Public Notice, Kayseri, 15 Jun 1915: “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 all your money in a bank in the name of a relative who is out of the country. Make a list of everything you own, 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.”
This was a public notice issued by the Turkish government to Armenian citizens of Turkey to begin what became the Armenian genocide. April 24 will mark the 100th anniversary of one of the greatest crimes against humanity ever committed. On April 24, 1915 the Turkish army, at the direction of the Turkish government began taking huge numbers of Armenians into custody. These Armenians were among the best and brightest. They began with these Armenians for good reason. These were leaders among the Armenian people living in Turkey. They removed these individuals that they could then go on to kill an estimated one and a half million Armenians between 1915 and 1923; and drive another million from Turkey. The Turkish government to this day refers to this period of history as a “mass deportation” and denies genocide occurred. Adolf Hitler had this to say about Turkey’s “deportation”.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians.” – Adolf Hitler 1939
Hitler went on to use the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians, as a model in removing the Jews. Hitler saw how the world was indifferent to the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Turks and believed he too, could commit such horrendous offenses and get away with it.
A few years, ago I had never heard of the Armenian genocide. I would venture to say most others are fairly ignorant to this historic crime against humanity. As I have learned more about it, I have felt shame as an American citizen, where we have repeatedly failed to formally recognize this event and sickened as to why. The term genocide gets used easily and readily by our own government in describing such events in Rwanda or Bosnia. Describing these historic conflicts as such doesn’t impede our military presence on foreign soil; or our oil flow. Saying Turkey committed genocide however, means we might have trouble keeping a military presence in their country; or interruptions to the flow of certain resources or commerce.
Countless American leaders from Clinton to Bush to Obama – and too many others have repeatedly promised the Armenian people that their betrayal at the hands of Turkey would be formally acknowledged by our government as literal genocide; only to then succumb to threats from Turkey if they did so. In contemplating all of this, I was struck powerfully by the factor of culpability. Simply, had we and the world acknowledged and addressed any of this with Turkey as we became aware DURING the conflict (& we were aware) – or even after … in any manner – Hitler most likely would have never attempted to implement his Final Solution against the Jews. The economy of indifference meant countless millions would die as Hitler ignited the flames of World War II. The thoughtful orderly manner in which the Turkish government carried out these atrocities reeks of Nazi efficiency. It is no wonder Nazi’s were so effective with such a clear model to follow.
It’s fascinating to hear Turkish leaders today refute the Armenian genocide. They really don’t argue that it happened. They just don’t want it called genocide – and they don’t want the formal blame, as a nation. They just want it to go away. Hearing Turkish officials address these matters is like stepping back in time to hear Nazi’s speak about their actions against the Jews … and Polish … and Hungarians … and so many others. In like fashion, the Turks carried out terrible atrocities against Greeks as well as Armenians, though not on the same scale.
The public notice I opened with was followed by directives to Turkish officials to redistribute this seized wealth among the Turkish elite. Very Nazi-esque. No country has more documented information pertaining to this historic event than the US; yet, it remains officially neutral for fear of offending the offender. That’s unacceptable and again, makes me ashamed as one of its citizens.
For a hundred years Turkey has collectively denied responsibility for this mass destruction of human life. Not lost on me is also, the fact that Armenians were Christian and the Turks were Muslim. As a Christian and simply as a human being, I don’t want to hate the Turkish people; but admittedly this is hard. My faith says that forgiveness must be extended regardless of what posture Turkey holds for its crimes. However, to not formally recognize these historic crimes against humanity is to become an accomplice of sorts. The Armenian people deserve our collective apology for officially ignoring their pain. Just as the world rightfully acknowledged Germany’s crimes against so many and subsequently held them accountable – so should the world hold Turkey accountable for their crimes against the Armenian people. For it was in reality a crime against us all.