Friday, April 29, 2011

It is time to recognize Armenian Genocide – Israeli MP Armenia News

April 29, 2011 13:30
Israeli Foreign Minister must review its position on recognition of the Armenian Genocide, said Ze’ev Elkin member of the Knesset for Likud party.
Foreign Ministry should not adhere to non-recognition position which once was introduced by Shimon Peres in favor of Turkey, he said at a conference dedicated to the 96th anniversary of the tragic events in Armenia, reported the press service of the Likud party.
“The State of Israel, calling on the world to accept historical justice and observe moral norms, can not act on the contrary being guided by narrow political views only. It’s time to stop policy of indulging Turkey introduced by Shimon Peres. The Jewish state should have been among the first to declare an official recognition. Unfortunately, Israel is one of the last Western countries which has not done so. Better late than never,” he said.
Elkin also urged his fellow MPs to vote for the adoption of a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide. He appealed to the chairman of the Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Shaul Mofaz, requesting to conclude consideration of this matter and submit it for Knesset’s approval.
Many states have recognized the Armenian Genocide. Uruguay was the first to do it in 1965. The Armenian Genocide has since been recognized by Russia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Greece, Cyprus, Lebanon, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina, as well as by 42 of the U.S. states. The Armenian Genocide has also been recognized by Vatican, the European Parliament, and World Church Council.

SHAME ON TURKEY---Erbal and Suciyan: One Hundred Years of Abandonment

By Ayda Erbal and Talin Suciyan
The Armenian WeeklyApril 2011 Magazine
The history of the Ottoman Armenians in the 19th century[1] is a history of great promises but also of greater abandonment. More than 200 Ottoman-Armenian intellectuals who were arrested the night of April 24, 1915 and the two weeks that followed possessed the damning knowledge that they were left alone. Zohrab’s Unionist friends, with whom he had dined and played cards, would choose not to stop his assassination. But abandonment will not abandon the Armenians. The survivors in the camps of Mesopotamia were alone, as were those hiding in the secluded mountains or villages of Anatolia. And those who survived through conversion or forced concubinage were left alone not only in the summer of 1915, but also in the hundred years that have followed.

Istanbul Armenian community leaders laying a wreath on Republican Statue in 1965.
The surviving Istanbul-Armenians who staged a book-burning ceremony were on their own too.[2] Compelled to imitate the Nazi party’s book-burning campaigns, they would gather in the backyard of Pangalti Armenian Church, build a book-burning altar, put Franz Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, along with his picture on the altar, and burn it to the ground. As a last act of symbolic perversion forced upon them, they would not only denounce the author, but also denounce the book’s content, hence denouncing themselves and denying their own history.
Hayganus Mark, Hagop Mintzuri, Aram Pehlivanyan, Zaven Biberyan, Vartan and Jak Ihmalyan, and the less famous all shared a similar fate, which happened to be that of Hrant Dink too: abandonment.[3]
Likewise, when Armenians around the world gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the genocide, the Istanbul Armenians found themselves in the middle of Taksim Square delivering wreaths to the Republican Statue in protest. The continuous and almost non-changing price of their survival would be their compulsory self-alienation from all other Armenians.[4]
Indeed, the community in Istanbul was attempting to distance itself from the diasporan communities. Moreover, there was hardly any communication between the communities of Anatolia and of Istanbul at the time. Soon the mythical Anatolia, which is vainly romanticized and widely hailed today in Turkey,[5] would become an open-air prison of leftover Armenians during the Republican years. For, a handful of communities scattered around the country would not be able to perpetuate their identity as Armenians and would leave their birthplaces yet another time. Their offspring would become Istanbul Armenians.
Meanwhile in Istanbul, the remnants of a fading intellectual life Armenian journalists and writers, along with schools, churches, and foundations, would all be left to struggle alone against a myriad of verbal, physical, and legal attacks from both the government and Turkish intellectuals of their time.[6] The price levied on the Armenians was extremely high and included not only a clear disengagement from a quest of justice for themselves, but also a clear—albeit forced—disengagement from their relatives in the diaspora. The never-spoken cost for Istanbul Armenians was the complete negation of their political identity and history.
One can argue that this survival strategy was the direct result of Republican nationalist policies regarding Turkey’s minorities. Thus the contemporary Turkish practice of demonizing the assertive and politically demanding segments of the Armenian Diaspora falls squarely within the same Republican nationalist framework that Istanbul Armenians historically embraced as a survival strategy. It’s rather puzzling to see why otherwise completely equal non-Armenian Turkish citizens would appropriate this predominantly Turkish-Armenian strategy without questioning it. Additionally, the recent privileging of certain Diasporan Armenians as legitimate interlocutors in the Turkish-Armenian divide is a continuity of the same Republican nationalist mentality, because more often than not these privileged diaspora Armenians happen to be the ones who have chosen not to articulate any political demands.[7] A subtle, premeditated silencing of Armenians’ legal and political demands, therefore, permeates both relations and the discourse, and leads to a further evasion from the issue that is, in essence, political.[8] Today, 103 years after 1908, the Armenian “Question” revolves around the same problem of legal, political, and social equality before the law, and equality also means that those involved in this quest should not be ostracized or demonized as a fifth column. Unfortunately, even the progressive segments of the Turkish society feel more comfortable when they are able to establish relationships with Armenians from a position of power, that is, when the Armenian interlocutor is speaking from a position of structural weakness.[9] Even though nowhere can diaspora Armenians match the kind of international power intellectuals from Turkey or the Turkish state can muster, these Armenians are perceived and represented as powerful. Furthermore, they are demonized as radicals and nationalists, and not necessarily represented as a people enjoying equal political rights in the polities to which they belong. To a great extent, then, solitude, although experienced differently, remains the most prominent characteristic of Armenian society both in Turkey and in the diaspora.
In this light, the contemporary discourse among intellectuals from Turkey is far from being able to fully confront the institutional and societal history of hostility and discrimination against both domestic and Diasporan Armenians.[10] Although the scholarship over the past 15 years, stemming from a critical need to face recent history, is a welcome addition to the literature, it mostly concentrates on crystallized instances of institutional discrimination, such as the 1942 wealth tax, compulsory second military service for minorities (20 kura askerlik),[11] the events of Sept. 6-7, 1955, or the Dersim Massacres.[12] These discussions have often fallen short of grasping the issue of normalized discourses of essentialist patriotism and racism in their day-to-day representations.[13] To a certain extent, approaching these issues as isolated cases, as opposed to a deeply embedded systemic and ideological problem, contributed to the practices of discourse normalization.[14] Indeed, until the assassination of Hrant Dink, racism was a taboo word in Turkey. If anything, racism was either an American or European problem; certainly not one that intellectuals from Turkey should take seriously. Thus, conscious efforts to keep racism far away from public awareness resulted in the domestication and cherry picking of issues, and the creation of pseudo-rival discourses—their nationalists vs. our nationalists[15] (a false parity)—in dealing with the dark history of racism in Turkey.
In a similar vein, the complete avoidance of the Holocaust in public discourse, for example, or in rare instances its use to refute the Armenian case among leftist circles, is indicative of a political culture of either obscurantist or viciously pragmatic nature. For example, the year 2011 marked the first Holocaust commemoration in Turkey during which the state message oscillated between emphasizing the uniqueness of the Jewish case and highlighting the Ottoman Imperial, and then Turkish Republican, tolerance and acceptance of Iberian, then European, Jews, instead of engaging in serious soul searching on the meaning of the Holocaust or the dark chapters of minority history in Turkey, including several waves of hostility against Turkish-Jews.
The debate over the term racism has come a long way since the Holocaust and the American civil rights movement. Theoretically speaking, American, continental, and Australian approaches to racism are not as much interested in dominative (old-fashioned) racism as they are in modern, normalized, ambivalent, aversive, laissez-faire, differential, and institutional forms of racism operating through linguistic discursive tools of othering or subordinating within an asymmetrical relationship of power.[16] Yet, it’s hard to claim these academic and/or popular debates with all their contextual and non-contextual theoretical subtleties had any profound effect on intellectual life in Turkey.
Of relevance to this discussion in Turkey is the lack of proper problematization and of consciousness regarding everyday normalized racism[17] as the root cause of attitudes when dealing with Armenians in general, and minority history and personalities in particular. This general problem is exacerbated by the wide-scale ignorance of majority Ottoman Armenians’ living conditions during the long 19th century and 1915 itself, and Turkish-Armenians’ living conditions and survival strategies during Republican history. There has been neither an institutional nor societal acknowledgement of the racism[18] ingrained in the mainstream mindset, nor any wide-scale institutional measures to combat everyday racism manifesting itself in all its different sub-types. Yet, somehow, the intellectuals from the majority think they are, by definition, devoid of such bias.[19] Even if they admit the existence of racism in Turkey, they conceive it to be a problem of the right and centrist ideologies and not theirs.[20]
These everyday attitudes manifest themselves in four major distinguishable forms of majority entitlement. The first concerns the screening, choosing, and separating of the “good Armenians” (Turkish Armenians plus a small number of Diasporan Armenians who don’t prioritize genocide recognition) from the “bad Armenians” (who push for keeping the recognition issue on the international agenda). In other words, interlocutors from Turkey still think that dialogue as such is a matter of finding either the apolitical or non-organized Armenians, or those Armenians who operate only from a position of weakness—either stemming from being a minority in Turkey or from a position of geographic dependency, such as Armenians from Armenia. Besides being an imperial practice akin to choosing to deal with the “house negroes,” so to speak—a post-modern loyal millet, a reincarnated millet-i sadika—its regressive character is not limited to this. Implicit in this approach is the perception of politically assertive Armenians as the problem. Also it implies a wishful thinking that if all politically assertive Armenians were gotten rid of, then the political problem of institutional discrimination and inequality that is still haunting Turkey would evaporate on its own. Yet, even if there were no significant Armenian political activity for recognition, the overall institutional commitment problem in post-1915 Turkey would have been the same.[21] It’s highly improbable that such mock deliberation geared towards avoiding the legal and political nature of the issue could deliver the sorely needed institutional outcomes in transitional political settings. As a matter of fact, aside from their non-identical religious characteristics, Turkey’s Kurdish Question and Armenian Question have had similar trajectories because of Turkey’s Turkish “Question,” which either does not understand or does not care to solve the institutional problem of equality that has existed for over 200 years now. What Armenians think of other Armenians is completely irrelevant to the issue of Turkish state’s much needed institutional commitments. Moreover, this practice reproduces a divide-and-rule colonial/imperial mindset, antithetical to the legal frameworks of human rights and equality. Trying to build a politics based on the instrumentalization of the inter-Armenian differences to delay justice cannot solve Turkey’s problem of 1915. With or without the presence of these inter-Armenian differences, the necessity of implementing institutional changes and complying with human rights standards will remain the same. If anything, Kurdish political trajectory should be a grim reminder for those avoiding the core issues at hand.
The second problematic entitlement concerns the blurring of the difference between the perpetrator and the victim in order to water down the majority state and societal responsibility. This is done with two different, but interconnected, arguments: one concerning the past, the other concerning the present. The first is reminiscent of the late 1980’s Historikerstreit discussion in Germany,[22] although the depth of the argument and counter-argument does not compare. A number of intellectuals, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, emphasize that Turks also suffered greatly in World War I, in general, and in 1915, in particular, especially in the case of the Gallipoli campaign. No one trained in comparative history denies the fact that the Ottoman Army and non-Armenian Ottoman citizens experienced tremendous losses during World War I; however, the argument misses the point by establishing a false parity, equating war to a state-sponsored campaign of killing its own citizens, and a false causality as if Ottoman Armenian citizens were responsible either for the war itself or a major episodic campaign. The second argument, again mostly originating in conservative quarters in Turkey, but not limited to them alone, blurs the distinction between the victim and the perpetrator, and the subsequent generations’ responsibilities by resorting to an “our common pain” argument—as in you suffered but we suffered, too, because of your suffering. Apart from being a recent creation, this discourse of common pain reduces the perpetrators’, bystanders’, deniers’ and their institutions’ responsibility to “feel the pain.” A symbolically violent appropriation of pain of an unimaginable magnitude, which even survivor generations are reluctant to own, the “feeling the pain”[23] discourse more often than not becomes a tool to absolve the institutional and societal inheritors from ethical and political consequences. We should recall Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he writes: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are surely caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one, affects all indirectly.” Nowhere does King argue that one is entitled to own the other’s pain as a substitute for, or as a means of diluting, political responsibility.
Thirdly, in rare cases where the victims’ historical suffering is granted, a rather obscene sense of entitlement surfaces. The victims’ interlocutor, itself the institutional and social inheritor of a generation of perpetrators, bystanders, or deniers, expects the descendants of the victims to speak in a way that will not make them feel bad. Despite placing an emphasis on empathy (itself a problematic term) and openness, the willingness to listen to Armenians is mostly conditional and carries the implied threat of “If you don’t speak properly we won’t listen to you.” The burden of responsibility, thus, rather perversely falls on the shoulders of the historically victimized and structurally powerless; and the interlocutor, whose power and posture is the opposite result of the same history of gross human rights violations, comes to the discussion not as a truly interested party but as if doing a favor to the Armenians.
There is an additional relative silencing effect in the sense that the victim has to temper its discursive tone to suit and prioritize the emotional needs of its interlocutor at large—in this case, the emotional needs of the majority Turkish citizens, as decided upon by these same intellectuals. The entire discussion surrounding the usage of the term genocide, or the avoidance thereof, is a prime example. The mentality behind this “dialogue” is where the unequal and sometimes supremacist thrust of the equation becomes the most visible in the conditionality of the listening and the absolute power to shut down the dialogue if Armenians fail to find a proper language (and tone) to explain their pain. This power dynamic is not unique to the intellectuals’ relationship to Armenians, as it also applies to their relationship with others, including their historically ambivalent relationship with the Kurdish citizens of Turkey.[24]
Finally, as a further frame of entitlement, a discourse of sameness is imposed upon Turkey’s minorities.[25] By discourse of sameness, we mean a reductionist tendency whereby a supposed cultural similarity between Turks and Armenians, via food and music, is assumed and presented as a better alternative to rights and equality before law. This particular discourse, which may have a phenotypic (we look alike), cultural (our food and music are similar), and geographic (Anatolia) similarity argument, has a dangerous tint to it. It involves a pseudo-inclusion of Armenians in an imagined community in Anatolia where the dominant trait is a potentially exclusionary narcissism, which is able to love and respect only that which is similar to itself, and glorifies cultural similarity as a political solution. The regressive quality of the argument is more evident when turned upside down, since it’s not very clear how it will treat difference, or what it will do if the minority party does not take the offer of similarity, or if it simply wants to insist on its difference. After all, during those limited times when conversion was an option between 1895 and 1915, the majority of Armenians did not want to convert, and the whole history leading to 1915, and 1915 itself, can also be read as a history in which Ottoman authorities did not want to deal seriously with the issue of difference and inferiority stemming from a dual legal framework of Sharia and Dhimmi Law. In a similar vein, the sameness argument indirectly hints at the suppression of differences for the sake of social harmony.[26]
All in all, especially the 19th century land romanticism of the sameness argument that takes Anatolia[27] as a common mythic location with ahistorical references to a peaceful, equal co-existence is totally outdated, and cannot provide a solution to serious political issues. It can only be a conversation starter where it belongs—at the raki/arak/dolma table. Rarely does one encounter such problematic self-orientalization[28] elsewhere. Hummus, as far as we know, does not have problem-solving powers nor does it have a place in serious academic or journalistic discussions within the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian divide. If the same cuisine and music has not been able to provide any tangible solution to the much lesser Kurdish-Turkish divide, one wonders how this untenable discourse of sameness will solve anything among Armenians and Turks. If one is to take this sameness argument seriously then one has to also explain how sameness was able to kill sameness.
To a certain extent, the history of Ottoman and Ottoman Armenian, and Turkish – Armenian and Turkish – Turkish-Armenian is trapped in the same pre-1908 conundrum of difference and equality before the law. On one side of the equation are those who are, still in this day and age, either totally unwilling or reluctant to accept that Armenians have a right to political agency and equality before the law (then domestic Ottoman, now several international polities).[29] On the other side of the equation are those who understand what political equality and political action mean in order to secure justice and equality. Neither side is made solely of Turks or solely of Armenians. Although the latter is mostly made of Armenians, there are a few scholars and human rights activists from Turkey, both in the U.S., Europe, and Turkey, who do not shy away from politics of recognition. These people know recognition is not just a onetime deal, some sort of ticket to oblivion, but only the first step in a long struggle of institutional commitments affecting the human rights and history curricula in all countries where there is a substantial political debate on recognitions and denials.
The inability to get out of the circularity of a pre-1908 mentality sets the boundaries of Turkish-Armenian citizens as well, unfortunately. Since there is not any real coming to terms with the past, Turkish-Armenian citizens are still perceived as a fifth column in general, and still have to distance themselves from the diaspora in order to be heard. Instead of dealing with institutional barriers, there is a novel but archaic tendency where the state looks mostly concerned with window-dressing solutions. Efforts are being made to appoint Turkish-Armenian citizens to state positions in order to partially counter the critics of structural inequality. At this point, one has to remember that there were more than two-dozen Armenians who worked as high-level Ottoman officials before the genocide; that alone was not indicative of a commitment to equality and human rights. If anything, the same pre-1908 mentality conditioned, and still to a certain extent conditions, the set of political choices for Turkish-Armenians briefly touched upon at the beginning of this article. So coming to terms with history is the only way for Turkish-Armenians to cease to be perceived as a fifth column and to become fully equal citizens.
In light of the discussion above, the fact that Hrant Dink was assassinated for, among other things, calling a spade a spade, and that he continued to be tried in absentia even after his assassination for daring to describe his experience, shows that it’s impossible to be a Turkish-Armenian freely able to describe his/her experience publicly. The victim has been further victimized while trying to qualify the legal and political magnitude of his victimhood. The intellectuals from Turkey cannot pretend that January 19, 2007 does not signify a major rupture. This rupture requires a reevaluation and deeper understanding of the Republican history of Turkish-Armenian strategies of survival.
If ever Turkey could approach the issue of 1915 from the perspective of justice, a justice frame that also includes calling a spade a spade just as Hrant did, on that day, justice will prevail in the case of assassination of Hrant Dink as well. Further, by doing so, Turkey would be able to approach and perhaps even lighten the heavy burden of loneliness of Armenians in her own country and in the diaspora.
[1] For an elaborate and foretelling socio-political analysis written during the 19th century and recently translated to English, see Raffi (Hagop Melik Hagopian)’s Tajkahayk: The Armenian Question (Taderon Press, 2007).
[2] See Bali, Rifat (2001), Musa’s Children, The Republic’s Citizens, p. 133, for the burning of The Forty Day of Musa Dagh. Not surprisingly as an author Franz Werfel was also on the Nazi book-burning list.
[3] Armenian writers and intellectuals were obstructed some way or another during the republican period; they either had to leave the country and/or their newspapers were closed down. Hayganuş Mark’s Hay Gin (Armenian Woman), which was published for 14 years, was closed by the state. The reasons remain unknown. Avedis Aleksanyan, S.K. Zanku (Sarkis Keçyan), Aram Pehlivanyan (Şavarş), Zaven Biberyan, Ihmalyan Brothers who were publishing Nor Or faced various assaults. Pehlivanyan was jailed because of his articles in Nor Or and his membership of Turkish Communist Party (TKP). After getting out of prison, he left Turkey. Hagop Demirciyan (Mıntzuri) who came to Istanbul for a tonsillectomy, could not go back and remained in Istanbul until the end of his life as an exile. He lost all his family, back in Armıdan, Erzincan in 1915.
[4] Aharonyan, Kersam (1966), Khoher Hisnamyagi Avardin (“Thoughts on the 50th Commemoration”), p. 149.
[5] Most writers and journalists from Turkey refer to an imagined idyllic Anatolia when addressing diaspora Armenians to emphasize their supposedly shared background. This imagined Anatolia is a mostly Republican-leftist ideological construct that does not even correspond to the contemporary Anatolia that predominantly votes to the right and far-right of the political spectrum. If anything, in domestic discourse not involving Armenians, this same Anatolia is loathed by the proponents of the heavenly Anatolia construct. They romanticize an Anatolia populated by Armenian artists, musicians, and architects, whom they would prefer over what they perceive as the current primitive inhabitants. However historically speaking, neither all Armenian life was artistic and modern (see Matossian and Villa’s Armenian Village Life before 1914), nor Anatolia has ever been an idyllic place of peaceful “co-existence” in the century and a half preceding 1915.
[6] The history of the Turkish press in the Republican era is full of such episodic outbursts against Armenians in general and prominent intellectual figures in particular.
[7] Before 2006, the only good Armenians were Turkish-Armenians. Later, a number of mostly European diaspora Armenians were embraced as legitimate interlocutors. This attempt at game changing through instrumentalizing ethnic identity is a textbook example of colonial/imperial regressive policy. Nonetheless, it is embraced by a number of progressives in Turkey.
[8] We do not deny nor neglect that the equation has other dimensions as well; however, those dimensions are framed by politics and even in the case of supposedly non-political arguments, a politics of either denial or negation or complete avoidance continues to permeate the discourse.
[9] Or when the Armenian interlocutor is ready to equally criticize Armenians seeking genocide recognition, or in some cases even treat them as sick and obsessed people. Even if it’s politically incorrect, indeed racist, to frame justice-seeking people as psychologically disturbed, somehow it has so far been acceptable by some Turkish intellectuals, especially if the maker of the sickness claim is Armenian. One needs to think seriously what all this means from a politico-philosophical and social psychological perspective. What does it mean to see the ethnicity before the argument, to validatean otherwise very problematic argument just because an Armenian is making it. How seeing ethnicity before the argument is different than seeing like a perpetrator state that reduced human being to their ethnic identity?
[10] Although one may be inclined to think so, the ASALA attacks are not the starting point for open hostility against Diasporan Armenians. Also, the earlier indifference towards Diasporan Armenians is rather strange given the fact that Kemal Tahir was a widely read novelist in the early 1970’s; Tahir published not one but two novels dealing with 1915, neither of which has been translated into Armenian or English. So the rather common argument “We did not know” does not hold, at least for anybody who was above 18 and reading novels in the early 1970’s.
[11] 20 Kura Askerlik was the compulsory second or third time military conscription of non-Muslim citizens of Turkey during World War II. Non-Muslim citizens between the ages of 25 and 45 were kept away from workforce for over 14 months and the subsequent wealth tax levied on the minorities with outrageous rates (232 percent for Armenians, 179 percent for Jews, 156 percent for Greeks and 10 percent for the Donme (converts)) impoverished them further.
[12] In February 2011, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) submitted a petition to the Turkish Parliament to recognize the massacres and deportations that took place between 1937-38 as genocide.
[13] Seyhan Bayraktar’s Politik und Erinnerung: Der Diskurs über den Armeniermord in der Türkei zwischen Nationalismus und Europäisierung, published in 2010, is the only exception. She vigilantly examines how discourse frames of the state and intellectuals can sometimes partially overlap or serve to reproduce nationalist discourse frames.
[14] By discourse normalization we mean all those discursive practices that unproblematically reproduce bias against politically active diaspora Armenians. The leftist/liberal discourse is where demonization of political activity is overtly normalized.
[15] The fact that there are also Armenian nationalists within the recognition camp does not make the entire recognition endeavor nationalist. This issue can be thought of more as a larger class action lawsuit in which individuals (including Turkish citizens and others) who are for universal human rights standards and for a form of justice can take part in the same class. In that sense the issue of genocide recognition per se is much larger than narrow parochial agendas.
[16] For an extended debate on the evolution of the term racism/ethnicism and comparative contexts, see Martha Augoustinos and Katherine J. Reynolds (2001), Understanding Prejudice, Racism, and Social Conflict; Jennifer Lynn Eberhardt and Susan T. Fiske (1998), Confronting Racism: the Problem and the Response; Arthur P. Brief (2008), Diversity at Work; John Nagle (2009), Multiculturalism’s Double Bind: Creating Inclusivity, Cosmopolitanism and Difference; Robert Miles and Malcolm Brown (2003), Racism (2nd edition); Martin Bulmer and John Solomos (2004), Researching Race and Racism;Pierre-Andre Taguieff and Hassan Melehy (2001), Force of Prejudice: On Racism and its Doubles; Ruth Wodak and Martin Reisigl (2000), Discourse & Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism.
[17] According to Wodak and Reisgl, racist, anti-Semitic, and ethnicist discrimination as a social practice, and as an ideology, manifests itself discursively and is orientated to five simple questions revolving around referential strategies (how are persons named and referred to linguistically?), predicational strategies (what traits, characteristics, qualities and features are attributed to them?), argumentation strategies (by means of what arguments and argumentation schemes do specific persons or social groups try to justify and legitimate the exclusion, discrimination, suppression, and exploitation of others?), perspectivation and framing strategies (from what perspective or point of view are these attributions and arguments expressed?), mitigation and intensification strategies (are the respective discriminating utterances articulated overtly, are they even intensified or are they mitigated?), Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism, p. xiii.
[18] “The concept of ‘everyday racism’ is intended to integrate, by definition, macro and microsociological dimensions of racism (Essed 1991: 16). After having criticised the dichotomic distinction between ‘institutional’ and ‘individual racism’ as erroneously placing the individual outside the institutional (even though ‘structures of racism do not exist external to agents—they are made by agents—but specific practices are by definition racist only when they activate existing structural racial inequality in the system’ [36]), Essed explains her understanding of the term ‘everyday’: [...] the ‘everyday’ can be tentatively defined as socialised meanings making practices immediately definable and uncontested so that, in principle, these practices can be managed according to (sub)cultural norms and expectations. These practices and meanings belong to our familiar world and usually involve routine or repetitive practices (48-9).” Essed in Wodak and Reisgl, p. 7.
[19] This is not to say that minorities are devoid of such bias against the majority themselves; yet these biases are structurally and causally not identical and need a separate discussion.
[20] It should not surprise us that several websites and reports on discriminatory and essentialist speech only deal with mainstream right/conservative press while completely neglecting the faux pas of those columnists who are self-avowedly liberals or leftists.
[21] Institutions do not become post-genocidal on their own, especially when denial persists. The Armenian and the Kurdish issues are deeply related because of the lack of institutional commitment on the part of the Turkish state and the society to a post-genocidal normative order. However, institutional commitments are not an end in themselves, as anti-Muslim sentiment and persisting anti-semitism in Europe show. The struggle against all forms of open and subtle racism is a day-to-day pedagogical problem that can’t be resolved only on paper.
[22] Historikerstreit was a debate central to the late 1980’s intellectual scene in Germany revolving around left-wing and right-wing interpretations of the Holocaust, particularly about its centrality in modern German history. The right-wingers tried to downplay the long trajectory of anti-semitism embedded in German society and institutions in the century leading to the Holocaust.
[23] Not surprisingly, the discourse of “feeling the pain” as an end in itself is reserved for Armenians and in no way is central to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict, because Kurds present Turkey with a real political challenge that Turkish intellectuals cannot evade anymore.
[24] For years majority Turkish intellectuals demanded the complete denunciation of the armed struggle first before engaging Kurdish intellectuals. This changed only very recently.
[25] This discourse has been also echoed from both Turkish-Armenian and a few Diasporan Armenian quarters.
[26] In domestic politics, AKP proponents and secularists are not “all the same,” but somehow when it comes to essentialist categories of Turks and Armenians, they “become” the “same.”
[27] This 19th-century land romanticism is what ties some mainstream leftist Turks to the mainstream Armenian perceptions of land. However, what is perceived as bad for Armenians (as a “nationalist” longing for a mythical Anatolia) is good and desirable for Turkish “patriots.” At their core, Turkish “patriotic” and Armenian “nationalist” Anatolia/ Western Armenia are non-identical but equally nationalistic-romantic mythical constructions. No Anatolianist Turkish leftist lives in Anatolia or has ever spent a considerable amount of time actually living in this mythical Anatolia. As for the Kurds, they do not refer to the partially overlapping geography as Anatolia and have practically lived in dire conditions of armed conflict and internal displacement.
[28] Orientalism is not just about what the West thought of the East and how it constructed representations of the East. It also has several self-orientalizing dimensions in which the East tends to perfectly reflect the stereotype of being “Eastern”–hence lesser. So, westerners have institutions and law, and there is always raki and dolma for Turks and Armenians.
[29] One major emphasis when talking about 1915 revolves around the “but the Armenians revolted” argument. Historically speaking, this is true, although its magnitude and prevalence is grossly exaggerated. However, framing the history of violence starting from the Armenian revolts misses several important points: The terrible living conditions of Armenians in the 19th century, the episodic violence that Armenians experienced, the fact that they also tried parallel tracks of petitioning but their appeals fell on deaf ears, and finally, the fact that the Ittihadists themselves were trying to get rid of the same absolutist regime. In a way, those Turkish intellectuals who are themselves active in domestic politics but who are not happy with Armenian political activity challenging the status-quo are still arguing in the same utterly discriminatory way: “We can do it, but you cannot.”
Ayda Erbal is writing her dissertation in the department of politics at New York University. She teaches two advanced undergraduate classes, “International Politics of the Middle East” and “Democracy and Dictatorship,” as adjunct professor of politics. Her work focuses on the politics of changing historiographies in Turkey and Israel. She is interested in democratic theory, democratic deliberation, the politics of “post-nationalist” historiographies in transitional settings, and the politics of apology. She is a published short-story writer and worked as a columnist for the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos from 2000-03.
Talin Suciyan is an Istanbul Armenian journalist who lived in Armenia from 2007-09. She is currently based in Munich, Germany, where she is pursuing her graduate studies. She was a contributor to Agos (from 2007-2010) and writes regularly for newspapers in Turkey

Monday, April 25, 2011

Don't forget Armenia: On anniversary of genocide, President must press Turkey to admit to its crimes

Kaster/APPresident Barack Obama needs to address the Armenian genocide. Ninety-six years after the event, the Armenian genocide remains an ethical issue that won't go away. In 1915, under the cover of World War I, the Ottoman Turkish government implemented a final solution for its Armenian population, some 2.5 million Christians living on their ancient homeland of 2,500 years and throughout what is today Turkey; in the end, more than a million Armenians perished, the rest sent into the diaspora.The catastrophe had such an impact on modern thinking that it was the central impetus in Raphael Lemkin's coining the term genocide, and it so emboldened Adolf Hitler that he exhorted his military advisers in 1939, just before invading Poland: "Who today, after all, speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?" The genocide of the Armenians would become a template for genocide in the modern era, as it was murder carried out with the apparatus of modern technology and bureaucracy.Although all Turkish governments since WWI have denied the crime of genocide against the Armenians, the consensus on the historical facts and moral definition of the events of 1915 are indisputable. The International Association of Genocide Scholars has written two open letters to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlining the historical record.Every year on April 24, the President of the United States issues a statement commemorating the annihilation of the Armenians that began on that evening in Constantinople (now Istanbul) with the arrest of 250 of their cultural leaders. They were sent to prison to be tortured, and most were killed.Every year, Armenians around the world look to the American President to use the accurate term for the mass killing of the Armenian population: genocide. Every year, a President says everything he can about the meaning of the event, but stops short of using that word because the Turkish government, fearful of the truth, employs every possible tactic to dissuade the President from speaking it.Coercion works, because Turkey is a consequential ally, and our government has not been able to muster the moral courage to do what many countries around the world have done: Make an official statement of recognition of the Armenian genocide. Such statements - by Canada, Uruguay, France, Russia, Poland, Greece, Lebanon, Sweden and so on - have been made not to legislate history, but only to affirm what is a clear, resolved historical record and to make what might be called a redress to official Turkish denial.It seems perfectly clear that the 21 countries that have made such resolutions find Turkey's aggressive efforts of denial ethically repugnant and unacceptable for a NATO member that also aspires to European Union admission.Many in the human rights community believe that President Obama has an obligation to join the ethical stances of these countries by affirming that the United States understands the importance of ethical memory in the face of a planned, state-sponsored, cynical program of denial that the Turkish government persists in.Obama has already done more than any previous President by telling the Turkish parliament in 2009 that not acknowledging the past properly can be a heavy weight to carry; as he told Turkish President Abdullah Gul: "I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed." (Obama emphatically asserted the need to acknowledge the Armenian genocide during his campaign.)Having opened the door, he should now heed his own words by acknowledging the views expressed by the courageous Human Rights Association in Istanbul: "Today, the 24th of April, is recognized worldwide as the date signifying the Armenian Genocide. Only in Turkey is this taboo. The Turkish state mobilizes all its resources to deny the meaning of this date. . . . Our struggle for human rights in Turkey is at the same time our mourning for our common losses and is an homage paid to the genocide victims."Obama could also recall one of many statements Lemkin, the father of the UN Genocide Convention, made about the Armenian genocide. On a sweltering August day in 1950, he wrote: "Let us not forget that the heat of this month is less unbearable to us than the heat of the ovens of Auschwitz and Dachau and more lenient than the murderous heat in the desert of Aleppo which burned to death the bodies of hundreds of thousands of Christian Armenian victims of genocide in 1915."Balakian is the author of "The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response." He teaches at Colgate University.

U.S. President goes back on his pledge again

U.S. President goes back on his pledge again
April 24, 2011 07:59
Since being elected U.S. President, Barack Obama has made his third address to the Armenian community in the United States in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide.
However, as during his previous addresses, the U.S. President used the term Meds Yeghern (Arm. Great Massacre), without qualifying the crime as genocide. Armenian posts the full text of his statement.
“We solemnly remember the horrific events that took place ninety-six years ago, resulting in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view of that history has not changed. A full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts is in all our interests.
Contested history destabilizes the present and stains the memory of those whose lives were taken, while reckoning with the past lays a sturdy foundation for a peaceful and prosperous shared future. History teaches us that our nations are stronger and our cause is more just when we appropriately recognize painful pasts and work to rebuild bridges of understanding toward a better tomorrow. The United States knows this lesson well from the dark chapters in our own history.
I support the courageous steps taken by individuals in Armenia and Turkey to foster a dialogue that acknowledges their common history. As we commemorate the Meds Yeghern and pay tribute to the memories of those who perished, we also recommit ourselves to ensuring that devastating events like these are never repeated. This is a contemporary cause that thousands of Armenian-Americans have made their own. The legacy of the Armenian people is one of resiliency, determination, and triumph over those who sought to destroy them. The United States has deeply benefited from the significant contributions to our nation by Armenian Americans, many of whom are descended from the survivors of the Meds Yeghern.
Americans of Armenian descent have strengthened our society and our communities with their rich culture and traditions. The spirit of the Armenian people in the face of this tragic history serves as an inspiration for all those who seek a more peaceful and just world. Our hearts and prayers are with Armenians everywhere as we recall the horrors of the Meds Yeghern, honor the memories of those who suffered, and pledge our friendship and deep respect for the people of Armenia”.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Composer Komitas Vardapet survived a genocide.. He should be better known

Sunday 24 April is Easter Day, but for Armenians it is also genocide remembrance day. This is when Armenians all over the world will gather to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 genocide in which 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey were either slaughtered, or died on forced marches into exile. For Armenians, music is memory. And whenever they gather to honour their dead, the songs they sing are by the composer who speaks for the soul of their nation, Komitas Vardapet. He himself was a victim of the 1915 persecution, and though he survived physically, he was driven into madness by it. Outside Armenia he, too, has been swept under the carpet of history.
Komitas's output was modest: 80 choral works and songs, arrangements of the Armenian mass, and some dances for piano. But as his better-known compatriot Aram Khachaturian acknowledged, he singlehandedly laid the foundations for Armenia's classical tradition. And as a collector and arranger of folksongs, he did for Armenia what Bartók did for Hungary, turning simple material into bewitchingly sophisticated polyphony. After a Komitas concert in Paris, Claude Debussy declared that on the basis of a single song, he deserved to be recognised as a great composer. Yet many classical musicians barely recognise his name.
I first became aware of Komitas's existence when recording the Armenian Chamber Choir in Yerevan in 2001. I was intrigued by the songs' vibrant strangeness: folk melodies so deftly arranged that the raw beauty of the originals glowed the more brightly.
Soghomon Soghomonyan – his original name – was born in 1869 to Armenian parents in Turkey, where the Christian minority endured routine discrimination. His parents (who both died when he was young) were noted singers: he inherited their gift and was talent-spotted at 12 by an Armenian bishop, and enrolled at the Etchmiadzin seminary near Yerevan. There, he was the class comedian who could mimic the songs he found in villages on the slopes of Mount Ararat: even in his teens he was a pioneer ethnomusicologist. Using the notation he had learned in the Armenian liturgy, he wrote down what he heard, devised three-part arrangements, and formed a student choir to sing them.
Soghomonyan's appetite for songs was voracious – one day, he noted with pride, he collected 34. His account of the ploughing song he found in the Armenian village of Lori reflects a remarkable ear: in his transcription, music, movement, and complex social relationships are seamlessly interwoven. In another village, he observed a girl singing to her dead mother: her plangently disordered song, he wrote, "expresses the sadness of her lot, and her inner world. If other orphans had heard it, they would have joined in. But after a while, that song would be forgotten. Because for the peasant, creating a song is as ordinary and natural as casual conversation is for the rest of us." As an encapsulation of the essence of folk music, this could still not be bettered.
Meanwhile he was trying to crack the code of "neume" notation, denoting changes of pitch, used in Armenian liturgical chants in the early middle ages. Altered in oral transmission over the centuries, Soghomonyan was determined to rediscover their original form.
At 25, Soghomonyan was ordained a Vardapet – a celibate priest – and renamed himself Komitas after a seventh-century religious poet. But Etchmiadzin was a small world, and he needed to spread his wings. He went to study in Berlin, then moved to Paris, where he founded a choir and began to attract big audiences for his folksong recitals. Regarded as the musical voice of Armenia, he was now a European celebrity, but his secular performances of sacred Armenian music put him on a collision course with his church. He also courted trouble through his relationship with Armenian singer Margaret Babayan, with whom he snatched an improbable holiday on the Isle of Wight. It will never be known if they had a love affair, but his letters suggest as anguished a wrestle with his soul as over his never-ending battle with the church traditionalists. He was at once a sensualist and an ascetic: he wanted to submit to discipline, but couldn't deny his artistic calling.
Komitas went on to found expatriate Armenian choirs in Alexandria and Constantinople, where even Turks began to celebrate him. This was grimly ironic, for in 1913, when Komitas and a group of fellow intellectuals were embarking on an oral-history project to celebrate the Armenian community in Turkey, Turkish Muslims were encouraged by politically insecure rulers to loot Christian Armenian villages and murder the inhabitants. Turkey's Armenians were ghettoised, disarmed (even of kitchen knives), and finally, on 24 April 1915, deported en masse. Komitas was among 291 prominent figures trucked off into the mountains. When the secret police came for him, he submitted to his arrest with a Kafkaesque fatalism.
The rest of his story has terrible pathos. At first he was the comforter of his friends as they were shunted from one town to another, with word filtering out that they were destined to be shot. One day he was brutalised by a guard, and something in him snapped: from that point on, though he was among the few who were reprieved (after intervention by the American ambassador, one of his fans) he retreated into a paranoid world, spending his remaining 20 years in an asylum.
Post-traumatic stress disorder was clearly the trigger for Komitas's breakdown, but his biographer, Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian, argues that its real roots lay in his doomed struggle to "preserve" his dead parents through the songs they sang, and to do the same for two ecclesiastical father figures by cracking the code of the neumes. Dr Vrej Nersessian, priest at the St Yeghiche Armenian church in Kensington, agrees: "Komitas's real tragedy was the loss of his research. His will was broken." In Nersessian's view, it would be an insult to Komitas's memory if he were consigned, as he often is, to a box marked "Armenian genocide victims".
Komitas claimed to have cracked the code of the neumes, but his key is lost. Scholars still search for what could open a fascinating window on remote musical history. Meanwhile, by refusing to recognise any divide between the folk musics of Turkey and Armenia, Komitas showed a way in which the antagonism between the two could be dissolved. But his choral works are his monument.
Armenia's leading composer, Tigran Mansurian, recently wrote a cello concerto with the richly symbolic title, Where Is Your Brother Abel? As a child of Armenian genocide survivors, Mansurian is still pursuing closure, and his guide in this pursuit is Komitas. "His garden of sounds," says Mansurian, "covers a vast territory in time, stretching across millennia." But where, in the garden of western classical music, is Komitas?
Isabel Bayrakdarian's Gomidas Songs is on the Nonesuch label.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Message for the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day-WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

Document date: 14.04.2011
Message for the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day
Easter, the glorious Day of Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, falls this year on April 24 which coincides with Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. For the first time since 1915 April 24 falls on Easter Sunday in the Armenian church calendar. It is truly a meaningful coincidence, as the existence of the Armenian nation and people itself is a special sign of the power of the resurrection in a world of death. When Christians all over the world celebrate Easter on the same date this year, it will be an historic opportunity for all of us to pay tribute to the memory of the innocent victims of the Armenian Genocide.As the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian people observe the 96th year of the Armenian Genocide, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of Churches in Europe appeal to all member churches to commemorate the 1.5 million victims of the Armenian Genocide during their prayers and messages on Easter day 2011.The World Council of Churches has addressed the need for public recognition of the Armenian Genocide. In 1984 the WCC published a document called “Armenia: the Continuing Tragedy” which helped in making known the history and plight of the Armenian people. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs raised the issue of the Armenian Genocide in the UN Commission on Human Rights with reference to the latter’s “Revised and Updated Report on the Question of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”. As was stated at the 2005 WCC Central Committee meeting, the WCC believes that, “from the Christian perspective, the path towards justice and reconciliation requires the recognition of the crime committed as a sine qua non condition for the healing of memories and the possibility of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting but to look back with the intention to restore justice, the respect for human rights and relationships between perpetrators and victims.”In a public statement of 11 April 2005, the Presidium of the Conference of European Churches joined the World Council of Churches in inviting all its member churches “to make April 24 a Day of Memory of the Armenian Genocide and to consider further appropriate actions related to the 90 years Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide”. The CEC Presidium further urged “the Turkish government to initiate a process of reconciliation between the Turkish and the Armenian peoples, in which the recognition of guilt and the proclamation of the truth need to be integral elements.”In this spirit, as we approach Easter Sunday this year, we call upon all brothers and sisters of faith in Jesus Christ to join with the Armenian people in offering prayers for Armenians and other victims of genocide.Let us be reminded of what Christ has said,“I am the Resurrection and I am the Life.Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies;and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25).

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches
Rev. Prof. Dr Viorel Ionita
Interim General Secretary
Conference of European Churches

Confiscation and Colonization: The Young Turk Seizure of Armenian Property

By: Ugur Ungor

“Leave all your belongings—your furniture, your beddings, your artifacts. Close your shops and businesses with everything inside. Your doors will be sealed with special stamps. On your return, you will get everything you left behind. Do not sell property or any expensive item. Buyers and sellers alike will be liable for legal action. Put your money in a bank in the name of a relative who is out of the country. Make a list of everything you own, including livestock, and give it to the specified official so that all your things can be returned to you later. You have ten days to comply with this ultimatum.”[1]
—Government promulgation hanged in public places in Kayseri, June 15, 1915.

The Armenian WeeklyApril 2011 Magazine


This article is based on a forthcoming monograph on the expropriation of Ottoman Armenians during the 1915 genocide.[2] It will paraphrase some of the main arguments of the book, which details the emergence of Turkish economic nationalism, offers insight into the economic ramifications of the genocidal process, and describes how the plunder was organized on the ground. The book discusses the interrelated nature of property confiscation initiated by the Young Turk regime and its cooperating local elites, and offers new insights into the functions and beneficiaries of state-sanctioned robbery. Drawing on secret files and unexamined records from eight languages, the book presents new evidence to demonstrate how Armenians suffered systematic plunder and destruction, and how ordinary Turks were assigned a range of property for their progress.

A 1918 photo of the Armenian church in Trabzon, which was used as a depot and distribution center for confiscated property. (Photo from Raymond Kévorkian and Paul Paboudjian's book "Les Arméniens à la veille du génocide.")
This two-way policy is captured in the two concepts of confiscation and colonization. The book uses the concept of confiscation to capture the involvement of an extensive bureaucratic apparatus and illustrate the legal facade during the dispossession of Armenians. Furthermore, it will deploy the concept of colonization to denote the redistribution of their property as a form of internal colonization. Together, these concepts best encapsulate the twin processes of seizing property from Armenians, and reassigning it to Turks.[3]
The book is situated in the field of genocide studies, and starts off by asking questions that have been answered fairly satisfactorily for other genocides such as the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide: Was confiscation of the victim group’s properties economically motivated as a mere instrument for material gain? Did the Young Turk regime distribute Armenian property to local elites in exchange for support for the genocide? In other words, did they simply buy their loyalty by appealing to their sense of economic self-interest? Or did the local elite support the destruction and expropriation out of ideological convictions? Finally, what was the scope of the dispossession process? In other words, how wide was the circle of profiteurs? Did just the Young Turk elite, from the imperial capital down to the provincial towns, profit from it, or did much wider classes in Turkish society benefit?
The book consists of seven chapters that can be divided into three sections. Chapters two and three constitute the first section and will discuss main issues such as ideology and law. Chapter two, entitled “Ideological foundations: constructing the Turkish ‘national economy,”’ will trace the evolution of the Turkish-nationalist ideology of building a purely Turkish “national economy” within the multi-ethnic Ottoman economic landscape. It will discuss how the Young Turk Party envisioned such a Turkish economy to come into being by analyzing the writings of leading Young Turk ideologues. Rather than macro-economic analyses of Ottoman financial policy in the early 20th century, the chapter will investigate how the party imagined the role of the state and the economic progress of the ethnic Turkish population.
Immediately following it is chapter three, entitled “Legal foundations: using the justice system for injustice.” This chapter will closely analyze the many laws and decrees that the Young Turk regime passed to provide a veneer of legality to their crimes. It will seek to answer the question: Why did the Young Turk regime feel the need to pass elaborate laws on the status of wartime Armenian property? It will discuss not only the laws that were adopted by the regime, but also the legal status of Armenian property. The chapter will distinguish the legal provenance of land and immovable property versus movables.
Chapter four, “The dispossession of Armenians during the genocide, 1915-1918,” constitutes a section in itself. It will examine the development of the genocide and trace Young Turk economic policies towards the Armenian population from the Young Turk coup d’état in 1913 to the fall of the regime in 1918. It will chart how this policy moved from boycott to discrimination, into confiscation and outright plunder, resulting in the mass pauperization of the victims. It identifies main currents and developments of this ruthless policy and how it affected Ottoman Armenian communities. The chapter is meant to be a general introduction to the next three important chapters.
The third and last section of the book comprises chapters five and six. They are each in-depth case studies of several important provinces in the Ottoman Empire. Chapter five, “Adana: the cotton belt,” will be the first of two case studies that describe the organized plunder of Armenians and the subsequent deployment and allocation of Armenian property to Turks. It will focus on the southern city of Adana, where Armenians were employed in cotton fields, and describe how the local Young Turks dispossessed Armenians and assigned the property to Turkish refugees from the Balkans.
Chapter six, “Diyarbekir: the land of copper and silk,” is the second and last case study, concentrating on the southeastern region of Diyarbekir, famous for its copper and silk products. Here, economic life in the bazaar was dominated by Armenian artisans. The chapter will de­­scribe how the local perpetrators participated in the destruction of their Armenian neighbors and were rewarded by the central authorities. It will also focus on large-scale corruption and embezzlement.[4]
Finally, chapter seven, the conclusion, will re-center the main questions posed in this introduction and draw the general conclusions of each chapter together. It will report in a direct style how and why the Armenians were dispossessed during the genocide, how this affected local economies, and how ordinary Turks profited from the expropriation campaign.
The Armenian Genocide consisted of an overlapping set of processes: elite homicides, deportations, massacres, forced assimilation, destruction of material culture, and our current theme, expropriation. Although these dimensions of the genocide differed and were carried out by different agencies, they converged in their objective: destruction. By the end of the war, the approximately 2,900 Anatolian Armenian settlements (villages, towns, neighborhoods) were depopulated and the majority of its inhabitants dead. What made the massacres genocidal is that the genocide targeted the abstract category of group identity, in that all Armenians, loyal or disloyal, were destroyed.
The qualitative leap in the elimination of the Armenians from the Ottoman economy reached an important acceleration with the proclamation of war and the abolishment of the capitulations. The abrogation of the capitulations was a unilateral breach of international law and a catalyst that channelized high levels of power into the Young Turks’ hands. “Turkification” could now be systematized into a comprehensive empire-wide policy of harassment, organized boycotts, violent attacks, exclusions from professional associations and guilds, and mass dismissals of Armenian employees from the public service and plunder of their businesses in the private sector.
The confiscation process began right after the deportation of the Armenian owners. As a rule of thumb, no prior arrangements were made regarding the properties. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) launched both the deportation and the dispossession of Armenians well before the promulgation of any laws or official decrees. The deportation decrees of May 23, 1915 and the deportation law of May 27, 1915 were issued after the deportations had already begun. Decrees and laws merely served to unite the hitherto diverse practices and render the overall policy more consistent. So too was the CUP’s approach to confiscation. Telegrams to various provinces ordering the liquidation of immovable property were followed by the streamlined program of June 10, 1915 that established the key agency overseeing the liquidation process—the Abandoned Properties Commission (Emvâl-ı Metruke Komisyonu). These were not yet christened “Liquidation Commissions,” but nevertheless mostly fulfilled that function.
Officially, there were 33 commissions across the country, and in towns without any, the local CUP chapter often took charge of the tasks. These consisted of inventorizing, liquidating, appropriating, and allocating Armenian property. The most detailed and reliable information we have about the commissions is from Germans stationed in the Ottoman Empire. For example, Deutsche Bank staff members recognized that the Ottoman Bank collaborated in the endeavour.[5] From its correspondence with the provinces, the German ambassador concluded that the confiscation process went through two phases: the direct liquidation of all unplundered Armenian property by the Abandoned Properties Commission, and the transfer of the revenues to the Ottoman Bank that held responsibility for the money.[6] According to André Mandelstam, in 1916 a sum of 5,000,000 Turkish lira (the equivalent of 30,000 kilograms of gold) was deposited by the Ottoman government at the Reichsbank in Berlin. This astronomic amount of money was most probably the aggregate of all Armenian bank accounts, as well as the total sum gained from the liquidations in the provinces.[7] Furthermore, German diplomats argued that the commissions worked in tandem with the Grand Vezirate, the Finance Ministry, and the Justice Ministry.[8] The entire operation was supervised by the Interior Ministry, which was tasked with an enormous amount of coordination and recordkeeping. These records have survived and I will draw on them extensively to outline the process of dispossession.
At the outset, the problem of property was a concomitant effect of the deportations and there was probably no blueprint for it written by Talaat Pasha and his henchmen. Throughout 1915 and 1916, the Interior Ministry issued hundreds of directives, orders, decrees, and injunctions to provincial, district, and city authorities. When deportation came, it recorded the names, professions, and properties of Armenians, before expropriating them and liquidating their immovables. Several empire-wide decrees sketched the contours of the confiscation policy. Liquidation entailed auctioning and selling the property to the lowest, not highest, bidder. To this end, on Aug. 29, 1915 the Interior Ministry wired a circular telegram summoning authorities to auction abandoned Armenian property for the benefit of the local Turkish population.[9] As this order sufficed for the ongoing deportations, preparations were made for future ones. On Nov. 1, 1915, the ministry ordered the drawing up of lists of “Armenian merchants from provinces who have not yet been transported to other regions,” including details on their trading firms, real estate, factories, the estimated worth of all their belongings, information on their relatives living abroad, and whether they were working with foreign business partners.[10] To preclude jurisdictional disputes from arising, the ministry admonished that the only agency authorized to organize the expropriation was the Abandoned Properties Commission.[11]
Talaat and the Interior Ministry he presided over were soon facing two acute problems: ambiguity regarding the forms and provenance of property, and delimiting the scope of the expropriations. An example of the former trend was a question asked by the provincial authorities of Aleppo, namely whether only Apostolic Armenians were to be expropriated or also Protestant and Catholic ones. By then, the definition of the victim group had already transformed from a religious definition based on the millet system, to a national definition. Thus, the ministry arbitrated that the targets were not only Apostolic Armenians but all “Armenians.”[12] The German consul of Trabzon remarked that under this law, technically, “an Armenian converted to Islam would then be deported as a Mohammedan Armenian.”[13]
Other provinces wondered what to do with the property of undeported Armenians, often military families. The ministry ordered that for now, they would be allowed to keep their property.[14] In another case, three governors asked for advice on how to handle the sowed fields of Armenian farmers. The ministry admitted that the abstract decrees did not always correspond to the existing conditions on the ground and ordered: “These need to be reaped and threshed under the supervision of the Abandoned Properties Commissions and provided for by the funds for the expenses of the settlers. Report within two days how many soldiers or labourers from the population, and which kinds of machines and tools and utensils are needed to harvest the crops.”[15]
These prescriptive provisions were supplemented by prohibitive rules. Those Armenians who anticipated that the deportations were a temporary measure counted on renting out their houses, stables, barns, or shops to neighbors and acquaintances. But the ministry prohibited this practice.[16] Those Armenians who attempted to sell their property to foreigners and other Christians (such as Greeks or Christian Arabs) were also counteracted. It issued a circular telegram prohibiting “decidedly” (suret-i katiyyede) the sale of any land or other property to foreigners.[17] Furthermore, the government prohibited Armenians from a whole host of strategies to avoid seizure of their property. These included transferring property to non-Ottoman Armenians, sending it abroad to family members, giving valuables to American missionaries and consuls, mailing it directly to their new residences at their final destinations. It is these kinds of prohibitions that shed light on the rationale behind the expropriations. They strongly suggest that there was no intention of either compensating Armenians fairly for their dispossession, or offering them any prospect of a future return to their homes. Hilmar Kaiser has rightly concluded that these restrictions were “a plain admission of official criminal intent.”[18]
A more precise explanation perhaps lays in a revealing telegram sent by the government to Balıkesir District. It read that the expropriation needed to be carried out to “ensure that the transported population will no longer have any connection to possessions and ownership” (nakledilen ahalinin alâka-ı mülkiyet ve tasarrufu kalmamasını temîn).[19] In other words, the relationship between Armenians and their property needed to be definitively severed to bring about a lasting “de-Armenization” of the land. Three years later, the German consul at Trabzon, Heinrich Bergfeld, correctly noted that the most important decision had been depriving the landowners of the right to dispose of their immovable property. At the end of the war, he reflected on the fate of the Armenian deportees: “If one believes they cannot be allowed to definitively return to their old homes, one should at least give them the general permission to make use of their real estate through sale or rent, and temporarily allow them to go to their homelands for this purpose.”[20] This would turn out to be a naive proposition.
The appropriation of Armenian property by the Young Turk regime, or to be more precise, the Young Turk regime’s mass theft of Armenian property, is closely related to the morphology of the organization, coordination, and implementation of the genocide. Recent studies have challenged the convention that the genocide had a uni-polar pyramid structure. On the contrary, the genocide was a multi-polar process: radicalization came from within and without, and emanated from different perpetrating power centers, such as civil and military organizations, the party, the nexus Talaat-Enver, and local elites.[21] Competition and conflict between these sectors shaped the genocide. As a result, the confiscation of Armenian property and its allocation to Turks became a bone of contention between the Ottoman army and the Interior Ministry. The army attempted to acquire movable and immovable Armenian property for its military ends, but the ministry followed its ideological prescript of forging a “national economy” and adamantly assigned the property to the upstart Turkish middle class.
The confiscation of Armenian property was followed and supplemented by the colonization by Ottoman Muslims of the empty spaces they left behind. As Armenians trudged along the deportation routes southwards, their property was being redistributed by the Interior Ministry. Analytically we can distinguish two dimensions to this process: property that ended up in private hands, and property that stayed in possession of the state.
In 1916, the CUP expanded its existing “Turkification” campaign to practically all sectors of Ottoman society. Starting with geography, the CUP began Turkifying place names. On Jan. 5, 1916 Enver Pasha ordered the Turkification of all Armenian, Greek, and Bulgarian place names, including cities, towns, provinces, districts, villages, mountains, and rivers. This was an attempt to wipe out the geographical imprints of non-Turkish cultures. Although the decree was suspended for reasons of military practicability, the practice was picked up after the war and continued well into the 1980s and changed tens of thousands of Armenian place names.[22] The 2,900 Armenian settlements were now not only emptied of their population, but also stripped of their names. It was as if Armenians had never lived there.
A day after Enver’s decree, on Jan. 6, 1916, Talaat ordered an empire-wide decree about the businesses confiscated in the genocide. The order read:
The movable property left by the Armenians should be conserved for long-term preservation, and for the sake of an increase of Muslim businesses in our country, companies need to be established strictly made up of Muslims. Movable property should be given to them under suitable conditions that will guarantee the business’s steady consolidation. The founder, the management, and the representatives should be chosen from honorable leaders and the elite, and to allow tradesmen and agriculturists to participate in its dividends, the vouchers need to be half a lira or one lira and registered to their names to preclude that the capital falls in foreign hands. The growth of entrepreneurship in the minds of Muslim people needs to be monitored, and this endeavor and the results of its implementation need to be reported to the ministry step by step.[23]
This order constitutes perhaps the most unequivocal document attesting to the intentions and policies of the CUP. It encapsulates the ideology of “Turkification” and “national economy” in a single, explicit, incontrovertible formulation.
The order was followed up by several other prescriptive ones ordering the redistribution of Armenian lands to Muslim merchants. The CUP sanctioned “the complete transfer of business and industrial enterprises” to the upcoming Turkish middle class in each and every locality. Special care was to be taken that the workbenches, implements, and furniture in the many stores and workshops were not dispersed but stayed in their places.[24] Other decrees were concerned with norms and rules for correct usage. For example, auctioning needed to be properly carried out for the long-term development of the businesses, according to the Jan. 6 decree. During an auction in Kayseri, a Turk bought a formerly Armenian workshop for 200 Turkish lira, only to sell it for 2,000 lira two days later and pocket the difference. The ministry strongly condemned this act and instructed the Abandoned Properties Commission to rectify the situation.[25]
After this event, a circular was wired to all provinces prohibiting similar practices and underlining again the importance of “Muslims’ familiarization with commercial life” and the “build-up of Muslim-owned business enterprises in our country.”[26] Long-term goals had absolute priority above short-term benefits. Dilapidation, waste, and negligence were unacceptable too. The ministry admonished the Abandoned Properties Commissions to take proper care and assist the new Muslim owners as much as possible. If any help was needed, the commissions should turn to the ministry.[27] As a result of this policy, a whole generation of Turkish-owned firms—“established in 1916”—mushroomed across the empire.[28]
Before the Young Turks seized power in the 1913 coup d’état, hatred of Armenians (and Greeks) was particularly widespread in the commercial middle class. Curtailing the economic livelihood of Armenians was in their interests. “Turkification,” therefore, had particularly favorable economic consequences for these (lower) middle-class Turks, as the liquidation of Armenian middle-class enterprises relieved the pressure of economic competition. It foresaw the promotion of a new generation of Turkish businessmen who enriched themselves from the vulnerability of the persecuted Armenians. The newspaper İkdam published an article openly exhorting Turks to “get rich” in the “economic revolution”:
Pharmaceutics, grocery shops, dentistry, transportation, contracting is rapidly spreading among Turks. Our friends have begun competing with many nations in employment branches that are as yet new fields of activity in our country, like electricians’ work, engineering, and similar… It is the revolution in this nation’s society and economy, rather than the political changes, that will save this nation (bu milleti kurtaracak) and will provide him with an eternal life.[29]
The government offered ordinary Turks incredible prospects of upward social mobility. With a giant leap forward, a nation of peasants, pastoralists, soldiers, and bureaucrats would now jumpstart to the level of the bourgeoisie, the “respectable” and “modern” middle classes. The groups who benefited most from this policy were the landowners and the urban merchants.[30] When shortages arose in 1916, the party leadership allowed that group of merchants close to the party to monopolize import, supply, and distribution. Defraudation and malpractice occurred in this alliance by individual party members and merchants who enriched themselves at the expense of the Istanbulites.
As the genocide was raging in full force, Turkish settlers were on their way. Local preparations were needed in order to lodge the settlers successfully. The ministry iterated its request for economic and geographic data on the emptied Armenian villages. In order to send settlers to the provinces, the local capacities to “absorb” them had to be determined. The Interior Ministry requested information on the number of Armenian households deported, whether the emptied villages were conducive to colonization by settlers, and if so, how many.[31] It also demanded data on the size of the land, number of farms, and potential number of settler households.[32] The books were kept precisely. According to Talaat’s own notebook, in 1915 the amount of property allocated to settlers was: 20,545 buildings, 267,536 acres of land, 76,942 acres of vineyards, 7,812 acres of gardens, 703,491 acres of olive groves, 4,573 acres of mulberry gardens, 97 acres of orange fields, 5 carts, 4,390 animals, 2,912 agricultural implements, and 524,788 planting seeds.[33]
Last but not least, the CUP elite took the cream of the crop of Armenian property for itself. Ahmed Refik observed the colonization process:
Silence reigns in Eskişehir… The elegant Armenian houses around the train station are bare as bone. This community, with its wealth, its trade, its superior values, became subject to the government’s order, emptied its houses…now all emptied houses, valuable rugs, stylish rooms, its closed doors, are basically at the grace of the refugees. Eskişehir’s most modernized and pretty houses lay around the train station… A large Armenian mansion for the princes, two canary-yellow adjacent houses near the Sarısu bridge to Talaat Bey and his friend Canbolat Bey, a wonderful Armenian mansion in the Armenian neighborhood to Topal İsmail Hakkı. All the houses convenient for residing near the train station have all been allocated to the elite of the Ittihadists.[34]
Even Sultan Mehmed Reşad V received his share. This process of assigning the very best property to Young Turks was intensified after 1919 by the Kemalists. Indeed, possibly the most important recipient of the redistribution of Armenian properties was the state itself.
The various Ministries (Education, Health, Justice) greatly benefited from the colonization process. The Interior Ministry granted them permission to choose from Armenian property buildings it wanted to use as their offices. The state, led by the CUP, was lavished with property up to the highest levels. A famous example of confiscated Armenian property is the story of the Kasabian vineyard house in Ankara. In December 1921, amidst the Greco-Turkish War, Mustafa Kemal was touring the area when he noticed the splendid house of the wealthy Ankara jeweler and merchant Kasabian. The house had been occupied by the noted Bulgurluzâde family after the Kasabians had been dispossessed and deported. Mustafa Kemal liked the house and bought it from Bulgurluzâde Tevfik Efendi for 4,500 Turkish lira. From then on, the compound has been known as the Çankaya Palace (Çankaya Köşkü), the official residence of the president of Turkey up to today.[35]
The expropriation of Ottoman Armenians was necessary for the destruction process in general. Dispossessed and uprooted, the Ottoman Armenians’ chances of survival and maintenance gradually shrunk to a minimum. Every step in the persecution process contributed to the weakening and emasculating of Armenians. It robbed them not only of their possessions, but also of possibilities for escape, refuge, or resistance. The more they were dispossessed, the more defenseless they became against Young Turk measures.
The structure of this process can be analyzed at three levels: the macro, meso, and micro-levels, bearing in mind the relevant connections between the three levels. The macro-level concerns the context and structure of the political elite that led the empire to war and genocide. They launched the policies out of ideological conviction: the war offered an indispensable opportunity to establish the “national economy” through “Turkification.” They created a universe of impunity in which every institution and individual below them could think of Armenians as outlawed and their property as fair game, up for grabs. If it is the opportunity that creates the crime, then Talaat created an opportunity structure in which ordinary Turks came to plunder on a mass scale.
Now the second level enters into force. Within the structure of national policy were nestled developments such as complex decision-making processes, the necessity and logic of a division of labor, the emergence of specialized confiscation units, and the segregation and destruction of the victim group. This level was characterized by competition, contestation, and clashes over coveted property. Local elites and state institutions such as the army, several ministries, the fiscal authorities, the provincial government, and the party, collaborated for their own reasons. The main agencies were the police, militia, and civil administration. Several ministries were involved in the expropriation process and benefited greatly from it, most notably the Ministries of Education, Justice, Finance, Health, and Interior. The Ottoman Bank and the Agricultural Bank exploited the process unscrupulously for their own ends. The effects of the economic war against the Armenians raise questions about the implication of these institutions.
At the micro-level, the process facilitated hundreds of thousands of individual thefts of deported victims, carried out by ordinary Turks. The mechanisms that propelled plunder were horizontal pull-factors and incentives (zero-sum competition with other plunderers), and vertical pressure (the beginning of the process did not contain precise decrees but was open for liberal interpretation). Thus, ordinary Turks profited in different ways: Considerable sections of Ottoman-Turkish society were complicit in the spoliation. Whereas in the countryside a Hobbesian world of unchecked power was unleashed, in the cities, the CUP launched a more careful, restrained path due to firmly established and complex social and bureaucratic structures. This level is in particular important to study the material benefits that accrued to figures within the Young Turk Party. In an in-depth study of the phenomenon of class in Turkey, Çağlar Keyder concluded that “there was usually one-to-one correspondence between the roster of the Committee of Union and Progress local organization and the shareholders of new companies.”[36] Yusuf Akçura too, reflected after the war on the CUP’s economic policies in the past decade and concluded that in Anatolia, “the Muslim real estate owners and business elite have completely embraced the Committee of Union and Progress.”[37] These arbitrary, corrupt, and nepotistic activities took place behind the juridical facade of government decree.
But history is full of unforeseen and unintended consequences of policies and ideologies. The great unintended consequence of the Young Turk government’s dispossession of Armenians was the opportunity it offered local Turks for self-enrichment. To the Interior Ministry, this was not acceptable nor accepted: Individual embezzlers were punished by having their rights to Armenian property revoked. Those with ties to local Young Turk Party bosses or enough social status and potential to mobilize people got away with their “crime within a crime.” One can perhaps even conclude that the Young Turk government bought the domestic loyalty of the Turkish people through these practices—initially irresponsible, then outright criminal. The Armenian Genocide was a form of state formation that married certain classes and sectors of Ottoman society to the state. It offered those Turks a fast-track to upward social mobility. So the knife had cut both ways, for the Young Turk movement represented the drive to couple social equality with national homogeneity and political purity.
As Armenians went from riches to ruins, Turks went from rags to riches. But Armenian losses cannot simply be expressed in sums, hectares, and assets. The ideology of “national economy” did not only assault the target group economically, but also in their collective prestige, esteem, and dignity. Apart from the objective consequences of material loss, the subjective experiences of immaterial loss were inestimable. Proud craftsmen, who had often followed in their ancestors’ footsteps as carpenters, cobblers, tailors, or blacksmiths, now lost their livelihoods. The genocide robbed them not only of their assets but also of their professional identities. Zildjian, the world’s largest cymbal producer, was headed by two brothers who escaped persecution because during the war they happened to be in the United States.[38] The Zildjians are world famous and renowned. But entire generations of other famous artisan families disappeared with their businesses, extinguishing the name and quality of certain brands. Gone were the Dadians, Balians, Duzians, Demirjibashians, Bezjians, Vemians, Tirpanjians, Shalvarjians, Cholakians, and many other gifted professionals.
The assets of these and other Armenians were re-used for various purposes: settling refugees and settlers, constructing state buildings, supplying the army, and indeed, the deportation program itself. This leads me to the grim conclusion that the Ottoman Armenians financed their own destruction.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boards commemorating Armenian Genocide placed in pre-Olympic Sochi

April 21, 2011 17:15
Boards with an inscription reading “24 April – Remembrance Day of the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Turkey” were placed in the central streets of Sochi, southern Russia.
The boards, installed on the initiative of the Armenian youth of Sochi, are to remind the citizens of a tragic date in the history of the Armenian nation and call on city’s multi-national population to condemn the crime denied by Turkey, writes Yerkramas newspaper.
The fact of the Armenian Genocide is recognized by many states. It was first recognized in 1965 by Uruguay. In general, the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey has already been recognized by 21 countries and 43 out of 50 U.S. States.
Turkey denies accusations of genocide during the First World War and is extremely sensitive to criticism voiced by the western states.