Special to Montreal Gazette
Published on: April 23, 2015
Last Updated: April 23, 2015 2:26 PM EDT

A picture taken on April 16, 2015 shows people visiting the
Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. Armenians
prepare to commemorate on April 24 a hundred years since 1.5 million
of their kin were massacred by Ottoman forces, as a fierce dispute
still rages with Turkey over Ankara's refusal to recognize the mass
murder as genocide.


The 24th of April this year marks an important historic event:
the 100-year anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide,
in which 1.5 million Christian Armenians lost their lives under the
Ottoman Empire.

The country of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora are marking the
centennial by holding commemorative ceremonies around the world. They
are also seeking justice from the government of Turkey in the form of
an apology and official recognition of what was done by the Turkish-led
Ottoman authorities a century ago.

Unfortunately, the Turkish government has dug in its heels. It claims
Armenians died as a result of civil conflict and unrest -- the First
World War was underway at the time -- and not because of genocide.

However, history provides many cases of governments taking advantage
of war and chaos to eliminate particular ethnic and religious groups
they see as undesirable.

Today, Ankara does not accept anyone challenging the official
narrative. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis made a public statement calling
the massacre of Armenians "the first genocide of the 20th century"
and called on other governments to do the same. Turkey immediately
recalled its ambassador from Vatican City and claimed the pope was
spreading "hatred."

But Turkey's actions speak louder than words. This year, it is
organizing a commemoration of the Battle of Gallipoli, which has
always been held on April 25. But in 2015, the event is curiously
scheduled to take place on April 24, the day the Armenian genocide
will be commemorated.

While Turkey denies there was an organized campaign to wipe out
Armenians and argues that no evidence of any such orders from the
Ottoman authorities exists, legislation passed at the time suggests
something else. In 1915, the Ottoman parliament passed the "Deportation
law" that gave the state the legal authority to uproot the Armenian
population, including women and children, and forced them to march
into to the deserts of Mesopotamia, never to return.

Prominent figures from history also contradict Turkey's position. Take
for example Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman
Empire from 1913 to 1916. In his memoirs he wrote, "When the Turkish
authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely
giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well,
and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt
to conceal the fact. ... I am confident that the whole history of
the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great
massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when
compared to the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke out last week ahead of a
vote by the European Parliament in which it later adopted a resolution
that urged Turkey to recognize the massacre of Armenians for what
it actually was. "Whatever decision the European Parliament takes on
Armenian genocide claims, it will go in one ear and out the other. ...

It is out of the question for there to be a stain or a shadow called
genocide on Turkey," he argued.

Nothing can ever be done to reverse the terrible events that nearly
destroyed the Armenians. But silence is never an option for those
fighting for justice.

The Turkish government should realize it will continue to be ostracized
in the present for minimizing the atrocities carried out in the past.

Kyle Matthews is senior deputy director of the Montreal Institute for
Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University. He helped
organize a ceremony at Montreal City Hall Thursday to commemorate
the Armenian Genocide.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress