BAGHDAD—Archbishop Avak Asadourian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Iraq, addressed a letter to Prince Charles after the news that he would be attending the commemorations of the Battle of Galipoli being staged by the Turkish government on April 24, in a blatant ploy to deflect international attention from the commemorations of the Armenian Genocide. The full letter of the text is below.
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“On April 24th, the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, the republic of Armenia is going to organize a commemoration. On that very day, the republic of Turkey has decided to commemorate the battle of Gallipoli in which the Ottoman Empire fought against Britain and its allies. Undoubtedly, this event is not about commemorating the battle of Gallipoli. This is about exterminating the memory of a race and showing how rewarding and gratifying this ultimate crime can be.
April 24th as a date is unrelated to Gallipoli: Nothing happened on April 24th to warrant commemoration of this battle on this day in this year. Turkey for the past hundred years did not celebrate this event on April 24th. However, symbolically, commemorating this battle on this day is most illustrative. It signifies triumph: the triumph of the oppressor over the oppressed, the triumph of denialisim, savagery, and murder over recognition, remorse, and civilization.
I am addressing this letter to you because, I learned that the British Prime Minister declined to participate in the commemoration of the centenary of the Genocide. According to Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Armenia however, the highest level of participation from HMG is expected at the “Gallipoli event” organized in Turkey.
Your Royal Highness,
Please allow me to highlight the following:
The practices that took place during the Armenian Genocide from cutting people’s throats to burning people alive-en masse-to include the most heinous ways of murder are employed today by IS-“Islamic State.” Hence, imagine, that in a century the British Prime Minister, or any high-ranking British official for that matter, attends the ceremony held by the successor (proud successor) of today’s IS’s of al-Baghdady. Imagine that he or she snub the service dedicated to the commemoration of those innocent people that were enslaved, beheaded, burned alive, and ripped off their belongings, in the most barbarous ways one can ever imagine. Multiply that by a factor that represents the differences in number and the scope of tragedy that the Armenians suffered, the total destruction that befell this ancient people, and what the carnage that the actions of IS would inflict if it is unhindered, i.e. if they were given a free hand then, you’ll see the issue as we see it. You will also see how those officials that governed Great Britain a century’ ago will look at this participation in the same way that you will look on those who will represent Great Britain in such commemoration in a hundred years.
Further, the term “crimes against humanity” was introduced by the allies-including Britain-to describe the crimes the Turks committed against Armenians. Prime Minister Lloyd George promised that, “Turks are finally being called to account for the crimes they committed against humanity,” He also said:
Had it not been for our … intervention, the great majority of Armenians would have been placed .. , under the protection .” it was entirely due to our minatory pressure . .. that Armenia was sacrificed ‘” The action of the British Government led inevitably to the terrible massacres of 1895-97, 1909, and worst of all to the holocausts of 1915 .. ‘ we were morally bound to take the first opportunity that came our way to redress the wrong we had perpetrated, and in so far as it was our power, to make it impossible to repeat the horrors for which history will always hold us culpable. When therefore in the Great War, the Turks forced us into this quarrel, and deliberately challenged the British Empire to a life and death struggle, we realised that at last an opportunity had been given us to rectify the cruel wrong for which we were responsible ….
Sir Winston Churchill also called the Armenian Genocide a “holocaust.” He said “There is no reasonable doubt that this crime was planned and executed for political reasons. The opportunity presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race ….” He ironically goes on to say: “It may well be that the British attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula stimulated the merciless fury of the Turkish Government. Even, thought the Pan-Turks, if Constantinople were to fall and Turkey lost the ‘war, the clearance would have been effected and a permanent advantage for the future of the Turkish race would be granted.”
I also learned that during a parliamentary debate in 1918 in the House of Commons, an MP said “This country owes a debt to Armenia, because, after all, we more than forty years ago prevented Armenia from being released ‘” from Turkish tyranny ….”
I am also certain that you can see why we are not jubilant for Britain’s decision to take part in the Turkish snub. Britain promised to punish the perpetrators of Genocide. Today we are at loss to why the victims are being punished. We are shocked to our very core: How could the murder of a nation be so handsomely rewarding in the twenty first century? I must raise the same question that Lemkin raised: How come it is a crime to kill one man “but it is not a crime … to kill more than a million men?” I, as Lemkin a century ago, am shocked by the world’s failure not only to act but, to render a recognition of the event that took place.
One might say that there are practical reasons for such appeasement but, I assure you there are none. Turkey believes it is the inheritor of the vanguard of righteousness and beacon for justice. Today, it regards the Ottoman Empire as the most exalted empire that must be recreated in one form or another. Turkey is actively working to recreate the slaughter house. With that, goes hand in hand, the venomous contempt to all the values of human civilization that originated in Europe and became universal. These are core British values, principles, and ideals. This makes Turkey a paradigmatic threat. A threat that dreams about embarking on the same actions should it muster the necessary means and, should the opportunity avail itself. Therefore, how I see it, this appeasement is not very different from the Munich pact.
More on the moral side: Turks are proud of what happened. The shame according to Turks befalls Armenians, the victims. To this very day the then elected Prime Minister of Turkey, now elected president, apologizes before using the word Armenian when describing somebody. He apologizes as if Armenian is the most profane insult of all. To this day people gather in Turkey and chant that we will make mount Ararat your grave. “You are all Armenians, You are all bastards,” and “Today Taksim, Tomorrow Yerevan: We will descend upon you suddenly in the night.” This happened in 2012. This took place in the presence of Turkish Interior Minister at the time, among other leaders from the ruling AK Party. The irony as well as the tragedy are inescapable.
Nothing shows the recklessness and impunity to which Turkey is acting with more than this invitation on this date. Participation in the events in Istanbul gives free hand, and a sense of impunity to commit the worst atrocities, blame the victim, and walk away victorious and vindicated. Instead of a letter, I can write volumes, and even then I will not be able to do justice to this cause,. So, I will leave it at this, knowing what a: humane person you are when I met Your Royal Highness on November 19, 2014, and hinging my hopes that Great Britain will live up to its values.
At the end, I feel compelled to conclude with Hitler’s infamous and ominous saying: “after all, who now remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?” I very much hope that the Prince of Wales will remember so, when he recalls history. I also hope that you’ll remind Britain. Indeed, it is hurtful that Britain, among all, needs to be reminded.”