Taking Grassroots Activism to the Next Level

Turkey marks 60th anniversary of U.N. Genocide Convention – in its own special way

December 9th, 2008 by

Raphael LemkinOn December 9, 1948, after years of lobbying, haggling (and some serious arm-twisting), the U.N. adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. It was the brainchild and lifelong dream of Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jew whose family was wiped out by the Nazis during WWII, but whose passion to stop genocide began with his study of the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. There are 41 signatories to the Convention, including the United States and the Republic of Turkey, which, ironically, for the past 93 years, has spent millions around the world to deny its role in the centrally planned and systematically executed annihilation of over 1.5 million Armenian citizens.

So how is Turkey marking the U.N. Genocide Convention’s 60th anniversary?

Leaders of several major Turkish political parties have been busy lambasting a group of their fellow scholars and journalists for issuing an apology last week for the “great catastrophe” that befell the Armenian people in 1915. “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the ‘Great Catastrophe’ that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathise with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers. I apologise to them,” said three scholars, Ahmet Insel, Baskin Oran and Cengiz Aktar, and a journalist, Ali Bayramoglu. And, even though these scholars still did not properly characterize the killings as genocide, their statements were met with derision from a wide range of Turkey’s political elite. Insel, Oran, Aktar and Bayramoglu were labeled as bafoons and traitors – and may be brought up on trial for “insulting Turkishness” under Turkey’s infamous Article 301 laws.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul is planning a visit to Israel next month, where, in meetings with President Shimon Peres, he is “expected to ask Israel to use its influence in Washington” to try to prevent passage of Armenian Genocide legislation. This is in addition to the $25,000 a month Turkey already pays former Bush and Clinton Adminstration staff members Noam Neusner and Jay Footlik to persuade Jewish American organizations to be party to their genocide denial agenda.

President Gul is cashing in all his chips with his allies – scared that President Obama will finally end U.S. complicity in genocide denial by properly commemorating the Armenian Genocide. As Senator, Obama has a long record of speaking the truth on the Armenian Genocide. In the months and days leading up to his election, Obama stated, “America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide and responds forcefully to all genocides. I intend to be that President.”

So on this 60th anniversary of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment, Turkey’s President has reason to be worried, and the world may have reason to hope, that Turkey’s genocide denial days are numbered. Time will tell.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 9th, 2008 at 10:40 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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