Archive for the 'History' Category

Saddam executed in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Some Arab media, including state-run Iraqiya television, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya and the U.S.-financed Al-Hurra, reported about an hour before daylight Saturday (about 10 p.m. EST Friday) that Saddam had been executed.

There was no confirmation from the Iraqi government.

A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam’s execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to interfere in another country’s judicial process. The ruling can be appealed, but it was issued within an hour of the time Iraqi officials said they expected the execution to be carried out.

Saddam and others were convicted of murder in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from an Iraqi town where assassins tried to kill Saddam in 1982.

 “Even if they put me in hellfire, God forgive me … I would say, ‘Fine, for the sake of Iraq.’ And I will not cry, for my heart is full of belief.”

R.I.P. – Inshallah

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Armenian Genocide by Turkish Muslims against Christians

The world turned its head while a nation was being exterminated!

Before the Nazi slaughtered 6 million Jews, before the Khmer Rouge killed 1.7 million of their fellow Cambodians, before Rwandan Hutus killed 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, the Armenians of Turkey endured mass slaughter at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.  The centuries of Turkish rule reduced Asia Minor, the epicenter of western civilization and Christendom, into a bloody Islamic cesspool which culminated in a genocide by Turks against Armenian and Greek populations. The Armenian Genocide, occurred when 2 million Armenians living in Turkey were eliminated from their historic homeland through forced deportation and massacres by the Turks. 

As Turkish authorities forced them out of eastern Turkey, Armenians say they lost 1.5 million people in 1915-23, during and after World War I. Turkey says the death count is inflated and that the deaths were a result of civil unrest.  To this day Turkey denies the Armenian genocide, but history cannot be hidden or rewritten.

Even Adolf Hitler cited the killing of the Armenians as a precedent for his own slaughter of the Jews two decades later. “Kill without mercy!” the Nazi leader told his military on the eve of the Holocaust.

Who today remembers the annihilation of the Armenians?

For three thousand years, a thriving Armenian community had existed inside the vast region of the Middle East bordered by the Black, Mediterranean and Caspian Seas. The area, known as Asia Minor, stands at the crossroads of three continents; Europe, Asia and Africa. Great powers rose and fell over the many centuries and the Armenian homeland was at various times ruled by Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Mongols. 

Following the advent of Christianity, Armenia became the very first nation to accept it as the state religion. A golden era of peace and prosperity followed which saw the invention of a distinct alphabet, a flourishing of literature, art, commerce, and a unique style of architecture. By the 10th century, Armenians had established a new capital at Ani, affectionately called the “city of a thousand and one churches.” 

In the eleventh century, the first Turkish invasion of the Armenian homeland occurred. This began several hundred years of rule by Muslim Turks. By the sixteenth century, Armenia had been absorbed into the vast and mighty Ottoman Empire. At its peak, this Turkish empire included much of Southeast Europe, North Africa, and almost all of the Middle East.

But by the 1800s the once powerful Ottoman Empire was in serious decline. For centuries, it had spurned technological and economic progress, while the nations of Europe had embraced innovation and became industrial giants. Turkish armies had once been virtually invincible. Now, they lost battle after battle to modern European armies.As the Ottomon empire gradually disintegrated, formerly subject peoples including the Greeks, Serbs and Romanians achieved their long-awaited independence.

Only the Armenians and the Arabs of the Middle East remained stuck in the backward and nearly bankrupt empire, now under the autocratic rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Ottoman misrule had made the Armenians, a prosperous minority despite its political disadvantages, sympathetic to Russia.  Between 1894 and 1896 over 100,000 inhabitants of Armenian villages were massacred during widespread pogroms conducted by the Sultan’s special regiments. 

Sultan Abdul-Hamid II known in history as the “Red Sultan” carried out a series of massacres of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. The worst of the massacres occurred in 1895, resulting in the death of 100,000 to 300,000 civilians, and leaving tens of thousands destitute. 

 Most of those killed were men. In many towns, the central marketplace and other Armenian-owned businesses were destroyed, usually by conflagration.The Young Turks were the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide. The Young Turk Movement emerged in reaction to the absolutist rule of Sultan Abdul-Hamid (Abdulhamit) II (1876-1909). With the 1878 suspension of the Ottoman Constitution, reform-minded Ottomans resorted to organizing overseas or underground. The backbone of the movement was formed by young military officers who were especially disturbed by the continuing decline of Ottoman power and attributed the crisis to the absence of an environment for change and progress.

At the center of the Young Turk Revolution stood the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) formed in 1895. Its members came to be known as Ittihadists or Unionists. The most ideologically committed party in the entire movement, the CUP espoused a form of Turkish nationalism which was xenophobic and exclusionary in its thinking.  The CUP seized power in a coup d’etat in January 1913. Armenians in Turkey were delighted with this sudden turn of events and its prospects for a brighter future.

Both Turks and Armenians held jubilant public rallies attended with banners held high calling for freedom, equality and justice.  But things were not as they seemed to those jubilant Armenians. 

Along with the Young Turk’s newfound “Turanism” there was a dramatic rise in Islamic fundamentalist agitation throughout Turkey. Christian Armenians, who had always been one of the best-educated and wealthy communities within the old Turkish Empire were once again branded as infidels (non-believers in Islam). Young Islamic extremists, staged anti-Armenian demonstrations which often led to violence. During one such outbreak in 1909, two hundred villages were plundered and over 30,000 persons massacred in the Cilicia district on the Mediterranean coast.

Throughout Turkey, sporadic local attacks against Armenians continued unchecked over the next several years.To consolidate Turkish rule in the remaining territories of the Ottoman Empire and to expand the state into the so-called Turanian lands in the east, most held by Iran and Russia, the CUP devised in secret a program for the extermination of the Armenian population. From the viewpoint of its ideology and its new and ambitious foreign policy, the Armenians represented a completely vulnerable population straddling an area of major strategic value for its Pan-Turanian goals. 

The traditional historic homeland of Armenia lay right in the path of their plans to expand eastward. And on that land was a large population of Christian Armenians totaling some two million persons, making up about 10 percent of Turkey’s overall population. 

Somewhat surprisingly to many, Armenians and Turks lived in relative harmony in the Ottoman empire for centuries.  Armenians were known as the “loyal millet”. During these times, although Armenians were not equal and had to put up with certain special hardships, they were pretty well accepted and there was relatively little violent conflict.During World War I, the Ottoman Turks, were allied with Germany and Austria-Hungary, and an enemy of czarist Russia. 

The Armenians fought with the Russians, and both the Germans and Ottomans considered Turkey’s Armenian citizens as “the enemy within”.   When the world’s attention fixed upon the battlegrounds of France and Belgium, the Turks decided it was time to solve their “Armenian Problem” by exterminating them. The cover the Islamic Turks used was the lie that during the war that Armenians had been, for their own safety, evacuated to strategic hamlets so they would not be caught between Turkey and Russia.

Echoes of the Jewish Holocaust

The remarkable thing about the following events is the virtually complete cooperation of the Armenians. For a number of reasons the Armenians did not know what was planned for them and went along with “their” government’s plan to “relocate them for their own good”.

The Turks began by disarming the entire Armenian population under the pretext that the people were naturally sympathetic toward Christian Russia who Turkey was at war with. First the Armenians were asked to turn in hunting weapons for the war effort.  Every last rifle and pistol was forcibly seized, with severe penalties for anyone who failed to turn in a weapon.    Mass deportations of the the civilian Armenian population was carried out in the spring and summer of 1915 and were completed by the fall, the systematic slaughter of the Armenians had started earlier with the murder of the 40,000 able-bodied males already drafted into the Ottoman armed forces. 

These able bodied Armenian men were then drafted and told it was to help Turkey’s wartime effort. In the fall and winter of 1914, all of the Armenian soldiers had their weapons taken from them before they were put into slave labor battalions, building roads. Under the brutal work conditions they suffered a very high death rate. Those soldiers who survived were shot outright. 

By stealing the movable and immovable wealth of the Armenians, the CUP looked upon its policy of genocide as a means for enriching its coffers and rewarding its cohorts. Pasha’s Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver and Ahmed Djemal, were responsible for these policies.  These three formed the governing triumvirate which had concentrated dictatorial powers in their own hands after the January 1913 coup. They divided the governance of the Ottoman Empire among themselves.

Enver was a young 26 year old military hero who married into the Ottoman dynasty.  He provided the most public face of the CUP. As Minister of War he coordinated the buildup of the Turkish armed forces with German financial, logistical, and planning support. In an ill-conceived plan of attack, he precipitated land warfare against Russia in the Caucasus in the dead of winter. His December 1914 campaign cost an entire army lost in a period of four weeks. In his capacity as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Enver exercised ultimate control over the Ottoman armies which carried out major atrocities, first in 1915 and then with renewed vigor when Turkish forces broke the Russian line in 1918 and invaded the Caucasus.

The forces under the command of Enver’s brother, Nuri, and uncle, Halil, spread devastation through Russian Armenia and carried out massacres of Armenians all the way to Baku. Talaat was the Minister of the Interior in Istanbul who ran the government for a figurehead grand vizier.  Talaat was the mastermind of the Armenian Genocide and coordinated the various agencies of the Ottoman government required for the deportation, expropriation, and extermination of the Armenians.

The decision of Genocide: The decision to annihilate the entire Armenian population came directly from the ruling triumvirate of ultra-nationalist Young Turks. The actual extermination orders were transmitted in coded telegrams to all provincial governors throughout Turkey. Armed roundups began on the evening of April 24, 1915, as 300 Armenian political leaders, educators, writers, clergy and dignitaries in Constantinople (present day Istanbul) were taken from their homes, briefly jailed and tortured, then hanged or shot.  In May of 1915  claiming that the Armenians were untrustworthy, the Minister of Internal Affairs (Talaat) ordered their deportation to relocation centers in the deserts of Syria and Mesopotamia. Next, there were mass arrests of Armenian adult men and teenagers throughout the country by Turkish soldiers, police agents and bands of Turkish volunteers.

The men were tied together with ropes in small groups then taken to the outskirts of their town and shot dead or bayoneted by death squads. Local Turks and Kurds armed with knives and sticks often joined in on the killing.

Then it was the turn of Armenian women, children, and the elderly. On very short notice, they were ordered to pack a few belongings and be ready to leave home, under the pretext that they were being relocated to a non-military zone for their own safety. They were actually being taken on death marches heading south toward the Syrian Desert. 

The death marches would lead across Anatolia and the purpose was clear. The Armenians were being raped, starved, dehydrated, murdered and kidnapped along the way.  Those who miraculously survived the march would arrive to this bleak desert only to be killed upon arrival or to somehow survive until a way to escape the empire was found.  Countless survivors and refugees scattered throughout the Arab provinces and Transcaucasia were to die of starvation, epidemic, and exposure.

Even the memory of the Armenian nation was intended for obliteration; churches, and monuments were desecrated, and small children snatched from their parents, were renamed and farmed out to be raised by Turks. Many girls and younger women were seized from their families and taken as slave-brides. Muslim Turks who assumed instant ownership of everything quickly occupied most of the homes and villages left behind by the rousted Armenians. In many cases, local Turks who took them from their families spared young Armenian children from deportation.

The children were coerced into denouncing Christianity and becoming Muslims, and were then given new Turkish names. For Armenian boys the forced conversion meant they each had to endure painful circumcision as required by Islamic custom. Turkish gendarmes escorted individual caravans consisting of thousands of deported Armenians. These guards allowed roving government units of hardened criminals known as the “Special Organization” to attack the defenseless people, killing anyone they pleased.

They also encouraged Kurdish bandits to raid the caravans and steal anything they wanted. In addition, an extraordinary amount of sexual abuse and rape of girls and young women occurred at the hands of the Special Organization and Kurdish bandits. Most of the attractive young females were kidnapped for a life of involuntary servitude. The death marches during the Armenian Genocide, involving over a million Armenians, covered hundreds of miles and lasted months.

Indirect routes through mountains and wilderness areas were deliberately chosen in order to prolong the ordeal and to keep the caravans away from Turkish villages. Food supplies being carried by the people quickly ran out and they were usually denied further food or water. Anyone stopping to rest or lagging behind the caravan was mercilessly beaten until they rejoined the march. If they couldn’t continue they were shot.

A common practice was to force all of the people in the caravan to remove every stitch of clothing and have them resume the march in the nude under the scorching sun until they dropped dead by the roadside from exhaustion and dehydration. An estimated 75 percent of the Armenians on these marches perished, especially children and the elderly. Those who survived the ordeal were herded into the desert without a drop of water.

Being thrown off cliffs, burned alive, or drowned in rivers. During the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish countryside became littered with decomposing corpses. At one point, Mehmed Talaat responded to the problem by sending a coded message to all provincial leaders: “I have been advised that in certain areas unburied corpses are still to be seen. I ask you to issue the strictest instructions so that the corpses and their debris in your vilayet are buried.” But his instructions were generally ignored.

Those involved in the mass murder showed little interest in stopping to dig graves. The roadside corpses and emaciated deportees were a shocking sight to foreigners working in Turkey. Eyewitnesses included German government liaisons, American missionaries, and U.S. diplomats stationed in the country. During the Armenian Genocide, the Christian missionaries were often threatened with death and were unable to help the people. Diplomats from the still neutral United States communicated their blunt assessments of the ongoing government actions. U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported to Washington: “When the Turkish authorities gave the orders for these deportations, they were merely giving the death warrant to a whole race…”

 The Allied Powers (Great Britain, France, Russia) responded to news of the massacres by issuing a warning to Turkey: “…the Allied governments announce publicly…that they will hold all the members of the Ottoman Government, as well as such of their agents as are implicated, personally responsible for such matters.” The warning had no effect. Newspapers in the West including the New York Times published reports of the continuing deportations with the headlines: Armenians Are Sent to Perish in the Desert – Turks Accused of Plan to Exterminate Whole Population (August 18, 1915) – Million Armenians Killed or in Exile – American Committee on Relief Says Victims of Turks Are Steadily Increasing – Policy of Extermination (December 15, 1915).

In 1918, the Armenians managed to acquire weapons and they fought back, finally repelling the Turkish invasion at the battle of Sardarabad, thus saving the remaining population from total extermination with no help from the outside world. Following that victory, Armenian leaders declared the establishment of the independent Republic of Armenia.

Turkey’s Continuous Denial: The Turkish denial in the past several decades of this evil Genocide is interesting, yet not unexpected since Islam itself is a religion of denial and lies.  The Turks forget that they themselves have confessed in earlier times.

Turkish Prime Minister Damat Ferid Pasha placed the blame squarely on the Young Turk Party. Mustafa Kemal Pasha {Ataturk} said {in a 1926 interview with a Swiss reporter that} the Young Turks “should be made to account for the lives of millions of our Christian subjects who were ruthlessly driven en masse from their homes and massacred. . . .

The Armenian Genocide was witnessed by hundreds of American missionaries in the Ottoman Empire but especially in Anatolia, which was the traditional Armenian homeland.  These missionaries worked among the Armenians and have testified to their destruction by the Ottoman government.

The Genocide was also witnessed by American and European consular officials, stationed in the areas inhabited by the Armenians, who reported it to the ambassadors in Istanbul. Also, there were indeed with many European military advisers with important posts in the Turkish army at the time.

The American Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, Sr., confronted the Young Turk leaders, and then he telegraphed the American Secretary of State calling the Turkish action an attempt at “racial extermination.”The Armenian Genocide was well-reported in the American press, and the U.S. Senate held hearing which affirmed its reality.President Woodrow Wilson agreed to draw the boundaries of a free Armenia and sent a message to Congress asking for permission to establish a U.S. mandate over the new state.[I ask this] “Not only because it [the mandate] embodied my own convictions and feeling with regard to Armenia and its people, but also, and more particularly, because it seemed to me to be the voice of the American people expressing their deep sympathies.

At their hearts, this great and generous people [the Americans] have made the case of Armenia their own.The American people raised millions of dollars to aid the victims of the Genocide. Our older citizens will remember aid to the “starving Armenians.”President Herbert Hoover wrote in his Memoirs:

Probably Armenian was known to the American school child in 1919 only a little less than England … of the staunch Christians who were massacred periodically by the Mohammedian Turk, and the Sunday School collections of over fifty years for alleviating their miseries. . . .

The Hellenic & Armenian Genocide was the systematic torture, massacre and ethnic cleansing of several millions Hellenes (Greeks) and Armenians perpetrated by the Turks in Asia Minor, Constantinople (called Istanbul by the Turks), Eastern Thrace, Imvros, Tenedos, Macedonia, Cappadocia and Pontos between the beginning of the 1890’s and the end of the 1950’s.Millions of children, men and women were tortured and massacred or expelled from their homes only for being Hellenes. In the same places and often at the same time, were also massacred millions of Armenians and Assyrians.The only “sin” of those millions of persons was to live where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years before the Turkish invasions. The Turkish rulers carried out with unimaginable cruelty their plan to create a “Turkey for the Turks.”

The fall of Abdul Hamid had been made possible by the cooperation and aid of the Christians. But the latter — Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs — were soon cruelly disillusioned. A general persecution was started, the details of which were reported to their various governments by all the consuls of the city. This persecution first displayed itself in the form of sporadic murders of alarming frequency all over Macedonia, the victims being, in the beginning, notables of the various Christian communities. A favorite place for shooting these people was at their doorsteps at the moment of their return home.

It became evident that the Turkish Government, in order to gain control of the territory, was bent upon the extermination of the non-Mussulman leaders. Many of those murdered had been prominent in the anti-Abdul movement.

U.S. ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau’s says;  

Turkey unlike Armenia, is a relatively primitive nation with an Islamic Turkish heritage and a bloody past, Turkey has serious geo-political problems with virtually everyone of its neighbors. Turkey has serious territorial disputes with Armenians, Greeks, Cypriots, Iraqis, Iranians, Syrians and its own Kurdish population.

Beatrice Kaplanian in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter. 2005

A 100-year-old survivor of the Armenian expulsion from Turkey recalls the horrors she survived!

Among Beatrice Kaplanian’s sharpest memories from the death march of 1915 is thirst. “We would cry for water,” she says. She remembers seeing her father die. “He was so weak. We covered him and they took him to the valley. They didn’t bury him, they just left him there with the others.” She saw a lot of Armenians on the march die from thirst and fatigue. “Somebody would faint, and he wouldn’t get up.”

Sitting outside in her gray-brick, 17th-century rooftop apartment in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter, Kaplanian, whose memories of the killings put her age at roughly 100, is Israel’s last living survivor of the Armenian genocide. Between 1 million and 1.5 million Armenian civilians were killed in 1915-16 by the troops and mobs of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, mainly on forced marches from Turkey to Syria. Another 500,000 to one million Armenians survived and became permanent refugees.

The journey featured widespread rape, as well as mass murders by burning, drowning, axing and beating with blunt instruments – this last “to save shell and powder,” in the words of then-US ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau. In this way, live ammunition was saved for the Ottoman armies fighting World War I.

Countless other Armenians died of epidemics in the gigantic concentration camps set up along the route.

Kaplanian is small and somewhat bent over and her hands tremble, but she’s remarkably mobile and alert and still has a headful of thick, straight, blondish-white hair. She moves plastic chairs and a clothesline out of the way for the interview, and poses according to the photographer’s requests.

Translating my questions into her native Turkish is George Hintlian, Israel’s leading Armenian historian, a lifelong resident of the Armenian Quarter who “discovered” Kaplanian only a few years ago. Born Filomena before being renamed Beatrice by her British adoptive parents, she is one of some 800 survivors he says he has interviewed.

The living memory of the genocide is “like a sinking ship, and you have to salvage whatever you can,” says Hintlian, 58.

As a little girl in her mountain village, Filomena and her sister Christina used to play with the Turkish neighbors’ girls. Then one day the town crier went from house to house among the Armenians telling them that they would all have to leave the next day. Neither the two girls, their older brother or their parents understood what was going on, the old woman says.

They took cheese and bread, threw a mattress and saddle over their donkey – a relative luxury on the march, only for the well-to-do – and the two sisters sat in the saddle while the rest of the family walked. They weren’t told their destination, but they were being led to Aleppo, Syria, some 700 km. away.

One night one of the “escorts” on the march – who were often violent criminals released by the Ottomans especially for this murderous duty – snatched one of the pretty Armenian girls in an instant. “We heard her shriek,” recalls Kaplanian, and the girl was not seen again.

Twice the old woman cried in the interview. The first time was while recalling how she and her sister refused their mother’s request to sit in the saddle for a few hours to rest her feet, telling her that their feet hurt too. The second time was when Kaplanian remembered how a Turkish official took her back to Turkey to be his and his wife’s daughter; she never saw or heard from her family after that.

The postwar British occupation of Turkey removed Filomena from the Turkish couple’s home, bringing her to a British orphanage in Beirut, where she was adopted and later brought to Jerusalem. There she married a shoemaker from her family’s village named Kaplanian who died some 20 years ago, and they had a son who is now in late-middle age.

A devout Christian whose only book at home is the Bible, she says she has “no hard feelings” toward the Turks – or the Kurds, Circassians or Chechens, who also took part in the slaughter – over what happened 90 years ago. “They are human beings too,” she says. “My heart is at peace.” Based on what he knows of other survivors, Hintlian says Kaplanian’s longevity is tied to her extraordinarily forgiving attitude. “The survivors who were filled with hatred usually didn’t live long lives,” he says.

We met at Jaffa Gate as it was filled with Jews coming for the Pessah birkat hakohanim, or “priestly blessing.” In the adjacent Armenian Quarter walls were pasted with posters for the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

As with millions of Armenians above a certain age, Hintlian grew up on family memories of the genocide. His father was on the death march, and he would tell stories about how his father was axed to death, and how his baby brother died from acute diarrhea a few days after their despairing mother, unable to still the boy’s endless cries for water that they didn’t have, gave him muddy water from the ground to drink.

By contrast, the stories Hintlian heard from his mother taught him “that there were good Turks, too,” he says. The mayor of his mother’s village in Turkey, a man named Jellal, who had already been removed by the Ottomans from his post as governor of Aleppo for refusing to cooperate in the genocide, refused again as mayor of the village, costing him that position, too. Jellal won the village’s Armenians crucial months to prepare for their eventual expulsion, says Hintlian.

“None of my mother’s family died on the march,” he says. “They were wealthy, they traveled in a carriage, and they bribed escorts and officials along the way.” Many of the Armenian survivors owed their lives to such bribery, he notes, while others were aided by sympathetic Turks and Kurds, and still others, like his father, survived by resourcefulness and simple “Darwinian” stamina.

His father eventually came to Jerusalem to work as an assistant to the Armenian Patriarch, and George later followed him in the post, which he held for 25 years. During that time he became a historian, publishing eight books on 19th-century Jerusalem and the 1,500-year history of the city’s Armenians.

He decided to research the Armenian genocide at age 19 after hearing a lecture by the pioneer historian of that cataclysm, Vahakn Dadrian, an Armenian-American.

Yet despite having interviewed hundreds of survivors, both local residents and foreigners coming on pilgrimage, and even though he has pored over accounts of the genocide left by American, German, Austrian and Scandinavian officials in Turkey at the time, Hintlian says he has not written a book on the subject and has no plans to do so.

“When Dadrian used to come to the library in the Patriarchate to do research, we had to remind him to eat lunch, he just became so overwhelmed by the cruelty of the stories,” says Hintlian, sitting in an Armenian cafe for tourists at Jaffa Gate.

“Sometimes I go to Yad Vashem and I see scholars coming out looking depressed. I don’t think I have the nerves and willpower to live in that world.

It’s a hell,” he says. “I can read only one week at a time (about the Armenian genocide), then I want to stop. I’m not suited for this work.” Still, he is drawn to the old people he interviews. “I start off asking them about their blood pressure, their simple human needs. Once they feel you care, they’ll tell you anything,” he says with a gentle smile.

“But sometimes I’m very worried about interviewing them,” he continues. Hintlian fears that he may have actually brought on the deaths of three aged interviewees by leading them to recount their childhood memories from the death march. “Three people died very soon after I interviewed them. One died four hours after, another two days after,” he says.

He is in touch with Israeli writers who’ve taken a deep interest in the Armenian genocide, above all Yehuda Bauer, the dean of Holocaust historians in this country. Others include novelists Amos Oz and Haim Guri, politicians Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin, broadcast journalist Ya’acov Ahimeir and historians Amos Elon, Tom Segev and Yair Oron.

Another reason Hintlian doesn’t want to write a book about the Armenian genocide is because of the gaps in its history left by Turkey’s refusal to open its archives from that period. “German archives from the Holocaust have been opened to Jewish researchers, but the Turkish archives from the genocide are either closed or they’ve been purged,” he says. “So we are in the dark about so many details – who [among Ottoman officials] made a particular decision, and when. We have to grope our way and try to make sense of it.” Ultimately, though, Hintlian says he cannot make sense of the Armenian genocide, and this is yet another reason why he feels unable to write a book about it. He is baffled as to how people could carry out an atrocity of such magnitude. “It’s an endless mystery,” he says.

It’s also a mystery to Beatrice Kaplanian, but she doesn’t dwell on it. Putting her balcony chairs away, she is asked how the God she worships could allow such evil. “It is a sin to interfere in the ways of God,” she replies. “Whatever God wills to happen, happens.”

22 September

A Turkish court has ruled that a controversial conference on the mass killing of Armenians living under the Ottoman Empire should be suspended.The conference of academics and intellectuals was to offer a critical look at the official approach to the events of 1915.Armenians want the killings classified as genocide, but Turkey refuses, pointing to casualties on both sides. It is the second time the conference has been called off. The cancellation comes before Turkey is due to begin accession talks for membership of the European Union.

 Taboo

This was no ordinary academic conference. The delegates were set to discuss the fate of the Ottoman Armenians 90 years ago, one of the most sensitive subjects in Turkey. The first attempt to stage the debate, in May, was abandoned after Turkey’s Justice Minister accused organisers of stabbing Turkey in the back. This time a group of nationalist lawyers petitioned a court at the last minute and once again the conference is off. The alleged massacre of more than one million Armenians in 1915 has long been a taboo subject in Turkey. It was illegal even to discuss the issue until a very recent reform inspired by Turkey’s bid for membership of the European Union.

No appeal

Just 10 days before EU accession talks are due to begin, this court ruling is likely to embarrass the authorities. The prime minister, though, has already voiced his concern, calling the decision undemocratic. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that although you may not approve of a point of view, that does not mean you should prevent others from expressing it.

The university does have the right of appeal, but lawyers here say there is now little to no chance the ground-breaking debate can go ahead as planned on Friday.

Azerbaijan, a historical Faux Pas?

Azerbaijan ; Azerbaijani: , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijani: Azrbaycan Respublikası), is a country in the South Caucasus. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to the south. The Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan) borders Armenia to the north and east, Iran to the south and west, and Turkey to the northwest.

The Nagorno-Karabakh region in the southwest of Azerbaijan Proper declared itself independent from Azerbaijan in 1991, but it is not recognized by any nation.

Azerbaijan is a secular state, and has been a member of the Council of Europe since 2001. The Azerbaijani people (or simply Azeris) are the majority population, most of whom are traditionally adherents of Shi’a Islam. The country is formally an emerging democracy, however with strong authoritarian rule.

Etymology and Usage

There are several hypotheses regarding the origins of the name “Azerbaijan.” The most common theory is that Azerbaijan was eponymously named after Atropates, an Iranian Median satrap (governor), who ruled a region found in modern Iranian Azarbaijan called Atropatene. Atropates name is believed to be derived from the Old Persian roots meaning “protected by fire.”There are also alternative opinions that the term is a slight Turkification of Azarbaijan, in turn an Arabicized version of the original Persian name Âzarâbâdagân, made up of âzar+âbadag+ân (âzar=fire; âbâdag=cultivated area; ân=suffix of pluralization);that it traditionally means “the land of eternal flames” or “the land of fire”, which probably implies Zoroastrian fire temples in this land.Historically, the territory of the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan was never called Azerbaijan, which was historically the name of North West Iran, which still goes by the name.

With the collapse of Tsarist Russia in 1917, the Musavat (“Equality”) Turkic Federalist Party, which had pan Turkic elements within it, along with other groups, met in Tbilisi on May 27, 1918 to create their own state. The name they chose for their new nation was Azerbaijan, drawing protests by both Russian and Iranian scholars, citing that the name change was politically motivated and a way of claiming north western Iran. Yet such protests did not reflect the reality: the population of both North (Republic of) Azerbaijan and South (Iranian) Azerbaijan were the same ethnic group, which shares the common Azeri Turkic dialect, practices Shia version of Islam. People inhabitting both parts of Azerbaijan consider themselves Azerbaijanis (Azeris or Azeri Turks).

The Bolsheviks, who had taken power in Russia, re-conquered the Caucasus and kept the name Azerbaijan, in hopes of later adding north western Iran into the Soviet Union.

Mohammad Amin Rasulzade, the leader of Musavat party, later admitted a mistake in choosing the name Azerbaijan for the state, saying that Albania (referring to Caucasian Azerbaijan) was different than Azerbaijan (referring to Iranian Azerbaijan). Also, in an letter to Seyyed Hassan Taqizadeh, an important Iranian intellectual of the early 20th century, Rasulzade declared his eagerness to do “whatever is in his power to avoid any further discontent among Iranians.

History

The earliest known inhabitants of what is today Azerbaijan were the Caucasian Albanians, a Caucasian-speaking people who appear to have been in the region prior to the host of peoples who would eventually invade the Caucasus. Historically Azerbaijan has been inhabited by a variety of peoples, including Persians, Greeks, Romans, Armenians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols and Russians.

The first kingdom to emerge in the territory of present-day Republic of Azerbaijan was Mannae in the 9th century BC, lasting until 616 BC when it became part of the Median Empire, which later became part of the Persian Empire in 549 BC. The satrapies of Atropatene and Caucasian Albania were established in the 4th century BC and included the approximate territories of the present-day Azerbaijan nation-state and southern parts of Dagestan.Islam spread rapidly in Azerbaijan following the Arab conquests in the 7th8th centuries. After the power of the Arab Khalifate waned, several semi-independent states have been formed, the Shirvanshah kingdom being one of them. In the 11th century, the conquering Seljuk Turks became the dominant force in Azerbaijan and laid the ethnic foundation of contemporary Azerbaijanis. In the 1314th centuries, the country experienced MongolTatar invasions.Azerbaijan was part of the Safavid Persian Empire during the 15th18th centuries. It also underwent a brief period of feudal fragmentation in the mid-18th to early 19th centuries, and consisted of independent khanates. Following the two wars between Qajar Persian Empire, as well as the Ganja, Guba, Baku and other independent khanates, and the Russian Empire, Azerbaijan was acquired by Russia through the Treaty of Gulistan in 1813, and the Treaty of Turkmenchay in 1828, and several earlier treaties between the Russian tsar and the khans concluded in the first decade of the 19th century. In 1873, oil (“black gold”) was discovered in the city of Baku, Azerbaijan’s future capital. By the beginning of the 20th century almost half of the oil reserves in the world had been extracted in Baku.After the collapse of the Russian Empire during World War I, Azerbaijan together with Armenia and Georgia became part of the short-lived Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic. When the republic dissolved in May 1918, Azerbaijan declared independence as the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic. The ADR was the first Muslim republic in the world and lasted only two years, from 1918 to 1920, before the Soviet Red Army invaded Azerbaijan. In March 1922, Azerbaijan, along with Armenia and Georgia, became part of the Transcaucasian SFSR within the newly-formed Soviet Union. In 1936, the TSFSR was dissolved and Azerbaijan became constituent republic of the USSR as the Azerbaijan SSR.

During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The primarily objective of Adolf Hitler‘s Operation Edelweiss offensive was to capture Azerbaijan’s oil-rich capital of Baku. For the war effort, Soviet oil workers were obliged to work non-stop and citizens were to dig entrenchments and antitank obstacles into order to block a possible enemy invasion. However, Operation Edelweiss was unsuccessful. The German army was at first stalled in the mountains of Caucasus, then decisively defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad.

In 1990, Azeris gathered to protest Soviet rule and push for independence. The demonstrations were brutally suppressed by Soviet intervention in what Azeris today refer to as Black January. In 1991, however, Azerbaijan re-established its independence upon the collapse of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the early years of its independence were overshadowed by a war with Armenia and separatist Armenians over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Despite a cease-fire in place since 1994, Azerbaijan has yet to resolve its conflict with Armenia over the predominantly ethnic Armenian territory. Since the end of the war, Azerbaijan lost control of 14 – 16% of its territory including Nagorno-Karabakh itself.  As a result of the conflict, both countries faced problems with refugees and internally displaced persons as well as economic hardships.

However, former Soviet Azeri leader Heydar Aliyev changed this pattern in Azerbaijan and sought to exploit its wealthy oil reserves in Baku, something that Azerbaijan has become famous for. Aliyev also cleaned up gambling and was able to cut down the country’s unemployment rate substantially. He also sought closer relations with Turkey while simultaneously making efforts to resolve the Karabakh conflict peacefully with Armenia. However, the political situation in Azerbaijan remains tense especially after Aliyev, upon his death, selected his son Ilham to assume the duties of president. Azeri opposition forces are not satisfied with this new dynastical succession and are pushing for a more democratic government.

Politics

Azerbaijan is a presidential republic. The head of state and head of government are separate from the country’s law-making body. The people elect the president for a five-year term of office. The president appoints all cabinet-level government administrators. A fifty-member national assembly makes the country’s laws. The people of Azerbaijan elect the National Assembly. Azerbaijan has universal suffrage above the age of eighteen.After the presidential elections of October 15, 2003, an official release of the Central Election Committee (CEC) gave İsa Qambar — leader of the largest opposition bloc, Bizim Azarbaycan (“Our Azerbaijan”) — 14% percent of the electorate and the second place in election. Third, with 3.6%, came Lala Şövkat, leader of the National Unity Movement, the first woman to run in presidential election in Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, Human Rights Watch and other international organizations, as well as local independent political and NGOs voiced concern about observed vote rigging and a badly flawed counting process.Several independent local and international organizations that had been observing and monitoring the election directly or indirectly declared Isa Gambar winner in the 15 October election. Another view shared by many international organisations is that in reality a second tour of voting should have taken place between the two opposition candidates Isa Gambar and Lala Shevket.

  • Human Rights Watch commented on these elections: “Human Rights Watch research found that the government has heavily intervened in the campaigning process in favor of Prime Minister Ilham Aliev, son of current President Heidar Aliev. The government has stacked the Central Election Commission and local election commission with its supporters, and banned local non-governmental organizations from monitoring the vote. As the elections draw nearer, government officials have openly sided with the campaign of Ilham Aliev, constantly obstructing opposition rallies and attempting to limit public participation in opposition events. In some cases, local officials have closed all the roads into town during opposition rallies, or have extended working and school hours—on one occasion, even declaring Sunday a workday—to prevent participation in opposition rallies”.

Azerbaijan held parliamentary elections on Sunday, 6 November 2005.

U.S. President George W. Bush noted, that “Azerbaijan is a modern Muslim country that is able to provide for its citizens and understands that democracy is the wave of the future“.

Azerbaijan was elected as one the members of the newly established Human Rights Council (HRC) by the General Assembly on 9 May 2006. Term of office will begin on 19 June 2006.

Demographics

Azerbaijan has population of 8.5 million (data of UN), 90.6% of whom are ethnic Azerbaijani (also called Azeris; 1999 census figures). The second largest ethnic group are Russians, who now form roughly 1.8% of the population, most having emigrated since independence. Numerous ‘Dagestani’ peoples live around the border with Dagestan. The main peoples are the Lezgis, Avars and the Tsakhurs. Smaller groups include the Budukh, Udins, Kryts and Khinalug/Ketsh around the village of Xinalıq.

Azerbaijan also contains numerous smaller groups, such as Georgians, Kurds, Talysh, Tatars and Ukrainians. Some people argue that the number of Talysh is greater than officially recorded, as many of them are counted as Azerbaijanis. Around the town of Quba in the north live the Tats, also known as the Mountain Jews, who are also to be found in Dagestan. Many Tats have emigrated to Israel in recent years, though this trend has slowed and even reversed more recently. The country’s large Armenian population mostly emigrated to Armenia and to other countries with the beginning of the Armenian-Azeri conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. During the same period, Azerbaijan also received a large influx of Azerbaijanis fleeing Armenia and later Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent provinces occupied by the Armenians. Virtually all of Azerbaijan’s Armenians now live in the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Azerbaijan is 93.4% Muslim and most Azerbaijanis are Twelver Shia Muslim. They represent about 60–70% of the Muslim population. Other religions or beliefs that are followed by many in the country are Sunni Islam, the Armenian Apostolic Church (in Nagorno-Karabakh), the Russian Orthodox Church, and various other Christian and Muslim sects. Mountain Jews in Quba, as well as several thousand Ashkenazim Jews in Baku, follow Judaism. Adherence to religious dogmas is nominal for the majority of the population and attitudes are secular. Traditionally, villages around Baku and the Lenkoran region are considered stronghold of Shi‘ism, and in some northern regions populated by Sunni Dagestani people, the Salafi sect has gained a following. Folk Islam is widely practiced, but an organized Sufi movement is absent.

Culture

The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, a member of the Oguz subdivision of the Turkic language family, and is spoken by around 95% of the republic’s population, as well as about a quarter of the population of Iran. Its closest relatives in language are Turkish, Turkmen and Gagauzian. As a result of the language policy of the Soviet Union, Russian is also commonly spoken as a second language among the urbane.

Armenian-Turkish Dialogue and Taner Akçam

The current problems, if not enmity, prejudice and hatred, between the Turkish and Armenian communities can almost entirely be traced back to the Genocide of 1915. This has been, and still is, the major stumbling block in Armenian-Turkish relations.

Frequently, the Armenians look at the year 1915 as the epitome and culmination of the misfortunes, misgovernment and tragedies they suffered under Ottoman Turkish rule. The Turkish state continues flatly to deny the events of 1915, often mitigating or denigrating the Armenian tragedy in various forms and to varying degrees.

They also claim that the vile acts of destruction committed against the Armenians are below the inherent dignity and honor of the Turkish people and the ideals of Turkish nationalism that gave rise to the modern Turkish state.

Any and all references to 1915 have not only polarized both the Armenians and the Turks but have also politicized their respective stands vis-à-vis one another.

They continue to suffer emotionally, as their viewpoints remain mutually unrecognized or unacceptable. They spend millions of dollars to silence one another’s voice and become all the more embittered, as they fail to come to terms with the unspeakable pain, loss and memories associated with 1915 and its attendant consequences.

The social actors engaged in this confrontation are the nation-states of Turkey and Armenia, the communities in both countries, including the Armenian minorities in Turkey, the Armenian diaspora, especially in France and the United States, and the nascent Turkish communities in Germany and the United States.

All of these actors (?)  have their separate interests, interpretations, and expectations from the discussion of the Armenian tragedy, and they all attempt to impose their respective views upon others.

As a whole, the Armenians are in agreement that what happened in 1915 was indeed genocide. They have different interpretations, however, as to why 1915 happened, where 1915 should be located in collective memory, and how this location should affect the present.

The views of the Turkish state, the Turkish diaspora, and the people of Turkey also differ widely on the assessment of 1915. The Turkish state has developed a master story that aims to deny and erase the genocide from Turkish collective memory. This master story has so far been viable because of the inherent disregard of the Turkish state for its own historical past. Since the Turkish nationalist project had to construct the Turkish nation-state in contradistinction to the Ottoman Empire, it construed and identified the birth of the Turkish state as the beginning of the history of the nation, rendering what had transpired earlier irrelevant.

While the Turkish diaspora seems to adhere to this official state line, the people of Turkey often do indeed have their own alternative narratives. These narratives circulate informally among groups and individuals, but are never brought into the public arena, for fear of retribution from the state.

Such contestation and discrepancies between and within the Armenian and Turkish communities, and the persistent lack of meaningful dialogue produce sadly significant consequences. Their failure to cultivate direct ties not only allows third parties to enter the public space and exploit Armenian-Turkish differences and disagreements to their advantage, it also forecloses opportunities to discuss, acknowledge and address problems and silences in their own histories.

The Armenian and Turkish communities can overcome such negative consequences by recognizing their shared past, the violence, shock and trauma they both have experienced, and the man-made tragedy inflicted on the Armenians.

One could certainly assert that the Armenians have experienced a double trauma: one resulting from the massacres of 1915, and the other from Turkey’s refusal to recognize the genocide. One of the first steps towards reconciliation through dialogue is the recognition of the trauma of the past affecting both the Armenians and the Turks.

Prior to 1915, the Armenians and Turks shared more than six centuries of common history. This common history can only be studied if 1915 is recognized as one, albeit major, historical instance to be analyzed within the context of the common history Turks and Armenians shared before and after 1915. Inability to do so would essentialize 1915.  The second step in reconciliation through dialogue is the recognition of the common history of the Armenian and Turkish communities.

In its account of what happened or did not happen to the Armenians, the master story of the Turkish nation-state chooses to emphasize the pain and suffering inflicted on the Turks themselves, as if this would in some way alleviate Armenian pain and lessen the Armenian tragedy.

The Turkish master story also claims that the denial of the Armenian tragedy and the exclusion of this group from its imagined community would decrease the pain and suffering of the Turks. The third step in reconciliation through dialogue is the recognition of the inherent biases present in the master story of the Turkish state.

Once these steps are taken jointly by the Armenian and Turkish sides, on equal terms and with mutual recognition and respect, the current insufferable atmosphere can be turned into a joint search for reconciliation through dialogue. Such a perspective is essential if Armenian and Turkish scholars are to explore history in a meaningful way and in all its shades, gray and otherwise.

There is an acute need and, indeed, much room for understanding, collaboration and joint exploration of all aspects, facets and details of Armenian-Turkish relations throughout history. For there is much prejudice to be shed, stereotypes to be destroyed, and many obscure areas to be explored in a constructive fashion. It is this spirit that has led us, two University of Michigan faculty, working in the field of Ottoman and Armenian history and culture, to work together with a view to promoting a scholarly dialogue and adopting a wider embrace of Armenian-Turkish studies.

In our approach and determination to work together, we have derived much inspiration from the person and work of Dr. Taner Akçam.

It is with a deep sense of privilege and honor that we introduce Dr. Taner Akçam’s collection of essays. For many years now, Dr. Akçam has been working tirelessly, and against tremendous odds, to overcome prejudices and biases and to promote understanding and better relations between Turks and Armenians. The focus of his scholarship has been the Armenian Genocide, its history and impact on Armenian-Turkish relations since 1915.

He has diligently delved into primary archival sources to understand and illuminate, and to analyze and interpret, some of the darker aspects of the Armenian tragedy and human behavior. In all his work, Dr. Akçam’s scholarship has been meticulous, his perspectives illuminating, and his moral fortitude inspiring.

What has also been remarkable about this gentleman is not only his perseverance, but also his genuine sense of optimism. His essays offer us a glimpse into the soul and work of a compassionate human being and a dispassionate scholar, endowed with a deep sense of social awareness and responsibility.

Dr. Akçam’s work has been so far published in Turkish and German and has therefore been inaccessible to the English-speaking public. The present volume brings together some of his essays in English translation.

We are certain that this volume will be of significant importance to those interested in the modern phase of Armenian-Turkish relations. We are also certain that its appearance will be gratifying to Dr. Akçam himself. A wider audience will read his work. This will translate into a greater impact and, hopefully, will stimulate more dispassionate research.

And there is no greater fulfillment for a Turk who began his arduous journey all alone, than to be joined by an increasing number of companions in quest of the truth and fruitful understanding between Turks and Armenians.

KEVORK BARDAKJIAN
University of Michigan
FATMA MÜGE GÖÇEK
University of Michigan

New Book on Armenian Genocide by Akcam Issued in Canada

PanARMENIAN.Net

 The Zorian Institute of Armenian Research in Toronto has published a book by

Taner Akcam titled Flagrant Deed: Armenian Genocide and Issue of Turkish Responsibility,

 reports Armenian Mirror Spectator. The title chosen by the author represents words of founder of current Turkish state Kemal Ataturk that he pronounced on April 24, 1920 at the Parliament open session. The international press has already appreciated the book.

The Economist noted in its October 21-27 issue, “The book highlights two facts. Firstly, many foreign witnesses of deportations arrived at a conclusion that it was not deportation, but slaughter.

Secondly, why conditions are not formed in Turkey for free discussion of the issue by now.”

The New York Times columnist Belinda Cooper wrote, “Akcam is a rare scholar, who challenged native Turkey, which holds no organized slaughter of Armenians took place.

Akcam is the first Turkish specialist to publicly use word genocide.”

In his turn Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk underscored that Flagrant Deed is the final reports on the organized extermination of Ottoman Armenians, written by the courageous Turkish scholar.

Akcam devoted his book «to the memory of decorous Muslim Turk Haji Halil, who saved and hid for over 6 months members of an Armenian family threatening his own life.» Akcam noted he was shocked by «this peculiar example of triumph of good and humanity over evil.»

The Zorian Institute helped to translate the book into English. The book is expected to be issued in Hebrew, Armenian and other languages.

«The more books are published, the better Turks will know and doubt the lie, presented by the state,» said Zorian Institute Board of Directors Chair, professor Roger Smith, reports the Azg.

Fears of Turkey’s ‘invisible’ Armenians

By Sarah Rainsford,  BBC News, Istanbul

The head of the Armenian Orthodox church is in the middle of a controversial visit to Istanbul. Karekin II has in the past angered Turks by accusing them of committing genocide against Armenians at the time of World War I. Turkey denies the charges of genocide.

I thought it was a perfectly simple question.  I had gone backstage to interview the conductor of an ethnic Armenian church choir after a rousing performance at Istanbul University.

As the choristers packed up their manuscripts, we chatted for a while about the music and the conductor was all smiles.

Then I asked his opinion on the conference his choir was singing at – the snappily labelled “Symposium on New Approaches to Turkish-Armenian relations”.

I wondered if he thought the event could help mend fences. Within seconds, he was edging away from me, apparently deeply uncomfortable.

“I don’t want to talk about politics,” he pleaded, “we just came for the music!”

It was a telling insight.

Closed borders

Turkey and Armenia are neighbours who might as well be a million miles apart. Diplomatic relations have been frozen for over a decade; their mutual border is closed.

Part of the reason is Turkey’s support for the Azeris in their conflict with Armenia. But the direct dispute is over a matter of history: The death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in eastern Turkey during the dying days of the Ottoman empire.

Armenia wants those deaths recognised as genocide. Turkey refuses to accept that term. For Armenia and its vast and powerful diaspora, getting recognition from Ankara is a mission so important, it is almost a way of life. But here inside Turkey, ethnic Armenians have chosen an uncomfortable silence over confrontation.

I visited Anush and her brother Vartan in a leafy middle class suburb of Istanbul. Their apartment was typical of the area, but with the odd design twists, like knotted dried flowers on the table that reminded me of my trips to the Caucasus.

“Turks still ask me where I come from,” Vartan told me, as his sister brought in the tea. “They seem to have no idea there used to be hundreds of thousands of us here.”

Uneasy existence

Anush and Vartan are just two of some 60,000 ethnic Armenians who still live in Turkey – a land their ancestors have inhabited for almost 2,000 years. It is an uneasy co-existence.

We’ve lived with violence ever since I was born,” Anush told me. “Graffiti on our churches, abuse on the streets. I still think twice in some areas before I say my name openly.” For previous generations life was even tougher.

Anush’s parents barely speak Armenian, because their parents worried they would stand out and when Armenian militants began assassinating Turkish diplomats in the 1970s, Turkish Armenian families here made themselves more invisible still.

It is hardly surprising they do not normally voice an opinion on what happened in 1915. Anush and Vartan are a rare exception and, even so, I have had to change their names.

We know exactly what happened, Vartan told me.

He said his Armenian great grandparents were forcibly deported south, accused of siding with Russian troops against the Turks. They handed their children over to Turkish neighbours for safety and never returned.

There is a similar tragedy behind every Armenian door here, but the local patriarch has banned his community from discussing it – if they want to keep their jobs in Armenian churches and schools.

“It’s fear,” Anush told me simply.

There have been some early signs of change here. Last year a university in Istanbul hosted the first discussion of the genocide claims in Turkey ever to question the official line. It was hugely controversial but it happened.

And now international pressure on Ankara to re-examine its position is increasing. Vartan welcomes that but he senses a rise in aggressive, nationalist feeling in Turkey in response.

“If other countries force this issue, it will be terrible for the Armenian people here,” Vartan told me quietly.

“If you plunge a man into boiling water, he will burn,” he said, “but if you increase the heat gently, he could get used to it.”

‘Pseudo-citizens’

Unlike the Kurds, Turkey’s Armenian population is an officially recognised minority with certain rights and privileges. But despite that – and despite their silence – Turkish Armenians seem like pseudo-citizens.

I began to understand the price people like that choirmaster pay to live in peace in Turkey

Anush told me that in one school text book Armenians are still described as separatists with an eye on Turkish land. History books carry the official view of 1915, of course, with the Armenians exiled as traitors.

And even now, in Armenian schools here, ethnic Armenians are banned from teaching certain “strategic” subjects – geography, sociology, morality, history.

As we talked into the warm evening, and glasses of tea gave way to Armenian cognac, I began to understand the price people like that choir master pay to live in peace in Turkey.

To many Armenians abroad their silence is a sort of treachery. For Anush, Vartan and the others it is about protecting a fragile peace.  But it is all built on the shakiest of foundations.

“I am positive. I do have hopes for Turkey,” Anush told me as I put on my shoes to go.

“But I don’t remember ever feeling truly comfortable living here. Always at the back of my mind is the thought that one day I may be forced to leave.”