A Reign of Terror Which History Has Chosen to Neglect

The Independent (London, England), October 12, 2007 | Go to article overview
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A Reign of Terror Which History Has Chosen to Neglect


The story of the last century's first Holocaust - Winston Churchill used that very word about the Armenian genocide years before the Nazi murder of six million Jews - is well known, despite the refusal of modern-day Turkey to acknowledge the facts. Nor are the parallels with Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews idle ones.

Turkey's reign of terror against the Armenian people was an attempt to destroy the Armenian race. While the Turks spoke publicly of the need to "resettle" their Armenian population - as the Germans were to speak later of the Jews of Europe - the true intentions of Enver Pasha's Committee of Union and Progress in Constantinople were quite clear.

On 15 September 1915, for example (and a carbon of this document exists), Talaat Pasha, the Turkish Interior minister, cabled an instruction to his prefect in Aleppo about what he should do with the tens of thousands of Armenians in his city. "You have already been informed that the government ... has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons living in Turkey ... Their existence must be terminated, however tragic the measures taken may be, and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to any scruples of conscience." Those words are almost identical to those used by Himmler to his SS killers in 1941.

Taner Akcam, a prominent - and extremely brave - Turkish scholar who has visited the Yerevan museum, has used original Ottoman Turkish documents to authenticate the act of genocide. Now under fierce attack for doing so from his own government, he discovered in Turkish archives that individual Turkish officers often wrote "doubles" of their mass death-sentence orders, telegrams sent at precisely the same time that asked their subordinates to ensure there was sufficient protection and food for the Armenians during their "resettlement". This weirdly parallels the bureaucracy of Nazi Germany, where officials were dispatching hundreds of thousands of Jews to the gas chambers while assuring International Red Cross officials in Geneva that they were being well cared for and well fed.

Ottoman Turkey's attempt to exterminate an entire Christian race in the Middle East - the Armenians, descended from the residents of ancient Urartu, became the first Christian nation when their king Drtad converted from paganism in AD301 - is a history of almost unrelieved horror at the hands of Turkish policemen and soldiers, and Kurdish tribesmen.

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A Reign of Terror Which History Has Chosen to Neglect
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