Why Turkey Refuses to Politically Acknowledge the Armenian Genocide

On Oct. 29, the US House of Representative voted in favour of a resolution to recognise the murder of up to 1.5 million Armenians by the Turkish government as a genocide.

Senator Robert Menendez, who has co-authored resolutions to recognise the genocide since 2006, told other senators that “the United States Congress cannot stand idly by and let the truth of genocide be silenced.”

“We must commit ourselves to learning the painful history of the Armenians as we seek to build a better world for our own and future generations.”

President Erdogan of Turkey, who had earlier met with President Trump in part to discuss the resolution, objected and blocked the request. He said that senators shouldn’t “sugarcoat history or try to rewrite it”.

The Turkish government claims that their actions were not a genocide. They assert that their murder of the Armenians was not systematic. Rather, they say, World War One killed many people from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Turkish Muslims.

Representative Adam B. Schiff, declared that the vote in favour of the resolution was largely due to Turkey’s present involvement in another form of ethnic cleansing.

“Given that the Turks are once again involved in an ethnic cleansing of the population – this time the Kurds who live along the Turkish-Syrian border – it seemed all the more appropriate to bring up a resolution about the Ottoman efforts to annihilate an entire people in the Armenian genocide,” he said.

Like the United Kingdom, the United States of America has, for decades, circumvented pronouncing Turkey’s systematic slaughter, massacre and deportation of the Armenians between 1915-1923 a genocide.

In a House of Lord’s written answer in February 2008, Lord Malloch-Brown, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, wrote:

“The position of the government on this issue is longstanding. The government acknowledges the strength of feeling about this terrible episode of history and recognises the massacres of 1915-1916 as a tragedy.

“However neither this government nor previous governments have judged that the evidence is sufficiently unequivocal to persuade us that these events should be categorised as genocide, as defined by the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.”

Article II of the UN Convention on Genocide defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

This definition includes: “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

The Turkish government’s current treatment of the Kurds give us a look into the nation’s collective identity.

A country that participates in the ethnic cleansing of its minorities –  under a leader who criticises democracy and promotes a highly hierarchical radical Islamist leadership – will simply not admit its actions to be undemocratic or illegal.

Narcissistic national identities are built on the hate of minorities. The Nazis hated the Jews, the English hated the Scots and Irish, and the Americans, the African Americans. Yet, this hate is always birthed from an insecurity in the very national identity proclaimed to be great.

As Armenian’s in Turkey grew economically and socially successful, despite policies designed to keep them destitute, the Turks became jealous, as their national greatness was increasingly challenged on their soil.

Psychologically, admittance of the Armenian genocide is a death for Turkish arrogance. Without this arrogance, Turkey cannot survive politically, as nations driven on ego refuse to end their persecution of minorities until they are defeated by an outside force.

Politically, should the Turkish government admit to the genocide, Turkey could become liable to consequences from the international community under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.

“Importantly,” it reads, “the Convention establishes on State Parties the obligation to take measures to prevent and to punish the crime of genocide, including by enacting relevant legislation and punishing perpetrators, “whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals” (Article IV).

Even more worrying for this gateway nation between Europe and the Middle East is the precedent the Armenian genocide will set for Turkey’s decades-long persecution and massacre of the Kurds. Presently, President Erdogan has received no measures from the international community to prevent or punish his ethnic cleansing of the Kurds. By declaring that it did not violate international law, Turkey avoids facing a myriad of consequences for its crimes against humanity, both present and past.

It cannot be escaped, however, that the international community’s century-long reluctance on the matter of the case of the Armenian genocide has further emboldened Turkey to continue the violent and systematic oppression of its minorities.