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You are not allowed to go and forget

100 years have passed since the genocide of the Armenians in 1915. Turkey still denies that it took place.


On April 24 each year, the Armenian people and the diaspora around the world mark the day when thousands of Armenian leaders were deported and executed in Istanbul. This day marked the beginning of the Armenian genocide in the remnants of the Ottoman Empire and in the birth of the modern Turkish Republic. This genocide is one of the great tragedies of the last century. It is estimated that at least three-quarters of all Armenians in Turkey – 1,5 million people – were massacred, starved to death or died during exhausting transport stages in the Syrian desert. This, along with the assassinations of Assyrians and Black Sea Greeks, ushered in a new era in which states increasingly used organized violence and mass murder as their political strategy. The genocide showed how entire sections of the population could be branded enemies of the state during a war. Similarity. The caves in the Syrian desert Der-Zor were used by the young Turkish regime as the gas chambers of the time. The deported Armenians had no food or drink, they were attacked, raped and murdered or taken as slaves – including sex slaves. This area is currently under ISIS control. The atrocities and abuses against minorities and dissidents that led to the genocide at the time have similarities with the actions carried out by ISIS today. In a recently published World Watch list from 2014, which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted, Syria is listed as the world's third worst nation. Iraq is in fourth place, Afghanistan is in fifth and Libya is in thirteenth place. All these countries have the strongest definition, "extreme persecution". But these four nations have, in addition to high rankings on this list, one more thing in common: heavy Western involvement. Both Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been "liberated" thanks to Western forces, while the West is actively supporting "freedom fighters", many of whom should have been labeled "terrorists" in Syria. While Western media focus little on these persecutions, Arab media, websites and activists report daily on atrocities: bombing of churches, Christians being beheaded and slaughtered for refusing to convert to Islam, kidnappings for ransom, rapes – in the hands of the West supports. The rebels, who are largely Muslim extremists, persecute and kill Christian minority groups. Many Christians have been killed, and even more have had to flee the country. Militant Islamists with Turkish support and help destroy churches and public buildings and loot Christian homes. They use Turkey as a shelter, springboard and weapons center to kill innocent people and destroy the infrastructure of the Syrian people. Nevertheless, the world community remains silent. "Turkish nationalism, which began to take root in the late 1800th century, was a mixture of megalomania and inferiority complexes," says historian Bård Larsen, project manager of the liberal think tank Civita, who has written a master's thesis on the ideology of young Turks. "Paradoxically, we see that where the young Turks wanted to 'save' the caliphate by exterminating the Christians, the Islamic State today wants to restore the caliphate with many of the same violent methods," he said. Denies the genocide. The genocide of 1915 is the world's second most studied genocide, but Turkey still denies that it actually happened. Turkish authorities claim that the high death tolls of the period were rather due to civil war, disease waves, attacks by road robbers and famine, and react violently to any country that recognizes the killings of the Armenians as a genocide. Furthermore, any recognition of the genocide is illegal under Article 301 of Turkish law, and many people have been convicted and imprisoned for claiming that it was a genocide. Christian minorities continue to be oppressed in the country, and human rights practices are weak. "A genocide can take place in two stages: first, the physical annihilation, then the denial that it took place," says Bård Larsen. "The thing is that today Turkey is almost homogeneous, with the exception of the Kurds. All the Christian minorities were purged, making the Armenian genocide one of history's most successful. ” According to Larsen, Turkey has painted itself into a corner. "It is hard to admit that today's Turkey and Turkish state formation are based on a genocide. Any flap of concession will overturn big loads, ”he says. "It is a growing demand from an increasing number of intellectuals, academics and journalists, and not least from the Kurds, that Turkey recognizes the genocide. It will be difficult to carry out total censorship without being perceived as a dictatorship. That is why a comprehensive process is now taking place in Turkey. ” The increased pressure from more and more agencies is noticeable. During a meeting in Istanbul with various representatives from the environmental parties around Europe on 7-9. November 2014 the spokesman from the Greens in Turkey declared that they acknowledged the genocide of the Armenians. The Greens are a very small party in the country, and they have no representatives in parliament. Recently, Selahattin Demirtas, leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) and former presidential candidate, reiterated that they too have acknowledged the genocide. Norway doubts. Around the world, activists in the Armenian diaspora have tried to demand formal recognition of the genocide from various governments and international bodies. International organizations that have recognized the genocide include the European Parliament, which recently called on all EU countries to do the same, as well as the Council of Europe, the World Council of Churches (KV), the Human Rights Association (Turkey), the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, Mercosur and more. To date, more than 20 countries have also recognized the events as genocide, while the United States and Britain have not. The Swedish Parliament came with its recognition in 2010 – while in Norway there is still much discussion. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway distances itself from all abuses and violations of human rights, but they do not want to call the massacre a genocide. The reason is that it is far back in time, and the assessment is that with a view to peace and reconciliation, it is not appropriate to go into the question. Nor have any Norwegian politicians made any political statement condemning the genocide of the Armenians. The NATO country Turkey, which lies between Asia and Europe, functions as a buffer state, and Norway has so far chosen a line of silence to maintain its friendship with and avoid reactions from Turkey. But what if the silence contributes to forgetting a tragic chapter in human history? According to Larsen, Norway's disclaimer is based on three factors: "Firstly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims that it does not want to recognize the genocide because there could be a rift between Turkey and Armenia. The question then becomes how one can have reconciliation without first acknowledging what has taken place, "he says. "No one thought that blacks in South Africa would forget what had taken place during the apartheid regime when the peace and reconciliation process took place, and the reconciliation processes in Rwanda or South Africa would never have taken place if the abusers had not acknowledged their actions," he said. . For both Armenians and the Armenian diaspora, it has always been a prerequisite that Turkey acknowledges the genocide before the basis for reconciliation can be said to be present. "Secondly, it is claimed that it is the historians who must decide – but that has happened a long time ago, and the conclusion is clear," says Larsen. "This genocide has been a major research object for many years. The fact that there is still a debate about whether the genocide took place only shows that Turkey is succeeding in its diplomacy. It is politically controversial, but professionally uncontroversial, "Larsen emphasizes. Two of the world's foremost international law lawyers, Jeffrey Robertson and William Schabas, have claimed that there are three genocides that meet the legal criteria: Rwanda, the Holocaust and the genocide of the Armenians. In addition, both are the two major interdisciplinary organizations for genocide research and the International Association of Genocide Scholars – crystal clear that there was a genocide in 1915.

"A genocide can take place in two stages: first, the physical annihilation, then the denial that it took place." Bård Larsen.

"Third, it is argued that it is in principle problematic to apply this concept of historical events that took place before the convention was created," Larsen continues. "But the notion that the Genocide Convention has no retroactive effect does not mean that the Holocaust cannot be defined as genocide either. It has never been the intention that the convention should not be able to function retroactively, "he says. It is also part of history that the Armenian genocide was the beginning of the work that led to the adoption of the UN Genocide Convention in 1948. The Polish lawyer Rafael Lemkin, who in 1942 launched the term "genocide" to describe the crime the Armenians had been subjected to, began his work on the subject after a survivor of the massacres had assassinated the former interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, Mehmed Talaat, in Berlin in 1921. Turkish authorities had organized forced relocations, massacres and abuses without anyone being held accountable. At that time, there was no law to punish the authorities in a country. This provoked Lemkin, who wanted to make laws that states must also follow. It is now 100 years since the genocide took place. It has already been marked with events across large parts of the world, and more is on the way. Among other things, several heads of state and presidents from various countries, including France, Russia, Poland and Cyprus, will pay a visit to the Tsitsernakaberd monument in Yerevan on April 24. At the same time, the legendary rock band System of a Down will hold a free concert in memory of the victims. A well-known quote about the Armenian genocide is the following statement by Adolf Hitler: "Who, after all, is talking today about the destruction of the Armenians?" Hitler tried to convince his colleagues that a Jewish Holocaust would be tolerated by the West. In other words, pushing genocide under the pillow to cover one's own political goals can be a disaster. "The 100th anniversary does not offer any big surprises," says Larsen. He believes that the lack of response from the international community is a bit as expected, and that it is naive to believe that the geostrategic situation in the world will change due to the 100th anniversary. "But it is important that people in other countries support this process, and that the world community does not tacitly accept the genocide, but acknowledges it. The Armenians have far from received the support they need, "he says. Several Norwegian people helped the Armenians when the need was great. Is it not time that we turn this around by addressing the issue, and that the Norwegian government follow up with a separate statement acknowledging the genocide? Recognition could prove to be a victory for all parties: Turkey can recover from a national trauma, and the Armenians can get the recognition they have been denied. Norway can help to do something about this. Not only for the Armenians, but for humanity. We must never allow a genocide to happen again – not against anyone.

Papazian is a freelance journalist for Ny Tid.

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