Submitted for publication in local Derby, UK media. Part of the initiative for the Armenian Genocide to be recognised in the Derby Holocaust Memorial Day events in January 2015. (Derby is my home city)
99 Years ago on the 24th April 1915, the Turks of the dying Ottoman Empire started arresting Armenians in Constantinople. This led very quickly to a programme of mass deportation and massacre which resulted in the first Genocide of the 20th Century. Around 1.5 million Armenians were killed, and those that survived, fled to many countries throughout the world creating one of the largest forced Diasporas.
In his decision to embark on his expansionist policy throughout Europe, Adolf Hitler is quoted as saying “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” A chilling reminder from the past of the horrific consequences of not accepting, and recognizing such terrible events. The term Genocide was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944 – largely based on the massacre of the Armenians.
It was 50 years before any country (Uruguay) in the United Nations formally recognized that the Armenian Genocide actually happened, and since then only a further 20 countries have followed suit. Notable exceptions are the United Kingdom and the USA. All of the remaining countries only stepped forward, after the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the early 1990’s where the Azerbaijani’s tried to ethnically cleanse the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh ( located inside the borders of Azerbaijan) of its Armenian population. That war has never been subject to a peace agreement, and soldiers continue to be killed on the borders to this day.
Genocide recognition for the Armenians is not about correcting a historical point in a textbook, or scoring political points, it is fundamentally more profound than that. On an individual level, it is about unresolved personal grieving, that persists through the generations. It is also about getting justice and closure, through acceptance, and giving them the opportunity, finally to lay people to rest, and for something in their heart to truly settle.
On a world level, an unrecognized Genocide has the capacity to re-occur with much more tragic consequences. In the 8 stages of Genocide, the last one which takes places after the massacre, is where “The perpetrators or later generations deny the existence of any crime”. To this day Turkey does not countenance any discussion of the Armenian Genocide. Azerbaijan has a declared Anti-Armenian policy with a published strategy to prove that the Armenian Genocide was a myth.
Locked between these 2 adversarial countries, in the South Caucasus, is Armenia and the unrecognized independent state of Nagorno-Karabakh. They exist in a world where 170 countries don’t accept that their Genocide took place in 1915, or that the underlying conditions were evident in the 1990s or that the implications of it are ever present today. When I see what is happening in the region, I fear so much that one day we will live to regret our indifference – such is the lifeblood of Genocide!
Categories: Armenian Genocide