Dear members of the Turkish Canadian Council and dear guests,
My wife and I have a particular pleasure to be with you this evening in Toronto. I would like to thank president Murat Saatçioğlu and his colleagues for inviting me to share with you my views on the Armenian question.
But, before dealing with the Armenian issue, let me first say a few worlds about more recent tragic events, starting with the horrible terrorist attack that happened in Ankara last Saturday. About 100 people lost their lives and more than 200 people injured as a result of a brutal terrorist attack. This was the worst case in our Republican history. American press says that it was 9/11 of Turkey. So far nobody claimed responsibility but the Turkish people was united to condemn the attack. We, all, should indeed condemn all terrorist attacks irrespective of their perpetrators, victims and targets.
Actually Turkey’s neighborhood became for a couple of decades an area where a number of terrorist groups are based conducting terrorist attacks practically every day, killing thousands of innocent people in several countries. A notorious terror organization ISIS occupies large areas of Iraq and Syria forcing millions of people living in these areas to obey their inhuman rules to be able to survive. Around 4 million people left their countries to escape from ISIS or the civil war. 2 million 350 thousand Syrian refugees are actually in Turkey. 95% of all refugees are hosted in 5 countries only: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The efforts of the international coalition were not successful enough so far to eliminate ISIS or any other terrorist organization.
Unfortunately Turkey is actually among the countries of the world that suffered from terrorist attacks more than almost all other countries.
As a matter of fact since 1985, for the last 3 decades, Turkey faced organized terrorist attacks that claimed the life of about 35.000 thousand people. In was a new phenomenon for Turkey. When the Middle East and some European countries were suffering severe terrorist attacks in 1960’s and in the first half of 70’s, there was practically no terrorist activity against Turkish targets. The only exception is the killing of our Counselor General and his deputy in Los Angeles in 1973 by an old Armenian.
Why then a massive terrorist campaign started against our country in 1975?
One explanation, shared by many experts like late journalist and researcher Uğur Mumcu, who himself was later killed in a terrorist attack, is the following:
Turkey intervened in Cyprus after a bloody coup d’état perpetrated by the Greek Junta in July 1974. Behind the coup were the Greek officials stationed in Cyprus, supported by the EOKA terrorist organization, founded by the retired Greek General Grivas. EOKA was operational on the Island since 1955 and was responsible of the killing of a number of British officials and Turkish Cypriots alike. After the coup of 1974, Nicos Samson, a notorious EOKA terrorist was named as ‘President of Cyprus.’
Right after the Turkish intervention in Cyprus, EOKA declared that, “Under the present conditions we cannot combat Turkish troops on the Island, but we will hit Turkish targets throughout the world.”
Almost immediately after this statement ASALA, an Armenian terror organization started to kill Turkish diplomats, beginning with the Turkish Ambassador in Vienna, Daniş Tunaligil, followed by the Ambassador İsmail Erez in Paris. Altogether more than 40 Turkish Ambassadors, diplomats, their wives, their children and security people were assassinated. In 1982 ASALA terrorists killed a Turkish Military Attaché in Ottawa, seriously injured a trade attaché and in 1985 they murdered a Canadian security guard of our Embassy in Ottawa, and took 13 hostages. Our Ambassador succeeded to escape with serious injuries.
As I said a moment ago, experts believe that this ASALA attacks are related to Turkish intervention in Cyprus, because many documents reveal the close cooperation between EOKA, ASALA and PKK Kurdish terrorist organization. According to some reports, these three terror groups have established together an informal group, called “The Association for the Liberation of the Peoples of Asia Minor” based in Athens. No wonder PKK leader Öcalan, who, after being expulsed from Syria, was hosted at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi where he was caught. He was carrying a Greek Cypriot passport.
ASALA, the Armenian terrorist organization, has stopped its attacks against Turkish diplomats in 1984 and immediately afterwards PKK started its terrorist activities killing Turkish security officials and civilians.
Today when we speak in Turkey about Armenian question we first remember this notorious Armenian terror organization.
Should we consider ASALA as an individual terror organization, having no connection whatsoever with the any government? We wish it were so. Unfortunately we noticed that although a number of ASALA terrorists were caught, tried and condemned in several countries, to the best of my knowledge, none so far in Armenia. Furthermore if you look at Google map, you will find a military cemetery near Yerevan called Yerablur, and a corner of this cemetery is named “ASALA memorial.” You can find a closer picture of this memorial on the Internet. How should we interpret this? I hardly remember a country where a memorial is erected in the name of a terrorist organization. In Turkey, when we think about Armenian question we have in mind all these unfortunate events.
When we talk about Armenians, we also think about the killing of an Armenian Journalist Hrant Dink in İstanbul. We all condemned this horrible assassination. I was at that time Deputy Chairman of the Turkish main opposition party CHP. I was among the first politicians to condemn strongly this killing.
I believe that when there is a terrorist attack, immediately we all should stand against it and condemn the perpetrators even if the killer is our citizen.
As I said, our neighborhood has become the center of international terrorism. Together with Iraqis and Syrians, Turkish citizens have suffered from various terrorist activities in the region. Many Turkish lorry drivers, businessmen, and workers were killed or kidnapped in Iraq and Syria. In June 2014, our Consul General in Mosul and his staff of 49 diplomats and personnel were taken hostage by ISIS for more than a month.
Not only Turkish citizens, but also our kinsmen living in neighboring countries suffered tremendously of violence and terrorist attacks. Actually Turcomans of Iraq and Syria, together with Arabs, Kurds, Yezidis and others lost their lives as a result of attacks of ISIS and other terror groups.
Among the people of Turkish origin, victims of such attacks, I must mention the inhabitants of three Turkish villages in Cyprus, near Famagusta. All of them, men, and women, children even babies have been killed indiscriminately by the Greek Cypriot gangs in August 1974. UN Peace Keeping Force’s soldiers were only a few hundreds meters away. None of the perpetrators have been caught and tried so far.
I also remember 613 Azeri Turks, killed in Hodjali by Armenian armed groups in February 1982 after a long siege. 106 women and 83 children were among the victims. In Turkey when we speak about Armenian question we remember also this.
Although we are not in favor of using history for the purpose of gaining political advantages today, we should not be shy in talking about the history.
Now let me say a few words about the history.
Upheaval of Greeks in Mora peninsula in 1820’s, Greek terrorist attacks in Crete island killing thousands of Turks and burning hundreds of villages, independence movements in the Balkans towards the end of the 19th century together with armed attacks or rebellions in other parts of the Ottoman Empire have cost the lives of millions of Turks living in these areas.
American professor Justin McCarthy says that the total number of Turks who lost their lives from the beginning of the Greek independence movement until the end of the Turkish war of liberation in 1922, as a result of these armed attacks, wars and related illness and famine, reaches 5 million. Therefore the Turks, often accused as aggressor, were in reality, the victims of the attacks of different ethnic and religious armed groups supported by the big powers of the time.
Turks and Armenians lived together in peace and harmony throughout centuries. Quite a number of Armenians had important positions in the Ottoman administration. At the end of 19th and at the beginning of 20th centuries, for 28 years in a row, the Ministers in charge of personal budget of the Sultan were Armenians. An Ottoman Foreign Minister was Armenian. There were Armenian members of Parliament, ambassadors and high-level officers.
During the First World War, responding to an appeal of Tsar Nikola II, approximately 150.000 Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin joined the Russian forces invading Eastern parts of Turkey.
These Armenians, and local Armenian armed groups attacked not only supply roads and storage facilities of the Turkish forces, but Turkish towns and villages as well, killing a great number of civilians including women and children.
In 1915 Ottoman government, upon the demand of Commanders of the Turkish forces in Eastern Front, decided to move Armenians living in combat zones to safe places of the Empire. This deportation has started after the Armenian armed groups took over the control of the city of Van.
A great number of Turks and Armenians have lost their lives during this period as a result of mutual killings. There are various estimations about Armenian casualties. French writer Pierre Loti, in his letter to the French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, asserted that Armenian claims are grossly exaggerated.
There are also foreign journalists who reported the massacres of Turks by Armenians. French journalist and writer, Jean Schlicklin, in his book “Angora” published in 1922, reports that until the end of 1919, one hundred Turkish villages were burned and their inhabitants have been massacred by the Armenians.
According to the official records of the Turkish authorities, around half a million Turks have lost their lives in this period in the areas of confrontation.
During the First World War, these confrontations have been presented to the world public opinion by allied propaganda agencies, most particularly by British Propaganda Ministry, Wellington House, as Turkish atrocities practically without any reference to Turkish victims. These wartime propaganda materials are still in use to justify Armenian claims of genocide.
Out of more than 200 countries, about 20 Parliaments have adopted resolutions supporting the Armenian genocide claims. I personally regret that Canadian parliament has also accepted such a resolution.
The question is whether parliaments or governments are authorized by international law to qualify an event as genocide.
UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 sets forth the definition of genocide and specifies the legal authorities qualified to determine which acts could be considered as genocide. Article VI of the Convention says that:
“Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”
Therefore, according to the Convention no political authority is qualified as competent to decide whether an event should be considered as genocide or not.
On the other hand, some leading countries declared that the event that took place in Eastern Turkey in 1915 could not be recognized at genocide.
For example, British Foreign Office Minister Baroness Meta Ramsey of Cartvale addressing the House of Lords on 14 April 1999 said the following.“… in the absence of unequivocal evidence to show that the Ottoman administration took a specific decision to eliminate the Armenians under their control at the time, British governments have not recognized the events of 1915 and 1916 as “genocide”.
Sixty nine American historians, including Prof. Bernard Lewis, Justin McCarthy, Stanford Shaw, Dankward Rustov, published a statement in New York Times and Washington Post on May 19, 1985, arguing that, and I quote, “…much more remains to be discovered before historians will be able to sort out precisely responsibility between warring and innocent and to identify the causes for the events which resulted in the death or removal of large numbers of the eastern Anatolian population, Christian and Muslim alike.”
On December 17, 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Switzerland violated the right to freedom of speech by convicting Doğu Perinçek, chairman of the Turkish Workers Party, for having publicly denied the existence of any genocide against the Armenian people. The Court pointed out that a consensus was difficult to establish in relation to matters which cannot be historically ascertained with absolute certainty, especially in view of the fact that genocide is a very specific and narrowly defined legal concept requiring a high treshhold of proof. The High Chamber of the Court has confirmed this decision last Thursday.
Anyway, I must repeat that historic events should not be used for political purposes and history should be left to the historians as suggested by the Turkish Parliament in a letter addressed to the British House of Lords and Commons on April 13, 2005.
Armenian claims relates to the events that took place during the WWI. Let’s remember what has happened during that war.
The total number of military and civilian casualties was around 40 million. The total number of deaths includes 10 million civilians.
Most of the casualties during WWI are due to the war related famine and disease. We should therefore put in proper context what has happened in Eastern Anatolia during that period.
To understand better the reasons and consequences of the Armenian question and other armed upheavals before and during WW I, we need to overview the policies of big powers of the time vis-à-vis the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire was named as the sick man of Europe and the leading powers were discussing how to share different parts of the Ottoman territories among themselves. For that purpose they were trying to weaken the Ottoman Empire using Non-Muslim minorities as a tool. Sometimes they were quarrelling among themselves on who will take which non-Muslim group under their protection. British, Russian and French governments supported Armenians of Turkey in different times for their own interests. For that purpose they exaggerated often the allegations against the Ottoman Empire. Some European writers reacted this bias attitude vis-à-vis the Turks.
Let me show you a book entitled “Les Massacres d’Armenie” written by famous French writer Pierre Loti, published in Paris by Calman Levy Editing House in 1918. In his book, Pierre Loti tries to describe and analyze what has happened at that time with quite an objective view without hiding wrongdoings of the Ottomans.
After writing his observations and criticism about the Turks, he starts to describe the Armenians with a critical perspective. At that point you see a white page in the book with the following inscription: “Censured”. In 1918 French publishers were not able or allowed to print critical views on Armenia.
In his book, Pierre Loti tells among other terrorist activities, and what has happened in 1896 in İstanbul.
Let me make a short quotation from this book:
“Before blaming the Turks for the horrible massacre of 1896, we should remember the violence of the attacks by the “Armenian Revolutionary Party”. A group of young conspirators were getting ready to blow up the Ottoman Bank in İstanbul while others were attacking the Psamatia district. They announced their intention of burning the whole city, which would be transformed, into ‘a desert of ash and blood’ according to the posters they hanged in public places.
There were 18 hours of fear during which Armenian bombs thrown from the windows fell on soldiers and the musicians of the Sultan who was going to the palace for the Friday prayer. Which nation would not react to such an attack by not punishing the perpetrators.”
Another French writer, Jean Schliklin, in his book “Angora” published in 1921 gives additional information about the incident. Armenian terrorists after killing the security guards of the Bank took 132 personnel as hostage. As a result of the initiative of the British Embassy the Sultan accepted to grant an amnesty to those terrorists who were safely conducted to the harbor to board a yacht belonging to Sir Edgard Vinsel, British Ambassador in Berlin, which would take them to Marseilles without any punishment whatsoever.
In November of 1898 French Foreign Minister Hanotaux said, in a speech he delivered in the Parliament that the Armenians represent only 13% of the population in disputed areas. Their aim is to highlight permanently some excesses of the Ottoman administration with the aim of creating a sprit of crusades in Europe.
Pierre Loti expressed similar views in an open letter he addressed to Foreign Minister Aristide Briand, published in the magazine L’Oeuvre stating that ‘The killings were reciprocal, as I explained in my book the Armenians abusing their Christian identity, tried to provoke Western bias against Turkey through foolish exaggerations’.
Right before the WW I, Tsar Nicola II of Russia, in a statement he delivered to Armenians, said “ Armenians! It is time to save yourselves from despotism and slavery. Join your brothers under the banner of the Tsar.’ Bogos Nubar Pasha, who participated to the Paris Conference of 1919, confirmed in an interview to Times in 27 January 1919 that 150.000 Armenian volunteers have served in the Russian Army.
There were also 10,000 Armenians serving in the French army and wearing French uniforms who killed innocent Turks in southern Turkish cities of Adana and Maraş.
Armenian fighters were also attacking Turkish forces combatting Russians in the Eastern Front. Schliklen writes that Armenian armed groups were attacking Ottoman Troops from behind, blowing their ammunition depots, and preventing supply convoys to reach their destinations. He said that until the end of 1919, 100 villages in Eastern Anatolia were burned and their Turkish inhabitants massacred. He also reports how Armenians have occupied the City of Van in Eastern Anatolia and delivered it to Russian troops. In his book “Rebellion in Van” American scholar Justin Mac Carty describes the atrocities committed by Armenian bands against Turkish citizens of Van.
In spite of these facts American Congress and Senate, under the influence of Armenian propaganda, accepted resolutions condemning Ottoman Empire. Western and in particular American press was full of stories accusing the Turks with a very strong language.
The Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Rüstem Bey, who was appointed to Washington in 1914, just before the war, has reacted to these biased publications in the American press and gave an interview to the Evening Standard criticizing one sided news and articles and reciprocated such claims by reminding French atrocities in Algeria, British atrocities in India and harsh treatment of the Indians in America as well as the humiliating treatment of the Philippian civilians by the American forces.
President Wilson reacted strongly to this interview and asked through his Foreign Minister an apology from the Ambassador, who was told that otherwise he could be declared persona non grata. Ambassador Rüstem Bey refused to apologize and left Washington for Istanbul without waiting an expulsion.
Besides the American press, in the books published throughout the 20th century you can hardly find a reference to Turkish civilians massacred by Armenians. Such a reference is practically non-existent in the statements of leading political personalities. The reality is that in the Turkish archives you will find evidence about 518,000 Turks killed by Armenians before and during the war.
Anti Turkish propaganda caused also a reaction in Europe. Pierre Loti writes the following: “The Turks are probably aware of the fact that whatever happens in Europe, they will be the ones to be blamed, insulted and held responsible; the coalition of Christians will always unite against them.”
Another French writer, Calude Farrere, in a conference he gave in Paris in 1922 said the following on the same subject:
I quote: “Why should you be surprised to see that the world accuses always the Turks? The enemies of Turkey have money and the money opens all the doors. Turks, as a nation do not speak much. On the contrary their opponents are very talkative and able to persuade people. Their most effective weapon is lies. Therefore would it be possible that those who have little knowledge believe that Turks are right and their opponents are wrong?”
After the war the Turkish authorities were blamed by Britain for wrongdoings against the Armenians and 145 Turkish high level commanders, politicians and intellectuals were sent to Malta to be tried and condemned. Finally there was no trial in Malta because Britain failed to find any evidence against them and they all were released and sent back to Turkey.
Throuhout the years many books reflecting the arguments of both sides have been published and a number of public statements have been made on the Armenian question. Here I would like to refer to the views expressed by two eminent leaders of the time, one Turk and one Armenian.
Lets start with the Armenian. Ovannes Katchaznouni was the first Prime Minister of Armenia and the leader of Dashnagzoutuin Party.
Katchaznouni states in the congress of his party in Bucharest, in 1923 that he has come to his conclusions after a grave thinking process. He calls on the delegates of the Dashnagzoutiun Conference to listen to him patiently, with no prejudice. He explains that he will examine the period extending from World War I to the Lausanne Conference, and states that he will focus on the role Dashnagzoutiun has played in this process.
The first Prime Minister of the Dashnagzoution Government makes the following observations:
It was a mistake to establish the volunteer units.
They were unconditionally allied with Russia.
They had not taken into consideration the balance of power, which was in Turkey’s favor.
• The decision of the deportation of Armenians was a rightful measure taken by Turks to serve their purpose.
• Turkey had acted with an instinct of self-defense.
• The British occupation once more aroused the hopes of the Dashnags.
• What they established in Armenia was a Dashnag dictatorship.
• They had acted in pursuit of the imperialist demand, “From Sea to Sea” and had been provoked with this.
• They massacred the Muslim population.
• The Armenian terrorist activities were directed at winning over the Western public opinion.
• The fault was not to be found outside the Dashnagzoutiun Party.
• The Dashnagzoutiun Party had nothing else to do but commit suicide.
According to Katchaznouni’s evaluations, this war was actually between Turkey and the great powers. He concludes that in the face of Turkish victory, the Dashnagzoutiun Party has nothing else to do but dissolve itself.
The Turkish personality that I am going to refer is
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. In his Great Speech of 1927 he said the following:
“The assertions regarding the Armenian massacres were undoubtedly not in accordance with the facts. For the Armenians in the South, armed by foreign troops and encouraged by the protection they enjoyed, attacked the Muslims of their districts. Animated with the spirit of revenge, they pursued a relentless policy of murder and extermination everywhere.
This was responsible for the tragic incident at Maraş. Making common cause with the foreign troops, the Armenians had completely destroyed an old Muslim town like Maraş by their artillery and machine-gun fire. They killed thousands of innocent and defenseless women and children.
The Armenians were the instigators of the atrocities, which were unique in history. The Muslims had merely offered resistance and had defended themselves with the object of saving their lives and their honor.
The telegram which the Americans, who had remained in the town with the Muslims during the five days that the massacres continued, had sent to their representative in Istanbul, clearly indicates in an indisputable manner who were the originators of this tragedy.
Threatened by the bayonets of the Armenians, who were armed to the teeth, the Muslims in the vilayet of Adana were at that time in danger of being annihilated…”
The words of Atatürk and Katchaznouni are clear and reflect a similar assessment of what has happened during the First World War regarding the Armenian question. To these two remarks I have nothing to add.
To conclude my words, I would like to say once more that, we should not use the history as a tool of our political goals of today. History should not be exploited to create new animosities among nations. Bitter experiences of the past should not be used by other countries for their own interests. Our aim should be to encourage Turkish and Armenian peoples in building solid ties of friendship and cooperation.