Saturday, March 6, 2010

Turkish Genocide of Armenians

U.S. panel backs Armenian genocide declaration

A U.S. congressional panel has approved a resolution declaring the Ottoman-era killing of Armenians genocide.
In Turkey, the government said it was recalling its ambassador from Washington in response.
Read more.

This news story is of great importance to me because of some research I did about ten to twelve years ago.  I was writing a children's book proposal for an educational publisher in Maine.  The intent of the book was to use the alphabet to highlight 26 people groups that aren't well known.  A is for Armenia.

I loved my research on the Armenians--a people I knew little about.  In reading every book and every website I could find on the country and the people, I grew to love them.  They have suffered much because of their refusal to turn away from Christianity and embrace Islam, beginning a thousand years ago when the Turkic people began to pour out of Central Asia, conquering much as they moved west and eventually settling into the country we now call Turkey.

Armenia was the first nation in the world to declare itself Christian.  The apostle, Bartholomew, is credited with evangelising the country.  The people point their origins back to Noah who landed his ark on Mt. Ararat after the flood.  Until the 20th century, Mt. Ararat was a central part of Armenia and continues to be a huge emblem to them of their identity and history.  It was the genocide and the actions surrounding it that changed the country's borders.

The land called Armenia today is only a tenth of what Armenia was, prior to World War I.  At that time, Armenia was a nation that took up much of what is referred to as Anatolia--a broad band of land along the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern part of current-day Turkey.

When the Turks invaded the land back around 1000, they were brutal to the Armenian people and through the ages they continued brutality against them.  This news article mentions 1915 as the date of the genocide but truthfully, it began sooner and ended later.

Was it really genocide?  The Turks maintain it was not.  Yet Adolphe Hitler, on the eve of his invasion of Poland, specifically referred to the Armenian genocide and declared that since the world did not rise up to stop the Turks, it would not try to stop him either.  The Armenian genocide was his justification for the Jewish genocide.  No one would care.

No one cared what was happening to the Armenians in 1915 and the surrounding years.  Back then, Turkey was key to the needs of the Allied forces and access to the Middle East through Turkey was considered essential; far more important than saving the lives of men, women and children.  Hitler's gas chambers would have been preferable to what happened to the Armenians: Women and children forced to march through the desert for weeks with no food or water and when they tried to drink even the urine of the horses they were whipped or shot and killed; men were scourged on the bottoms of their feet and then made  to walk long distances; children sold to make them into "good Muslims"; people forced off the edges of high cliffs en masse; mothers forced to watch their children being brutalised; women crucified naked on crosses for all to gawke at; communities locked into their churches, which were then burned down with them in it.  These are the things I remember without looking back at my research.  It was a foul, foul time. Ninety percent of the Armenian people were annihilated and the remainder forced onto a tiny plot of land that doesn't even contain their beloved Mt. Ararat.

One man, I believe he was the American ambassador to Turkey at the time, saw what was happening and tried to inform his government, but they refused to believe him and, in the end, he was recalled home.  It is time the American government and other governments acknowledge the wrong that was done to the Armenian people and I applaud the resolution that has been approved.  Turkey has done all it can to suppress the knowledge of the genocide and, in my research, I discovered there were Turks in the US who were afraid for their lives because they acknowledged the genocide in contradiction to Turkish government.

I do not believe that the pressing "need" for Turkey to remain an ally is greater than the need to recognise and denounce the crime of that nation nearly 100 years ago.  As Hitler took his example from Turkey, the Turkish government should now take the example of the German people who, after World War II, not only admitted what had been done to the Jews and others but tried to make what restitution they could.

I pray that as this current resolution moves to the full House and beyond, there will be determination to once and for all admit the truth of what Turkey did to the Armenian people.

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