Turkish TV denies the Armenian Holocaust

Click to follow
The Independent Online

On the eve of Britain's Holocaust Memorial Day, Turkey's state TRT satellite television channel has embarked on a ferocious documentary that attempts to "prove" that Armenians - victims of the 20th century's first holocaust, in 1915 and 1916 - committed genocide against their Turkish Ottoman killers. And using old archive film of the First World War, the Turkish producers of the programme claim that only about 300,000 Armenians - rather than the one and a half million who were actually slaughtered - died in forced marches from their homes.

On the eve of Britain's Holocaust Memorial Day, Turkey's state TRT satellite television channel has embarked on a ferocious documentary that attempts to "prove" that Armenians - victims of the 20th century's first holocaust, in 1915 and 1916 - committed genocide against their Turkish Ottoman killers. And using old archive film of the First World War, the Turkish producers of the programme claim that only about 300,000 Armenians - rather than the one and a half million who were actually slaughtered - died in forced marches from their homes.

To the fury of Armenian survivors and their descendants, Britain has refused to honour the Armenian Holocaust in its commemoration tomorrow and the extraordinary Turkish documentary has provoked not a word of criticism among European governments, least of all the British. It claims that Armenian killings of Turkish civilians near Van - when Russian troops captured the Anatolian city from its Turkish defenders at the start of the Armenian Holocaust in 1915 - constitutes the real first genocide of the past century.

Armenians under siege in Van did indeed murder Turks at this time but on nothing like the scale of the massacres visited upon the Armenians in subsequent months. It is as if German television were to produce a documentary claiming that Jewish resistance to Nazi Germany in the Warsaw Ghetto was more important than the mass murder of six million Jews. But the TRT documentary has gone ahead, accompanied by an English commentary, without criticism.

During the First World War, the Foreign Office published a massive book detailing the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands of Armenian men and women, the rape of thousands of girls and the massacre of children at the hands of Ottoman Turkish police and militia. Convoys of women and children were driven into the Syrian desert to die of starvation or mass rape. In one case, the Turks forced thousands of Armenians into caves and then asphyxiated them with smoke from fires - the world's first gas chambers. Hitler, planning his genocide of Europe's Jews, was later to ask his Wehrmacht generals, "Who now remembers the Armenians?" Winston Churchill, a minister of Britain's First World War government, referred to the Armenian massacres as a "holocaust".

The Home Office originally rejected the inclusion of the Armenians in tomorrow's Holocaust Day - a British civil servant at one point referred to their genocide in the context of other historical "tragedies" such as the Crusades, a remark condemned as "disgraceful" by a leading Armenian official in France - although the Government has now decided to invite 20 Armenians, including two 1915 massacre survivors, to attend the British ceremonies. Turkey's response can only be imagined. Although President Clinton persuaded the US House of Representatives not to accept the facts of the the Armenian holocaust - with an extraordinary warning that American lives may be at risk in Turkey if the truth was acknowledged - the French Parliament passed a Bill this month that recognised theArmenian slaughter asgenocide.

In response, Turkey turned with fury upon France's economic interests. While French consulates in Turkey were besieged by demonstrators condemning France's recognition of the "alleged genocide", the Turkish Defence Ministry on Tuesday scrapped a $149m (£93m) deal with the French company Alcatel to build and launch a remote sensing spy satellite.

Turkey's Defence Minister, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, reacting to what he called "undeserved allegations against Turkey", has also announced that France's Giat Industries, which builds the Leclerc tank, will be excluded from a $7bn contract to furnish the Turkish army with 250 tanks.

America, Germany and Ukraine - none of whom has dared to dispute Turkey's version of the Armenian holocaust - now have a better chance of winning the huge contract.

It was a Jewish writer who invented the word "genocide" to describe the Armenian massacres. Even German officers training the Turkish army in 1915 condemned the atrocities that they witnessed. Ironically, Turkey's most prominent ally in the Middle East today - where survivors of the world's greatest Holocaust still live - is Israel.

Comments