prevailing law is the one in the place of publication, which in blog terms means the location at which the content is uploaded onto the screen. Where the site is hosted and what nationality the owner claims the site to be is largely irrelevant.

  9. Shit, if only The House of Un-Australian Activities Committee (HUAC) had known of this, they could have had TNA clapped in irons and transported to Van Diemen’s Land for life.

  10. “the prevailing law is the one in the place of publication, which in blog terms means the location at which the content is uploaded onto the screen”.

    Which is precisely why Guido Fawkes has taken a quick flight from a London to Dublin in the past to upload strong but unproven political rumours.

  11. It’s not about 1915 alone. First the Young Turks (their nationalist faction), then the Kemalists sought to reduce the number and influence of non-Turks in the country by all means possible, including ethnic cleansing. In 1920, with help from the Bolsheviks, Kemalist troops drove Armenian militias out of the area seized by the Russian army in 1915-17 and from the Kars district, which had been under Russian rule since 1878. All of Western Armenia, including Mount Ararat, fell under Turkish control, forcing the surviving Armenians to flee – mostly to the rump state that became the Armenian SSR. Those few Armenians who remained in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, were subjected to a confiscatory tax in 1942 that reduced them to poverty overnight.

    Edward Luttwak published a helpful summary of these persecutions in the LRB in 2015, Sins of the Three Pashas.

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