Is It Time to Recognise 'Genocide?' One of the Bleaker Anniversaries to Be Commemorated This Year Will Be the Centenary of Deportations and Massacres Inflicted by the Turks on the Armenians during World War I. but Do the Massacres Amount to Genocide, and Should the Welsh Government Recognise Them as Such? Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Looks at the Evidence

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 4, 2015 | Go to article overview

Is It Time to Recognise 'Genocide?' One of the Bleaker Anniversaries to Be Commemorated This Year Will Be the Centenary of Deportations and Massacres Inflicted by the Turks on the Armenians during World War I. but Do the Massacres Amount to Genocide, and Should the Welsh Government Recognise Them as Such? Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Looks at the Evidence


Byline: Martin Shipton

GENOCIDE is a highly emotive term - so much so that when a cross commemorating the Armenian "genocide" was placed outside the Temple of Peace in Cardiff a few years ago, it was soon smashed up.

In Turkey it remains a crime to use the term when describing the events of 1915 that saw nearly 1.5m ethnic Armenians murdered.

Among many others, the Turkish Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk has faced prosecution after telling his country to admit to what happened. But so far there is little sign of Turkey doing so.

In Wales, where there is a small but thriving Armenian community, preparations are under way to mark the centenary. But community members are disappointed by the lack of support shown for their cause by the Welsh Government.

Historians have described what happened in Turkey 100 years ago as the first full-scale ethnic cleansing of the 20th century.

Armenians were uprooted from their homes by the thousand, deported to remote locations within Turkey and murdered.

The political scientist RJ Rummell has written: "Turkish leaders decided to exterminate every Armenian in the country, whether a front-line soldier or pregnant woman, famous professor or high bishop, important businessman or ardent patriot. All two million of them.

Rummell has used the term "democide" to describe "the murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder".

Of the Armenian massacres he wrote: "Democide had preceded the Young Turks' rule and with their collapse at the end of World War I, the successor Nationalist government carried out its own democide against the Greeks and remaining or returning Armenians. From 1900 to 1923, various Turkish regimes killed from 3.5 million to over 4.3m Armenians, Greeks, Nestorians and other Christians."

Based on all the available evidence, Rummell estimates that the Turks murdered between 300,000 and 2,686,000 Armenians - probably 1.4 million.

A report in the New York Times from November 1915 reported the testimony of an American committee set up to investigate the atrocities. It quotes an unnamed official representative of the committee who went to a camp occupied by displaced Armenians saying: "I have visited their encampment and a more pitiable site cannot be imagined. They are, almost without exception, ragged, hungry and sick. This is not surprising in view of the fact that they have been on the road for nearly two months, with no change of clothing, no chance to bathe, no shelter and little to eat.

"I watched them one time when their food was brought. Wild animals could not be worse. They rushed upon the guards who carried the food and the guards beat them back with clubs hitting hard enough to kill sometimes.

"To watch them one could hardly believe these people to be human beings. As one walks through the camp, mothers offer their children and beg you to take them. In fact, the Turks have been taking their choice of these children and girls for slaves or worse. There are very few men among them, as most of the men were killed on the road. Women and children were also killed. The entire movement seems to be the most thoroughly organised and effective massacre this country has ever seen."

Many relatives of Cardiff businessman John Torosyan, a leading member of the Welsh Armenian community, were murdered, including his grandfather's twin.

He said: "More than 75% of Armenians were killed. At the time Britain was at the forefront of calls for justice for this genocide. The word 'genocide' was in fact coined by a Jew, Raphael Lemkin, with the Armenians uppermost in his mind.

"One hundred years on and how things have changed. The UK Government's position is clear - they do not want to use the word genocide because it would upset Turkey, a Nato ally.

"Nevertheless, 22 other countries have accepted the Armenian genocide as fact, some of them being in Nato with no diplomatic or trade issues with Turkey. …

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Is It Time to Recognise 'Genocide?' One of the Bleaker Anniversaries to Be Commemorated This Year Will Be the Centenary of Deportations and Massacres Inflicted by the Turks on the Armenians during World War I. but Do the Massacres Amount to Genocide, and Should the Welsh Government Recognise Them as Such? Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Looks at the Evidence
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