Home > Reviews of other books > Turkey’s Armenian Ghosts

Turkey’s Armenian Ghosts

For many years in Turkey, conversations became awkward if they turned to defining what used to be called the “events of 1915”. Basically, I had read one set of history books, which discussed the genocidal deaths of 1-1.5 million Armenians who died in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War deportations. Most Turks had read a completely different set of books. If there was a mention of the Armenian question at all, it was suggested that some unfortunate wartime accidents had been exaggerated by Turkey’s enemies as part of great conspiracy to do the country down.

Ergen, in Dersim/Tunceli. Photo by Antoine Agoudjian

This old lady in Ergen (Dersim/Tunceli, Turkey)  is an Armenian who converted to Alevism, the heteredox faith influenced by Islamic Shia thinking that predominates in that province. Photo by Antoine Agoudjian

Discussion, therefore, would usually soon choke up, having revealed a genuine absence of knowledge of what happened to the Armenians, accompanied by a naturally offended sense of personal innocence; a counter-assertion of the never-addressed trauma of the wrongs done to millions of Muslims expelled from their homes in the Balkans and elsewhere in the 19th and early 20th centuries; legalistic arguments about how by the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide cannot be applied retrospectively; and among a few who worried that something awful could have happened, fears that any recognition of an Armenian “genocide” would result in expensive reparations, awkward atonement, and, not least, odium or worse for contradicting the official narrative of denial.

With such minefields to cross, therefore, I found I alienated less people by discussing basic facts of the case rather than how to label it. I agreed with the advice of Hrant Dink, the late Armenian newspaper editor, who would say it was counterproductive for outsiders to insist upon one label or another until Turkey was ready to debate fully and reach its own conclusion. He believed that processes like Turkey’s EU accession would bring freer information, and with that, understanding of what really happened. The trouble is, Dink was murdered in 2007, perhaps precisely because he represented what should have been a joint Armenian-Turkish road to reconciliation. Sadly, Turkey has yet to get far in undoing the official ideology of denial and hostility to Armenians that formed the mind of the young nationalist who pulled the trigger – let alone bring to justice acts of official negligence and even official complicity with this killer.

CouvNow a new book by the Turkey reporters of France’s Figaro and Le Monde newspapers has done an electrifying job of filling Turkey’s information gap. Surprises lurk under every stone turned over by Laure Marchand and Guillaume Perrier’s “Turkey and the Armenian Ghost: in the steps of the genocide.” (La Turquie et le fantome Arménien: sur les traces du génocide, Actes Sud, March 2013: Arles, France). It will be published in Turkish by İletişim in January 2014, and deserves to find an English publisher too.

The authors’ inventory of discoveries shows just how much that is Armenian has carried through into modern Turkey. They then use these to make a controversial yet compelling argument: that the Turkish Republic founded in 1923 shares moral responsibility for whatever happened to the Armenians. They contend that Turkey’s many decades of denying that there was anything like an Armenian genocide is actually part of the continuation of a pattern of actions by the Ottoman governments responsible for the Armenian massacres and property confiscations of the 1890-1923 period. For instance, the judicial “farce” of the investigation and trial of Hrant Dink’s murderer is, to the authors, proof positive that “since 1915, impunity has been the rule”.

There are other rude shocks. Some Turks now realize they were being misled by the old official narrative of denial, thanks to a new openness about and better understanding of the Armenian question in Turkey over the past decade. But how many appreciate that Istanbul’s best-loved Ottoman landmarks are often designed by Armenian architects? How many know that the famed Congress of Erzurum, corner stone of the republic’s war of liberation, was held in a just-confiscated Armenian school? And how many have heard, as Marchand and Perrier allege, that even the hilltop farmhouse that became the Turkish republic’s Çankaya presidential palace was seized from an Armenian family – and that descendants of the family, some of whom were well-enough connected to escape with their lives — can calmly be interviewed about this “original sin” of the republic? (The official history of the palace simply says that Ankara municipality “donated” it to republican founder Kemal Atatürk in 1921).

It seems apposite that the authors quote Çankaya’s current incumbent, the open-minded President Abdullah Gül, as saying while he toured the ruins of the ancient Armenian capital of Ani on Turkey’s closed border with Armenia: “That’s Armenia there? So close!”

Amid such evidence that Turkish perceptions can be naïve, one problem with the book is its unrelenting insistence that Turkey end its “fierce” and “obsessive” denial that a genocide happened (unlike, the authors point out, Germany, Serbia, Rwanda and others). This tight argumentation leaves the impression of a Turkey that is deliberately calculating and somehow evil, rather than the more likely case that it is clumsy, embarrassed and a prisoner of its own contradictions. A preface by U.S.-based Turkish academic Taner Akçam, a once-lonely pioneer who calls for Turkish recognition of the Armenian genocide, sets a trenchant tone and outlines the problem. “To recognize the Armenian genocide would be the same as denying our [Turkish] national identity, as we now define it”, Taner writes. “Our institutions result from an invented ‘narrative of reality’… a coalition of silence … that wraps like a warm blanket…if we are forced to confront our own history, we would be obliged to question everything”.

Marchand and Perrier brush aside any need for a transitional commission to study the history of the genocide, as suggested in the still-born 2009 protocols between Turkey and Armenia, because the genocide “is a fact that that is barely debated in scientific circles”. Even though the study of Russian archives on the matter is still in its infancy, for instance, the authors dismiss valid elements of the Turkish narrative as yet more ghosts whose abuse has made them an extension of the earlier misdeeds. Parts of the Turkish story are therefore mentioned in passing or only partially, like the massacres of Turks and Muslims by Armenian militias operating behind Russian lines, the 56 people were killed by Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) terrorists during their 1970s and 1980s terrorist campaign against Turkey, or the fact that most of the one million refugees from the fighting in Mountainous Karabagh are Azerbaijanis who fled conquering Armenians. Also, there may be some ill-judged memorial ceremonies, but Turkey does not have a “cult” of Talat Pasha, a probable principal architect of the Armenian genocide. As the authors themselves point out, the site of his grave in a small official memorial park for the Committee of Union and Progress leaders of late Ottoman times gets little official or popular attention.

Guillaume Perrier and Laure Marchand

Guillaume Perrier and Laure Marchand

Still, Marchand and Perrier state early on that their mission is not to write history, but to “give visibility to what has been erased … to gather together an antidote to the poison of denial … because impunity is always an invitation to reoffend”. And here they succeed to a remarkable extent, finding much that remains of Armenians, even as Turkey nears the 2015 centenary of when they were effectively erased from Anatolia: survivors, converts, crypto-Armenians, derelict churches, descendants of ‘righteous’ Turks, artisans’ tools in second- hand shops, flour mills, abandoned houses, songs and traditions. “Turkey”, they say, “is still haunted by the ghost of an assassinated people”.

Indefatigably, the authors travel to remote mountain villages and with President Gül to the Armenian capital for a football match that was part of the ill-fated late 2000s reconciliation process. They listen to the Armenians of Marseilles, France’s second city where 10 per cent of the population are descended from Armenians who fled Turkey, and explain why France and its parliament are so sensitive to the Armenian question. (They also suggest that some in the Armenian diaspora have constructed a counterproductive dream of a “fantasy Armenia, a promised substitute land”.) They interview the grand-children of a brave Turkish sub-prefect, Hüseyin Nesimi, who tried to stop the massacres in 1915, but was quickly assassinated near Diyarbakir, presumably at the orders of an alleged local organizer of the killings. They sit with the family of an Armenian citizen of Turkey killed by a far-right nationalist fellow soldier while on national service – on April 24, 2011. They slip into the mountains and show in a feast of detail how the spirit of the Armenian ‘brigands’ of yore lives on with the left-wing TIKKO group (Turkey’ Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army, founded, you guessed it, on April 24).

In Sivas, they visit the last few rat-infested ruins in the once-thriving Armenian quarter. In Ordu, they find the old Armenian quarter rebaptised “National Victory”, and the old main church now turned into the mosque. In another town, an Armenian protestant church survived as a cinema and now an auditorium, with no sign of its provenance. Elsewhere, the dismantled stones of Armenian monasteries and houses have become the building material for new houses, sometimes with their religious symbols becoming decorative features. State ideology, they think, “even wanted to assimilate the stones”.

They join an Armenian guide who arranges tours for diaspora visitors to find the many souvenirs of Armenian-ness in eastern Turkey – and inhabitants who are not as hung up about their Armenian connections as might be expected. This picaresque explorer has tracked down 600 former Armenian villages, in some of which 1915’s survivors occasionally lived on for decades (the authors even stumble upon one during their travels). Other small Armenian communities “hidden, forgotten or assimilated” still live in thirty small or medium-sized towns. They show how village names have been changed and the memory of Armenians has been expunged. Very few people in Turkey are aware that the now iconic and ubiquitous signature of “K. Ataturk” was one of five models of signature dreamed up for the new republican leadership by a respected old Armenian teacher in Istanbul – whose son tells the story to the authors.

The authors discuss the impact of Fethiye Çetin’s 2009 book ‘My Grandmother’, which lifted the veil on Turkey’s many Armenian grandmothers, saved from the death marches to become servants or wives. In Turkey there are now, the authors believe, “millions of grandchildren of the genocide” who, because of the way Armenian-ness has been denigrated, have not wanted to be identified “more out of shame than fear”. In a province like Tunceli/Dersim, “it’s rare to find a family that doesn’t have an Armenian grandmother or aunt”. Shared saints’ days, common dances and music have blended into a new Armenian-Turkish-Kurdish mix in which it is hard to tell where one ethnicity ends and another begins. The book recounts touching scenes from Armenian churches as some of the descendants of Armenian converts try to return to the Armenian church and community. Indeed, the picture that emerges gives new meaning to the sign held up by many in the massive funeral procession in Istanbul for Hrant Dink: “We are all Armenians”.

Marchand and Perrier do not spare Turkey’s Kurds, who they say need to accept not just that there was a genocide but also recognize their part in plundering and kidnapping from the Armenian death marches. Still, a mainly Kurdish-speaking city like Diyarbakir has played a leading role in trying to make amends for what happened to the Armenians, rebuilding a church that had fallen into ruins, and bringing the language back into official use at a municipal level. Much of Diyarbakir actually used to belong to Armenians – more than one half, the authors suggest.

Indeed, the authors point out that many of Turkey’s grand companies today got their start in places where Armenian businesses had been forced out. Crucially for their argument of continued responsibility, appropriation continued into the republic, with the wealth tax that crushed the “minorities” in 1942 and the state-tolerated actions that took successive tolls on minority properties in the decades thereafter. (This continues: the front page headline of Taraf newspaper today, 19 July 2013, is an angry denunciation of municipal plans to appropriate, knock down and redevelop the last stone houses of the abandoned old Armenian quarter in the eastern town of Muş). It’s not all grand state policy: they meet the family of an Armenian convert to Islam who came back from his years of military service to find that his lands had been peremptorily seized by his neighbours. There are harsh words about the energy that goes into the search for gold and valuables thought to have been hidden by Armenians as they were forced out of their homes: “pillaging is still today a national sport … a prolongation of the plundering.”

At first the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan looked as though it would lead Turkey out of this dead end. But it failed to see through normalization protocols with Armenia in 2009, and later it was Erdoğan himself who ordered the demolition of a monument to friendship with Armenia in the border town of Kars – on another 24 April. The authors give little credit to his government’s restoration of some Armenian churches and reinstatement of at least some Armenian property confiscated by the republic. Perhaps this reticence is because of the bad grace sometimes on display. At the reopening of the Armenian church of Akdamar on Lake Van, favorite of Turkish tourism posters, the envoy from Ankara managed to make a speech that mentioned neither the words “church” nor “Armenian”. Also, there were more than 3,000 active Armenian churches and monasteries in Anatolia before the First World War; now there are just six.

“Turkey and the Armenian Ghost” ends by conjuring up the changing spirit of the Armenian history debate in Turkey. This is largely thanks to the determination of Turkey’s academics since 2000-2005 to end what they knew to be an unacceptable and professionally untenable official policy and culture of denial. Clearly, it is real and trusted information developed by such experts at home, not the grandiose and sometimes hypocritical declarations by foreign legislatures, that has the best chance of changing the Turkish public’s mind. Marchand and Perrier’s stiletto-sharp impatience with the Turkish state’s slow pace or lack of official change may alienate many of those who most need convincing. But people can increasingly see more elements of what happened, and the deeply researched, convincing reportage in this book can help open up minds. “Of course it’s a genocide, but that’s a word that doesn’t work,” academic Cengiz Aktar tells the authors. “The only way to block the narrative of denial is to develop a policy of remembering, and to start the process of informing the population.”

  1. Michael Williams
    July 20, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Excellent essay, Hugh.

    • Hugh
      July 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Thanks – all that French influence, I guess!

  2. Myrone
    July 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    “Of course it’s a genocide, but that’s a word that doesn’t work,” academic Cengiz Aktar tells the authors. “The only way to block the narrative of denial is to develop a policy of remembering, and to start the process of informing the population.”

    This is the message Mr. Pope’s fascinating and well researched article is ultimately designed to deliver. Having presented an impressive array of of facts in Turkish life that flow organically and logically from the genocide of the Armenians, he for some reason settles on a quotation that suddenly blurs the focus of his own analysis and throws everything into an intellectual no-man’s-land again. Why? If, as Cengiz Aktar says, it is “of course genocide”,
    why do we not call it that? Why doesn’t it work? Remember what? Here we have an example of how denialism leaves us with a truncated grammar, a verb without an object. Well, obviously it will not work because the state is unwilling to accept it. Mr. Pope has the explanation for its unwillingness: its clumsiness, its embarrassment, its being a prisoner of its own contradictions, and its general “slowness”. Yes, after a century of denial, that can certainly be termed slow!

    What is being imprisoned here is not the well meaning leaders of the Turkish state but historical reality. Nevertheless, Mr. Pope tells assures us there is no evil intent or calculation in a multimillion dollar government funded program to counter “Armenian claims”. He has forgotten Mr. Erdogan’s statement that there is nothing to apologize for because there was no such thing as a genocide; because Muslims do not commit genocide, etc. It’s a bit much to interpret this as simple clumsiness or embarrassment. To think so should call one’s journalistic instincts into question.

    Then there is the matter of the Talaat Pasha burial on the “Hill of Liberty”, described as being a small memorial park. It happens to be a memorial park dedicated to the heroes of modern Turkey which stands on the highest hill in Istanbul and is the site of important patriotic and political gatherings. Hardly a forgotten place. Also to be taken into account are the dozens of places, boulevards, streets, etc. named for Talaat all throughout Turkey. Here is a quote from Kemal Cengiz, 05 Feb. 2013 that says a great deal on the subject:

    “One of the most beautiful boulevards in İzmir bears the name of Talatpaşa. For a long time I was not aware that this Talat Pasha was the one who orchestrated the Armenian massacres back in 1915. When I realized this strange “coincidence,” I also found out that naming streets after the perpetrators of atrocities such as these was a state tradition in Turkey.”

    There may not be an official “Talaat cult”. Under the circumstances described, there is no need for one. Talaat, the principal author of the Armenian Genocide, whose mortal remains were sent by the Hitler regime to rest where they are today, can hardly be more honored by the state he led.

  3. serge Samoniantz
    July 21, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Very comprehensive and informative review, with contemporary applications. Mr. Pope writes with authority and knowledge of the topic. I encourage such articles, with a mix of history and present implications of such a history being covered-up by the Turkish government from the majority of its population. To the detriment of the general population, the present government does not believe in its people’s acceptance of past government’s genocidal policies.
    Turkish history books still treat Armenians as “enemies of the state,” as former Turkish President General Evren’s secret report claims in a 1980 document just recently revealed in “Radikal.”

  4. craig
    July 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    There are several flaws in your analysis I’d like to mention.
    Here are just a few:

    First you say: “…or the fact that most of the one million refugees from the fighting in Mountainous Karabagh are Azerbaijanis who fled conquering Armenians.”
    First of all, the book is about the Armenian Genocide; it’s logical that the authors would save Karabagh’s independence for a separate book. (The reason there was a war in the first place however was the ruthless repression and later massacres of Armenians throughout all of Azerbaijan – Sumgaït, Kirvabad, Baku…BEFORE the war started. Then there was the bombardment of Stepanakert with GRAD missles….). Makes for plenty material to justify a book of its own, just as why a small handful of Armenians chose the road of terrorism to bring the injustice of the Genocide to the worldstage is also another subject of its own,

    Second, you mention: “The authors give little credit to his government’s restoration of some Armenian churches and reinstatement of at least some Armenian property confiscated by the republic.”
    Come on! The CHURCH of Aghtamar has NOT been returned to its owner, the Armenian Church. It was restored, but Turkey prohibits the church from being used as a church: it is only a museum. This was a HUGE marketing scheme to say, “Let the world see how we restore Turkey’s monuments” (but let’s not tell too much of the real story regarding the Armenians).
    Also, don’t forget that most of the 3000+ churches you speak of no longer exist because the government of Turkey deliberately destroyed them (and continues to do so), converted them, or allow or hasten their own destruction.

  5. EMIP
    July 22, 2013 at 1:38 am

    A book written by two French correspondents for a French newspaper supports the so-called Armenian “genocide” allegations, I am shocked!

    I tell you what Mr. Pope, the day those two intrepid correspondents come up with a single genuine document signed by the Sultan or even Enver Pasha for that matter, ordering the destruction, in whole or in part, of Armenians as a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (i.e. genocide), I will be the first to buy of a copy of their book.

    In fact, if they can come up with a semi-cogent explanation as to why none of the nearly quarter million Armenians living in the major Ottoman cities of Constantinople and Smyrna at the time were harmed if genocide was the Ottoman’s intent I will still buy a copy (even some of the several hundred Armenian “nationalist” leaders deported from Constantinople on or around August, 1915 eventually managed to back to their homes).

    The two French authors might also want to familiarize themselves with incidents preceding 1915 going back for decades, such as the attempted Yildiz bombing assassination by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) of Sultan Abdulhamid II in Constantinople on 21 July 1905 or take a look at the engraving of “peaceful” Armenians attacking praying Muslims at a mosque published on the cover of the French magazine Le Petit Journal dated 24 November 1895: http://www.tetedeturc.com/home/spip.php?article1641

    As for yourself, being a South Africa born British national, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the results of the 1920-1921 Inter-allied Tribunals where the victorious British arrested 158 Ottoman leaders and took them to the island of Malta for trial; 141 for crimes against British soldiers, and 17 for crimes against Armenians during World War I. The end result of which was the release of every single one of them due to lack of evidence.

    However, I am sure the book will sell well in Armenian and certain anti-Turkish, anti-Muslim and anti-anyone-but-their-own-kind circles.

  6. Thomas Goltz
    July 22, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Well done, Hugh

  7. July 23, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Thank you so much for the article! Really great job done. Hope that one day the Government of Turkey finally will face the history. Special thanks to those Turks who are open to discuss the issue and have their own independent opinion based on their examination and not the viewpoint set by the Government…

  8. Hovsep Artinian
    July 23, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    (They also suggest that some in the Armenian diaspora have constructed a counterproductive dream of a “fantasy Armenia, a promised substitute land”.)
    This is not a dream, its the legal right of a whole nation

  9. Hasmik Melikyan
    July 24, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Dear Huge, what an interesting change of your view point! May be you have remembered your trip to Ghrabagh in 1997 and how Armenians have shared w/completely strange people their house and a loaf of bread when you have been caught by a terrible snow storm?

  10. Harry
    July 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    To those that think a “written order” for the murder of Armenians is required as “proof of Genocide” is like suggesting a Mafia don ordering a hit on someone is innocent because he didn’t actually write a letter to the hit man asking for the murder. Does someone like that really think the world is so naive?

    • EMIP
      July 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

      For a Mafia don to order a hit would be illegal and therefore would not be put in writing.

      On the other hand under the Ottoman Empire the Sultan was the supreme authority; all persons residing within its borders were considered his subjects (“kul”) and their material possessions the Sultan’s dispensation. Therefore, had any Sultan been so inclined, there would have been no legal restriction to prohibit him from issuing an edict (“ferman”) ordering the destruction of all Armenians within the borders of the empire. This was never done because Armenians had a privileged place in Ottoman society throughout its history and, at least until the start of the Armenian national liberation movements in the 1880’s were considered “the loyal People” (“Millet-i Sadika”). Even after the start of the Armenian rebellion(s) the fact that no such edict was issued shows how baseless the allegations of a formal state-sponsored genocide are.

      Official deportation orders to secure the Eastern front of the empire during WW1 because Armenian locals were joining the invading Russian forces? Yes (read The Armenian Rebellion at Van, co-authored by Prof. Justin McCarthy: http://www.insightturkey.com/the-armenian-rebellion-at-van/book-reviews/123). Countless deaths on all sides due to starvation, disease and unlawful and unsanctioned massacres? Yes. Planned or officially sanctioned campaign to exterminate the Armenians? No.

      • Harry
        July 25, 2013 at 12:13 pm

        I guess you can continue your bogus arguments and quote McCarthy, a scholar who has been funded by Turkish institutes and criticized by the International Association of Genocide Scholars (i.e. “Scholars who dispute what happened to the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 constitutes genocide blatantly ignore the overwhelming historical and scholarly evidence”). The final word ultimately comes from the International Association of Genocide Scholars, a group of internationally respected historians and genocide experts, who in 1997 passed a resolution unanimously recognizing the Ottoman massacres of Armenians as genocide. Enough said.

      • Jack
        July 26, 2013 at 4:54 am

        Can you show a document signed by Hitler ordering the destruction of the Jews in Europe?
        A few years ago a personal handwritten diary was found and published in Huriet newspaper by one of Talat Pasha’s family member. In it Talat gave explicit orders to remove and deport 900,000 Armenians from their villages and send them to the Syrian desert.
        You seem to be an intelligent person.
        Let me ask you, what do you think will happen when you send that many people, most of them women and children almost naked to the desert without water, food and shelter?
        That my friend is GENOCIDE no matter what cockamamie excuse you come up with.
        In closing, whenever Turks get defensive and have no answers, Azerbaijan is brought into the equation.
        As for the world court. That day will come as well and when the outcome is not in your favor, let’s see what other excuses you will come up with.

    • EMIP
      July 25, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Typical Armenian approach, reject any and all historical evidence to the contrary including documented and officially recognized acts of genocide by Armenians (http://www.azeritribune.com/index.php/newsline/top/us-can-pol/601-soyqirim-iowa-2013), malign any academic who dares point out such facts, try to force a certain view of history based on peer pressure instead of independent analysis of facts, and if all else fails try to get countries like Switzerland (successfully) and France (unsuccessfully) to enact laws making the mere attempt to introduce or discuss any factual evidence contradicting the Armenian claim of genocide a criminal offense.

      Let me ask you one simple question, if the facts so strongly support a claim of genocide as you would like everyone to believe, then why has Armenia never taken its case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague which has jurisdiction to review claims of genocide and to order appropriate redress if proven? Answer: Because they know they cannot legally prove a claim of genocide beyond a reasonable doubt and were they to lose, that it would mean the end of their major propaganda tool.

      • Harry
        July 25, 2013 at 8:51 pm

        As much of a train wreck that the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission was, it started in 2001 to help Turkey and Armenia be closer. The main goal was to make the governments more active. In February 2002 an independent legal opinion commissioned by the International Center for Transitional Justice, at the request of Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission, concluded that the Ottoman massacre of Armenians in 1915–1918 “include[d] all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the [Genocide] Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them”.

        Quit while you’re ahead… But of course you will claim that this is not the Hague and it has no value, and the opinion of internationally recognized genocide scholars have no value, and US Ambassador Morgenthau’s (US Ambassador to Ottoman Turkey) books and comments have no value… only selected bits of history by you have value. The fact of Genocide is not up for debate, the level of reparations and how Turkey will come to terms with its own history are.

    • EMIP
      July 25, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Quit trying to evade my question with hyperbole; if the facts so strongly support a claim of genocide as you would like everyone to believe, then why has Armenia never taken its case to the International Court of Justice in the Hague which has jurisdiction to review claims of genocide and to order appropriate redress if proven?

      A group of scholars does not constitute a court of law. If you believe in them so much then call them in court as your “expert” witnesses. Why are you evading taking the issue to the International Court of Justice which was formed precisely to handle such allegations of genocide as in Bosnia and Rwanda. What makes the Armenian case an exception?

      • Sevag
        July 26, 2013 at 12:36 am

        Wow, I feel so bad that your government of Turkey has brainwashed you so much to believe in the arguments you are making. Good luck in life and I hope you open your eyes one day and see reality, one that has been kept a secret from you by the country you protect so dearly.

  11. Taline Satamian
    July 25, 2013 at 4:34 am

    The article suggests that a “fantasy Armenia” is counterproductive. I agree, but that’s also an understatement. I would say that a “fantasy Armenia” even endangers Armenian survival. It denies the reality of and, therefore, leads to rejection and denigration of present-day Armenia by some Diasporan Armenians. Just a quick review of Facebook pages by some Diaspora Armenians active in their own communities is dishearteningly void of any postings about the near-revolution brewing up on the streets of Yerevan today, even as some of these Armenians are strolling the streets of Yerevan as tourists. I strongly agree, as these demonstrators do, that there are many reasons to be dissatisfied and frustrated with present-day Armenia, as it is geographically reduced, its leaders are politically inept and corrupt, and its inhabitants are enslaved.

    But this placing of distance and rejection of Armenia, the condescending and patronizing attitude on the part of some Diasporan Armenians is not acceptable. There is no excuse for abandoning present-day Armenia, both morally and physically, and for clinging to a “fantasy Armenia.”

    Yes, it is the legal right of Armenians to demand reparations for the lives and properties that were stolen from them during the 1915 Genocide. But not at the expense of turning their back on the responsibility that all Armenians must share in ensuring that present-day Armenia is not destroyed from within… and this stand must grow more vocal and must be carefully and strategically tied with the just demands for reparations from Turkey. This is serious work that will take lots and lots of thinking, planning, coordinating, communicating, and hard work. A viable Armenia cannot be realized with fantasies.

  12. Jerry
    July 28, 2013 at 2:49 am

    Right off the bat, Pope shows his colors when he claims that 1.5 Armenians died during the deportations. He ignores the countless Armenians–women and children included–killed by the Turks in the churches, homes, fields, and schools. This is an important fact for another reason: Official Turkey, including Turkish “scholars and historians” claim that Armenians somehow died when Turkey, for the safety of the Armenians, deported them from the theatres of war. But somehow the hapless Armenians died in the Syrian Desert while kindly Turkish gendermes were doing their best to take them to peaceful sanctuaries. How uncooperative of Armenian seniors, women, children to die while Turkish soldiers were toiling to take them to wonderful oases right out of “Arabian Nights”. I say seniors, women, children because the Turkish army and mobs had systematically slain most “adult males” between the ages of 15 and 60. But these are inconvenient truths for reviewer with an apparent pro-Turkish agenda.

  13. Myrone
    July 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Question from EMIP: Why has Armenia never taken its case to the International Court of Justice?


    The ICT is not a court for adjudicating international crimes. Its function is to resolve legal disputes arising between states and submitted to it with their mutual consent. Therefore, EMIP’s suggestion is completely off the mark.

    The Armenian Genocide is a fact of human history. The first chapter of Raphael Lemkin’s autobiography, “Totally Unofficial” (just released) testifies to that very clearly. It is a reality that needs to be squarely faced by the successor to the perpetrator state, the present Republic of Turkey, in order to put an end, once and for all, to the invasive cancer of denialism which prevents it from assuming the role in its region that it idealizes for itself.

    • Jerry
      July 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm

      Turkey knows, as well as Armenians, that it organized and committed genocide against its Armenian minority. It denies its horrific crime for several reasons: reparation; compensation; return of Armenian land; return of some Armenians to their 4,000-year-old homeland in what Turkey and the world refers to as Eastern Turkey.
      Since Mustafa Kemal’s Republic of Turkey was largely financed through the confiscation–during the Genocide–of Armenian wealth, the current Turkish government has difficulty admitting that the republic was based on theft, racism, and genocide.

      • tillah
        April 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm

        Ah, and so you think Turks deny the genocide for compensation; return of Armenian land… First of all, return to who? Second of all, do you really think Turkey will give its lands to anyone or pay anything to anyone? Thirdly, do you think Kurds in Van, Kars and Erzurum will leave their lands to Armenians. Lastly, there were no Turkish gendarmes in that area during those days… There were The Hamidiye corps and they mostly -almost all of them- were Kurds.

  14. Myrone
    July 28, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    The International Court of Justice is not a court for adjudicating international crimes. Its function is to resolve legal disputes arising between states and submitted to it with their mutual consent.

  15. DR
    July 31, 2013 at 12:03 am

    There are some other problems in this review. Pope doesn’t explain why Marchand and Perrier should have dwelt on the ASALA attacks in the ’70s and ’80s (as well as the Karabakh war of independence which resulted not only in Azerbaijani but also Armenian refugees). This is quite disturbing, because it is something – together with the loss of Turkish-occupied Balkan countries – which is often found in denialist literature. It’s as if those attacks by a group of revengeful Armenians almost six decades after the unpunished, unrecognized genocide proved that the extermination of Armenian babies and women was necessary – a sort of self-defense by Turks who could foresee what would happen sixty years later? A proof that Armenians are bad? It’s like when people insist on referring to Israeli violence against Palestinians when someone speaks of the horror of the Holocaust, suggesting that after all, Jews…. And if the conflict over Karabakh had really something to do with the veracity of the 1915 genocide (!), why does Pope, who is supposed to have more comprehensive approaches than the two French authors, “forget” the Sumgait and Baku massacres, the Azerbaijani army’s destruction of Julfa’s thousands of medieval khachkars, as well as the blockade of Armenia by the Turkish government? The fact is the two journalists have not confused the causes and the consequences, that’s all.
    Hrant Dink, according to Pope, was “perhaps” murdered because he worked at “reconciliation”. It is common knowledge, though, that he was assassinated because he revealed Sabiah Gökçen’s Armenian ethnicity, thus defiling the Turkish nation’s so-called pure blood. Dink had been summoned to the Turkish Interior Ministry and threatened. As he came out it was clear to him he was a dead man. Pope must know this. And also that Dink’s assassination was more than “trouble” but a tragedy and a horror
    . As far as 1915-survivors are concerned – the two reporters met descendents of the “remnants of the sword”- girls, he says, “were saved from the death marches to become servants and wives”. These are not Marchand’s and Perrier’s words. “To become servants and wives”? It doesn’t sound that bad, after all. Not like “remnants of the sword”, not like becoming the domestic and sex slaves of sometimes polygamous men who – or whose fathers – had slain the girls’ entire family before abducting them… incidentally one wonders why so many Armenian girls committed suicide rather than become “servants and wives”, why so many mothers killed their own daughters rather than give them a chance to become “servants and wives”.
    We also get the impression that Pope thinks he is smarter than Marchand and Perrier because, unlike them but like Gengiz Aktar, he doesn’t use the word genocide. OK. Meanwhile, Ragip Zarakolu, Taner Akçam, Hasan Cemal, Ayse Hür, Ayse Gunaysru, recently Yavuz Baydar, the DürDe! and IHD people and others who do call it genocide happen to be Turks, not French nor American nor Armenian, and they are not afraid of “alienating” their fellow countrymen. Are these Turks wrong? Why not support these brave intellectuals and human rights activists by speaking like them instead of disavowing them through the choice of words? By the way, what’s the difference between the “genocidal deaths” of more than a million people and a “genocide” – which means killing of a people? We are also asked to believe that foreign countries should abstain from voting resolutions and should keep quiet –i.e. cover up the crime and spoliation–while Turks, state included, will be doing the job all by themselves all in good time, within their own borders, and suddenly, magically decide to discard their denialist “set of books” and look for information in another “set of books.”
    Finally it is hard to know whether the phrase “[they] have harsh words for treasure hunters” is mere reporting or criticism. We are speaking of individuals who are shamelessly trying to steal the dead’s hypothetical goods under the very nose of the Armenian heirs, a century after a genocide in which their forebears must have participated.
    Let us hope Pope doesn’t object to the “harsh words” describing what amounts to behaving like vultures.
    Popr is right, though, in more than one way. The book is great indeed, and very useful. A German translation, in addition to the English and Turkish, would be welcome. Pope’s praise is definitely relevant but his criticism is not, which consists of repeating outmoded material [ASALA- Karabakh-“using the G-word or voting resolutions is counterproductive”] that more and more Turks are tired of hearing, reading. “La Turquie et le fantôme arménien” has received lots and lots of excellent reviews. Without being emotional, it is sensitive and based not only on facts but also on the humanistic values of a man and a woman who honor journalism.
    This fairly recent review in French (it’s Belgian) is different : http://blog.lesoir.be/lalibertesinonrien/2013/07/19/laure-marchand-et-guillaume-perrier-sur-les-traces-du-genocide-armenien/

  16. ALp
    August 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Here’s what I think: I am a Turk, to begin with. I know for some of the comments I am going say I will be labeled as brainwashed and this and that, but that’s not a big deal. I, for so long, wish this argument to be resolved and come to end and believe I do not want to take any side as I just want to know the truth, the bottom line. However, having said that, all these reports, for some reason, is one sided. Why do we always hear about the Armenian grandmothers but not the Turkish Grandmothers? Did you know that in Adana, Turkey, where a big Armenian population lived, when the French army was about the invade the city, a night before all the doors of the Turkish houses were marked so that French soldiers would know who to kill and take prisoner? I hate to say it, but you blame Turks for being brainwashed so that they cannot see the truth. How are you going to show that truth to the grandchildren of a Turkish Grandmother who thinks she’s stabbed in the back by their closest friend in the first chance they get? It’s a very personal experience, not from a history lesson. Why not go talk to these people in Adana as well? Why not go around Turkish villages as well as Armenian? Don’t you think there is always two sides of a story? You are right, when it comes from the Turks, it’s a certain way, but when it comes from Europe it’s again one sided and a certain way. I feel, and I truly believe in this, (you might think it’s childish to think this way) if an Armenian and a Turk has a heart to heart discussion, WITHOUT ANY INTERMEDIARIES, they will end up hugging each other and crying at the end! Could be a long, heated discussion with lots of emotions on both sides, however, only a direct discussion with open hearts and open minds can solve this issue for good. Otherwise it’s all politics..

    • VZ
      August 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

      “Did you know that in Adana, Turkey, where a big Armenian population lived, when the French army was about the invade the city, a night before all the doors of the Turkish houses were marked so that French soldiers would know who to kill and take prisoner?” Nobody would say that individual Armenians never did anything wrong. (A dozen of people might be enough to mark “all the doors,” would you blame the entire “big Armenian population”? Judging from your sentence, of course yes.) But when did this incident happen? In June 1919, when the French entered Adana? Do you realize that this happened four years after the Armenians were deported from Adana, at the time when they were returning to the city? Of course you have a reliable historical source, perhaps two, that should corroborate the story of the Turkish grandmother. But you failed to tell us how many Turks were killed and/or taken prisoner because of that mark. (Again, you surely have a reliable historical source, perhaps two, that should corroborate the story of the Turkish grandmother.) And you failed to tell us how the Armenian survivors who returned to Adana after being deported in 1915 — much less than the “big Armenian population” that departed, which had already decimated in 1909 — felt. Perhaps they were outraged for the lack of solidarity of their “closest friends” at the time of deportation? Or simply wanted to enact revenge for their killed families? Have you ever heard of the Biblical line “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind”?

      • EMIP
        August 4, 2013 at 10:15 am

        VZ: Have you ever heard of Mohandas Gandhi’s quotation that “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind”?

  17. Joseph
    August 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I’m grateful to these two French authors for their excellent work. I would say diaspora Armenians should focus on the Armenian republic and make it a better country. Armenians especially activists need more introspection. Where have Armenians failed in the past? How can lessons be learned to improve life for the ordinary citizen in Armenia today? I’m sure in time, moderate Turks will recognize the crimes of the past. Territory is an extremely sensitive subject. But claiming territory from Turkey will alienate moderate Turks. It does not help build a climate of reconciliation. Any territorial adjustment should be left to future generations. At the moment, the important task is to have better relations between Armenians and Turks (and Kurds)

  1. July 22, 2013 at 10:18 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: