Turkey: Do The Killings Constitute Genocide?

Abbas Djavadi

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Czech Republic
April 23 2007

On April 24, Armenians around the world will commemorate the 92nd
anniversary of the mass killings and deportations of Armenians by
Ottoman Turks. Armenians refer to this chapter in their history as
genocide — a term the Turks firmly reject. The issue has strained
relations and closed the border between the two countries. RFE/RL’s
Azerbaijani Service director Abbas Djavadi gives his perspectives on
the issue. The views are his own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.

"Few in Turkey would deny that Armenians were killed in 1915 during the
course of World War I. Opinions vary, however, on how the deportations
and killings of Armenians came about; and whether the killings can
be labeled a ‘genocide’ in a similar vein to the Holocaust.

While only a few extreme nationalists dispute the mass killings of
Armenians, some liberals have recognized it as a ‘genocide.’ Most
Turkish intellectuals, political analysts, and historians believe
that local Armenians, with the help of Russia, were trying to create
an independent Armenian state in eastern Anatolia.

Despite the ensuing chaos, they maintain the Turkish state acted
accordingly to save mainland Turkey from being swallowed up by the
victors in the war, Russia, Britain, and France.

They also say that Armenians, traditionally described by Ottomans
as ‘the loyal nation,’ were not targeted because of their race or
religion, but due to the ‘treason’ of a large group of local Armenians
who fought, some with the Russians, against the Turkish army in the
eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish side says that in 1915, Russian troops, accompanied by
Armenian armed militias, advanced through Turkish territories. They
say that tens of thousands of Turks were also killed or deported from
their homes during this period.

Turkey has said that Turkish, Armenian, and other international
historians and intellectuals should openly discuss the history. They
say they have opened their archives and asked for the Armenians to
do the same.

The Turks believe that the Armenians have used the ‘genocide’
issue as a political tool, and have shown little desire to reach an
understanding and move forward. ‘Moving forward’ would also include the
opening of the Turkish-Armenian border, which all Turkish governments
have said will not be possible as long as Yerevan maintains its
genocide-related claims against Turkey and as long as Armenia does
not recognize the two countries’ current borders. Ankara says that
Armenia’s 1991 declaration of independence considers eastern parts
of Turkey to be ‘western Armenia.’ "

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