Turkey Pushes Genocide Denial

A photo from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, considered by many to be one of the primary sources of information on the Armenian Genocide, shows the bodies of dead Armenians (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Henry Morgenthau)

From commentarymagazine.com

In 1915, when stories of the systematic extermination of the Armenian minority in Anatolia by the Ottoman authorities started to surface in the Western press, Turkish diplomats were rapidly mobilized to deny the reports. “All those who have been killed were of that rebellious element,” the Turkish consul in New York, Djelal Munif Bey, told the New York Times, “who were caught red-handed or while otherwise committing traitorous acts against the Turkish Government, and not women and children, as some of these fabricated reports would have the Americans believe.”

As the sun began to set on the Ottoman Empire, its leaders–and their secular successors–laid the foundations of a gruesome template that remains with us today. Ever since the slaughter of the Armenians, each episode of genocide and mass killing has been accompanied by voices who willfully deny that such horrors actually took place. Genocide denial is a phenomenon most commonly associated with the Shoah, but it also raised its head in Bangladesh in 1971, in Cambodia in 1979, in the former Yugoslavia and in Iraq during the 1990s, in Rwanda in 1994 and in Syria in the present day.

As the original pioneers of genocide denial, the Turks remain its most aggressive practitioners. That, perhaps, is to be expected; far less understandable is the willingness of certain countries and institutions to collude in this trampling of history and memory. In that regard, this item from Denmark’s Copenhagen Post is nothing less than astounding:

The Royal Library has attracted heavy criticism after agreeing to let Turkey co-arrange an alternative exhibition about the Armenian Genocide.

The library has complied with the wishes of the Turkish ambassador to Denmark to be involved with the exhibition, ‘The Armenian Genocide and the Scandinavian response’, which is currently on display at the University of Copenhagen.

The Turkish Embassy has been granted the opportunity to stage a Turkish version of the historical events in a move that has generated criticism from a number of circles, including politicians, historians, and the Armenian Embassy in Copenhagen.

Genocide scholars in Denmark have reacted angrily. “If you believe that all versions of history are equal, then you’ve undermined your role as a research institution,” said the historian Matthias Bjørnlund. “It was genocide and not all interpretations of this history are correct.” But the director of the Royal Library, Erland Kolding Nielsen, denied having caved to pressure from the Turkish Embassy. “One can’t pressure us, and we have not spoken about removing the Armenian exhibition. We have simply given [the Turks] the opportunity to show their alternative exhibition,” Nielsen said.

Clearly, this sets an extremely dangerous precedent. No longer does it seem far-fetched to think that an exhibition about, say, Auschwitz, or the North Korean gulags, might be “balanced” with a “counter-narrative” from the perspective of the perpetrators of these atrocities.

The current Danish controversy also speaks volumes about the extent to which Turkey is prepared to go in enforcing its state doctrine of genocide denial upon its ostensible allies. Earlier this year, Ankara temporarily froze ties with France after that country’s Senate passed a law officially recognizing the Armenian massacres as a genocide. Responding to similar efforts by American lawmakers, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, told President Obama in March that he was “tired” by the constant reminders of Turkey’s historic crime, adding that the U.S. administration should “not … mistake U.S. senators, lawmakers and politicians for historians.”

For decades, Turkey has acted on the premise that Western acquiescence toward its regional bullying–whether that involves its assaults on Kurdish civilians or its continued occupation of northern Cyprus–means that it will never be obliged to reckon with the monstrous crimes committed against the Armenians. If the authors of Washington’s policy toward Turkey want us to believe that Erdogan and his cohorts share not just our strategic goals, but our core values too, then Ankara must be told that the practice of genocide denial, inaugurated by Djelal Munif Bey in 1915, is no longer acceptable almost 100 years on.


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  1. Alexander "Who Tries to be Great" said:

    Ya, This article show the justice of either having or not having resources and/or what other bloodsuckers want from you or your enemy. So that’s how justice is done today.

  2. Gevork said:

    Let all those who engage in digging a larger whole for themselves dig away. Let liars lie and let planner plan, for surely who could not be understanding of Armenians in the generations to come if they paid back in kind.

  3. George said:

    ”We have simply given [the Turks] the opportunity to show their alternative exhibition,” Nielsen said” Than why not give a chance to let Iran show an exhibition about the Israeli Holocaust?

  4. Jack Kalpakian said:

    This is not about Obama or his political relationship with Erdogan. When Turkey had a different policy stance to a number of other third parties, COMMENTARY itself participated in Armenian Genocide denial and provided a forum for the likes of Gunter Lewy. Mr. Cohen, please do not try to use the Meds Yeghern to settle YOUR political accounts with Obama and Turkey. If you are serious about this, you need to first apologize to the Armenian community for decades of aid and comfort your movement and your journal provided to Turkey and then such a piece would have credibility, but as it stands right now, it is too little, too late and smacks of cheap opportunism. Even in this very issue of the journal you have piece bashing Armenia for its relations with Iran. As all people know, Armenia lacks access to the sea and faces a blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan and lacks railway links to Russia through Georgia, but your journal persists in bashing Armenia, so this editorial is deceptive to put it mildly.

  5. Ari said:

    President Obama should stop taking orders from KhalifehTayyip Erdogan and stick to his commitments of honoring human rights and restoring justice. It is time for the US and the free world to recognize the Armenian Genocide and return the stolen lands to the Armenians.

  6. Stefan said:

    Are they going to allow the nazi’s stage their version of the events in the Holoacust museum?

  7. Pongo said:

    We -Italians- have already acknowledged the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by Turks.
    And I can say we can be proud to be the land who gave the world the movie “La masseria delle Allodole”, by Taviani brothers.
    And we’re proud to host in Venice possibly the biggest Armenian library abroad.
    Maybe our government and our politicians are cowards, but we -the people- are all by heart to the Armenians, because we also suffered for centuries the Ottoman expansionism.

    • yesayan said:

      it is so heart warming that European countries are backing the Armenian cause.

      • hayemuzemtechuzem said:

        Don’t confuse Italians with Europeans in general. Italians are special. Lo so molto bene io, sono armeno e italianista, ho vissuto a Siena, il cuore vero della Toscana. VIVA L’ITALIA. Italiani – sempre benvenuti in Armenia!

    • Alex Postallian said:

      Gomba: That’s what I love about the Italians,beautiful people,beautiful country,big heart.Where would Europe be without the Italians…just another refrigerator.

  8. Alex Postallian said:

    Adding a codicil to my remark.In the continuing education of the deniers and their sell-outs.REPEAT when the mongols left Anatolya,the left behind,their cowards,deserters,criminals,LIARS;the nucleus of todays jerky turkey..

  9. Alex Postallian said:

    Let me see,the ferocious turks,always threatening,countries,twenty times smaller,unarmed,is grovelling on their knees to the U.S.for missles,and protection.What happened to their bravery,warrior macho,they have been boasting about.Look behind them,it left the big yellow streak,up their back,that was always there……hey boghus,or bogus.Now you know the full story sport-fans,and their paid stooges,a step or two,below,the turks,if thats,possible.