Friday, 24 April 2015

Armenian News...A Topalian - Thank you for The UK news papers for the long awaited interest in our plight and the heart break that each and every Armenian who passed away who were failed by Turkey's denial of the 1915 Genocide!
Thursday 23 April 2015
The battle over the word genocide is all but won, but the official
Turkish state remains in denial Recep Tayyip Erdoðan's government
in Turkey 'has essentially decided that its distorted version of
the origins of the state will remain in place'.

It is a hard thing to admit that the state to which you belong was
founded on a crime and that the history taught in your schools is
full of lies. Yet there is no redemption without repentance and,
on the centenary of the beginning of the genocidal campaign against
the Armenians, it is sad to record that Turkey has still not faced
the facts about what happened in 1915. The answer is quite simple in
outline, if complex in its dreadful detail. The Armenians, who had
lived in Anatolia since long before Turks arrived from central Asia,
were killed, deported, or forcibly converted to Islam. Estimates
suggest that at least 600,000 perished, while hundreds of thousands
were expelled from or fled the Turkish lands, never to return.

Turkey has never accepted the term genocide, even though 
historians have demolished its denial of responsibility for 
up to 1.5 million deaths.

For a shamefully long time the world was complicit in Turkey's
insistence that the suffering of the Armenians, and of Assyrian
Christians as well, was not different in kind from that of other
peoples, including ethnic Turks, during the convulsions caused by the
first world war across Europe, and, in particular, that it was unfair
to call it genocide. But scholarship, including some distinguished
Turkish work, has increasingly ruled out the "bad things happen in war"
thesis, while an extraordinary effort among Armenians of the diaspora
to rescue and deepen their own national memory of events and to pass
that on to others has gradually changed public opinion in Europe and
America. The United States still avoids the word genocide, as does
Britain. But legislature after legislature has passed resolutions using
the word, with Austria and Germany, which had long resisted its use,
the latest to do so. The German formulation is still equivocal, and so
is the position of Pope Francis, who pronounced on the issue earlier
this month. But the battle over the name has essentially been won.

This struggle has mattered intensely to Armenians and Turks, but it
has also sometimes stood in the way of a more historically grounded
understanding of events. The Armenian-American writer William Saroyan
has a character in one of his plays say: "The world is amok ... Life is
on fire; caught in hurricanes; submerged in deep and blind waters ..."

He might have coined those words to describe the Ottoman empire as
it drifted towards a final shipwreck in the late 19th century. It
is not too much to say that those who were in charge of the empire
were for most of the time in a state of despair, or that they hardly
understood the forces that were changing their once multiethnic state
into something else.

By the middle of the world war "a government had come to believe that
among its subject peoples whole nations presented an immediate threat
to the security of the state," the historian Ronald Suny writes.

"Defence of the empire and of the nation became the rationale for
mass murder." And there was tinder available: Armenians and Kurds had
for a long time been in competition for power and land in territory
they both thought was theirs. The empire, when it worked, had kept
that rivalry, in which the Kurds were the persistent aggressors,
below a certain level of violence. But when the reins were slipped,
the Turkish government had eager executors of its will to hand.

The Kurds, ironically, then suffered from Turkish ethnic chauvinism
in their turn. There was no attempt to physically destroy them as a
people, but their language was suppressed and their identity denied.

They were supposed to turn into Turks, but refused to do so, a refusal
that recent Turkish governments have reluctantly come to accept. The
Kurds now, after their own bitter experience, are well to the fore
in recognising and regretting their role in 1915. Some, perhaps many,
ethnic Turks also know that the national narrative is problematic.

But the official Turkish state remains wedded to its threadbare myth,
fulminating and recalling ambassadors whenever the word genocide
is pronounced. This year it has even moved the anniversary of the
Gallipoli campaign so it coincides with the Armenian anniversary,
hoping to obscure one remembrance with another. Ministers will attend
some other, tamer ceremonies. But the Erdoðan government, which in
earlier years gave some cause for hope on this issue, has essentially
decided that its distorted version of the origins of the state will
remain in place.
It's pure sophistry that stops Britain recognising the Armenian 
23 April 2015
Alex Dudok de Wit 

The centenary falls tomorrow, but British Armenians aren't holding their breath for a change in the government's line

What do Kim Kardashian and Pope Francis have in common, apart from an impressive wardrobe? In the past few weeks, they have both been raising awareness of the Armenian Genocide, whose centenary falls on April 24.

While the Kardashians minced around their ancestral homeland, flitting between genocide memorials and upscale restaurants, the Pope declared that what happened one hundred years ago was indeed a genocide. Money can’t buy this kind of PR.

In a sense, the Pope was stating the obvious: on the evidence, the systematic displacement and slaughter of between one and two million Armenians by the Ottoman authorities indisputably amounted to genocide. Yet his intervention was significant.

Most of the world’s governments, including Turkey’s, the USA’s and our own, refuse to use the “g” word, preferring euphemistic terms like “tragedy”. Ankara lacks the moral courage to recognise the crimes of its predecessor for what they are, and its allies dare not offend it by disagreeing.

The British government has a strong track record in sophistry. Since Turkey became a strategic partner in the Nineties, the Foreign Office has been honing a set of cod-legal arguments designed to deceive Parliament – and by extension the electorate – into believing that the term “genocide” is not appropriate in this case.

Its current position is that it will only use the label if an international tribunal has already done so. This is a nimble legal dodge, which rules out recognising almost every genocide in history. 

A more honest reason for our government’s equivocation is given in an internal memo, obtained through a Freedom of Information request lodged by human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. “Given the importance of our relations with Turkey,” reads one passage, “and that recognising the genocide would provide no practical benefit to the UK… [denial] is the only feasible option.”

Memory of the genocide unifies the Armenian diaspora, which exists largely because of it. The majority of British Armenians believe that recognition by Parliament would be a huge symbolic gesture (not to mention a reaffirmation of Britain’s commitment to the Genocide Convention), and continue to press for it. 

Increasingly, the campaign to raise awareness of the genocide is being played out at the grassroots level. In 2010 Ealing Council – which represents a sizeable Armenian community – carried a motion to recognise it and plant a commemorative apricot tree on Ealing Green.

Even this elicited a furious reaction from the Turkish embassy, and local Labour MP Stephen Pound tells me that one dissenter tried to punch him at an advice clinic; yet despite the opposition, the tree has become a rallying point for peaceful demonstrations against the Turkish government, and a potent symbol of the living memories of the crimes.

Others bypass political channels altogether. Raphael Gregorian, president of the Armenian Society at Soas, tells me that it is important to keep British Armenians in touch with their cultural roots, while encouraging them to appreciate the heritage they share with Turks. “If an Armenian meets a Turk, they shouldn’t be scared – we’re people of the same land,” he says, before enumerating the events he’s organised together with the Turkish and Kurdish Societies.

He tells me of two Turkish students who initially kept their distance from these joint events, before relenting and coming to a talk on the genocide. They were fascinated by what they learned, and now attend regularly. The lesson here is that in its denial of the genocide, Ankara does not speak for all Turks, many of whom are now coming to terms with their history and beginning to criticise their government’s position.

Tolerant voices like Gregorian’s are still in the minority. But as a new generation of British Armenians, born in the diaspora and raised liberally, make use of social media and cheap flights to interact directly with Turks, their activism may lead to a way out of the political deadlock.

Britain’s dependence on Ankara as a stable friend in a volatile region is growing, and the prospect of governments negotiating a reconciliation is receding. On the centenary tomorrow realpolitik will carry the day, and Parliament won’t change its line. More than ever, British Armenians will be tempted to consider other ways of making themselves heard
Ian Black
Thursday 23 April 2015 

Foreign Office documents show a need to emphasise suffering in 1915
massacres but to continue policy of avoiding the G-word to avoid
angering Turkey

Armenia and its tragic history has had an intensive blast of media
coverage in the run-up to the April 24 centenary of what is now widely
- though not universally - referred to as the genocide of 1915.

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Francois Hollande will be in Yerevan
representing Russia and France, the two most important countries
to have risked Turkey's wrath and use the G-word with reference to
the mass deportations and killings in the final days of the Ottoman
Empire. The US, which also does not use it, is sending the Treasury
Secretary, Jack Lew. Britain will be represented by John Whittingdale,
the Conservative chairman of the all party committee on Armenia.

Turkey has never accepted the term genocide, even though historians
have demolished its denial of responsibility for up to 1.5 million

No disrespect intended to Whittingdale, to the UK ambassador to Armenia
or to the Bishop of London, who will also be there. But the level
of UK representation is far below that of the three other permanent
members of the UN security council. Another point of comparison
is that the Prince of Wales is leading the UK delegation to the
Gallipoli centenary commemoration on the same day. And the date for
that, Armenians believe, was chosen deliberately by the Turks - long
loyal Nato allies - to overshadow their own event at the Genocide
Memorial in Yerevan.

Britain's position on genocide recognition is not new. But documents
released under the freedom of information act - though heavily redacted
- shed light on an internal government debate 18 months ago about
whether its policy should change. The outcome of the discussion -
apparently between the embassy in Yerevan and the minister for Europe
in London - was to continue the policy while taking a "forward-leaning"
stance on participation in commemoration events.

"But we should ensure that this is not mis-read as lack of recognition
(in the wider sense) of the appalling events of 1915-16," the anonymous
official commented. "It would be right to participate more actively
in 2015 centenary events, as well as continue efforts to promote
reconciliation." The foreign office declined to say whether the
presence of Whittingdale and co. indeed represented more active

Ironically, back in May 1915, when the horrors of Armenian suffering
in wartime eastern Anatolia were being extensively reported, Britain,
with its French and Russian allies, condemned what they called a
"crime against humanity" - then a novel phrase. The modern position,
however, is that it is not up to governments to decide what constitutes
genocide. "The UK recognises as genocide only those events that have
been found so by international courts (eg, Holocaust, Srebrenica,
Rwanda) and this needs to dictate our approach on recognition," the
document notes. That view has been robustly challenged by Geoffrey
Robertson, QC, whose arguments apparently galvanised the FCO into
this internal discussion.

Another option was considered in 2013: to follow Russia, France and
others and recognise the Armenian massacres as genocide - given the
May 1915 statement and the preamble to the 1948 UN convention on
genocide. That would "be received positively by both the Armenian
government and the UK diaspora," the document noted
. It added:
"However, this would be a significant and far-reaching change in
HMG policy.
" Tantalisingly, the next sentence has been redacted. So
bizarrely, there is no mention of Turkey at all. Another FCO document
on the issue, which reports on the decision of the Swedish parliament
to adopt the G-word in 2010, refers to the "drastic effect" on
relations between Stockholm and Ankara, including the cancellation
of a visit by the then Turkish prime minister and now, president, Recep
Armenian Church makes saints of 1.5 million genocide victims
The canonisation service comes ahead of the 100th anniversary 
on Friday and tensions over Turkey's continued denial that the 
massacres were not a genocideClerics take part in the canonization ceremony for the victims of the Armenian Genocide in Echmiadzin

The Armenian Church on Thursday conferred sainthood on some 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces a century ago , as tensions raged over Turkey 's refusal to recognise the killings as genocide.

The ceremony, which is believed to be the biggest canonisation service in history, came ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state on Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings.

The two-hour ceremony outside Armenia 's main cathedral, Echmiadzin, close to the capital Yerevan, ended at 7:15 pm local time, 3.15pm GMT, to symbolise the year when the massacres started during the First World War .

"During the dire years of the genocide of the Armenians, millions of our people were uprooted and massacred in a premeditated manner, passed through fire and sword, tasted the bitter fruits of torture and sorrow," Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II, said at the ceremony.

"The canonisation of the martyrs of the genocide brings life-giving new breath, grace and blessing to our national and ecclesiastical life."

Clergymen in ornate robes sang ancient chants outside the imposing cathedral built in a pale pink variety of limestone at an open-air altar in a churchyard full of spring greenery.

At the end of the ceremony attended by Serzh Sarkisian, the Armenian president, bells rang out across Armenia and a minute of silence was observed.

Bells also tolled in cities around the world including New York, Madrid, Venice, Berlin and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Armenian television said.

"Today's canonisation unites all Armenians living around the globe," said Huri Avetikian, an ethnic Armenian librarian from Lebanon who arrived in her ancestral homeland to attend the service.

"Souls of the victims of the genocide will finally find eternal repose today," said Varduhi Shanakian, a 68-year-old social worker.

"Supreme justice will triumph."

In canonising the victims, "the Church only recognises what happened: that is, the genocide", Karekin II said ahead of the event which Christian Today, an online publication covering religious news, said could become "the biggest saint-making service in history".

Ex-Soviet Armenia and the huge Armenian diaspora worldwide have battled for decades to get the First World War massacres at the hands of the Ottoman forces between 1915 and 1917 recognised as a targeted genocide .

But modern Turkey, which was born of the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, has refused to do so, and relations remain frozen to this day.

Ankara says 300,000 to 500,000 Armenians and at least as many Turks died in civil - rather than religious - strife when Armenians rose up against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops.

In a rare interview with Turkish television broadcast Thursday, Mr Sarkisian expressed hope that the two countries could mend fences.

"It is obvious that a reconciliation between the two peoples will have to come about through Turkey recognising the genocide," he told CNN-Turk.

Later Thursday US hard rock band System of a Down whose members are of Armenian descent performed in front of thousands of fans in the pouring rain in Yerevan.

On Friday, hundreds of thousands are expected to join a procession to a hilltop memorial in Yerevan carrying candles and flowers to lay at the eternal flame at the centre of the monument.

In Paris, Los Angeles and other cities, members of the Armenian diaspora that came into existence as a result of the slaughter will also hold commemorations.

Vladimir Putin , the Russian president, and his French counterpart François Hollande are expected to be among a handful of leaders to travel to Armenia for the commemorations, but others are shying away for fear of upsetting Ankara. 

Ahead of the ceremonies, Turkey kicked up a diplomatic storm, condemning growing "racism" in Europe .

On Wednesday Turkey recalled its ambassador to Vienna in protest at the Austrian parliament's decision to call the massacre "genocide."

Earlier this month Ankara also recalled its envoy to the Vatican after Pope Francis described the killings as "the first genocide of the 20th century ".

More than 20 nations - including France and Russia - have so far recognised the Armenian genocide, a definition supported by numerous historians.

But the White House conspicuously avoids using the term.

Turkey on Friday will host world leaders to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli , a day earlier than the actual start of fighting.

Mr Sarkisian has accused Ankara of deliberately "trying to divert world attention" from the Yerevan commemoration

Barack Obama will not label 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide
22 April 2015

US president abandons campaign promise to acknowledge genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks due to opposition from State Department

The administration revealed that Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide

President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week.

Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon.

After more than a week of internal debate, top administration officials discussed the final decision with Armenian-American leaders Tuesday before making it public.

The White House said the officials pledged that the US would use Friday’s centennial anniversary “to urge a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts”.

That language echoed the administration’s five previous statements on the anniversary, as well as those of previous administrations. But it did not use the word “genocide,” as many had hoped.

Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide. Turkey , however, denies the deaths constituted genocide and says the death toll has been inflated.

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama did describe the killings of Armenians as genocide and said the US government had a responsibility to recognise it as such.

As a candidate in January 2008, Obama had pledged to recognize the genocide and at least one of his campaign surrogates, the current US ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, recorded a nearly five-minute video at the time imploring Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama precisely because he would keep his word on the issue.

But, Obama has never used that description since taking office, mainly out of deference to Turkey, a key US partner and Nato ally, which is fiercely opposed to the genocide label.

Tuesday’s announcement, accompanied by word that the treasury secretary, Jacob Lew, will attend a ceremony in Armenia on Friday to mark the anniversary, was made shortly after the secretary of state, John Kerry, met with Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, in Washington.

In brief comments to reporters at the State Department, neither Kerry nor Cavusoglu mentioned Armenia or the upcoming 24 April anniversary.

The White House later said its national security adviser, Susan Rice, met with Cavusoglu and encouraged him to take “concrete steps to improve relations with Armenia and to facilitate an open and frank dialogue in Turkey about the 1915 atrocities.” People mourn at the Armenian Genocide Memorial Museum in Yerevan, Armenia on Tuesday.

Several US officials said there had been a sharp internal debate over whether to use the 100-year anniversary to call the killings “genocide” and make good on the president’s campaign promise, particularly after Pope Francis used the term earlier this month.

That comment by the pope prompted an angry response from Turkey, which recalled its ambassador to the Vatican over the matter. Several European governments and parliaments are also expected to use the word in discussions of the events 100 years ago.

Some at the State Department, particularly those who deal directly with Turkey and its neighbours in the Middle East, as well as at the Pentagon, argued against using the word, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

They said the damage it would cause to US relations with Turkey at a critical time, notably when Washington needs Ankara’s help in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, would far outweigh the immediate benefits. The safety of US diplomats and troops in Turkey was also a consideration, the officials said.

Turkey has never accepted the term genocide, even though historians have demolished its denial of responsibility for up to 1.5 million deaths

On the other side, officials at the White House and State Department who deal more directly with human rights issues, including Power, wanted the president to use the word genocide, the officials said. Asked if there was an internal rift on the issue, one senior official involved in the discussion simply said “yes”.

That official noted that alienating the Turks at this point in Obama’s presidency would mean accepting that the US investment in good relations with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had failed. That relationship has been fraught with difficulty in recent years over human rights concerns, among other issues.

Another senior US official acknowledged the decision would be a disappointment to some who were “hoping to hear different language this year” and said the administration understood that perspective. But, the official also said the administration believed its approach is right “both for acknowledging the past, and for our ability to work with regional partners to save lives in the present.”

Negative reaction to the announcement was intense from both the Armenian-American community and members of Congress who have championed the Armenian cause.
April 23, 2015 12:23

The Guardian pays special attention to the centenary of the Armenian
Genocide. Recently, The Guardian's Middle East Editor Ian Black paid
a visit to Yerevan and wrote a series of articles. Besides, the
newspaper suggested its readers that they shared their stories on
genocide. Mediamax decided to learn the details of this initiative
from Maeve Shearlaw from The Guardian's World Networks as she leads
in the project.

- How the idea of collecting the Armenian Genocide stories arose?

- The idea came from a similar project ran by the Guardian to mark
the centenary of World War One. After the Observer journalist Toby
Helm shared the story of his grandfather's war time experiences,
based on his diary entries and letters that he had recently found,
we asked our readers to do the same resulting in over 800 stories
from across Europe which we used in our coverage.

- How many stories have you received so far? Do you receive the
stories mainly from Diaspora Armenians, or also from Armenia?

- Over 500. We've been overwhelmed at the responses we've had, from
first-hand experiences of persecution to how the massacre has shaped
people's family trajectories 100 years on. In the words of one reader:
"there is almost no Armenian family in the world without a story
about 1915". Numerous people have got in touch to thank the Guardian
for paying attention to the issue, we even received an invitation to
a wedding in Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

- Do you plan to verify the stories in any way? If yes, what will be
the mechanisms?

- Verification integral to all of the Guardian's user generated
projects. We asked everyone uploading submissions to share email
addresses and have followed up to clarify details. A lot of the
stories we've used are based on transcripts recorded by the ancestors
of survivors, some of whom are still alive.

We have also made an effort to map the testimonies to the widely
accepted historical version of events - but recognise that these
are disputed. That being said it is difficult to fully verify all
of the details in people testimonies as many of the people who have
since passed away and the stories have been passed from generation
to generation, so we must, and will, be transparent about that.

- How you will be "utilizing" the stories? I guess you can't publish
all the stories, do you have any plan for those that will not appear
in The Guardian?

- It's important to me that we use as much of content as we can. I
am in the process of writing a elegiac piece based on the responses
which we'll publish on the site to mark the anniversary, we'll also
be pulling a collection of the other stories into an interactive
template, a format we've previously used on everything personal
accounts ofracial profiling in the US after Michael Brown was shot
by police Ferguson to the experiences of the LGBT community around
the world. These pieces will run alongside other coverage of the
centenary which can be found here.

- Do you think that the collected material could become a book or
some multimedia project?

- As I said it's important to us that we use as much as the content
as we can, but there are no immediate plans for a book and whilst
the interactive is a multimedia project of sorts i'm sure more can
be done - we are open to ideas.

Ara Tadevosyan talked to Maeve Shearlaw
April 23 2015

-"The Armenian Genocide recognition in recent years has not been a
priority matter in the UK, but the 100 Anniversary of the Genocide
increased public interest and awareness". In response to ""
spoke the researcher of the Oriental Institute affiliated to the
University of London Laurence Broers. He was asked whether there was
a possibility that Britain will recognize the Genocide after the
Pope's statements and EU adopted resolution. The press conference
was organized by "Region" research center within the framework of
"Modern talks about the Armenian new integration agenda". To our
observation that many accuse the UK as a silent witness: although the
British archives are full of facts that reveal hidden under the cover
of the First World War crime, but the UK did not recognize it. What
is the reason for this policy and may the Pope's statements and the EU
adopted resolution make the UK change its position? British researchers
said. - "I cannot speak on behalf of the British government's policy
priorities, but it is clear that the Britain's relations with the South
Caucasus and with wider regional allies may contravene the recognition
of the Armenian Genocide." Laurence Broers inquired what the political
weight of Armenia Genocide recognition was and detailed. -"The United
States does not recognize the Armenian Genocide, even if recognized
by many states, but still has good relations with Armenia and gives
tangible assistance to Armenia, Russia recognized the Armenian
Genocide, but has complicated relations with Armenia in all aspects
and this concerns many Armenians. Thus, the question arises, therefore,
whether Genocide is the main criterion by which Armenia can assess its
allies and enemies, the problem is not in the recognition of Armenian
Genocide by Britain, but the problem is with Turkey. It seems to me
that the way to achieve the goal is the consistent work with Turkish
society and the recognition will be possible when the Turkish society
demands it. Of course, the international community should encourage as
the international community pressure might be a signal for Turkey to
recognize the Armenian Genocide ". The British researcher also noted
that Britain recognized Armenian Genocide in the scientific field as a
historical fact. To our next question that PACE is preparing a report
concerning Nagorno-Karabakh and if this does not this mean that the
PACE, contradicting himself: OSCE Minsk Group format, intervened in
the conflict. Mr. Broers responded. -"Both countries are EU member
states, so I do not see any contradiction here."


If you've missed these videos;

There's a bit about the Armenian Genocide in the BBC documentary This World: Kill the Christians, available until 16 May : 

(at 21 minutes, lasting for about 3 minutes)

Also, the full European Parliament debates are on i-player until around mid-May:

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