Armenian Genocide denial

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The denial of the Armenian Genocide is the assertion that the Armenian Genocide did not occur in the manner or to the extent described by scholarship. Denial of the Armenian Genocide may be either forbidden or enforced in some countries. The Armenian Genocide is widely acknowledged by genocide scholars to have been one of the first modern, systematic genocides,[1][2] as many sources point to the sheer scale of the death toll as evidence for a systematic, organized plan to eliminate the Armenians.[3]

The governments of Turkey[4] and Azerbaijan[5] deny that the Ottoman authorities attempted to exterminate the Armenian people.[6] The Turkish government acknowledges that during World War I many Armenians died, but counters that Muslim Turks died as well, and claims that the number of Armenian victims has been inflated, and that massacres were committed by both sides as a result of inter-ethnic violence and the wider conflict of World War I.[6]

The denial of the Armenian Genocide is officially outlawed in Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus and Slovakia.[7][8][9]


According to historian Yair Auron, while there is debate about its exact circumstances, "there can be no doubt about the fact of [Armenian] genocide itself. In this sense, the denial of the Armenian genocide is very similar to the denial of the Holocaust."[10]

However, three historians specializing in Near Eastern StudiesBernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy, and Heath Lowry, who are all members of the Institute of Turkish Studies – as well as the late Stanford Shaw from the Bilkent University, Ankara and independent scholars Guenter Lewy and Eberhard Jäckel are critical of the Armenian Genocide term. In 2004 the British historian Norman Stone wrote from Ankara to the Times Literary Supplement to deny "Armenian nationalist claims that a 'genocide' as classically defined had taken place".[11]

The use of specific terminologies regarding the issue are debated, such as the word "deportation". Deniers claim that some of the specific words do not fit the realities of the period or they are not substantiated by the facts.

The term "genocide"

The term "genocide" was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1943. In a 1949 CBS interview with Quincy Howe, Lemkin explained, "I became interested in Genocide because it happened so many times. It happened to the Armenians, then after the Armenians, Hitler took action."[12]

Turkey became a signatory to the Genocide Convention in 1950, two years after the United Nations General Assembly voted on it.[13]

Genocide convention

The convention includes two qualifications for a genocide to have taken place. For the crime of genocide to have taken place there must be the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [a protected group]". The qualifications are important under international law and have been clarified by the judgements of the ICTY and the International Court of Justice. Under the convention the courts have adopted the common law principle that both actus reus (guilty act) and mens rea (guilty mind) must be present for genocide to have been committed. This was highlighted by Alphons Orie in his summary judgement of the ICTY Momcilo Krajisnik case.[14] The summary judgement explains that:

With regard to the charge of genocide, the Chamber finds that in spite of evidence of acts perpetrated in the municipalities which constituted the actus reus of genocide, the Chamber has not received sufficient evidence to establish whether the perpetrators had genocidal intent, that is the intent to destroy, the Bosnian-Muslim or Bosnian-Croat ethnic group, as such.

— Presiding Judge Alphons Orie.[15]

The Krajisnik case made it clear that as the Genocide Convention specifically includes "intent to destroy", in whole or in part, a protected group, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect intended (or was part of a criminal conspiracy that intended) to destroy the group, and that this is different from crimes against humanity where there does not have to be intent to destroy a group, just an action that kills many people.[16] This is why Krajisnik was found guilty of multiple instances of participation in crimes against humanity across Bosnia but not participating in a general Bosnian genocide.

To show that a genocide has occurred, it is not enough to prove that crimes against humanity were committed, because there must be intent to destroy a substantial part of the targeted group. It can be very difficult years or even decades after the event to prove the mens rea (intent) component of genocide even if there is ample evidence that crimes against humanity were committed that fulfil the actus reus (the destruction of the group requirement). This may be because there was no intent, or that the decision to commit genocide was not well documented at the time, or that given the odium attached to genocide that the perpetrators of a genocide, or their descendants, have destroyed any paper trail that could prove genocide.[17] This means that determining if a genocide took place in the past is often a matter of judgement based on incomplete information about the intent of the perpetrators and whether they intended to commit genocide.

The Turkish and some other sources claim that the "intent to destroy," clause in the "Genocide Convention" has not been met, which means even if the "whole or in part" is met without intent it is not genocide.[18][further explanation needed] For example, the British Government made its position clear on this point in a statement to the House of Lords in 2007:

... My Lords, I start with the most significant part of the right reverend Prelate’s question. For this Government, recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide is not a condition of Turkey’s membership of the EU. I wish to be straightforward and clear about that. Neither this Government nor previous British Governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be characterised as genocide under the 1948 UN convention on genocide.

— Lord Triesman Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Parliamentary Affairs.[19]

Geoffrey Robertson QC, a noted British barrister and specialist in the field of human rights who served as first President of the UN War Crimes Court in Sierra Leone, has observed that the British government refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide by saying that evidence for it is "not sufficiently unequivocal". He points out that this phrase 1) is an oxymoron and 2) represents an invented standard of proof. He explains: "There are only two standards of proof in UK law: the civil standard (on the balance of probabilities; i.e. more likely than not) and the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt)". He further observes that recent British governments have not taken into account that the terms used by the British government of the time in referring to 1915 entirely anticipated the modern definition of genocide and that the drafters of the Genocide Convention had 1915 in mind when drafting the new international crime.[20]

Broader sense

Agreement among scholars on whether a genocide took place is further complicated because not all scholars use the Genocide Convention as a definition of what constitutes genocide (see genocide definitions), which was a point raised by Rosalyn Higgins the President of Bosnian Genocide Case at the International Court of Justice at a post trial press interview. She noted that while there was substantial evidence of events in Bosnia may have amounted to war crimes or crimes against humanity, the ICJ had no jurisdiction to make findings in that regard, because the case dealt "exclusively with genocide in a limited legal sense and not in the broader sense sometimes given to this term."[21][22]

Turkish historians have conceptual problems with a "Broad Genocide of Armenians" which is presented as: "(a)The Turks invaded Armenia and seized its land. (b)They applied a systematic massacre against Armenians since the 1877–1878 war. (c)They resorted to a plan against Armenians from 1915 onward [extending 1922][23] Regarding this definition of "Armenian Genocide" Turkish sources claim that "...[the sources who use this definition] has never hesitated to go to such extremes as ... [removed the middle section which included claims not linked to issue] to make the claims of genocide against Armenians heard and their demands known [but impossible to respond]..."[23] The roots of "broader sense" form of genocide definition lies in the unresolved conflict paradigm; this definition of genocide "remain in the clash of interest in the past and the present".[24] If the Armenian Genocide begins with the events after 1877–1878 war, these events are more comprehensible if one looks with the concept of rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire.

The term "Meds Yeghern"

The name "Meds Yeghern" (Մեծ Եղեռն, variously rendered as Medz Yeghern, Mets Yeghern, Metz Yeghern) is used by Armenians as a synonym of Հայոց ցեղասպանություն (Hayoc’ c’eġaspanut’yun)/"Genocide of Armenians"), in a way similar to the use of Shoah among Jews as the Jewish name for the Holocaust. The term "Meds Yeghern" was used in a prayer by John Paul II during his visit to the genocide memorial of Tsitsernakaberd and in US President Barack Obama's statement on Armenian Remembrance Day.

Listen, O Lord, to the lament that rises from this place,
to the call of the dead from the depths of the Metz Yeghérn,
the cry of innocent blood that pleads like the blood of Abel,
like Rachel weeping for her children because they are no more.

Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people.

The term "deportation"

Currently, regarding the activities performed under Tehcir Law, May 1915, the Republic of Turkey rejects the use of the word "deportation" and "refugee".[25] Turkey uses the terminology "deportation" for expulsion of foreigners (the expulsion of natives is usually called banishment, exile, or transportation) or extradition.[26] Turkey instead uses the words "relocation" and "immigrant," respectively. Turkey claims that all the destination regions were within the Ottoman Empire's borders. According to revisionist historians, the Ottoman government recognized these "immigrants" as its citizens and took extensive measures to record the type, quantity, and value of their property, as well as the names of the owners and where they were sent.[25]

Arguments brought forward

Turkish sources state: "the measures adopted regarding the Armenians in Eastern Anatolia were merely a replacement in another region within the Empire for security reasons".[13] Turkish sources using Ottoman historical documents "on the other hand, the Party of Union and Progress came to power embracing the Armenians, and never developed an anti-Armenian doctrine even if Union and Progress turned to Turkism in time."[27] According to the official Turkey, it is also historically evident that the Union and Progress was responsive to the needs and desires of the Armenians citizens, and they passed the Armenian reform package. They also say, there is great amount of historical data to support "within the conditions of the day Ottoman parliament adopted the “Tehcir Law” (27 May 1915), the reasons for the taking of this decision, which was contemplated as provisional were: The Armenians living at regions near the war zones hinder the movements of the Turkish armed forces; harden the logistical support to the soldiers; share the same goals and collaborate with the enemy; attack the troops and innocent civilians within the country’s boundaries; and show the fortified regions to the enemy forces."[24] The Turkish sources claim "intent of the process" (deportation or relocation) was written in the law. They also claim there was vast amounts of evidence which supports Ottoman Empire acted according to what the written law stated and legislated according to conditions. In support, the Ottoman Archives are open (although to only a select number of historians) and Turkish historians published five volumes of Ottoman Security dispatches between 1914–1918 related to Ottoman Armenian insurgent activities, as "Arşiv Belgeleriyle Ermeni Faaliyetleri 1914–1918" Vol I [28] Vol II [29] Vol III [30] Vol IV [31] Vol V.[32]

However, Heather Rae asserts that "scholars have long been denied access to Ottoman archives." In the late 1980s access was granted to some archives by the Turkish government, but it appears that the material was limited and the government took a very selective approach to who was allowed to study the material.[33][34] Historian Taner Akcam also writes about the "careful selection" of Ottoman archive materials. "While we are missing a significant portion of these papers, what remains in the Ottoman archives and in court records is sufficient to show that the CUP Central Committee, and the Special Organization is set up to carry out its plan, did deliberately attempt to destroy the Armenian population".[35]

April 24

While World War I was unfolding in the Middle East and shattering the Ottoman Empire, some members of the two primary nationalist groups within the state, the Armenians and the "Arab revolt", called for armed struggle against the Ottomans.[36] Christian Armenians were located in both the Russian and Ottoman Empires.[36] Some Armenians insisted that their people support the Ottoman government,[36] as Armenians were placed in the Ottoman bureaucracy, but other Armenians claimed that only the Russian Czar, by virtue of shared religion, was the protector of all Armenians.[37] In eastern Anatolia, during the Caucasus Campaign some of the Ottoman Armenian population, often following the Armenian radical nationalists, engaged in open warfare,[37] these activities are summarized under Armenian resistance. The Zeitun Resistance, which lasted three months from August 30, 1914 to December 1, 1914, resulted in the report that Armenians defeated all the Ottoman troops sent against them.[38]

In April 1915, shortly after the Van Resistance, an Armenian government was proclaimed in Van,[37] the Occupation of Turkish Armenia. Following these events, April 25 was the onset of the Allied campaign to drive towards the Ottoman capitol (see Battle of Gallipoli). The day before the Battle of Gallipoli, Talat Pasha took a decision on April 24, 1915 with the internal codes given by the archive code BOA. DH. ŞFR, nr.52/96,97,98.[39] Talat Pasha ordered the governors of the Ottoman Empire to (a) arrest the members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, Hentchak and other groups involved with the Armenian national liberation movement, (b) collect documents from party houses and (c) destroy all arms seized in the process. Beginning April 24, there were Armenian notables deported from the Ottoman capital in 1915. The Ottoman Empire wanted to remove the threat of Armenian resistance and the Turkish authorities today hold the position that the deaths incurred by Armenians as a whole were the result of the turmoil of World War I and that the Ottoman Empire was fighting against Russia, Armenian volunteer units, and the Armenian militia. However, "the Armenians had neither a police force nor an army".[40]


Security of Deportees

The security of the immigrants were under the responsibility of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman authorities present the facts that some companies had been attacked before they reached their settlement regions.[41] They summarize these attacks; present the fact that the roads between Aleppo and Meskene resulted in many deaths.[41] Other events were located at Diyarbekir to Zor and from Saruc to Halep through Menbic road.[42] Companies have also faced with local attacks from the local tribes in the Diyarbekir, Mamuretülaziz and Bitlis regions.[43] Various eyewitness accounts of Armenian civilians being killed by the Ottoman soldiers they were under command of are usually discounted by revisionist historians.

The Turkish authorities present two positions regarding this issue:

  1. "Investigation Commissions": during the migration process determined the officers, who showed reluctance or unlawful actions, by visiting to the regions that events occurred and following the decisions they observed the appropriate actions taken.[44][45][46] The appropriate actions were extended to the Court Martial and in accordance with the judgments at the Court Martial, guilty parts were sentenced to heavy punishments.[47]
  2. "End of World War I": the issue opened one more time during the Turkish Courts-Martial of 1919–20 under the military occupation of Constantinople, which Ottoman courts generated one more analysis.

The Turkish authorities maintain the position that the Ottoman Empire did not exercise the degree of control which the opposing parties claim. Turkey accepts that there were Armenian deaths as a result of Ottoman decisions, but states that the responsible Ottoman bureaucrats and military personnel were tried. Bernard Lewis believes that what he names the "tremendous massacres"[48] were not "a deliberate preconceived decision of the Ottoman government."[49] The Dutch historian Erik Zürcher believes that the reported killings during the application of Tehcir law were ordered not by the Ottoman government itself, but only a small circle.[50] He supported his claims, in particular, with the trials held by court martial involving several hundred soldiers guilty of massacres, as early as 1916. Zürcher believes that the killings are properly likened to the Srebrenica massacres rather than the Holocaust.[51]


Archive document of 1914 Census of Ottoman Empire.
Armenian population in Ottoman Empire: 1,219,323 (Ottoman Turkish statistics)
Total population (sum of all millets) was 20,975,345 as published by Stanford J. Shaw[52]

There is no consensus between Western scholars and some Turkish scholars on which casualties should be directly assigned to Ottoman Empire. Western historians say that the before and after World War I Armenian population difference should be used. The Ottoman Armenian population before 1914 gains importance in this perspective. According to Turkey, Western publications use partial statistics (conflict regions) like Turkish Armenia, Anatolia, Ottoman Armenia, Asiatic Turkey, 6 Armenian Villeyets, 9 Armenian Villeyets etc. Historians such as Yusuf Halacoglu claim that the Ottoman Empire should only be responsible for "deportations" and brings forward lower figures of Armenian casualties.

Based on studies of the Ottoman census by Justin McCarthy and on contemporary estimates, it is said that fewer than 1.5 million Armenians lived in the relevant areas before the war.[53] McCarthy calculated an estimate of the pre-war Armenian population, then subtracted his estimate of survivors, arriving at a figure of a little less than 600,000 for Armenian casualties for the period 1914 to 1922.[54] In a more recent essay, he projected that if the Armenian records of 1913 were accurate, 250,000 more deaths should be added, for a total of 850,000.[55]

However, Mccarthy's numbers have been highly contested by many specialists. Some of them, like Frédéric Paulin, have severely criticized McCarthy's methodology and suggested that it is flawed.[56] Hilmar Kaiser[57] another specialist has made similar claims, as have professor Vahakn N. Dadrian[58] and professor Levon Marashlian.[59] The critics not only question McCarthy's methodology and resulting calculations, but also his primary sources, the Ottoman censuses. They point out that there was no official statistic census in 1912; rather those numbers were based on the records of 1905 which were conducted during the reign of Sultan Hamid.[60] While Ottoman censuses claimed an Armenian population of 1.2 million, Fa'iz El-Ghusein (the Kaimakam of Kharpout) wrote that there were about 1.9 million Armenian's in the Ottoman Empire,[61] and some modern scholars estimate over 2 million. German official Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter wrote that fewer than 100,000 Armenians survived the genocide, the rest having been exterminated (German: ausgerottet).[62]:329–30

Arguments extenuating genocide

Inter-ethnic violence

Ottoman Armenian history can not be understood in isolation especially without the consideration of rise of nationalism under the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman sources use similar arguments to Armenian nationalism which they use to other non-Ottoman ethnic groups. They point to the famous patriotic speech “The Paper Ladle” of Catholicos Mgrdich Khrimian in which he advised Armenians to take the National awakening of Bulgaria as a model as the hopes of the Armenian people for self-determination were ignored.[63] “The Paper Ladle” was a turning point at the Armenian national awakening in the Ottoman Empire. Nationalism did not only influence the Armenians; Kurdish-Armenian relations caused trouble for both the Armenian and Muslim populations of the region. The New York Times quoted a Turkish embassy gazette in 1896 that stated: "It wasn't the Porte that caused the massacres in Armenia, but the Christian propaganda in Asia Minor where their cry, "Down with Islam," initiated the war of the crescent against the cross."[64]

The plight of Ottoman Muslims throughout the 19th and 20th centuries is also mentioned. According to the historian Mark Mazower, Turkey resents the fact that the West is ignorant of the fate of millions of Muslims expelled from the Balkans and Russia, and would consider any apology towards Armenians as a confirmation of the anti-Turkish sentiment held by Western powers for centuries. Mazower recognizes a genocide of the Armenians, but he notes "Even today, no connection is made between the genocide of the Armenians and Muslim civilian losses: the millions of Muslims expelled from the Balkans and the Russian Empire through the long 19th century remain part of Europe's own forgotten past. Indeed, the official Turkish response is invariably to remind critics of this fact — an unconvincing justification for genocide, to be sure, but an expression of underlying resentment".[65]

According to one denialist interpretation, the genocide was a two sided battle: "when they [the Armenians] advanced victoriously under the protection of the Russian Army, the same spectacle occurred as in 1915, but this time it was Turks who were attacked by Armenians, aided and possibly commanded and directed by Russia.[66][67]

Another common claim made by not only Turks, but also other peoples of the region, is that the actions of Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece during the First Balkan War (against Albanians and Turks, as well as other peoples of the region) and of the same list minus Bulgaria during the Second (against Bulgarians), constituted genocide, especially those by the Serbs against Albanians and Turks in Kosovo and Macedonia.[citation needed] Whole villages were burnt to the ground and their inhabitants were massacred on spot and left in piles simply because they were inhabited by Turks or Albanians (and later, Bulgarians/Macedonians). The Serbian-orchestrated massacres of Albanians and other Balkan Muslims in Kosovo and Macedonia were soon discovered by the press- and not only the Habsburg and Ottoman press, but even a number of disaffected Westerners and even Serbs.[68]

Similarly, while Turks committed numerous atrocities against Bulgarians in Thrace during the First Balkan War,[69] the Bulgarians also victimized the Turks (as well as Muslim Bulgarians)[70]

Turks claim that since no country recognizes this behavior as genocide (well over 1 million Turks were killed during the Balkan Wars and World War I [71]), it is unreasonable to call what happened to the Armenians in Anatolia (with similar proportions) genocide, and that the genocide claim is just being used against the losing side in the First World War.[citation needed]

Denialists also claim Turks and other Muslim ethnic groups were murdered and expelled in sensitive regions in the Northern Middle East and the Balkans, on the grounds of their Islam and relative loyalty to the Porte.[72] Albanians, too, who were not universally Muslim, nor were they loyal to the Empire, were subjected to a number of organized cleansing operations in the form of massacres at the hands of the Balkan pact members, especially the Serbs [73][need quotation to verify]


"Hunger Map of Europe", published in December 1918, indicates serious food shortages in most of the territories of the Ottoman Empire, and famine in Armenian-controlled territory.

Regarding the famine and starvation arguments, Turkish authorities acknowledge that many Armenians died, but say many Muslims died too in widespread instances of famine and disease, such as in the region of Greater Syria. As the world war placed great strains upon the empire, so the argument goes, suffering was not limited merely to Armenians and other Christians.

Conflict resolution

While the majority of international opinion accepts the findings of the international courts, there remains some disagreement about the extent of the genocide and to what degree Turkey was involved.

The Turkish authorities seek both historical and political reconciliation with Armenia, but have put forth certain conditions before reconciliation. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 following the Nagorno-Karabakh War between Armenia and Turkic-speaking Azerbaijan. The borders have remained closed because the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute has not been settled to this day, and also because of a dispute over a matter of history: the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in eastern Turkey during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire; whether to label it 'genocide' or not.[74]

In 2005 Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan invited Turkish, Armenian and international historians to form a commission to reevaluate the events of 1915 by using archives in Turkey, Armenia and other countries.[75] Armenian president Robert Kocharian responded, "Your proposal to address the past can’t be effective if it does not refer to the present and the future. To start an effective dialog, we should create a favorable political environment. The governments are responsible for the development of bilateral relations, and we have no right to delegate that responsibility to the historians. Thus, we have proposed and we again propose to establish normal relations between our countries without preconditions. In this regard, an inter-governmental commission can be formed to discuss the outstanding issues to resolve them and mainatain mutual understanding."[76][77]

Additionally, Turkish foreign minister of the time, Abdullah Gül, invited the United States and other countries to contribute to such a commission by appointing scholars to "investigate this tragedy and open ways for Turks and Armenians to come together".[78]

Documentation and historical study

The Concerned Scholars and Writers says the Turkish government tries "to sanitize its history now include the funding of chairs in Turkish studies – with strings attached – at American universities".[79]

Every original document of the Tehcir Law is open.[25] The Ottoman Archives were taken over by the Governmental Archives Directorate of the Prime Ministry. According to Turkish authorities, the Ottoman Archives have been researched by many historians. Besides the research made by thousands of historians, these documents were translated into English and published in order to enlighten the public.[80]

Turkish authorities point out that without doing a triangulation, even if the facts were reported correctly, the conclusions drawn can be false. It is also possible to look at secondary sources in the Ottoman Archives of the period such as budget, allocations, decisions/reasons of requests. There are also personal records such as Mehmed Talat Pasha's personal notes. They also point out the general attitude (Sick man of Europe) of the time and how it deforms perceptions. They state that the conclusions reached toward genocide are highly biased.

Some very "central" (most cited) sources are actively questioned on the basis that they do not include a single reference from the Ottoman Archives[citation needed], mainly occupying forces' sources of the period (British, French) on the basis of their Intelligence issues. There are concerns that these sources may promote propaganda.

Enver Zia Karal (former dean of history at Ankara University), Salahi R. Sonyel (British historian and public activist), Ismail Binark (General Director of State Archives, Ankara), Sinasi Orel (director of a much publicized project on declassifying documents on Ottoman Armenians), Kamuran Gurun (former diplomat), Mim Kemal Oke, Justin McCarthy, and others have claimed that the "Blue Book" (The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916[81]) by James Bryce and Arnold J. Toynbee lacks credibility.[82] Their reasoning being that the Blue Book was originally censored to protect the identities of witnesses who were still living in the Ottoman Empire in 1916 and that eye witness accounts could not be considered without their identification. The referenced names of the witnesses were published separately in a sister publication[83] and have since been combined into an uncensored edition.[81] The sister publication which was a confidential key was forwarded by Bryce and Toynbee to a number of trusted individuals in Britain and the United States who published it in 1916.[84]

Reverse engineering of activities aimed to provide evidence without covering opposing reasoning, such as "Map of Genocide", contain factual problems according to these historians. In this map, the methodology developed, related to "Centers of Massacre and Deportation" and adding data from three different sources (the data in these sources are also aggregate data), is questionable. This map is used as a source of validation among Western scholars.

They argue that there was a secret arrangement which can be traced through mismatches on orders and distributions of the forced deportations. There are many periphery-to-center transmissions on how to deal with emerging issues, such as allocating more than 10% of the destination population and its consequences to the local economy.

Talat Pasha telegrams

Many references that cite genocidal intent use the "Talat Pasha telegrams", which are a series of documents by the Interior Minister Mehmed Talat Pasha, to constitute concrete evidence that the deaths were implemented as a state policy. Pasha was tied to the "Kill every Armenian man, woman, and child without concern" order in these documents.[85] The genocidal intent of Mehmed Talat Pasha and even the correctness of this famous sentence is dependent on the authenticity of these documents.[citation needed]

Denialism by academia

The 69 American historians – the “Lewis Affair”

On May 19, 1985, The New York Times and The Washington Post ran an advertisement in which a group of 69 American historians called on Congress not to adopt the resolution on the Armenian Genocide.[86] Bernard Lewis, a prominent historian of Islam at Princeton, was among them and so the case was named after him.[86][87] [88] The advertisement was paid for by the Committee of the Turkish Associations.[86] Another important signee was Heath Lowry, the director of the Institute of Turkish Studies at Georgetown.[89] Both Lewis and Lowry have been included among the key deniers of the Armenian Genocide.[90][91] According to Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton, Lowry was also advising on how to prevent mention of the Armenian Genocide in scholarly works, and was discovered ghost writing for the Turkish ambassador in Washington on issues regarding the Embassy's denial of the Armenian Genocide.[92] The Armenian Assembly of America found that many or most of the 69 academics apparently benefited directly or indirectly from Turkish government research grants.[93][94] According to Yair Auron, an Israeli historian, scholar and expert specializing in Genocide studies and racism, this advertisement is a good example of one of many Turkish attempts to influence academia, a project on which Turkey spends enormous funds.[95]

After publication of the statement, professor Gérard Chaliand of Paris V – Sorbonne University expressed disappointment that Lewis had signed. Lewis responded that the statement was an attempt to avoid damaging Turkish-American relationships and that it included a call for Turkey to open its archives, but the former was not mentioned in the statement.[86] Some of the other signatories confessed later that there are deliberate attempts by the Turkish government and its allies to muddle and deny the issue. Others confirm that there have been massacres but say they avoid the use of the term Genocide.[96] However, Henry Morgenthau Sr. wrote that "When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race; they understood this well, and, in their conversations with me, they made no particular attempt to conceal the fact."[97]

In October 2000, when the House of Representatives of the US was to discuss the resolution on the Armenian Genocide, Turkish politician Şükrü Elekdağ admitted that the statement had become useless because none of the original signatories besides Justin McCarthy would agree to sign a new, similar declaration.[98][99]

The declaration of 125 Turkish scientists

Following the refusal of 68 of the 69 historians to sign the above statement of 1985 once again, on 23 April 2001 125 scientists signed the Declaration by Turkish Academicians on the Turkish-Armenian Problem:

We, the Turkish academicians, whose signatures appear below; believe that the statement, signed by 69 American academicians, who specialize in Turkish, Ottoman and Middle Eastern Studies, and addressed to the U.S. Congress on May 19, 1985; describes the nature and scope of the Turkish-Armenian problem during World War One properly and truthfully; congratulate our colleagues for their courageous stand, and announce to the world our support for them.[100]

The undersigned scientists of this declaration represented a variety of scientific studies: Medicine, Economics, Computer Sciences, Molecular genetics, Law, Nuclear Engineering etc. Among the signatories are scientists from the USA, Azerbaijan, Canada and other countries.

The resignation of Donald Quataert

One of the 69 signatories of the 1985 statement to the US Congress was Donald Quataert. He resigned from the position of the chairman of the board of directors of the Institute of Turkish Studies, which he had held since 2001. As he announced, he had to resign due to the pressure of the Turkish ambassador Nabi Shensoy after he characterised the massacres of Armenians in Turkey as genocide. Shensoy rejected the allegations. Quataert’s resignation created a scandal among the academia and a number of members of the board of directors of the Institute resigned as well after the announcement. Mervat Hatem the director of Middle East Studies Association addressed the Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan a harsh letter, whereby he expressed grave concerns with the announcements of Turkish officials to stop the financing of the Institute if Quataert didn’t renounce his assessments publicly. Hatem also noted, that "the resignations are in contradiction with those many requests to leave the discussion and the assessment of the Armenian Genocide to the academia (instead of discussing it on the political arena) that Turkey has been making." According to the announcement by Quataert, the members of the board of directors on the Institute of Turkish Studies were surprised to find out, that the funding of the institute by Turkey is not a sign of trust but a gift, that can be annulled at any moment.[101][102][103]

Comparison with Holocaust

Officially the state of Israel neither recognizes nor denies the Armenian Genocide. The attempts of Israeli leftist and centrist parties like Merets and Kadima to put the discussion on Armenian Genocide on the Knesset's agenda were fervently attacked by the Israeli 'right-wing' nationalist parties. Far-right party Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) claims that Genocide discussions would jeopardise Israel-Azerbaijan and Israel-Turkish relations and hurt close economic and military cooperation with them. These two countries are essential for Israel's regional policy and interests in delegitimizing Iran.

Far right parties in Israel have attacked comparison of the Armenian Genocide with the Holocaust. In 2008, Yosef Shagal, an Azerbaijani Jew and now retired Israeli parliamentarian from Israel Our Home stated in an interview to Azerbaijan media (which officially denies the genocide): "I find it deeply offensive, and even blasphemous to compare the Holocaust of European Jewry during the Second World War with the mass extermination of the Armenian people during the First World War. Jews were killed because they were Jews, but Armenians provoked Turkey and should blame themselves."[104]

Despite this controversy, there are several prominent Armenian Genocide Memorials in the State of Israel. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the genocide, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra performed music written by Armenian composers.[105]

Many Israeli and Jewish historians draw parallels between the genocides. Hebrew University scholar Yehuda Bauer suggests of the Armenian Genocide, "This is the closest parallel to the Holocaust".[106] He nonetheless distinguishes several key differences between the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, particularly in regard to motivation:

[T]he Nazis saw the Jews as the central problem of world history. Upon its solution depended the future of mankind. Unless International Jewry was defeated, human civilization would not survive. The attitude towards the Jews had in it important elements of pseudo-religion. There was no such motivation present in the Armenian case; Armenians were to be annihilated for power-political reasons, and in Turkey only ... The differences between the holocaust and the Armenian massacres are less important than the similarities—and even if the Armenian case is not seen as a holocaust in the extreme form which it took towards Jews, it is certainly the nearest thing to it.[106]

Institutional Study

According to the Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, the denial of Armenian genocide is "the most patent example of a state's denial of its past".[107]

Historians mark that "the genocide of the Armenians has been denied to this day by successive Turkish governments, with the exception of the short-lived imperial government that existed between the end of World War I and the ascendance of the Kemalist nationalist regime in the early 1920s."[108] To deny the Armenian genocide "is like Holocaust denial," notes Gregory Stanton, vice president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars and president of Genocide Watch.[109]

According to Intelligence Report journal of Southern Poverty Law Center, "revisionist historians who conjure doubt about the Armenian genocide and are paid by the Turkish government provided the politicians with the intellectual cover they needed to claim they were refusing to dictate history rather than caving in to a foreign government's present-day interests".[110] Mark Potok, the editor of Intelligence Report, wrote:

Some semi-official Turkish narratives now claim, in effect, that the Armenians actually carried out genocidal attacks on the Turks. Neo-Nazis and their scholarly enablers say that "the Jews" manufactured tall tales of the Holocaust in order to extort money and other concessions from postwar Germany. Neo-Confederates like Doug Wilson, a far-right pastor in Moscow, Idaho, tell their listeners with a straight face that the Civil War was nothing less than a defense of righteous Christian civilization and that blacks really didn't mind slavery. These lies all serve current agendas — to demonize and minimize the historical claims of Armenians, Jews, and African Americans.[111]

Colin Tatz, Professor of Macquarie University, considers the nature of Turkish denial industry as "pernicious, outrageous and continued": "Here is a modern state, totally dedicated, at home and abroad, to extraordinary actions to have every hint or mention of an Armenian genocide removed, contradicted, explained, countered, justified, mitigated, rationalised, trivialised and relativised."[112] In their book Criminological Perspectives, E. McLaughlin, J. Muncie and G. Hughes conclude: "If the Turkish government can deny that the Armenian genocide happened; if revisionist historians and neo-Nazis deny that Holocaust took place; if powerful states all around the world today can systematically deny the systematic violations of human rights they are carrying out – then we know that we're in bad shape".[113]

In 1990, psychologist Robert Jay Lifton received a letter from the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, questioning his inclusion of references to the Armenian Genocide in one of his books. The ambassador inadvertently included a draft of a letter, presented by scholar Heath W. Lowry, advising the ambassador on how to prevent mention of the Armenian Genocide in scholarly works. Lowry was later named to the Atatürk chair of Ottoman Studies at Princeton University, which had been endowed with a $750,000 grant from the Republic of Turkey. The incident has been the subject of numerous reports as to ethics in scholarship.[114][115]

Another source notes: "In order to institutionalize this campaign of denial and try to invest it with an aura of legitimacy, a "think-tank" was established in Ankara in April 2001. Operating under the name "Institute for Armenian Research" as a subsidiary of The Center For Eurasian Studies, with a staff of nine, this new outfit is now proactively engaged in contesting all claims of genocide by organizing a series of conferences, lectures, and interviews, and above all, through the medium of publications, including a quarterly".[116]

Open University of Israel scholar Yair Auron has addressed the various means employed by the Turkish government to obscure the reality of the Armenian Genocide:[117]

Since the 1980s, the Turkish government has supported the establishment of "institutes" affiliated with respected universities, whose apparent purpose is to further research on Turkish history and culture, but which also tend to act in ways that further denial.

University of California, Los Angeles scholar Leo Kuper in a review on Ervin Staub's "The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence" research, wrote:[118]

The Armenian genocide is a contemporary current issue, given the persistent aggressive denial of the crime by the Turkish government-not withstanding its own judgment in courts martial after the first World War, that its leading ministers had deliberately planned and carried out the annihilation of Armenians, with the participation of many regional administrators.

According to American scholars Roger W. Smith, Eric Markusen and Robert Jay Lifton,[114]

The government of Turkey has channeled funds into a supposedly objective research institute in the United States, which in turn paid the salary of a historian who served that government in its campaign to discredit scholarship on the Armenian genocide.

"Given the indisputable documentary record of the Armenian genocide, it would appear that at least some of those who refuse to go on record recognizing Turkey’s genocide of Armenians are, like those who refuse to recognize Germany’s genocide of European Jews, motivated by ignorance and bigotry", claims American scholar Stephen Zunes.[119]

On June 9, 2000, in a full-page statement in The New York Times, 126 scholars, including Nobel Prize-winner Elie Wiesel, historian Yehuda Bauer, and sociologist Irving Horowitz, signed a document "affirming that the World War I Armenian genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize it as such."[120]

Wiesel himself has repeatedly called Turkey's 90-year-old campaign to cover up the Armenian genocide a double killing, since it strives to kill the memory of the original atrocities.[110]

In an open letter by the "Danish Department for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the denial and relativization of the Armenian genocide", historians Torben Jorgensen and Matthias Bjornlund wrote:[121]

When it comes to the historical reality of the Armenian genocide, there is no “Armenian” or “Turkish” side of the “question,” any more than there is a “Jewish” or a “German” side of the historical reality of the Holocaust: There is a scientific side, and an unscientific side acknowledgment or denial. In the case of the denial of the Armenian genocide, it is even founded on a massive effort of falsification, distortion, cleansing of archives, and direct threats initiated or supported by the Turkish state, making any “dialogue” with Turkish deniers highly problematic.

Philip L. Kohl and Clare Fawcett write that the "Armenian cultural remains in neighboring Turkey are frequently dismissed or referred to as "Ottoman period" monuments", and that the continued denial of the state-sponsored genocide is "related to these practices".[122]

According to Taner Akçam, Turkey "tried to erase the traces of a recent past that had become undesirable" through a series of reforms, so the collective memory "was replaced by an official history written by a few authorised academics, which became the sole recognised reference. Events prior to 1928 and the writings of past generations became a closed book."[123]

In a lecture he delivered in June 2011, Akçam stated that he was told by a Turkish foreign ministry official that the Turkish government was trying to bribe historians and academics in the United States to deny the Armenian Genocide.[124] Though he did not make any direct accusations, he noted the timing between what his source said with the recent publication of American historian Michael M. Gunter's book Armenian History and the Question of Genocide. He also raised the point that the four individuals who praised Gunter's book – Hakan Yavuz of University of Utah, Guenter Lewy of University of Massachusetts, Jeremy Salt of Bilkent University, Ankara, and Edward J. Ericson of Marine Corps Command & Staff College, Virginia – "are well known for their denialist position and works regarding the genocide of 1915."[124]


Some countries, including Italy,[125] Greece,[7] Switzerland,[126] Slovakia[126] and Cyprus[9] have adopted laws that punish genocide denial. In October 2006, the French National Assembly, despite the opposition of foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy,[127] passed a bill which if approved by the Senate and signed into law, will make Armenian Genocide denial a crime.[128] On October 7, 2011 French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Turkey's refusal to recognize the genocide would force France to make such denials a criminal offense.[129][130] On December 22, 2011, the lower house of the French legislature approved a bill making it a crime (punishable by a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros) to publicly deny as genocide the killing of Armenians by troops of Turkey's former Ottoman Empire.[131] On January 23, 2012, the French Senate adopted the law, which criminalizes the denial of genocides, including the Armenian Genocide in France.[132] However, on February 28, 2012, the Constitutional Council of France invalidated the law, stating, among other things, that it curbs freedom of speech.[133] After that the French President Sarkozy has called on his cabinet to draft new legislation to punish those who deny that the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops is a genocide.[134] Under current French law denying or disputing eg. the Armenian genocide or the Rwandan genocide is not a crime as they're classified as acts of different nature compared to the Holocaust.[135][136]

In November 2015 a group of Russian lawmakers have submitted a bill to the Russian Duma on accountability for the Armenian Genocide denial. The bill proposes a fine of up to 500,000 rubles for any denial of genocide.[137]

Issues regarding deniers

The first person convicted in a court of law for denying the Armenian genocide is Turkish politician Doğu Perinçek, found guilty of racial discrimination by a Swiss district court in Lausanne in March 2007. At the trial, Perinçek denied the charge thus: "I have not denied genocide because there was no genocide.".[138] After the court's decision, he said, "I defend my right to freedom of expression." Ferai Tinç, a foreign affairs columnist with Turkey's Hürriyet newspaper, commented, "we find these type of [penal] articles against freedom of opinion dangerous because we are struggling in our country to achieve freedom of thought."[139] Perinçek appealed the verdict. In December 2007, the Swiss Federal Court confirmed the sentence given to Perinçek.[140] Perinçek then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, and in 2013 the Court ruled that Perinçek's freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, had been violated.[141] The European Court of Human Rights's Grand Chamber ruled in favour of Perinçek on 15 October 2015.[142][143] (see Perinçek v. Switzerland).

In October, 2008 the Swiss court ruled that three Turks were guilty of racial discrimination after having claimed that the Armenian Genocide was an "international lie." The European representative of the Party of Turkish Workers, Ali Mercan, was sentenced to pay a fine of 4,500 Swiss francs ($3,900), two others were ordered to pay 3,600 Swiss francs.[144] In October 2010, the Swiss Federal Court confirmed the verdict.[145] In December, 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland violated the principle of freedom of expression. The court said that "Mr Perincek was making a speech of a historical, legal and political nature in a contradictory debate"[146]

In November 1993 American historian Bernard Lewis said in an interview that calling the massacres committed by the Turks in 1915 a genocide was just "the Armenian version of this history".[147] In a 1995 civil proceeding a French court censured his remarks as a denial of the Armenian Genocide and fined him one franc, as well as ordering the publication of the judgment at Lewis' cost in Le Monde.[148] The court ruled that while Lewis has the right to his views, they did damage to a third party and that "it is only by hiding elements which go against his thesis that the defendant was able to state that there was no 'serious proof' of the Armenian Genocide; consequently, he failed in his duties of objectivity and prudence by expressing himself without qualification on such a sensitive subject".[148]

Time DVD incident

The Ankara Chamber of Commerce included a DVD accusing the Armenian people of slaughtering Turks with their paid tourism advertisement in the June 6, 2005 edition of the magazine Time Europe. Time Europe later apologized for allowing the inclusion of the DVD and published a critical letter signed by five French organizations.[149] The February 12, 2007 edition of Time Europe included a full-page announcement and a DVD of a documentary by French director Laurence Jourdan, with an interview with Yves Ternon.[150]

See also


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  82. Toynbee characterised the Armenian massacres as genocide in much later works including Acquaintances (1967) and Experiences (1969). See Hans-Lukas Kieser's review of Halacoglu's work.
  83. Key to Names of Persons and Places Withheld from Publication in the Original Edition of "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–16."
  84. The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–1916. pp. viii & ix
  85. Congressional Record, V. 151, Pt. 6, April 21, 2005 to May 5 2005, Part 16 (2009), p. 758: Rep. Anthony Weiner Commemorates Armenian Genocide
  86. 86.0 86.1 86.2 86.3 Yves Ternon. The «Lewis Affair» // Richard G. Hovannisian. Remembrance and denial: the case of the Armenian genocide. Wayne State University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8143-2777-X, 9780814327777. Pp. 237–348. «The „Lewis Affair“ began in the United States on May 19, 1985, with the publication, both in the New York Times and in the Washington Post, of an advertisement addressed to members of the House of Representatives. The statement was signed by sixty-nine academics in Turkish studies and sponsored by the Assembly of Turkish American Associations. Among the signatories was the name of Bernard Lewis, the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern History at Princeton University.»
  87. W. D. Rubinstein. Genocide: a history, Pearson Education, 2004. ISBN 0-582-50601-8, ISBN 978-0-582-50601-5. P.145 «This was an element in the so-called 'Lewis Affair', which occurred in 1985 when Professor Bernard Lewis of Princeton University, one of the world’s leading experts on modern Turkish history, signed a statement addressed to the American Congress concerning the inclusion of the Armenian genocide in a proposed `National Day of Remembrance of Man’s Inhumanity to Man`»
  88. Yair Auron. The banality of denial: Israel and the Armenian genocide. Transaction Publishers, 2004. ISBN 0-7658-0834-X, 9780765808349. Pp. 226–227 ""The Bernard Lewis Affair:" 1997" "The rationalization of the Armenian Genocide began to take root in Western academic circles in the 1980s, and was further strengthened by the hiring of Bernard Lewis at Princeton University. Lewis is one of the most prominent specialists on the Middle East — some would say the most distinguished historian of the Middle East. Lewis' stature provided a lofty cover for the Turkish national agenda of obfuscating academic research on the Armenian Genocide. <...> Later on Bernard Lewis reversed his position and changed the text. In 1985 he signed a petition to the U.S. Congress protesting the plan to make April 24, the day on which the Armenians commemorate the victims of the Genocide, a national American-Armenian memorial day, mentioning man's inhumanity to man. Lewis' signature was the most significant of sixty-nine signatures published. A two-page spread appeared simultaneously in the New York Times and Washington Post, financed by the Committee of the Turkish Associations."
  89. Richard G. Hovannisian. Remembrance and denial: the case of the Armenian genocide. Wayne State University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8143-2777-X, 9780814327777. P. 224 «The Institute of Turkish Studies and its director. Heath Lowry, were instrumental in securing the signature of sixty-nine academics in Turkish studies, many of whom had been awarded grants by the institute, for an open letter published as an advertisement in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and read more than once into the Congressional Record.»
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Further reading

External links