OSLO, Norway (Bianet)–At a panel discussion on the limits of laws on Holocaust Denial at the International Freedom of Expression eXchange Conference in Oslo, Norway on Friday, a Turkish consulate official interrupted a discussion on the denial of the Armenian Genocide, claiming that Armenians were brutally murdered and deported from their homeland for treason.
A person describing themselves as an official at the Turkish consulate in Norway, objected to the use of the word “genocide” used by speakers to describe both what happened to Jews in the Third Reich and what happened to Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
“They were not deported because they were Armenians or because of their race, but because they collaborated with the enemy,” the official claimed.
But thousands of pages of official government archives from the United States, Russia, France, Germany, and even Turkey, point to the indisputable fact that in 1915 the Ottoman Turkish government set out to annihilate the indigenous Armenian population inhabiting the lands under its dominion not for collusion, but for being Armenian.
Between 1915-1923, the government executed a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian people and remove them from their historic homeland. The Armenian Genocide, recognized as the first genocide of the 20th century by historians the world over, resulted in the death of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians and the loss of millions of dollars in property and land now under occupation by the Republic of Turkey.
But talking about this history is a crime in Turkey. According to Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu, who spoke at the panel, Articles 301 and 305 of the Turkish Penal Code prevent people from discussing the Armenian genocide. Zarakolu, the owner of Belge Publications, has himself been convicted under Article 301 for “denigrating the Turkish state or state organs” and for “inciting hatred and hostility.”
Zarakolu said that these “laws encourage denial.”
But the consulate official disagreed, arguing that Article 301 and other such laws were designed to “protect the unity of their territory and security.”