Imagine that the German state that came into being after World War II had never acknowledged Nazi Germany’s Holocaust, and instead used all of its state powers to deny it. And then imagine if contemporary Germany used its international stature as a regional power to put pressure on the U.S. government and other countries not to use the word “genocide” when describing the Holocaust. Imagine if Germany today denied the existence of important Jewish cultural monuments on its territory, left them in disrepair, misidentified them as non-Jewish, or subjected them to abuse. If Germany had done these things, the entire Free World would still be fighting for the recognition of the Holocaust and the prosecution of Holocaust deniers.
Today, the Turkish state that followed the Ottoman Empire is engaged in all of the above vis-à-vis the genocide of the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.
The Armenian Genocide was the first crime of its kind in the modern era, employing modern means of governmental management and organization, scientific censuses, statistics, as well as modern technologies such as telegraphy, on a geographical scale to annihilate the Armenian Nation. As such, it was a source of fascination for Hitler and the Nazis, and a reference for them as they planned the Jewish Holocaust.
What makes the Armenian Genocide different from the Holocaust or other genocides of the modern era is the continued attempt to falsify the very history of the region. It is a crime against history. It is an attempt to erase the history and historical identity of the land on which the Armenian people existed, land that was once the very heart of Historical Armenia.
The Armenian Genocide, therefore, is also an attempt at “Historicide” or “Historiophagy,” a new name for a crime against humanity that encompasses the attempt to deny the present and past and therefore the future existence of a people on their historical homeland.
What is astonishing about the Turkish state’s denial of the crime of the Armenian Genocide is that it holds the entire Turkish people hostage, unable themselves to come to grips with the original crime because of the mistaken position of their state. To fight for recognition of this genocide is thus also a way to free the Turkish people from their own dark past. The continued pressure on international governments by the Turkish state not to use the word genocide also forces these leaders into moral duplicity.
Turkey today continues to deny the crime, and as a result indirectly continues the crime of genocide. Through denial, the Turkish state implicates itself in the original crime. Genocide denial is a form of continued persecution of the descendants of the escapees of the genocide. Exiled escapees are unable to return and claim their stolen property, and cannot come to terms with the loss they have been subjected to because the crime is denied.
At the very core of the current Turkish state is its denial of the genocide and the ethnic and religious cleansing that was planned to create a state identified as Turkish, as opposed to the mosaic of cultures that the Ottoman state was. As such, the very being and becoming of the Turkish state itself is based on the crime of genocide.
Each participating element of the apparatus of that state is indirectly implicated in the original crime as long as it continues the suppression of the word genocide and the denial of the crime of genocide. As long as the Turkish state does not cleanse itself of this denial, by admitting and coming to terms with the legacy of the crime, it will remain indirectly implicated.
The Armenian Genocide is an urgent cause for the Free World because the perpetrators were never appropriately prosecuted. The international community has never fully acknowledged it because of Turkish state pressure, directly or indirectly through the insinuations of realpolitik. The recognition of the Armenian Genocide is and will remain an urgent cause for the Free World.