Monday, March 08, 2010

Armenian Genocide Fight Once Again Returns to the United States

From the late 1800s to the end of the Ottoman Empire and the beginning of the Republic of Turkey, Ottoman and Kurdish forces massacred over a million Armenians in a program of ethnic cleansing. There were also genocidal programs against Assyrians, ethnic cleansing, both peaceful and violent, targeting Greeks, and other moments ethnic killings. The genocides were based on Turkish fears of minorities allying with foreigners, Turkish desire for the creation of a pure nation-state, and Islamic extremism. These events were truly tragic and prime examples of the darkside of humanity.

Today Turkey, Turkish-Americans, Armenia, and Armenian-Americans are locked in a battle over House Resolution 252 which is a non-binding resolution calling on President Obama to formally call the mass killings "genocide." Armenian-American groups are campaigning hard with ads and websites denouncing Turkish denial and Turkish-American lobbying efforts. Pro-Turkish responded by saying to call the killings "genocide" would harm relations with Turkey, that the Armenian ads are disrespectful, and by pointing out that there were/are Armenian terrorists.

The debate over "genocide" is one that the Turks have made worse by their repeated denials that anything happened, stating everyone suffered during the time in question, and by some locals oddly saying they have no idea of what happened to the Armenians because they all left on their own accord and did not tell the Turkish authorities where they went. Armenians have gone from "depressed-angry" because of the genocide to "bloodlust" because of Turkish denials. A diaspora group called the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) became the first international terrorist organization that was active in multiple theaters (rather than active in one country while merely fundraising in others like Irish republican groups). Today the ARF in Armenia is a socialist political party in the ruling coalition, the third-largest party and one time militant faction in the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which was involved in ethnic cleansing of Azeri Turks, and a member of the March 7th political alliance with Hezbollah in Lebanon (there have been reports that Hezbollah is intimidated by the ARF and will not enter Armenian villages). Internationally, the ARF is expansionist demanding much of the former ethnic Armenian territory be combined into a Greater Armenia.

Some feel that America needs to recognize the genocide to prevent others and close the sad chapter in history. Others state that America has no business in getting involved in a 100 year old historical battle between foreigners when more pressing issues are at hand. Many presidential candidates, including then Senator Obama, vowed to recognize the killings as genocide but other considerations such as Turkish-American relations have stopped any campaign pledge from becoming reality (though President Ronald Reagan described the killings as genocide in a proclamation). And thus the battle over history goes on and on as Armenian history diehards battle Turkish nationalist diehards while both sides attempt to get the United States, forty-three American states, and other countries involved.

2 comments:

Ali said...

All Turks, except the most extreme of the extreme nationalists, recognize that there were large scale massacres of Armenians during and right after World War I. The reason that the word genocide sticks in the throat is because we were victims of the exact same massacres in those times. Something like ten percent of all Turks are decendants of the survivors of violent anti-Muslim, anti-Turkish pogroms that took place from 1850 until the First World War in the Balkans and the Caucasus. We don't understand why Turkey should be shamed, when Serbia, Bulgaria, Armenia, and Russia are not called out on what they did to their minorities.
Let us remember 100 years ago the land that is now the Republic of Armenia was 70 percent Turkish. Where did those Turks go?

Dan tdaxp said...

A similar race-based decolonization occurred in the transition from the Empire of the Great Qing to the Chinese Republic. History can be so terrible. :-(