THE ARMENAIN CAUSE, THE GENOCIDE AND THE 21ST CENTURY
Mr. Ken Hachikian
Chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (Washington DC)
The defining factor in modern Armenian-Turkish history is the Armenian Genocide.
The contemporary consequences of this crime include:
1) The absence of Armenians in the Western Armenian homeland
2) The reduction of Armenia to less than a tenth of the Western Armenian provinces within the borders drawn by President Woodrow Wilson
3) Increased security risks in terms of the ability of present-day Armenia to protect its territory, and the dangers inherent in being bordered by an over armed and unrepentant perpetrator of Genocide
4) The stunting of Armenian economic development due to present-day Armenia's economic isolation, aggravated by its landlocked status flowing from the illegal and immoral blockade of Armenian and Nagorno-Karabagh by Turkey and Azerbaijan
5) The tremendous loss of Armenian resources from the massive theft of Armenian property
6) Turkey's destruction of the immense cultural and religious heritage of the Western Armenian homeland and the continued vulnerability of the remaining Armenian population in Turkey
The central factor in contemporary Armenian-Turkish relations is Turkey's refusal to accept responsibility for this crime.
Following World War I, the victorious powers had sought, through the Treaty of Sevres, to right the wrongs done to the Armenian people by devising a settlement process in which Turkey's obligations emanating from the Genocide would be clearly spelled out and enforced. In the Treaty of Sevres:
1) Turkey recognized Armenia as a free and independent state.
2) Turkey agreed to the transfer of its former territories in the provinces of Van, Erzerum, Bitlis and Trabizond to the new Armenian state and agreed to relinquish the title on those territories.
3) Turkey recognized that it perpetrated massacres - the word "genocide" did not yet exist - and forced conversions of its religious minorities under the rule of the "terrorist" regime in power since 1914, and agreed to cooperate with the Allies to correct its wrongdoings.
4) Turkey was obliged to abolish the notorious "Law on Abandoned Properties" to assist the affected people in returning to their homes and in reclaiming their properties, and to secure their legal property rights.
5) Article 144 of the Treaty states that: property belonging to members of a community who have died or disappeared since 1914, without leaving heirs may be handed over to the community instead of to the State.
Due to the geopolitical realities of the time these provisions were never enforced and the unresolved issues of the Armenian-Turkish relationship of the 1920s were effectively frozen in place and, as a result of the Cold War, did not evolve to any significant degree until about 10 years ago.
I gained an interesting insight into the issue of Genocide during a meeting I recently had with a senior official of the National Security Council. During the course of our discussions on a range of issues, he turned to me and asked if we would be satisfied with U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, or would we then press forward with additional demands.
An interesting question. One that really strikes at the heart of the Genocide issue.
I told him that, in reality, what he was asking was, "Should Genocide have consequences?"
I told him that before I gave him my response, the ANCA's response or even the Armenian American community's response, I would tell him where our government, the U.S. government, stood on this central question of human rights.
I told him that I am proud, as an American citizen, that the United States has signed the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
This landmark treaty, spearheaded by Rafael Lemkin - who coined the word "genocide," established that punishment is one of the two pillars of the international community's response to crimes against humanity: Prevention and Punishment.
Fundamentally - the concept here is that genocide must have consequences. This is a concept that the international community has long ago accepted. As you know, the Genocide Convention was adopted in 1948. It is a fundamental tenet of international law. And it has, since 1986, been U.S. policy, and since 1988, U.S. law.
We stand with U.S. treaty commitments and the international community in demanding that Genocide have consequences.
Current U.S. policy of complicity in Turkey's denials of the Armenian Genocide is not, at its heart, at odds simply with the ANCA. It is, fundamentally, at odds with American values, counter to America's treaty commitments and in direct contradiction to the proud U.S. history of protesting the Armenian Genocide and in bringing relief to its survivors.
And so, as Armenians we will continue to fight to end Turkey's denials and to press other nations to resist Turkey's efforts to enlist them in their denials. We will do so because:
- As a matter of moral clarity - in the phrase that our President has used recently in the war on terrorism - there must be consequences, based on our belief in the rights of man, the value of tolerance, and the importance of diversity.
- As a matter of prevention - genocide must have consequences because - as we have seen too often - unpunished genocide invites future genocide - in Europe, Cambodia, Rwanda. As victims of Genocide, the Armenian people share a special responsibility to ensure that the lessons of this terrible experience are used to prevent future genocides, anywhere in the world.
- As a matter of deterrence - there must be consequences because, today, the Republic of Armenia simply cannot be safe as long as Turkey remains on its border as an unrepentant perpetrator of genocide. In a very immediate sense, Turkey, by denying the Genocide is justifying its actions, essentially making the point that they did what they needed to do, that they will, if need by, do it again. In fighting denial, we are working to prevent a second Armenian Genocide.
- As a matter of survival - there must be consequences because the Armenian nation has not been made whole, the victims have not been compensated for the immediate and lasting consequences of Turkey's crime.
- And even as a matter of rehabilitation - there must be consequences because Turkey needs to come to terms with its history if it is to make the transition to a post-genocidal state and society.
Turkey has escaped consequences for the past 87 years using geopolitical pressure, threats and blackmail.
But we have not. The Armenians paid - and continue to bear the costs - the burden of the genocide - the near fatal assault upon our nation.
For all these reasons, we will continue to press forward. Until our goals are achieved, we can and will not rest. We have a moral imperative to persevere in our struggle.
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