British Armenian All Party Parliamentary Group
Nor Serount Publications
The Armenian Genocide Trust
Report on House of Commons Meeting on
Genocide Denial and the UK Government's "Ethical Foreign Policy"
Held on 22 June 2007
Tel 07876561398 or 07718982732
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The meeting was convened on the day that a new Prime Minister took up the seals of office and in anticipation of a subsequent cabinet reshuffle. Its purpose was to focus on the present UK government policy as it affected both the Armenian Genocide recognition and the current genocide in Darfur in the hope that it could become more effective and ethical.
The meeting was sponsored by David Drew MP and chaired by John Bercow MP. The chairman gave an overview of the terrible events in Darfur and the lack of effective international action to stop the carnage. He proposed that the inability to clearly condemn earlier genocides was one factor that allowed more than 60 repetitions of such crimes against humanity in the essentially genocidal 20th century.
Ruth Barnet, a survivor of the Holocaust who works with genocide survivors, stated that a diaspora remains troubled by genocide until it is recognised by the perpetrator. Denial consists of attempts to cover the evidence and to argue the events never happened. This worsens the psychological impact as true mourning cannot commence and survivors who carry the burden of memory cannot live their lives to their full potential. These feelings spread down the generations and are carried until the proper acknowledgement is given. The murdered ancestors are a loss to the whole of humanity, not just to their own people. A ‘genocide footprint’ can measure the destruction of humanity just as a carbon footprint the destruction of the environment. Each time there is no protest at genocide, a footprint is made on the human soul for the loss of the living and the unborn. What is needed for sufficient people to protest so as to make a difference to the direction of governments and other state organisations.
Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, brought out the startling similarities between the Armenian Genocide and Darfur even though these are over 90 years apart. Both have a victimising power that claims to be responding to a threat from a minority in the context of external conflict (1st World War, fight against terrorism), the use of irregular forces against civilians coordinated by government forces, the use of privation and violence as a means of extermination, good communication of the unfolding events to the outside world who response is high on rhetoric and low on action. In both cases, the perpetrators have not been held effectively to account, and denial continues despite the wealth of information to the contrary from reliable independent sources. The Armenian Genocide can be seen as a good prototype for denialism and Darfur follows the Turkish model of obfuscation and dissemination of confusion. Even today, Turkish denialism is rampant having temporarily closed a New York exhibition on the Rwandan genocide (because of a single reference to the Armenian Genocide) and the activities of TARC (Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Committee) aimed at diverting attention from the real issues. Denial legitimises the original murders and avoids addressing prevention. It must be met head-on.
Yet today there is an International Criminal Court which may have to wait decades before it is given the powers to prosecute the indicted of Darfur. Meanwhile, the Sudanese authorities still benefit from significant oil revenues using it to buy the hardware for repression, continue to control the irregular forces that brutalise civilians and the much talked about no fly zone has not been implemented. One wonders if the world had acted in concerted effort to stop the killing of Armenians in 1915, the 20th century may have been a different place.
Turkish society is beginning to change with some of the new generation becoming more aware of the past and challenging radical ultra-nationalistic views. The UK government is not helping this process by supporting the position of the Turkish government. The Aegis Trust would welcome an enquiry not only into the impact of the British foreign policy in failing to identify and stop the killing of Armenians during the 1st World War but also the behaviour of the British government in all subsequent genocides such as Rwanda and the Bosnia. Until we really understand the failings and lessons of these events, and bring the decision makers to account for the failure that leads to unnecessary mass murder of innocents, we will not change the future. We do have to look at history and combat denial to apply these lessons.
HE Dr Vahe Gabrielyan, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia, applauded the convergence of many organisations to focus on all genocides and the relationship between them. The outcome of the recognition of past genocides should be not only be the moral and ethical tribute to the survivors but also lead to the prevention of potential future repetition. Because the Armenian Genocide has not been condemned, further appalling events could not be stopped. There should be a united front against all genocides across all nations backed by huge cross-border and cross-people pressure on all governments. Only then will governments, including the UK, act to the required measures.
The government of Armenia with its people adds voice to the international community to stop the atrocities in Darfur. The lessons from the Armenian Genocide should be input to this initiative so as to achieve effective action.
Wednesday, 4 July 2007