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It’s no use papering over Turkey’s past

The Globe and Mail (Canada) October 26, 2006 Thursday


It’s no use papering over Turkey’s past

The Canadian government has taken the contradictory position of recognizing the 1915 genocide of more than one million Armenians in Turkey and, as of this week, supporting Turkey’s proposal for a fresh study of those events. It would be possible to square those two acts if there were any reason to believe that Turkey is ready to openly and honestly look at the historical truth. There isn’t.

This is a country that persists in laying criminal charges for "insulting Turkishness" against writers who dare to question the official state denial that the genocide happened. Novelist Orhan Pamuk, who won this year’s Nobel Prize for literature, was one of those charged. Turkey also persists in threatening to limit trade with countries that use the g-word. In May, after Prime Minister Stephen Harper explicitly recognized the genocide, Turkey recalled its ambassador and withdrew its jet fighters from NATO exercises at CFB Cold Lake in Alberta.

Turkey did do Canada the courtesy this summer of taking in thousands of its nationals who otherwise would have been stuck in a war zone in Lebanon. But surely Turkey does not expect that every time it does a favour for a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally, the quid pro quo will be some form of symbolic support for the Turkish denial of its past.

As an act of realpolitik , this support for more "study" is far from Canada’s first sop to the Turks. In 1996, when a Bloc Québécois MP put forward a motion to recognize the genocide, none other than the Liberal secretary of state for multiculturalism, Hedy Fry, amended the motion to say tragedy instead of genocide. When a Reform MP amended that amendment to say "the tragedy of genocide," the government voted to defeat the motion. Mr. Harper is not the first to bow to Turkish pressure, but his backtracking is at odds with the principled stand he prides himself on taking on international issues.

Twenty years ago, Benjamin Whitaker of Britain, a special rapporteur to the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities, included the massacres of the Armenians on a list of 20th-century genocides. "At least one million, and possibly well over half of the Armenian population, are reliably estimated to have been killed or death-marched by independent authorities and eyewitnesses." Corroborating information, he said, was in reports in U.S., British and German archives and in those of contemporary diplomats in the Ottoman Empire ; as he noted, Germany was Turkey’s ally in the First World War. The Turkish position was that all evidence to the contrary was forged.

Some day Turkey will have to do what most of Europe has done and acknowledge its genocidal past.

The Globe and Mail (Canada) October 26, 2006 Thursday


HEADLINE : The genocide question


DATELINE : Penetanguishene, Ont.

Re Ottawa To Soothe Turks Angry Over ’Genocide’ Tag (Oct. 25) : Turkey’s official call for a panel of historians to determine whether the Armenian massacres constitute a genocide or not is dishonest. Many such studies have already been done by renowned historians and scholars. One is the 2000 resolution of the International Association of Holocaust and Genocide Scholars that said it was genocide. None other than Elie Wiesel was on the list of those signing the resolution.

Furthermore, in June, 2005, in an open letter to the Turkish Prime Minister, the association clearly stated the following. "We want to underscore that it is not just Armenians who are affirming the Armenian genocide but it is the overwhelming opinion of scholars who study genocide : hundreds of independent scholars, who have no affiliations with governments, and whose work spans many countries and nationalities and the course of decades."

The International Center for Transitional Justice was commissioned to do a study for the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission. It did. Its report concluded that it was genocide. The membership of TARC was half Turkish and half Armenian.

What’s lacking is not the historical evidence, it is the political will of the Turkish government to face its own past. Without this "the gap between the two sides" cannot be narrowed.

The Globe and Mail (Canada) October 26, 2006 Thursday


HEADLINE : The genocide question



Canadian foreign policy has suffered due to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s eagerness to win votes from well-organized ethnic groups in Canada. Not one international court has convicted Turkey of genocide. Eminent historians such as Bernard Lewis, J. McCarthy and, recently, Guenther Lewy, have dismissed Armenians’ claims that the deaths of Armenians during the First World War was genocide.

The Turkish government has invited the Armenian government to investigate this issue jointly in the presence of neutral experts from other countries. But Armenia so far rejects this offer, apparently afraid that the truth will come out. Armenia’s strategy so far is to win over parliamentarians in Western countries, thanks to its organizational skills. Parliamentarians are not experts on history.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has done well to approve of research to be done on Armenian claims. This is one step in the right direction after the initial blunders of his government.

jeudi 26 octobre 2006,
Stéphane ©

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