lunes, abril 11, 2016

Armenian genocide

Carmelo Ruiz 

(I wrote this for Telesur English in April 2015 on the hundredth anniversary of the genocide, but it was never used)

In 1915, in the middle of the First World War, the Ottoman Turks carried out one of the largest massacres of the twentieth century. The Ottoman empire set out to exterminate the Armenian people, a Christian ethnic minority within its territory. On April 24, 101 years ago today, the genocide began when government forces rounded up hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and writers just outside the empire´s capital Constantinople, today called Istanbul, and exterminated them. As many as 1.5 million of the Armenian population of two million were killed.

The Turkish government is attempting to divert attention from theArmenian genocide by highlighting the upcoming centennial of the Ottoman victory at Gallipoli, in which a British invading force was soundly defeated after months of combat in the Dardanelles strait. But even there, inconvenient facts surface. One of the greatest military heroes that led the Ottoman Turks to victory at Gallipoli was captain Sarkis Torossian, an Armenian whose own family was slaughtered in the genocide.

The genocide becomes harder for Turks to deny. According to British journalist Robert Fisk: “More than 100,000 Turks have discovered that they have Armenian grandmothers or great-grandmothers – the very women kidnapped, enslaved, raped or converted on the death marches from Anatolia into the northern Syrian desert.”

For one hundred years the Turkish government has denied that any genocide against Armenians ever took place. But a growing number of Turkish scholars affirm that such a genocide did take place. These include professor Ayhan Aktar, professor of social sciences at Istanbul Bilgi University, who unearthed Torossian´s story and published a Turkish language edition of his biography.

But Turks who speak out on this issue risk being prosecuted under the controversial Article 301, which prohibits any “insult” to the Turkish nation. Turkish writers who have been prosecuted under this law include Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, and even publishers and editors for translating the works of Noam Chomsky to Turkish. Over 20 countries today recognize the Armeniangenocide as a historical fact. The latest country to join in this acknowledgement is Austria, a move supported by that country´s six major political parties.

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