A Much Needed Website.

I just learned that on February 27 Armenian National Institute (ANI) of Washington D.C. has launched “a Turkish Language version of its popular website documenting the facts and acknowledgements of the Armenian Genocide available at, http://www.turkish.armenian-genocde.org

(Ani was established in 1997 by the Armenian Assembly of America with initial funding of one million dollar donation from Hrayr Hovnanian of New Jersey, for the “study, research, and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide”.) 

During the past twenty years ANI has grown to become a credible research and documentation center about the Armenian Genocide. It has a very wide ranging and easy to use website.  “The site is visited by over four million times a year and number of people accessing from Turkey is substantial”, the statement reads.

As of April 2015 ANI has also established an On Line Museum about the Armenian Genocide as well. With global internet accessibility, this On Line Museum along with ANI’ website is a very useful source of information about the Armenian Genocide.

I hope the Turkish-Language website will be more of an educational tool to inform the Turkish people, specially the young generation, about what happened during the second world war in Turkey where Armenians had lived for centuries, specially in Anatolia, and as of today hardly any Armenian lives there.

It will be best if all information on ANI’ Turkish-Language website is solely based on  archival  documents. It  could be also more effective if it stays clear of politics and nationalistic rhetoric. Here is in part what the chairman of ANI,  Van. Z. Krikorian said.

“The Turkish-Language ANI site looks forward to contributing toward dialogue by paving one more path to a common understanding of history and by taking one more step forward toward a reconciliation cognizant of the consequences of the past, while building forward toward a future where neighboring nations could live in peace ” and added “more progress in Turkey is necessary for Turks to understand and reconcile with their own history”.

Van. Z. Krikorian is a third generation Armenian/American.  For a long time he has been part of the leadership of Armenian Assembly of America in Washington DC. In 2001 he was  a member of the controversial Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) that apart from its pretentious name, was a bold move to kick start a dialogue between Turkish and Armenian individuals with the tacit support of USA, Armenia, and Turkish governments.

Unfortunately, and with understandable reasons, they failed to make much progress and ended up asking International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) to render a judgement on the Armenian Genocide. Here is in part what the judgment said in 2004.

In reference to the Genocide convention, the court’ decision in part reads “thus be said to include all of elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them”.

As for the retroactive application of the law, the court’ decision also in part reads “International law generally prohibits the retroactive application of treaties. … The Genocide Convention contains no provision mandating its retroactive application. …therefore , no legal, financial or territorial claim arising out of the Events could successfully be made against any individual or state under the convention”.

ICTJ is the only impartial court of justice of international stature that I know of that has rendered such a clear verdict. Yes it was Genocide, but, current  generation of Turks, and Turkish government, are not liable for it.

At the time probably it was hard to accept this “double sided sward” type a judgment by both, the Turkish, and Armenian members of TARC. Armenian members must have been delighted of the judgment that said, yes it was genocide, but could not reconcile with the judgment that absolved the current Turkish generation of any responsibility or obligation. For the Turkish members it was in reverse order.

Thirteen years later, let us hope that this new Turkish language website, will help more Turks, specially young Turks, to learn the truth “and reconcile with their own history” that has been deliberately hidden from them by all their successive post first world war Turkish governments.

Let us also hope that this new Turkish -Language website will help pave the way for mutual understanding and dialogue between Turkish and Armenian “legal scholars, as well as historians, politicians, journalist and other people”.

Naive? maybe. But hate and mutual accusations have failed and failed miserably on both sides. It is time for new approaches. It is  time for brave and progressive Armenian and Turkish individuals to come forward and challenge the current hateful and confrontational “norms”, and start a dialogue with mutual trust and understanding.

They should be outspoken and ignore the “conventional wisdom” of the Armenian nationalists that  “Genocidal Turks will never change” and also ignore the “conventional wisdom” of the Turkish nationalists that “Armenians are traitors and cannot be trusted”, and lead the way to help create the conditions  “where neighboring nations could live in peace”.

Zohrab Bebo Sarkissian

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