The Guardian 4 May, 2005

Armenian genocide commemorated

Ninety years ago, on April 24 1915 the Turkish Ottoman Empire embarked on the systematic slaughter of Armenians. About 1.5 million people were killed and one million were deported.

The Turkish authorities went about the business of killing Armenians in a slow and deliberately managed campaign which lasted for eight years, from 1915 to 1923.

Armenia not only lost its people. Turkey annexed part of Armenia’s territory where Armenians had lived, including Mt Ararat — the symbol of Armenia which is depicted on its coat of arms.

Thousands of Armenians gathered this year in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to mark the ninetieth anniversary of the commencement of the genocide campaign. The president of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan, hoped that 1.5 million people would visit the memorial in Yerevan to the victims of the genocide.

International recognition

Armenia has been seeking international recognition of the fact that it was indeed genocide perpetrated by the then Turkish rulers. Up to the present time Turkey continues to assert that while 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed it was because of the "civil strife" when Armenians rose against Turkish rule.

International opinion is divided. In 1987 the European Parliament recognised the genocide and regards Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge the mass killings as one of the reasons to postpone for an indefinite time, Turkey’s membership of the EU.

However, in addition to Turkey, the US and Israel do not recognise the genocide either, though President Bush issued a statement which expressed his condolences over this "human tragedy".

The US has a very strong supporter of its policies in Turkey. It is the only Muslim country in the region which is extremely loyal to the USA and is host to US military bases. Israel also regards Turkey as its only ally in the volatile Middle East.

The USA is afraid that if the genocide of the Armenian people is recognised, demands for compensation may follow (similar to those Germany had to pay to Holocaust survivors). Territorial demands may also be on the cards.

Explosive

Recognition of the genocide and acceptance of Armenian territorial demands could lead to an explosive situation in Turkey itself. To see Turkey turn against the west and link up with Iran and other Arab states would be the worst nightmare for both the USA and Israel.

Turkish, Israeli and American military advisors have been for years involved in building up a modern army in Azerbaijan — a neighbouring country which has an unresolved conflict with Armenia over Nagorny Karabakh, a small autonomous area which is populated by Armenians but is situated in Azerbaijan.

Turkey continues to deny the Armenian genocide but history cannot be hidden and should not be re-written. Today’s holocaust deniers are rightly condemned while Armenians are still demanding the recognition of the massacre they suffered.

It has been said of Hitler that he was influenced by the Armenian genocide in deciding to embark on massacres of his own. Why? Because the world did not care while over a million people of a small nation were being exterminated.

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