A few notes on the Armenian Holocaust, and some endowed chairs
This morning I was reading Sigmund Carl and Alfred’s post on Mythology 101, part one, which starts with
The Iranian president has referred to the Holocaust as ‘western mythology’,
and I remembered Hitler’s words on the Armenian genocide:
Eight days before he invaded Poland in 1939, Hitler exhorted his high command to “send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women and children” who stood in the way of German Lebensraum. This directive was given with impunity and had a historical precedent: “Who today,” Hitler said, “remembers the extermination of the Armenians?”
Summary of Events Leading up to the Genocide
Somewhat surprisingly to many, Armenians and Turks lived in relative harmony in the Ottoman Empire for centuries. Armenians were known as the “loyal millet”. During these times, although Armenians were not equal and had to put up with certain special hardships, taxes and second class citizenship, they were pretty well accepted and there was relatively little violent conflict. Things began to change for a number of reasons. Nationalism, a new force in the world, reared its head and made ethnic groupings self-conscious, and the Ottoman Empire began to crumble. It became known as “the sick man of Europe” and the only thing holding it together was the European powers’ lack of agreement on how to split it up.
As other Christian minorities gained their independence one by one, the Armenians became more isolated as the only major Christian minority. Armenians and Turks began to have conflicting dreams of the future. Some Armenians began to call for independence like the Greeks and others had already received, while some Turks began to envision a new Pan-Turkic empire spreading all the way to Turkic speaking parts of Central Asia. Armenians were the only ethnic group in between these two major pockets of Turkish speakers and the nationalist Turks wanted to get rid of them altogether.
As European powers began to ask for assurances that Armenians receive better treatment, the government began to treat the Armenians worse and worse. In the 1890’s hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in pogroms ordered by Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
A coup by ‘progressive’ Young Turks in 1908 replacing the Sultans government was supported by Armenians. Unfortunately, promised reforms never came, and in fact a triumvirate of extreme Turkish nationalists took complete dictatorial control, Enver, Jemal and Talat. It was they who masterminded the plan to completely eradicate the Armenian race in a step towards fulfilling their pan-Turkic dreams.
World War One gave the Young Turk government the cover and the excuse to carry out their plan. The plan was simple and its goal was clear. On April 24th 1915, commemorated worldwide by Armenians as Genocide Memorial Day, hundreds of Armenian leaders were murdered in Istanbul after being summoned and gathered. The now leaderless Armenian people were to follow. Across the Ottoman Empire (with the exception of Constantinople, presumably due to a large foreign presence), the same events transpired from village to village, from province to province.
My friend Alice Tashjian’s mother was an Armenian survivor, and, like Peter Balakian‘s family, the only way Alice’s mother could live after such horrible experiences was to put it all behind, in silence. As Elie Wiesel said, “The events defy language, defy everything we know because the enemy succeeded in pushing beyond the limit of language”.
To this day the Turkish government continues to deny that the Armenian genocide took place. This December 10 article from TurkishPress.com says it all in a few words (emphasis mine)
A recent report by Yasemin Congar in Milliyet about a lawsuit filed over the so-called Armenian genocide shows a possible way to end our headaches. Obviously, the policy of categorically denying the Armenian claims has brought no benefit to Ankara.
Note how the rest of the article says that it’s OK to deny the genocide on grounds of academic freedom of expression.
The Turksih government knows how to use academic freedom of expression.
In the 1993 the Republic of Turkey endowed by $1.5 million the Ataturk Chair of Turkish Studies at Princeton University, still held by Heath W. Lowry,
formerly executive director of the Institute of Turkish Studies, Inc., in Washington, DC, has been exposed as working closely with the Turkish government to discredit scholarship which mentions the Armenian Genocide.
Documentation of his collaboration with the Turkish government, including drafting of letters for the Ambassador’s signature in an effort to further Turkey’s Denial, is provided in the Spring 1995 issue of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Yesterday’s New York Sun (via Betsy) looked at Jihad on campus after news that Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal is funding at Harvard University the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor in Contemporary Islamic Thought and Life. Harvard and Georgetown University each will be receiving $10 million.
Mayor Rudoplh Guiliani turned a $10 million gift from the same Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal after September 11
because the gift came with a statement saying that America should tilt its foreign policy more in favor of the Palestinian Arabs.
As the article says
While Prince Alwaleed hasn’t made it clear openly where he stands on the matter of the war,
or on the history of the Holocaust, or the history of Israel, for that matter, I am not optimistic on this news, and expect a situation analogous to that of the Ataturk Chair of Turkish Studies.
As Betsy said, “I know it’s a faulty vision, but I sure would like to see [Harvard President] Larry Summers get asked as many questions about this story as he got for his musings about why there weren’t as many women in the hard sciences.”