Turkey Was First Country to Recognize the Armenian Genocide…in 1918

The Armenian Genocide is rarely discussed in the Turkish Parliament; even rarer are statements calling for its recognition.

On Jan. 14, two of the three recently elected Armenian members of the Turkish Parliament boldly dared to raise the issue of the Armenian Genocide in their parliamentary remarks.

A court session of the Turkish courts-martial of 1919–20. CUP's leaders, Enver, Djemal, Talaat, among others, were ultimately sentenced to death under charges of wartime profiteering, and massacres of both Armenians and Greeks
A court session of the Turkish courts-martial of 1919–20. The Young Turk leaders, Enver, Djemal, Talaat, among others, were ultimately sentenced to death.

Selina Dogan, representing the opposition Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), made the following statement in parliament: “Since this issue concerns not only Armenians but also Turkey, therefore, it should be raised in the Turkish Parliament and not in other parliaments. Otherwise, on every April 24, we will continue making trite statements and hastily rid this topic from our minds. I am convinced that none of us is interested in doing so. I would like to remind you that during a 2015 public rally in Erzurum, the prime minister clearly stated that the deportation is a Crime against Humanity.”

Garo Paylan, representing the Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), then took the floor and also spoke about the Armenian Genocide: “One hundred years ago, the Armenian people were uprooted and exterminated by a decision of the state. My family—grandfather and his family—also suffered from these events. My grandfather was orphaned, having lost both parents. I am from the generation of orphans and leftovers of the sword, living in this land. My race is massacred.”

As Paylan was speaking, several members of parliament shouted in disapproval. Baki Shimshek, a member of the ultra-nationalist opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), warned: “We are in the Turkish National Assembly. No one can say that genocide was committed. Such rudeness is unacceptable!”

Although this was an unusual discussion, it was not the first time that affirmative statements were made in the Turkish Parliament on the Armenian Genocide. In November 2014, Sebahat Tuncel of the HDP proposed a resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide. Tuncel urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to come to parliament to acknowledge and apologize for the Armenian Genocide and other mass crimes. The resolution also asked Erdogan to repeat his apology publicly at one of the sites of mass killings, and declare April 24 as an official Day of Mourning. In addition, the parliament was asked to form a truth commission and make public all documents in the state archives pertaining to these mass crimes. Finally, the proposed resolution sought moral and material restitution for descendants of the victims. Not surprisingly, Tuncel’s resolution was quickly suppressed, never to see the light of day again!

As I reported over a year ago, Tuncel’s proposal was not the first time that a resolution was submitted to the Turkish Parliament to recognize the Armenian Genocide. On Nov. 4, 1918, the newly constituted Ottoman-Turkish Parliament discussed at length the crimes committed by the Young Turk government, after a motion was presented stating: “A population of 1 million people guilty of nothing except belonging to the Armenian nation were massacred and exterminated, including even women and children.” In response, Interior Minister Ali Fethi Okyar declared: “It is the intention of the government to cure every single injustice done up until now, as far as the means allow, to make possible the return to their homes of those sent into exile, and to compensate for their material loss as far as possible.”

As a result of this motion, a Parliamentary Investigative Committee was set up to collect all relevant documents describing the actions of those responsible for what was then called the “Armenian deportations and massacres.” The evidence was turned over to the Turkish Military Tribunal, and those found guilty were hanged or given lengthy prison sentences.

In addition to this parliamentary motion, we need to recall the words of Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey, who was quoted by the Los Angeles Examiner on Aug. 1, 1926, as stating: “These leftovers from the former Young Turk Party who should have been made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred.”

The combination of the 1918 parliamentary motion, the guilty verdicts of the Turkish Military Tribunals, and the damning words of Ataturk qualify Turkey as the first country that recognized the Armenian Genocide!

Consequently, rather than seeking recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey, Armenians should demand restitution for all of their losses, as promised 98 years ago by Minister of Interior Fethi Okyar!

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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.

19 Comments

  1. well done Paylan for bringing up the subject matter. Unfortunately, they have a history of “unrecognition”. It’s officially called a memory lapse. I hope that the EU community will remember this and totally reject turkey’s admission into the EU.

  2. Well, technically, Turkey of course did NOT recognize the Armenian genocide in 1918, as it did not exist until 1923. Being the legal successor to a state does not make you that state. Ataturk’s comments are certainly damning though.

    • {Being the legal successor to a state does not make you that state.}

      Yes, but being the legal successor to a state implies automatic inheritance by the new state of the rights and liabilities of the prior state. Turks love to forget about this principle of international law…

    • “Yes, but being the legal successor to a state implies automatic inheritance by the new state of the rights and liabilities of the prior state.”

      Yes, but that doesn’t mean the Ottoman Empire recognizing the Armenian genocide means Turkey did so as well.

    • {Yes, but that doesn’t mean the Ottoman Empire recognizing the Armenian genocide means Turkey did so as well.}

      Yes, but the phrase “as well” is off-base, because even if the legal successor to a state did not recognize the Armenian Genocide anew, she’s still liable for the recognition because her predecessor state has done so.

    • John:

      I understand that. The only point I made is that being liable for the predecessor state’s recognition and doing the recognition yourself are not the same thing. Thus, the title of the article is factually inaccurate.

    • I understand that from the perspective of the state’s legal name the title of the article may be confusing. But we can as well assume that the author uses “Turkey” as a generic ethnonym for the Ottoman empire. It was not uncommon–especially among the foreigners–to use “Ottoman Turkey”, “Asiatic Turkey” or “Turkey” to refer to the Ottoman empire even at the time of her existence.

      {[…]being liable for the predecessor state’s recognition and doing the recognition yourself are not the same thing.}

      Whether this statement is true or false, only an international lawyer can attest. Not being one, from my limited readings into the subject I know that succession in legal terms refers to the transfer of rights, on the one hand, and liabilities and obligations, on the other, from the predecessor state to the new one. Therefore, I’m not sure if “doing recognition yourself” is a legally valid statement. Of course, a state can choose to do recognition or cowardly shun away from it, as Turkey does for decades. But she cannot reject or not admit the fact that her predecessor state actually recognized the fact of mass killings and deportations and sentenced the perpetrators to death.

  3. Nancy, Sorry, my comment thanking you for sending Armenian Weekly with the article about Turkey’s treatment of the Kurds “flew” away before I signed it. Thanks again.
    Virginia Kricorian

  4. As a Turk, I find it sad that Turkey is still struggling with accepting the Armenian Genocide. I remember late Hirant Dink’s comment that Turks are so embarrassed and shamed with the events, they choose to live in denial rather than accepting it. Quoting Hirant again, Armenians and Turks are to resolve these sad and painful events together and share their sorrow together to cleanse. Pressing and forcing the hands of Turks will not create a long lasting remedy. Turks and Armenians have more in common than difference.

    • Onder, this is a true story: My grandfather, during the genocide, was a traveling merchant and came back to his village and saw most of it dark and emptied including his wife and three young girls, who he never saw again. You hear these stories and are common with most all Armenians however: Also true is that afterwards, my grandfathers Turkish neighbor, hid him and 18 of his relatives for a week in a cellar, risking his own life doing so. And after days of hiding sent my grandfather off with horses and food and saved my Grandfather from certain death. And these stories also need to be told..He later remarried and had my mom. My mom used to say my grandfather would frequently thank this Turkish man out loud saying ” Guneshin eecheneh galsin boo herif”.. May this man always be in light.

    • Let’s check you, ‘Onder Durmus’, for honesty.

      Do you acknowledge, individually, that your ancestors perpetrated genocidal extermination and forced deportations of the Armenian people in the Ottoman empire?

      Do you repent, individually, for the heinous crimes committed by your Turkish ancestors?

      Do you think, individually, that given the mass murders, tortures, mutilations, rapes, and forced conversions to Islam, the Armenians must be compensated financially and their native ancestral lands, emptied of them by the Turks in 1915, be given back?

      Your individual response to these questions, if we ever get one of course, will determine how sincerely you, a descendant of murderous Ottoman Turks, share the sorrow of the Armenians which they have after the genocide, called “events” in your comment.

  5. So what is todays Government waiting for. They only have to endorse the already admitted Genocide and compensate the losses.

  6. Onder Durmus:

    {“ Turks and Armenians have more in common than difference.”}

    Sorry, Turks and Armenians have nothing in common.
    Whatever commonality you see between Turks and Armenians is because your ancestors stole them from us: genes, culture, dishes. You name it.

    Sorry, Turks are nomads, originally from East and Central Asia, and Armenians are a sedentary civilization, indigenous to the Armenian Highlands. Yes, physically you are no longer nomads, but by character you are (not all Turks, of course, but overwhelming majority).
    Do not believe me ?
    Read this article written by a Turk, the editor of a Turkish news site (a Turk nationalist-bend news outlet.).

    [We have corrupt DNA]
    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/we-have-corrupt-dna.aspx?pageID=238&nID=66875&NewsCatID=469

    {Our genes must have gone through mutations while we were traveling on horseback from Central Asia to Anatolia. It’s a long ride. Something must have gone wrong along the way. I think we are mutant Turks. Like Ninja turtles. We are like a lab accident.
    First of all – sorry for the repetition – we carry the “killer DNA” in our souls. It may have been a remarkable, wonderful and praiseworthy feature to be able to kill, to kill as many people as possible in the battlefield once upon a time when everything depended on winning wars and conquering. When the whole system was based on occupation, physical power, a strong army; of course, killing meant winning.}

    {We have persistently reserved that killer gene for centuries. Even though we do not conquer and fight in the battlefield anymore, we have the mutant killer gene and its sub-gene that protects the murderer. We have special respect and a secret love for the murderer. }

    “We have special respect and a secret love for the murderer. “

    One person’s opinion you say ?
    OK. Here is a video of the behaviour of your Turk kin. In USA. In 2010.
    [Turkish-Americans celebrating the Armenian Genocide, Washington DC, 2010.]
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNfpYNeSyfE
    Young Turks celebrating the murder of Armenian children and babies.
    Turks and Armenians have _nothing_ in common.

    As to pressing and forcing the hands of Turks: nothing in this world is accomplished without pressing or forcing.
    And Turks are neither omnipotent nor invincible.

    • Add to this:
      (1) civilizational difference;
      (2) mentality difference;
      (3) religious difference;
      (4) linguistic difference;
      (5) difference in length of historical existence as nations;
      (6) difference in contributions made to human civilization;
      etc.

    • Right John:

      You and I have probably seen all the permutations of AG denial from our denialist Turk guests by now: nothing new.
      The good old “…we have so many things in common….let’s forget the past an move on……after all we are all ‘Anatolians’……”
      The individual [Onder Durmus] can’t decide: should one extend a false hand of friendship, while subtly denying the AG, or should one subtly threaten those gyavurs.

      Denial: {“ to resolve these sad and painful events together”}
      Yeah, sure, those were very painful so-called ‘events’.
      Teh magic word ‘events’ again.
      Denial: {“ share their sorrow together to cleanse”}.
      Yes, of course: in Turkistan criminals and their victims routinely “cleanse their sorrow together”.
      Except, I guess when Israelis murder 10 Turks on Mavi Marmara, the rule does not apply: only if the victim is a gyavur, he/she is required to sit down for a cleansing session with the murdering nomad Turk.
      Threat: {“ Pressing and forcing the hands of Turks will not create a long lasting remedy”}
      Stop pressing and forcing us “proud” Turks you ‘gyavurs’, or else. You ‘gyavurs’ remember what we didn’t do to you in 1915, don’t you ?

    • Right on, Avery.

      Add to this “I remember late Hirant Dink’s comment […]” Dink’s comment suitable for the occasion is remembered, but what Turks did to Dink for making that and other comments is not remembered. Apparently, it is not suitable for the occasion…

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