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The denial of the Armenian Genocide has been going on for one Century. It is time for Norway to take a stand.

 

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This year Armenians and the world remember that it is 100 years ago since the then Ottoman Empire launched a large-scale ethnic cleansing of Anatolia’s 2 million Armenians. Until 1915 about 2 million Armenians populated this area. This was a people rich in culture and traditions. 2 million Armenians were at the end of the First World War and up to 1922 decimated to about 400,000. What happened to 1.5 million Armenians?

The vast majority of historians and scholars in the world has no doubt that this was the first genocide of the 20th Century.  Taken into account that modern Armenia is less than 10% of historic Armenia, the most tragic fact is that the descendants of the perpetrators who carried out this hideous crime against humanity  deny that it happened and are willing to use all  possible kinds of  propaganda , including lies and falsification of historical facts to avoid coming to terms with its own bloody history. How would it be if Germany officially denied the Shoa – the Holocaust and in addition was furious at any nation or person who tried to discuss the matter ? This is the case for the Armenian people – a people who, like the Jews, were subjected to the worst kinds of  abuse. We are actually talking about an attempt to eliminate them from the surface of the earth just because they were Armenians. The survivors and their predecessors now live in a small country – only a fractio of the area of their historical homeland. There is also a large Armenian diaspora spread around the world, keeping up their language and traditions and never forgetting the heinous crimes their forefathers were subjected to.  Turkey cannot hide from these cruelties – it will always be reminded  of its bloody past, and sooner or later will have to come to terms with the historical facts.  The world should never forget the words of Adolf Hitler that he spoke to his generals when he wanted to exterminate the Polish people: “It’s just a matter of getting rid of them  all. The Ottomans ditched the Armenians and see nobody talks about them now. ”  Thank  goodness many people are talking  about the Armenians –  and many are going to participate in the 100 years  commemoration  on  April 24th 2015. The first day   of the 1915  genocide.

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Turkey’s penal code – article 301

It is worth noticing that our NATO ally, Turkey, considers it a crime to address the issue of what happened with the Armenians. It is stated in the Turkish Penal Code, article 301 that it is forbidden to insult Turkishness. This article is frequently used. There is nothing that provokes Turkey more than critical investigation of the incident in 1915. Most notably are the attempts to gag writer and Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who is Turkish. He frequently addresses this issue and talks about the genocide of Armenians as “the elephant in the room.”  Simply something nobody talks about.  Turkey on the other hand, boasts its geopolitical and strategic importance as a western ally.  Western politicians are afraid to jeopardize their connections and the goodwill they have with Turkey. Unfortunately, the  so-called nation of peace –  Norway actively contributes to  casting  doubt on the historical facts by repeatedly refusing to deal with the  genocide  issue.  It has not, by any government been recognized as such.

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In the US, the committed Armenian diaspora has for years worked to get Congress to condemn the Armenian genocide. Turkey, which cut military ties with France over a similar action, has responded with angry threats. A bill on the recognition of the genocide and condemnation of the same was almost approved by Congress  in the Fall of  2007, but the Bush administration turned  at the last minute because of Turkey’s threats about not being able to use Turkish airspace in the Iraqi war. It is nonetheless worth noting that 47 of 50 US states condemn the Armenian Genocide. In addition, most western countries both recognize that this was a genocide and condemn it . Here we are talking  about  main European democracies such as Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, France,  Italy, Sweden.

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What I think is incredibly sad is that Israel does not recognize the Genocide of the Armenians. The reason being that Israel has had a good relationship with Turkey and is afraid of the reactions. At one point, when there was a genocide conference in Israel, the Turks threatened to expel all Jews from Turkey if the Armenians were invited to the conference. So they were not, and the Armenian Genocide was not mentioned.

Short summary of the facts of the Armenian Genocide

Briefly, three officers who were called The Young Turks came to power in the Ottoman Empire in 1908. These extremists were determined to modernize and turkify  what would become Turkey. With several defeats against opponents and an increasing reduction of the Ottoman influence, the Armenians had to pay! Armenians were consistently accused of siding with Turkey’s enemy Russia, despite the fact that it applied for only a few, but still the aim was to eradicate the  entire population of Armenians.

Armenian genocide: Armenian flag

 April 24th  1915

 

On April 24, 1915, several hundred Armenian intellectuals were arrested and later executed. This is considered the start of the Armenian genocide. A violent commotion of Turkish soldiers removed whole villages of Armenians and sent them off on a hike in long rows without food and drink until they  collapsed and died. Tens of thousands were drowned in the Black Sea, many thousands were detained in labor camps where they worked until they died of exhaustion. There were executions in mass graves, and the major death marches of men, women and children across the Syrian desert to concentration camps. Most died before they could see the concentration camps and it might have been just as well this situation because they would have been killed there anyway.

Much of this was pretty well documented at the time by Western diplomats, missionaries and others. Although Turkey’s ally, Germany, was silent at the time, the Germans have in  recent years documented that German diplomats and military officers expressed dismay over what was happening.

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The Peace Negotiations after WW1

In the Peace of Sevres,  President Woodrow Wilson suggested a peace agreement which meant that the first Armenian republic would founded on part of Armenia’s historic areas. The proposed land area was to include Armenian cities like Erzurum, Bitlis and Van which were the main areas of the Armenian population before the genocide. This area was expanded to the north, up west of Trabzon to provide the  First Republic of Armenia access to the Black Sea.

The United States Senate rejected the mandate for Armenia in 1920. The outbreak of the Turkish War of Independence resulted in the fact that the Ottoman Empire could not accept the peace terms and went to war against Armenia.

The  Treaty of Lausanne of July 24th 1923 was critical for Armenia. The war  between Turkey and a number of countries was  officially terminated. This was the result of a new attempt for peace after the failed peace in Sevres, which was signed by all previous parties, but later rejected by the Turkish national movement that fought against the former conditions and significant loss of territory. The  Treaty of Lausanne defined boundaries of the modern Turkish Republic. Armenia was not represented in Lausanne.

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Remembrance Day 24th April 2015

The Armenian president Sarkysian has now invited all world leaders to attend the commemoration of the Armenian genocide on the 24th April, including leading politicians in Norway and the Turkish President Erdogan. Turkey’s answer to this is not really surprising, but it is very shocking. In an unprecedented act of political folly Turkey has now – and this year only – decided that the  anniversary of the Allied attempt to invade Turkey at Gallipoli will be held  on exactly the same date as the Armenians for years has  commemorated  the  genocide. Turks are well aware that the Allied landings in Gallipoli began on April 25th  and not the 24th , and earlier the  date for the anniversary has been set to March 18th  Just this year Erdogan has  invited all important leaders in the world to celebrate the 24th  April. Not only that, he has invited the Armenian President too!

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Despite the fact that  the genocide of Armenians occurred nearly one hundred years ago, this is still very relevant considering that  Turkey has not come to terms with its past.

When a Turkish politician Dodu Perinçek in 2007 in Switzerland mentioned the genocide of Armenians as “an international lie”, he was convicted by a Swiss court. Genocide denial is prohibited in Switzerland. The Perinçek case was appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which concluded that Switzerland had violated freedom of speech. It should come as no surprise that the Turkish authorities were on the pitch and produced a number of historic documents that stated that the genocide never occurred. The case is now being appealed by Armenian authorities. They have very good lawyers on their  team, among others Geoffrey Robertson who recently published the book “An Inconvenient Genocide” and human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

 

What should the international community do about this?

The international community must put pressure Turkey to acknowledge actual historical facts. Turkey must apologize and make sure to pay compensation to the Armenians and to Armenia. Among other things, Armenia’s national symbol Mount Ararat is situated  in today’s  Turkey. A good way to recognize and apologize for the genocide would be to adjust the borders  so that Armenia gets back some of the areas from where they were removed and slaughtered, and Mount Ararat is probably the most important issue  for the Armenians.

The continued denial of genocide does not contribute favorably to Turkey’s probable accession to the EU, something especially Angela Merkel has communicated to Erdogan.

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Norway must attend April 24th

On April 24th the  centenary for the Armenian Genocide will be commemorated  in Armenia’s capital Yerevan. The Pope has accepted the invitation, Angela Merkel is coming. The same goes for François Hollande. Most European nations are represented at a high level.

In Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, one can enjoy the sight of a large statue of Fridtjof Nansen, a hero among Armenians. Nansen helped countless people survive the genocide with his Nansen Passports and worked actively for  Armenia to become an independent state. I live in suspense: Will the Norwegian authorities be represented in Yerevan and will Norway recognize the genocide? Sweden has already done so.

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