Erdogan: It’s Not Genocide Because Not All Armenians Were Killed

Within days of releasing a shrewdly worded statement on April 23, misleading some into thinking that he was acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan reversed course on a major American TV program, claiming that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians was not genocide.

When asked by veteran reporter Charlie Rose if it would be possible for the Turkish prime minister to characterize these killings as genocide, Erdogan became the laughing stock of TV viewers worldwide by declaring, “It would not be possible, because if such a genocide occurred, would there have been any Armenians living in this country [Turkey]?”

It is greatly embarrassing that the leader of a major country like Turkey is clueless about the universally accepted definition of genocide. Foreign Minister Davutoglu (a former professor) and other learned Turks must have cringed watching their prime minister expose his ignorance before millions of TV viewers!

Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 9, 1948, defines genocide as “acts committed with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such.”

One does not have to be a genocide scholar to comprehend that it is not necessary to wipe out every single member of a particular group to be accused of committing genocide. Did Hitler manage to kill all German Jews? Would Erdogan dare to go on American television and make a similarly outrageous remark about the Jewish Holocaust, claiming that it was not genocide because some Jews are living in Germany today? In a fitting response to Erdogan, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian urged him to follow Germany’s example of Holocaust acknowledgment through “recognition, condemnation, and apology.” Nalbandian should have also added restitution—an imperative demand, without which the rest are hollow words.

Erdogan should be reminded that only a few days earlier he had called for a joint commission to study the “historical facts.” What is the point of asking for a study if he has already concluded that there was no genocide? The prime minister cannot be serious and he definitely is not sincere!

At the end of his interview with Charlie Rose, Erdogan made additional contradictory statements, shifting the blame for the genocide to the Ottomans: “This is not something that happened during the Republic of Turkey. This was during the Ottoman Empire. … If the documents show that our ancestors made a mistake…if the historians can show that, then we would pay whatever consequence of that is.”

While no one in Armenia and the diaspora was fooled by Erdogan’s deceptive statements, the reaction of some Armenians in Turkey was understandably more accommodating. Archbishop Aram Ateshian, vicar general of the Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul, rushed to Ankara with his entourage for a “pleasant” chat with the Turkish prime minister and a congenial lunch with Davutoglu. Archbishop Ateshian thanked the Turkish leaders for their expression of “shared pain” in reference to Armenians and Turks who died during World War I.

Such laudatory words are not surprising, given the Armenians’ status in Turkey as hostages of an authoritarian and brutal regime; journalist Hrant Dink found this out by paying with his life for bearing witness to the truth of the genocide. Some Turkish Armenians, however, have learned to manipulate the country’s oligarchic system for personal gain. They are willing to go along with Turkish genocide denialism to enrich themselves through covert business deals with government officials and/or to secure their leadership positions in the local Armenian community. Indeed, several prominent Turkish Armenians have suggested that Erdogan be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his April 23 statement! Two Armenian businessmen have even placed self-deprecating ads in Turkish newspapers thanking the prime minister and offering apologies for the Turkish “deaths” during World War I!

At the end of the day, it matters not what Erdogan’s statement or Davutoglu’s op-ed in the Guardian say or don’t say about the Armenian Genocide. The more fundamental question is: Are Turkish officials willing to atone for the crimes committed by their ancestors against the Armenian people? What matters most for Armenians is restitution and justice, not empty rhetoric! Erdogan’s words are too little and too late. His statement is simply a clever ploy at damage control given the growing sentiments and calls worldwide to accept responsibility for the Armenian Genocide, and to deflect attention away from the scandals swirling around Turkey and its prime minister.

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Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the United Armenian Fund, a coalition of the seven largest Armenian-American organizations. He has been decorated by the president and prime minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

24 Comments

  1. It’s Not Genocide Because Not All Armenians Were Killed? Hmmm…
    Weren’t they the ones announcing sarcastically at the beginning of the Genocide that they were going to leave ONLY one Armenian alive in the museum?

  2. Some Involved” and “devoted” compatriots blame me, when I mention such points: Armenians of Turkey are not substitute negotiators for the Genocide. Clearly, they have centuries-due human rights issues. Yet, that does not make them the party to settle. As Turkish citizens, they have their “rights & responsibilities”, which is a hostage status, a pawn in Turkish hands. The Patriarchate of Istanbul is not the site to handle Genocide-bound issues. The return of a dozen or two churches, estates, cemeteries to the said Patriarchate, while “better than nothing”, their restoration /reconstruction / maintenance of such may show goodwill, but does not settle the Genocide case a penny for ten dollars. The Istanbul Armenians / the Patriarchate have very constructive roles to play, yet they are “Turkish citizens with Turkish bank accounts” : Reparations are not mere taking from Peter and giving to Paul. The red line is the creation of a self-sustaining viable Armenia of citizens of its own. Yet, all recognition / reparation process to the Genocide is de facto the shaking of the foundations of this Turkish Republic, which was created solely on racist Pan-Turanic ideology. Having said that, unless this Republic drops its raison d’aitre of being sole expansion of Pan-Turanism of Turks, Tatars, Tajiks, Azeris, dissolved Alavis, uprooted “mountainous Turk” Kurds… there is no room for discussing about a VIABLE SUSTAINABLE ARMENIA, in any form or shape, in current Armenia, Karabagh, or Western Armenia!!! It all comes down to dropping intolerant Turanism ideology or not. The rest is just passing time, maneuvering the victims, dividing them to extinction, and just parole parole parole…

  3. We tend to place to much emphasis on anniversary dates. The centennial of the genocide will certainly elevate expectations among many in our nation. While understanding that our marathon for justice is a journey, I do have a specific hope, wish, prayer for the 100th. You made mention of it in this commentary as it relates to Nalbandian’s response. I would like to see the RoA formally state that restitution and reparations are within their expectations. Realizing the political implications of this, we must weigh the visibility the 100th affords our people and the responsibility of Armenia. It will also go a long way in unifying the diaspora with Armenia in terms of the genocide.

  4. I don’t agree that the RoA should be the side asking for recognition / reparation / restitution. We cannot abuse the stance of RoA in everything, lest risk its mere existence. At best, and at most, it can ask only for territories that were agreed between the Soviets and the Turkish Republic (The RoA not being part of any such Accords, though such bilateral agreements took land away from the RoA). (p.s. such is the case of Artzakh / Gharapagh too). The victims are represented through their survivors (not only family survivors, as many / most families have had no survivors, are totally wiped out). These survivor groups are / were uprooted, stateless, even if today they bear U.S., French, Libano-Syrian, Armenian… passports. A sensitive point are those who are citizens of Turkey, encrypted / converts / converteds or not, since they are de jure’ citizens of that same government, Republic, and ideology, thus they may be “coerced” to accept certain terms- it is sensitive, since they belong to both sides of any settlement, both as victimized citizens as well as citizens of a Republic to settle restitutions!!!! Most imperative is to leave the RoA out of bites that it cannot chew!

  5. The Armenian church had many examples of Bishops and even Catholicoi accompanying the Army to war and even fighting on the side of Armenian soldiers ! But the cowardly behaviour of Aram Ateshian is unprecedented! He shows that he hasn´t got the profile of a future Patriarch of the Armenian church !

    • Richard,
      This is why the newly self appointed Shepherd of Turkey, Rajab Erdoghan, become a “holy prophet” of his wonderful Turkic herds!

  6. Erdogan suffers from terminal narcissism coupled with a mean,vindictive streak.The man cannot abide any hint of criticism,going as far as banning YouTube,Twitter and packing his jails with journalists and reporters.His self-righteousness is sickening,putting to shame the Biblical paragons of self-righteousness,the notorious Pharisees.When caught red-handed in bribery and corruption,he lashes about like a spoiled brat.This same man turned on his erstwhile ally,Fethullah Gulen,a fellow Islamist who took exception to Erdogan’s corruption and dictatorial bent.Do we really expect contrition and apologies from this fellow?What he needs and deserves is a major drubbing and humiliation at the next Turkish election to cut him down to size and tame his outsize ego.May the Lord accomplish this outcome for the sake of Turks and Armenians as well.

  7. Armenians should not be afraid or shy away from openly and properly demanding: Genocide acknowledgement with accountability.

    Genocide Acknowledgment without Accountability is hollow and meaningless – it is worse than denial.

    No amount of apology or acknowledgment will ever be sincere or enough – it is Genocide acknowledgment with accountability that matters.

    Accountability is for lands turkey acquired by way of genocide; reparation for the wealth of Armenians acquired by way of genocide; restitution of everything Armenian destroyed by way of genocide.

    It is not restitution alone. It is not reparation alone. It is not land alone. Acknowledgment with accountability: land, reparation and restitution.

    Example of land is Artsakh.

    Nakhichevan is land.
    Ararat is land.
    Ani is land.
    Kars is land.
    Artvin is land.
    Ardahan is land.

  8. Danny has a point there.However,this is a very politically motivated issue.that is ,let me explain in a bit more detailed fashion.
    We, the remnants of the Genocide ought to be considered as the MAJORITY of a Class Action lawsuit*our int’l Attornyes(where are they?)ought to know better indeed,than I.Since our count is much more*descendents( than those in R.of Armenia , who are not all descendents of Western Armenians.Mostly they are Eastern Armenian who were not submitted to EVICTION from their lands.
    This land issue now Danny.For decades our political parties have advocated and repeatedly claimed land….from great Turkey.
    Latter’s rep. one Gen Kenan Evren then -I believe chief of staff- declared,””Armenians want land…let them come and get it”
    Moreover, those lands are now mainly popultaed by K u r d s/
    I wrote this on another thread only a couple days ago..
    Our people,like Dr. Henry Astarjian who knows much more about kurds, has been amlongst them written a book titled””KIRKUK”” etc. and other such ought to contact, or begin to contact their *Kurdish( Parliament in exile and explain to them that in future*near hopefullyu( we shall have to settle things between ourselves.for Most of our lands were taken over by them*Kurds…
    What we should CLAIM NOW ON THE 100th ANNIVERSAY OF THE Armenian Genocide is ” b l o o d m o n e y “like Jews did and got from Germany.this is a huge PRECEDENT THAT CANNOT BE DENIED.
    Best hasgcoghin

    • gaytzag
      Soviet Union does not exist, therefore any land transfer agreement Between Turkey(Ottomans)and Bolshevik (Lenin), legally is invalid. Republic of Armenia have a valid land claim, against republic of Turkey, whereby RoA must act on behalf of the grandchildren of Armenian Genocide survivors, spread all over the globe!

  9. It’s time and Turkey must be Punished for Armenian Genocide!
    In this world, no crime will not without punish, everything has its time! Historic land of Armenia, blood-soaked 1.5 millions of people whose souls are moaning and asking God’s justice will be returned to the Armenian people! Will be built a new Armenian churches and justice will prevail for ever!
    God Bless Armenia!

    • Yes Leo, but can you be more specific about “punishment”and “justice”?

      You are correct, genocide acknowledgment without accountability is hollow and meaningless. Acknowledgment without accountability is worse than denial.

      So, accountability is what matters. Accountability for land, reparation and restitution.

      Accountability for lands that Turkey acquired by way of genocide. Accountability for reparation of Armenian wealth that Turkey acquired by way of genocide. Accountability for restitution (that is to restore) of Armenian property, culture, places that Turkey destroyed by way of genocide.

      Genocide Acknowledgment with Accountability: Land, Reparation and Restitution.

  10. No, I don’t think that’s the underlying rationale. On several occasions, I have been told that the real reason the Turkish government does not accept the word when it comes to Armenians, is because they feel the concept and the international law on genocide are not retroactive. Of course, if that’s their reasoning, they lose yet again, as the holocaust doesn’t qualify either, since it took place before the word and definition came about. What this tells me is that Armenians need to do whatever it takes to gain the support of the supreme international legal authority, maybe by launching a serious legal defense to overcome this stumbling block, and once we can do that they will have no choice but to concede what everyone else already knows – that it was, pure and simple, genocide. Where are our esteemed lawyers? Mark Geragos, where are you???

  11. Point to ponder: Turkey did not grab lands from Armenia. Turkish Republic was established on remnants of the dissolved Ottoman Empire. The land was cleansed of “others”. Part of the land was proposed as Armenia on the map; part was Kurdistan; part was Turkey. Turks excelled in their politics: They played the card of buffering between the Bolsheviks and the West. Kemal outsmarted both parties, that he will incline to the other, if his demands are not met. Thus got maximum from the West, as well as from the Bolsheviks. As for Wilsonian proposal map, there was a land but no Armenians. No wonder Ataturk boasts that even the current Armenian Republic was a goodwill consideration from him…

    • Actually, your ludicrous point to ponder, in regard to Turkey not grabbing lands from the Armenians, due to the reason that it was established on the remains of the dissolved Ottoman Turkish Empire, is the same exact kind of ludicrous point used by many Turk denialists. If you didn’t already know by now, Turkey happens to be the successor state of the former Ottoman Turkish Empire, which committed genocide against the Armenian inhabitants of Anatolia, and as a result of wiping out the entire Armenian population from its historic lands of Western Armenia, the Turks then proceeded to grab those lands, which they eventually included in their newly formed successor state of Turkey.

      By absurdly trying to point out that Turkey did not seize any lands from the Armenians, again shows you to be a typical denialist Turk.

  12. Yerevanian, try to think rather than talk. There was no Armenia to grab lands from. Turkey did not invade any part of any Armenian Republic. Whatever it took on the Caucuses Front, it took from the Soviet Union. ( Kars Ardahan Akhalkalak Surmalu…). Whatever it took as Eastern Anatolya, was cleansed land of “infidels”, that the Allies “godfathered” in giving. Think. This Turkish Republic plainly states: I did not cleanse the land. I did not occupy any land. I just settled on remnants of land of the Ottoman Empire! I established a Turkish Republic. The Kurds, the Assyrians, the Armenians… failed to do so. All they got is a map through the Sevres Treaty; but the Lausanne, the Kars Treaties drew the Republic borders. Yerevanian, don’t try to be more papal than the Pope. THINK!!!

    • Danny correct your infos Erzerum Kars Ardahan Van and Mush were taken by Turkey from the independant Republic of Armenia not the Ussr of which Armenia was not part of yet. For the rest I can agree with you, I liked the goodfathers as you used it, that is true….

  13. Erdogan’s statements reminds us everyday more, the comic, ridiculous and hallucinating statements we used to hear from Muammar Ghedaffi. If he continues insulting the intelligence of others he might have the same fate…by his own people.

  14. Danny,

    What does the pope have to do with any of this? Try to logically comprehend rather than being persistently misled by your silly hallucinations. For your own education, the lands that Turkey seized after completely wiping out the Armenian population from its historic lands, constituted Western Armenia. As a matter of fact, those particular lands seized by the Turks, constituted almost ninety percent of historic Armenia. Let’s examine your ludicrous statement from your previous comment: “This Turkish Republic plainly states, I did not cleanse the land. I did not occupy any land. I just settled on remnants of land of the Ottoman Empire.” This is precisely one of the ludicrous points that the Turkish government has been using to claim that it never stole any lands of Western Armenia. And by defending these ludicrous claims, once again shows you to be a typical Turk denialist.

  15. Still you have to think, before you respond. Nowhere I mentioned any defense for “ludicrous claims”. These are points that you have to deal with, once you start negotiating for recognition / restitution / reparation. JUST KNOW WHERE YOU STAND, WHERE IS YOUR JUSTIFICATION. You are in a court of law, and you have to justify that yours is the land and not theirs. Are you ready for it? Is your mind clear about it? p.s. keep me out of it; yet keep your “denialist” “ludicrous claims” to yourself. What is your basis in a court of law? Can you face a Turkish point of view? Do you need power to win, or a legal basis is clear-cut? And if you cannot understand what does “don’t be more papal than the Pope” with me, you need somebody to explain it to you. Best regards.

    • “Still you have to think, before you respond.” Your problem is you don’t know how to think logically, due to your silly hallucinations. As a result, you’re not even able to comprehend the absurdity you write in your comments, such as those previous comments of yours in which you were defending the Turkish government’s ludicrous claims that it never seized the lands of Western Armenia.

      In regard to your silly statement, “don’t try to be more papal than the pope,” I understand it very well, even better than you. However, as I was saying earlier, what does the pope have to do with any of this? Once again, your statement about the Pope is extremely ludicrous just like all of your other comments.

      Best regards

  16. Not all Jews and others were killed but it is still the Holocaust.
    Not all Cambodians were killed but it is still a genocide.
    Not all Tutsis were killed but it is still a genocide.
    Not all Darfuris were killed but it is still a genocide … (well for Turkey its “not” because of its muslim buddy Sudan)
    Not all Bengalis were killed, but it is still a genocide … (well again for Turkey its “not” because of its muslim buddy Pakistan).
    Not All Armenians, Greeks or Assyrians were killed, but it is still a genocide, (Well for Turkey this one is “not” a genocide, even if the entire world says so).

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