You're talking nonsense, Mr Ambassador
All the while, new diplomatic archives are opening to reveal the
smell of death - Armenian death
By Robert Fisk:
A letter from the Turkish Ambassador
to the Court of Saint James arrived for me a few days ago, one
of those missives that send a shudder through the human soul.
"You allege that an 'Armenian genocide' took place in Eastern
Anatolia in 1915," His Excellency Mr Akin Alptuna told me. "I
believe you have some misconceptions about those events ..."
Oh indeedy doody, I have. I am under the totally mistaken
conception that one and a half million Armenians were cruelly
and deliberately done to death by their Turkish Ottoman masters
in 1915, that the men were shot and knifed while their womenfolk
were raped and eviscerated and cremated and starved on death
marches and their children butchered. I have met a few of the
survivors - liars to a man and woman, if the Turkish ambassador
to Britain is to be believed - and I have seen the photographs
taken of the victims by a brave German photographer called Armen
Wegner whose pictures must now, I suppose, be consigned to the
waste bins. So must the archives of all those diplomats who
courageously catalogued the mass murders inflicted upon Turkey's
Christian population on the orders of the gang of nationalists
who ran the Ottoman government in 1915. What would have been our
reaction if the ambassador of Germany had written a note to the
same effect? "You allege that a 'Jewish genocide' took place in
Eastern Europe between 1939 and 1945 ... I believe you have some
misconceptions about those events..." Of course, the moment such
a letter became public, the ambassador of Germany would be
condemned by the Foreign Office, our man in Berlin would - even
the pusillanimous Blair might rise to the occasion - be
withdrawn for consultations and the European Union would debate
whether sanctions should be placed upon Germany.
But Mr Alptuna need have no such worries. His country is not a
member of the European Union - it merely wishes to be - and it
was Mr Blair's craven administration that for many months tried
to prevent Armenian participation in Britain's Holocaust Day.
Amid this chicanery, there are a few shining bright lights and I
should say at once that Mr Alp-tuna's letter is a grotesque rep-resentation
of the views of a growing number of Turkish citizens, a few of
whom I have the honour to know, who are convinced that the story
of the great evil visited upon the Armenians must be told in
their country. So why, oh why, I ask myself, are Mr Alptuna and
his colleagues in Paris and Beirut and other cities still
peddling this nonsense?
In Lebanon, for example, the Turkish embassy has sent a "communiquZ"
to the local French-language L'OrientLeJour newspaper, referring
to the "soi-disant (so-called) Armenian genocide" and asking why
the modern state of Armenia will not respond to the Turkish call
for a joint historical study to "examine the events" of 1915.
In fact, the Armenian president, Robert Kotcharian, will not
respond to such an invitation for the same reason that the
world's Jewish community would not respond to the call for a
similar examination of the Jewish Holocaust from the Iranian
president - because an unprecedented international crime was
committed, the mere questioning of which would be an insult to
the millions of victims who perished.
But the Turkish appeals are artfully concocted. In Beirut, they
recall the Allied catastrophe at Gallipoli in 1915 when British,
French, Australian and New Zealand troops suffered massive
casualties at the hands of the Turkish army. In all - including
Turkish soldiers - up to a quarter of a million men perished in
the Dardanelles. The Turkish embassy in Beirut rightly states
that the belligerent nations of Gallipoli have transformed these
hostilities into gestures of reconciliation, friendship and
mutual respect. A good try. But the bloodbath of Gallipoli did
not involve the planned murder of hundreds of thousands of
British, French, Australian, New Zealand - and Turkish - women
But now for the bright lights. A group of "righteous Turks" are
challenging their government's dishonest account of the 1915
genocide: Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran, Halil Berktay, Hrant Dink,
Ragip Zarakolu and others claim that the "democratic process" in
Turkey wil "chip away at the darkness" and they seek help from
Armenians in doing so. Yet even they will refer only to the 1915
"disaster", the "tragedy", and the "agony" of the Armenians. Dr
Fatma Gocek of the University of Michigan is among the bravest
of those Turkish-born academics who are fighting to confront the
Ottoman Empire's terror against the Armenians. Yet she, too,
objects to the use of the word genocide - though she
acknowledges its accuracy - on the grounds that it has become "politicised"
and thus hinders research.
I have some sympathy with this argument. Why make the job of
honest Turks more difficult when these good men and women are
taking on the might of Turkish nationalism? The problem is that
other, more disreputable folk are demanding the same deletion.
Mr Alputuna writes to me - with awesome disingenuousness - that
Ar-menians "have failed to submit any irrefutable evidence to
support their allegations of genocide". And he goes on to say
that "genocide, as you are well aware, has a quite specific
legal definition" in the UN's 1948 Convention. But Mr Alputuna
is himself well aware - though he does not say so, of course -
that the definition of geno-cide was set out by Raphael
Lemkin, a Jew, in specific reference to the wholesale mass
slaughter of the Armenians.
And all the while, new diplomatic archives are opening in the
West which reveal the smell of death - Armenian death - in their
pages. I quote here, for example, from the newly discovered
account of Denmark's minister in Turkey during the First World
War. "The Turks are vigorously carrying through their cruel
intention, to exterminate the Armenian people," Carl Wandel
wrote on 3 July 1915. The Bishop of Karput was ordered to leave
Aleppo within 48 hours "and it has later been learned that this
Bishop and all the clergy that accompanied him have be e n.
killed between Diyarbekir and Urfa at a place where
approximately 1,700 Armenian families have suffered the same
fate... In Angora ... approximately 6,000 men ... have been shot
on the road.e v en here in Constantinople (Istanbul), Armenians
are being abducted and sent to Asia..."
There is much, much more. Yet now here is Mr Alptuna in his
letter to me: "In fact, the Armenians living outside Eastern
Armenia including Istanbul... were excluded from deportation."
Somebody here is not telling the truth. The late Mr Wandel of
Copenhagen? Or the Turkish Ambassador to the Court of St James?
Al the while, new diplomatic archives are opening to reveal the
smell of death - Armenian death
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