people: Pain, faith, & hope
By: Elias Bejjani
On the ninety-third anniversary of the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire government's military forces which took place in 1915 in what is known today as Turkey, we, from the Lebanese Canadian Coordination Council (LCCC), offer our heartily felt condolences to the Armenian people all over the world, share their grief, pain and anguish, as well as their on going cry for justice.
Many historians believe that contemporary history has not yet witnessed a more terrible crime - a crime against humanity - than that of the Armenian genocide. There is no doubt that the faithful and patriotic Armenian People shall keep vivid this sad memory that has touched deeply and extensively their lives, hearts, conscience, and hopes.
With the Armenians, and all people world-wide who believe in Human Rights, justice and enforcement of law and order, we ask Almighty God to grant the souls of the genocide 1.5 million victims the eternal resting peace dwelling in His Holy Heaven alongside saints and angels.
With great admiration, we salute the Armenian people for their great courage, tireless perseverance and stanched witnessing for what is righteous and just. For ninety three hard and tough painful years they've held their cause alive and never allowed themselves or the world to forget the genocide crime that the Ottoman Empire inflicted with cold blood on their families.
It is worth mentioning that on April 1915 the Ottoman government embarked upon the systematic decimation of its civilian Armenian population. The persecutions continued with varying intensity until 1923 when the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist and was replaced by the Republic of Turkey. The Armenian population of the Ottoman state was reported at about two million in 1915. An estimated one million had perished by 1918, while hundreds of thousands had become homeless and stateless refugees. By 1923 virtually the entire Armenian population of Anatolian Turkey had disappeared.
The Ottoman Empire was ruled by the Turks who had conquered lands extending across West Asia, North Africa and Southeast Europe. The Ottoman government was centered in Istanbul (Constantinople) and was headed by a sultan who was vested with absolute power. The Turks practiced Islam and were a martial people. The Armenians, a Christian minority, lived as second class citizens subject to legal restrictions which denied them normal safeguards. Neither their lives nor their properties were guaranteed security. As non-Muslims they were also obligated to pay discriminatory taxes and denied participation in government. Scattered across the empire, the status of the Armenians was further complicated by the fact that the territory of historic Armenia was divided between the Ottomans and the Russians.
The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1922-23). One and a half million Armenians were killed, out of a total of three million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians all over the world commemorate this great tragedy on April 24, because it was on that day in 1915 when 300 Armenian leaders, writers, thinkers and professionals in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were rounded up, deported and killed. Also on that day in Constantinople, 5,000 of the poorest Armenians were butchered in the streets and in their homes.
The Armenian Genocide was masterminded by the Central Committee of the Young Turk Party (Committee for Union and Progress [Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyet, in Turkish]) which was dominated by Mehmed Talât [Pasha], Ismail Enver [Pasha], and Ahmed Djemal [Pasha]. They were a racist group whose ideology was articulated by Zia Gökalp, Dr. Mehmed Nazim, and Dr. Behaeddin Shakir.
The Turkish government today denies that there was an Armenian genocide and claims that Armenians were only removed from the eastern "war zone." The Armenian Genocide, however, occurred all over Anatolia [present-day Turkey], and not just in the so-called "war zone." Deportations and killings occurred in the west, in and around Ismid (Izmit) and Broussa (Bursa); in the center, in and around Angora (Ankara); in the south-west, in and around Konia (Konya) and Adana (which is near the Mediterranean Sea); in the central portion of Anatolia, in and around Diyarbekir (Diyarbakir), Harpout (Harput), Marash, Sivas (Sepastia), Shabin Kara-Hissar (țebin Karahisar), and Ourfa (Urfa); and on the Black Sea coast, in and around Trebizond (Trabzon), all of which are not part of a war zone. Only Erzeroum, Bitlis, and Van in the east were in the war zone.
The Armenian Genocide was condemned at the time by representatives of the British, French, Russian, German, and Austrian governmentsnamely all the major Powers. The first three were foes of the Ottoman Empire, the latter two, allies of the Ottoman Empire. The United States, neutral towards the Ottoman Empire, also condemned the Armenian Genocide and was the chief spokesman in behalf of the Armenians.
Up until now, the Turkish government has consistently refused to recognize the Armenian genocide and keeps on exerting a great deal of pressure on countries that do. Meanwhile more than 20 countries, including Belgium, Canada, Poland and Switzerland, have officially recognized the killings as genocide. In 2006, French lawmakers voted to make it a criminal offence to deny that Armenians were victims of genocide. But still many countries, including Britain and the United States, refuse to use the term to describe the events, mindful of relations with Turkey. The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee's endorsement of a resolution labeling the killings as genocide last October sparked fury in Ankara, which recalled its ambassador to Washington. Under intense pressure from the White House, the authors of the bill later asked Congress not to hold a debate on the issue.
We call on all the European countries to make the full scale recognition of the Armenian genocide conditional for Turkey's future membership in their Union, and we urge all the free world countries to pressure Turkey to recognize the horrible Armenian massacre and accordingly abide by all due international laws that needs to be enforced in such cases like apologies, recognition and compensations.
The entire free world should not rest until justice is served to the Armenian people and the Ottoman genocide against them is fully recognized.
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
LCCC Web Site http://www.10452lccc.com
CLHRF Website http://www.clhrf.com