By Hrayr S. Karagueuzian
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at the 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) in Vienna on February 27, 2013 said: “The world should consider Islamophobia just like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism, a crime against humanity.” The PM had already expressed in the past his anger with Israeli policies in blunt terms at World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland in 2009, when he suddenly stormed off the stage at the mid of a heated discussion of Israel’s Gaza offensive and after telling President Shimon Peres: “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.”
The irony behind these two dark and irresponsible condemnations is that Mr. Erdogan’s own government continues to uphold a policy in today’s Turkey that is precisely based not only on crimes against humanity but also on the legacy of the art of mass killings. Indeed, “crime against humanity” was first used in history on May 24, 1915 when the British, French and Russian Allies in a joint declaration condemned the Turkish authorities for the planning and the implementation of the wholesale massacres of Armenians in Turkey. The declaration reads in part: “In view of these new crimes of Turkey against humanity and civilization… the Allied governments announce publicly …that they will hold personally responsible all members of the Ottoman government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres. The adjective “new” appended to the words “crimes of Turkey” goes beyond the present and establishes a legacy of mass murders in the past. That legacy seems to well and alive in Turkey today. The Turkish PM may well know that the International Criminal Court on March 2009 ordered the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, a good friend and ally of Erdogan (see attached photo), charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity for a concerted government campaign against civilians in the Darfur region of Sudan. More than 2.5 million people have been chased from their homes and 300,000 have died in a conflict pitting non-Arab rebel groups against the Arab-dominated Islamic government and militias of President al Bashir. It seems for the PM that when a crime against humanity is committed by a Muslim country it is not a crime, however, it becomes a crime only in the case of the non-Muslims.
As for the art of mass killings, history has consistently shown that the Ittihadist regime (the party that controlled the Turkish Empire during WWI) continued what the Ottoman Sultanate did previously and the Kemalist’s “Death Squads” thereafter which became known as “finishing the genocide.” Starting 1930s and up to now the Armenophobia, and the systematic massacres of the Kurds continued of which the Dersim tragedy is just now being articulated. The legacy of brutality with which these acts of mass killings were committed during the Kemalist phase captured the attention of the post-WWI British High Commissioner in Constantinople, who included in his London report the following:
“The Turks have an expression, “yavash–yavash,” which means to go slowly. That is how clearing Trebizond of its remaining Christian population is being managed.… Now they are going after the little boys. It used to be conscription that was invoked as an excuse to take the men. When they got down to deporting the boys from 15–18, the Turks said it was to give them preliminary training. Now—as I write— they are making a new visitation of the angel of death in Greek homes, and seizing boys from 11 to 14. The poor little kiddies are gathered together like cattle, and driven through the streets to the Government House, where they are put in filthy dungeons half underground. One could not believe this was possible.”1
More so, one can not believe the audacity of the Turkish PM to preach civility and condemnation of crimes against humanity at international forums at a time when his own government continues to enforce the infamous Article 301 that bans Turkish citizens’ to expose their Armenian ancestry. Violators of Article 301 are charged with “insulting Turkishness” and become liable for prosecution, forced exile, jail terms, and even assassination as in the case of the Turkish-Armenian editor and journalist Hrant Dink in front of his office on January 19, 2007. Turkish and international news media did not dismiss the planning of the assassination by the Turkish security forces, dubbed as the “Deep State.” The motivation in the murder of Dink was to prevent him to unravel the names of millions of Turks who have Armenian ancestry but were afraid of publicly acknowledgment. In the words of the Turkish Foreign Minister Daoud Oglo, a close protégé of the PM, “he was talking too much.”
It would be thoughtful for the Grand Vizier to give a hard look at his own governments’, past and present policies of committing and covering up crimes against humanity before preaching civility at international forums.
1 Hrayr S. Karagueuzian & Yair Auron; A Perfect Injustice: Genocide & Theft of the Armenian Wealth. Transaction Publishers, Rutgers University, NJ 2009