The Herald talks to Armenian Ambassador Alexan Haroutunian

Friday, April 24, 2015

Armenian Ambassador Alexan Haroutunian.

By Michael Soltys / Herald Staff

Armenians and Turks inhabit the same part of the globe and need to
be able to look into each other's eyes -- impossible while Turkey
continues to deny the world's first genocide exactly a century ago
today, says Armenian Ambassador Alexan Haroutunian.

The Herald began the interview by asking about the date itself -- why
April 24 when First World War historians record Armenian massacres
earlier that month as well as a summit of Turkey's top troika on
Saint Valentine's Day deciding on the genocide?

Not only were there massacres earlier that year, agrees Haroutunian,
but already two decades previously with an estimated 100,000 killed
in 1894 alone. April 24 was the date Turkey struck at the very heart
of Armenian spiritual and cultural life by arresting and summarily
executing its intellectual elite (including two members of parliament)
then centred on Constantinople -- many famous names of Armenian
literature have different dates of birth but all end their lives on
April 24, 1915.

Despite this murderous prelude to the First World War, Haroutunian
rejects that the Ottoman Empire might have had reason to suspect
Armenian loyalty on the Caucasus front or elsewhere as a "falsification
of history." Armenians fought on both sides in that war, as in
numerous Russo-Turkish conflicts in modern history, he argues --
rather Turkey used the war as an excuse to end what they had already
started, namely the ethnic cleansing of Western Armenia, completed
between 1915 and 1923.

Apart from Turkish denialism, some historians consider the Armenian
tragedy as not so much as a genocide as the forced march of a suspect
population away from the front which resulted in hundreds of thousands
of deaths due to infra-human wartime conditions. Haroutunian rejects
this as "another Turkish falsification" -- Armenians were killed in
their homes, as well as on the forced march to Syria. The genocide (a
term Armenia gave to the world) is simply too widely recognized -- not
only by the international community from the start but increasingly by
Turkish intellectuals and historians and even Turkish court sentences
during that period.

The current Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan is trying to give
an impression of balance by speaking of the pain on both sides. In
the past year he has sought to redefine April 24 by making it the
commemoration of the Turkish victory at Gallipoli -- a campaign
beginning with naval bombardments in February and lasting until the
end of 1915 while the first troops landed a century ago tomorrow but
April 24 has zero significance in the Gallipoli context.

Why did Turkey persist in denialism, the Herald then asked -- just as
Germany admitted to the Holocaust while describing it as the work of
the Third Reich, not today's Federal Republic, why could not Turkey
admit to the 1915 genocide while pointing out that its modern republic
was created in 1923, transferring the blame to the Ottoman Empire?

The quick answer might be that Turks are not as civilized as Germans,
Haroutunian smiles, but there is also a territorial question at work
here -- admitting to genocide would also explain how Western Armenia
came to be Turkish territory, thus bringing it into question and
accounting for Ankara's obstinacy.

Turkey does not have much company in the world in denying the
Armenian genocide -- even those countries closest to it who avoid
using the term "genocide" accept it as a fact. Pope Francis has taken
the lead by calling the Armenian massacres the first genocide of
history and warning Turkey that denial keeps the wound open. United
States presidents have spoken out on the issue from Woodrow Wilson
onwards with Ronald Reagan the first to use the term "genocide" while
Barack Obama has even used the Armenian word. European Parliament
resolutions have been clear on the issue. Last but far from least,
Argentina has more than done its bit by joining the French in giving
genocide recognition the force of law.

The genocide was followed by a diaspora -- of 10 million Armenians
in the world today, only three million inhabit the modern Republic of
Armenia (independent since 1991). Of this diaspora, Argentina houses
some 100,000 -- a community Haroutunian would like to highlight for
its quality as much as its numbers. They are grateful to Argentina for
giving them refuge and have been good citizens in return. This largely
urban community is to be found in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Rosario
-- in this metropolis alone there are seven Armenian colleges, five
churches and numerous NGOS and restaurants. A highly united community
with soccer allegiances the only dividing-line, the envoy concludes.


From: Baghdasarian