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David's Mental Meanderings
9th July 2003

In my Daily Diversions, I have mentioned before how much I appreciate certain food indigenous to the people occupying what I prefer to call eastern Greece or that part of Greece outside of Europe - a region sometimes called Asia Minor and geographically known as Anatolia. All after, sometimes there's nothing quite as tasty as a good kebab. I have also noted the appreciation pretty much ends there.

This peninsula between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is the home of much of the New Testament. St Paul was born here and later visited and wrote letters to churches in towns like Colosse and Ephesus, and regions like Galatia. Not all of Anatolia is occupied Greece. It is also home to the first nation to officially convert to Christianity in 301 under the missionary endeavours of St Gregory the Illuminator.

In Germany, holocaust denial is a crime. In Turkey, holocaust suggestion is a crime. Not admission, just suggesting the possibility. In Turkey, we aren't talking about the Jewish holocaust under the Nazis. We are talking about the Armenian genocide.

It doesn't make the papers much. It isn't the subject of all sorts of movies and used as a backdrop in others. And if the Turks have their way, it never will. That's because the Turks don't just want to deny they killed 1.5 million Armenians in 1915. They want to deny the Armenians ever existed.

I have to admit that the Turks have done a fairly good job of removing the Armenians from the public consciousness. After all, how often do you hear about the German genocide of Jews? There are Holocaust museums, remembrance days, and octogenarian former concentrations camp guards outed and deported. Just suggest that fewer than 6 million Jews were killed and you can be run out of town, or especially out of academia, on a rail. Suggest it in Germany and you will go to jail. Compare this to the Armenians. I have to admit that was I not reading William Dalrymple's From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium, I wouldn't have been thinking of the Armenians, either.

I've been aware of the Armenian genocide since I was in college. One of theological pillars whose writings we devoured, R. J. Rushdoony, was born the year after the genocide. His parents had just escaped the city of Van with their lives. His grandfathers were martyred.

Now for the first time I actually looked into the history of this holocaust. I learned that 55,000 Armenians were massacred in Van and cremated. I felt bad that I did not know names like Ras-ul-Ain, Rakka, and Deir-el-Zor the same way I knew Auschwitz or Dachau.

The Armenian leaders and intellectuals were rounded up first. After these were killed, the slaughter of the general population began. In seven provinces of Anatolia, 90% of the able-bodied men were killed outright. Most of the rest of the population was deported out into the desert to starve in primitive versions of concentration camps. The Turks even beat the Germans to the idea of gas chambers, even if they lacked the technology. They forced groups of Armenians into caves and then set brush fires at the entrances to deplete all the oxygen and asphyxiate the victims.

The Turks save a special fate for the children. The lucky ones were just burned alive or taken out in boats which were capsized in the middle of the sea. That was much quicker than the fate that befell the pretty ones. The prettiest girls and boys from the age of about 10 upwards were reprieved long enough to be raped and tortured. The accounts of foreign eye-witnesses to the atrocities are so horrific that I cannot bear to write about them. Should you find this all too incredible, I have provided links to websites containing the relevant information, replete with documentation, on David's Daily Diversions.

Without attempting to minimise the evils perpetrated in the Jewish holocaust in any way, I have to say that the Turks almost make the Germans seem nice. It is made all the worse by the Turks refusal to even acknowledge what they did.

The Turkish government has gone to great lengths to try and insure others do not know about them. For example in 2000, a Syrian Orthodox priest was charged with "inciting religious, racial and sectarian hatred" for mentioning the genocide to the press.

Like many foreign governments to promote their history and culture, the Turks have endowed chairs in Ottoman studies at major universities. The condition of the funding is that these compromised academics do not write or lecture about certain subjects and that they only use approved sources in their research. The Turks have also used more direct methods in shaping the research. In an 1994 interview at which I was present, Rushdoony indicated that while the scholar editing The Slaughterhouse Province: An American Diplomat's Report on the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1917 was researching in the US National Archives "she found that the Turks were allowed access to the National Archives and were destroying material derogatory to them regarding the massacres." [Rushdoony's interviewer, the history chair at a major Christian university, is also responsible for you reading this. He was a reader of the pre-Internet Meanderings, whose encouragement is at least partially to blame for the resumption of these newsletters in the electronic age.]

They have kept the US and UK from even officially recognising that the genocide ever happened. In 2000, a resolution in the US House of Representatives was withdrawn by the Speaker, under diplomatic pressure from Ankara. The UK Government has been petitioned by it citizens and by Members of Parliament, but it will not budge. Because Turkey is the only Muslim member state of NATO, no one has wanted to offend them. Now that the US controls neighbouring Iraq and has bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, perhaps that bargaining chip has dropped in value.

It as also been suggested that Turkey may have to admit the genocide to be admitted to the European Union. It would probably also help if they didn't have all their guns in the west pointed at what remains of EU member Greece. When we travelled between Turkey and the Greek island of Kos two years ago, the ferries in harbour were flanked in the docks by small gunboats, with warships nearby. Much of Turkey's military, however, is in the east.

When they aren't fending off the Kurds, they are rewriting history. Not being satisfied with slaughtering the Armenians, they are using the army to demolish all of the evidence that the Armenians were ever there.

This is the case in Rushdoony's ancestral city. According to Rudy Brueggemann, who visited Van in 2001, "All that remains of old Van are three ruined mud and stone structures and two mosques. Beneath a large rocky outcropping on which sits the ruins of the Van fortress, the flattened remnants of the former city are visible on the mud landscape that's almost lunar in its appearance. The new Van was built 5 kilometers away from there."

The most important NATO base in Turkey is Incirlik Air Base, located just outside the city of Adana. In the shadow of the American flag today is site of not one, but three episodes of violence against what was the indigenous Armenian population. They were attacked in the mid-1890s over a three year period. They were massacred by the tens of thousands in 1909. According to Brueggemann, "Were the 1909 massacres in Adana not overshadowed in scale by the genocide of 1915, they might be better known today." Every Armenian in the city and surrounding villages that wasn't killed was forced out. There are now no Armenian buildings in the city. Entire villages were demolished and there is no evidence they ever existed other than in the knowledge of the descendants of the handful of survivors.

In the removal of distinctive Armenian architecture, the Church has been particularly hard hit. Dalrymple notes that the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople (not to be confused with the Ecumenical Patriarchate located in the same city) did not complete a 1914 survey of actively used churches. Nonetheless, it recorded "210 Armenian monasteries, 700 monastic churches, and 1,639 parish churches, a total of 2,549 ecclesiastical buildings." In 1974, a survey indicated that there were 913 buildings with still-known whereabouts. Of those, 464 had disappeared, 252 were in ruins, and 197 were in sound shape.

This was before the Turks really got aggressive about removing any evidence of the Armenians. In the 1970s and 1980s, they started a campaign which does not appear to have stopped. Every Arminian place name has been renamed. They regularly go into villages, identify any and all Armenian antiquities, smash them to bits and remove the rubble overnight. As Dalrymple and others account, whenever returning foreign visitors ask what happened to monuments, churches, gravestones, or anything Armenian they saw before, locals in fear of the secret police insist that such a thing never existed.

If you look on the official website of the Republic of Turkey, the only references you find to the Armenians are in a section called "Armenian Allegations and the Facts". It explains how the Armenians "in fact" massacred the Turks. Even the culture and tourism section of the site, which panders to Christians and which you would think was written by Christians, never mentions the Armenians once. I couldn't find a reference to a single Armenian historical site.

I don't want you to think that this is some sort of Muslim attack on Christians. Constantinople fell in 1453. The Armenians survived over 450 years of Muslim rule. Though Islamic parties are on the rise, Turkey is the most secular of the Muslim states. The father of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal (known universally as "Ataturk" - the Father of the Turks) crushed Islamic fundamentalism soon after he came to power in 1923.

The Armenians have also suffered some persecution from the more fundamentalist Kurds. That's more of a religious conflict. The Turks have no such motivation. This is just what they do, whether in the elimination of the Armenian people in 1915 or in the current eradication of their history. As the curator of the Armenian Museum in Jerusalem told William Dalrymple, "Soon there will be no evidence that the Armenians were ever in Turkey. We will have become a historical myth."

By removing every trace of this ancient civilization, the Turks will assume the Armenian role as the cultural creators of eastern Anatolia.

The Turks are bit like the father in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who tries to convince everyone that the Greeks invented everything. The difference is that the Greeks actually invented an awful lot and the Turks only invented a lot of awful.

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