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Articles

ARMENIAN DIASPORA IN BRITAIN

Sedat LAÇİNER, Asst. Prof. Dr.
09 May 2006 - JTW
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face="Verdana" sÿ™ARMENIAN DIASPORA IN BRITAINŸThe Armenian diaspora in Britain is relatively small when it is compared with those in the United States or in France.ïÀhere is no consensus some Armenian sources claim that the Armenian population in Britain is about 11-19.000, mostly living in London and Manchester. The recent developments showed that the Armenian community in Britain has influenced the British public opinion beyond their population. As will be discussed in this study, the historical experiment about the Armenians in Britain also shows that this is not a new trend; for instance in the 19th century the Armenians, though their number was less than a thousand in England, could success to create an anti-Ottoman public opinion in this country. In this framework, this study first explores the secrets of the Armenian diaspora in Britain in affecting (sometimes manipulating) the British public opinion and press. Second, the author of this article believes that the Armenian and the Turkish diasporas in Britain can play a crucial role in solving the Armenian problem since both should be open to dialogue, and both diasporas are far away from the problematic territories, namely the Caucasus. As a result of this belief the article examines the possible contributions of the Armenian diaspora in Britain to the possible solution of the Armenian question. Finally, third aim of this study is explore the present situation of the Armenians in the United Kingdom. I. Armenian Community in Britain: People and Institutions Today the Armenians mainly live in London and there is a small Armenian community in Manchester. The Armenian population in London is estimated about 7.000-12.000 although the figures are not reliable. The London Armenians concentrate in the boroughs of Ealing, Hounslow, Brent and Haringey. The first serious Armenian immigration to the UK was experienced 150 years ago and the immigration continued in the 20th century. The Armenian immigrants are mainly from the former Ottoman Empire territories (Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus and Iraq), Iran and Russia. Recent arrivals have fled because of the economic, social and political problems from the former Soviet Union republics, including Armenia. The early comers are relatively wealthy people and it can be argued that now they have no serious economic problems. The most formidable problem the Armenian community confronted is identity crisis. The homeland cannot provide a model for the diaspora and the Armenian identity is under the threat of the Western culture. Moreover, because the Armenians in the United Kingdom have come from a variety of different countries, there are different communities within the community. An Armenian from Iraq or Lebanon, for example, might have different cultural needs to an Armenian from the former Soviet Union or Iran. That is why religion and the historical tragedies are used in order to strengthen the relations among the Armenians. However, exaggeration of the religious feelings and the historical events cause extremism and hate against other ethnic groups. In other words, the Armenian ethnic identity is established on the historical hatred and hostility against the other ethnic groups notably against the Turks by this approach. As a result of this not only the relations between the Armenians and the other ethnic groups have been damaged, but also the Armenians themselves have suffered from the extremism. The Armenian youth in particular has faced pressure from their parents and the community. The elderly Armenians want to create an old - type Armenian youth, while the young people prefer to be a ‘normal' part of the British society. For example, ‘instead of celebrating the traditional Armenian Christmas on 6 January, many young Armenians prefer to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, because they do not want to be different from their peers'. The Armenian youth organisation RBO's ‘ideal London' clearly shows the social pressure on the Armenian youth: ‘A world which exists to provide the Armenian youth of London what truly deserve. A world not polluted with daily drubbings over politics and religion. A world, to do the things that young people do. You can even swear and kiss in public without the fear of being judged by another... It's time to be young again.' These words prove that the British Armenian youth want to be depoliticised and to be a normal part of the British society. Apart from the problems discussed above, the recent arrivals face the most serious problems. Many of them have come from the former Soviet Union and their main problems are employment, accommodation and social adaptation. Finally, the common concern of the Armenian community is the economic and political problems in Armenia. Some radical groups (nationalist or revolutionary left) in particular perceive themselves as a part of the politics in Armenia although they live in Great Britain and they are British citizens. Surprisingly they, with the other radical groups from the other Armenian diasporas, influence the balance of power in Armenia. As has been witnessed in the last presidential elections, the support of the diaspora Armenians helped to replace the moderate previous Ter Petrosian with the more strict and radical Kocharian. It can be argued that the Armenian diaspora, including those in Britain, increases tension and radicalism in the Armenian politics. In brief, the British Armenians do want to help the homeland country, but they do not know how to do so, and as will be discussed, they damage the Armenian national interests by deepening the hostility between the Armenian and the Turkish people and by increasing radicalism in Armenia, although the Armenian Republic desperately needs stability and it needs to improve its diplomatic, political and economic relations with its biggest neighbour, namely Turkey. Armenian Organisations in Britain Social and Education Organisations: The British Armenians have three one-day schools in Eastern and Western Armenian languages. The Tantanian Sunday School was one of the first examples. In the 1980s, the Armenian Saturday Language and Studies School was established. Later the Martiza Soghnalian Armenian School was began in Kensington, London. The Armenian Community Playgroup was founded in May 1987. The Ealing Council, the Centre for Armenian Information and Advice (CAIA) and the London Armenian community have financially supported the organisation. The CAIA also runs the Armenian Community Pre-School Group, which was established in 1987. The school provides Armenian language courses four days a week. The London Armenians also have their own cultural - religious societies, youth groups, senior citizen club and ladies committees. The Armenian Community Centre: Opened on 27 November 1988 at West End Road, Middlesex. Sport facilities are impressive. The Centre For Armenian Information and Advice (CAIA): In Acton, West London. It was formally opened in 1986. The CAIA was funded by the London Borough Grants Scheme. It has set up an Armenian playgroup, Armenian language classes for adults and children. It is compiling a telephone directory of Armenians in the Britain. The Centre started Hayashen Community Centre project in 1994. Now it aims to establish an Armenian - English Library in London. The Armenian broadcasts from Armenia can be watched in the centre. Homenetmen London: London branch of Homenetmen international organisation. Founded in 1979. Organises social and sportive events. Furthermore it organises political events with other organisations like its sister organisations HOM and Hamazgayeen. RBO: Founded in 1995 by two Armenian young people. Aims to unite all Armenian youth in London. They further want more freedom for and less social and religious pressure on the London Armenian youth. RBO organises parties and concerts. They have organised about 20 ‘HOKIS events', with an average attendance of over 100 youth. The Branches of the International Armenian Organisations In Britain: Some European, American and Canadian Armenian organisations and political parties also have branches in London because the capital is one of the important, if not the most, political lobbying centres in the world. Some of these organisations work under subsidiary organisations to curtain their real names and aims. It is unfortunate that most of these organisations are political and extremist. They focus on the Armenian question and Turkish-Armenian relations rather than concentrating on the Armenian diaspora's social, economic and cultural problems. Another effect of these organisations is that they politicise the diaspora. They speak before the British public and media in the name of the British Armenians though their representative power is quite low. Churches: There are two important Armenian churches in Britain: St. Sarkis Armenian Apostolic Church (Kensington, London) and Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church (Manchester). Both serves as a cultural, social and religious centres. Other Organisations: Some of the other important Armenian organisations in Britain can be listed as follow; - ACPG, Armenian Community Pre-School Group. - Aid Armenia, Land and Culture Organisation - Anahit Association, London. - The Armenian National Committee. - Armenian Rainbow Coalition (London) - The Armenian Relief Society of Great Britain (ARS). - The Armenian Revolutionary Federation UK (The radical political group's UK branch). - Armenian Rights Group. - Barbara Melinski Fund. - The British Armenian Community. - Church Council. - Committee for the Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG) - Hamazkayin. - Hayashen Armenian Youth Club. - Hayastan All-Armenian Fund (Manchester). - K. Tahta Armenian Community Sunday School. - Manoukian Charitable Foundation. - Organisation for the Preservation of Armenian Schools and Churches in India (London). - Social Democratic Hunchag Party - Tekeyan Cultural Association, London. - Tekeyan Trust. Press: The Tekeyan Cultural Association publishes Erobouni, a bi-weekly Armenian - English newspaper. Gotchnag is another Armenin publication. It is published by the Nor Seround Cultural association affiliated with the radical Hinchak Party. Aregak (1964-1966) and The London Monthly (1974-1976) were two good examples for the Armenian press in the United Kingdom. Another radical publication was Kaytzer (1978-1988) published by the London Branch of the Union of Armenian Students. Kaytzer defended armed struggle and terrorist methods against the Turkish diplomats to realise its political aims, and in order to get popular support it tried to terrorise the Armenian community in the country. For Kaytzer the Armenians had to support all illegal Turkish, Kurdish or Armenian groups against the Turkish state. The Centre For Armenian Information now publishes Armenian Voice quarterly. The Centre delivers the magazine free of charge. Its circulation is about 3.000 copies. Table 1. Armenians in Britain Manchester and North West 3000-5000 London and the South 7000-12.000 Other regions 1000-2000 (?) Total 11-19.000 Source: Armenian Voice; Exile; The Institute for Armenian Research. II. Historical Background Early Years It is known that there were some Armenians in the British Isles as early as the 7th century though they were less than ten people. These people were a small part of the immigrants from Caucasia who escaped from the Mongol attacks. The first political contacts between the Armenians and English experienced during the Crusades. In these wars, the Cilician Armenians openly supported the occupying Christians against the local Muslims and the other peoples of the region. The letters exchanged between King Henry III and the Armenian King Hetoum, who called for assistance when the Crusaders were passing through Cilicia, proves this co-operation. It is also noted that the Armenian King Leo IV and King Richard Lion-Heart met in 1191 in Cyprus and this co-operation continued in the following years. According to the British Orthodox Church, the first Armenian Bishop came to Britain in 1250 after the Tartar invasion. Though we do not have reliable evidence, it is also claimed that many Armenians settled in the Southern England, near Plymouth during the time of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658). The similarity between ‘Armenian' and ‘Arminian' raised doubt whether these people were Armenian or not. According to the story Cromwell was passing through the Armenian quarter and his interest were raised by the people who lived there and called themselves ‘Armenians'. He asked the head whether they were Royalist or Nationalist. The head replied they obeyed the law of land, and the answer annoyed Cromwell, and these people had to leave all their houses and returned to Amsterdam, the Netherlands where they had come from. In brief, it is difficult to speak of a serious Armenian existence in Britain before the 17th century. In the 17th century, the Armenian traders became important in trade between East and West. These traders were Christian and spoke Eastern languages, like Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Indian, all were great advantage to them in the East-West trade. Many Armenian traders established an extensive network of commercial contacts in Britain, Iran and India. As a result of these economic relations, many Armenians visited England, and some settled there. Yet, their number was still tiny and they were far away from forming a significant community in Britain. The Armenians in India were crucial to English, because the English were trying to colonise India, and the Armenians were one of the Christian minorities of India who were very desirous to help the English against the Indians. Apart from the political co-operation, the Armenian merchants had come India before the English and they had trade bases in Calcutta, India. During the 17th century the Armenian merchants became one of the dominant traders in the route of Calcutta - Middle East - Italy and Manchester. As a result of their service to Britain the famous Armenian merchants were granted the status of Free Citizens of England in 1688 by a Royal Charter. The next major Armenian settlers came from the Ottoman territories as the Armenians dominated trade between the British and Ottoman Empires with the Greeks. They were mainly from ?stanbul, ?zmir and Selanik. The majority of them settled in London, Manchester and Liverpool. The Armenian merchants imported tobacco and food to Britain while they exported silk, natural fibres, textile products and metals to the Ottoman Empire. Other Armenians followed them after 1830. Yet the Armenian population was still very small. In Manchester, for instance, the number of the Armenian settlers reached only to 30 in 1860. Armenian Diaspora and Its Impact on British-Ottoman Relations The Armenian population increased in the second half of the XIXth century. Most of the new comers were Ottoman Armenian traders and some rebels from the Ottoman territories, and their immigration dramatically changed the Armenians' position in the relations between the British and Turkish. Henceforth the Armenian refugees made extreme efforts to manipulate the British public opinion against the Ottomans. Though their number was small, the Armenian community was influential over the British public and the governmental institutions compared with the other minority groups and the Ottomans. First reason for this was the religion shared with the British society, namely Christianity. For instance, despite its small number, the Manchester Armenian community had established their own church and used it to forge its relations with the British people. It is a well-known fact that a church for Armenians is more than a place of worship, it is a social club or, political, cultural even economic focal point. So the Armenian church in the 19th century became one of the most important tool of the Armenian propaganda in Britain. The church organised the anti-Ottoman campaigns in the country, sent letters to the international bodies protesting the situation in the Ottoman Empire and made lobby against the Turks. The church perceived the Armenian riot in the Ottoman Empire as a religious war, and accused the Muslims for all the problems between the ethnic groups. Patriarch Nersess Varjapetian's and Catholicos Khriminian Hairik's efforts were significant in this campaign. The religious solidarity made Armenian propaganda more effective, and each church was used as an information centre by the Armenian nationalists in manipulating the public opinion. Moreover the church collected aid for the rebellious Armenians and the Armenian bands in Eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus. The Armenian church also tried to protect the national identity of the Armenians in Britain. The Manchester Armenian Church for example, published Yercraground periodical (1860s). Apart from the religious groups the Armenians formed some political parties such as the Hunchakian Revolutionary Party (HRP, 1887) and Revolutionary Federation (RF, 1890), both were sister organisations of the armed Armenian terror bands in Caucasia and the Ottoman Empire. These organisations had been declared ‘terrorist' and ‘illegal' by the Ottoman Empire. Yet the British government allowed them to continue their activities. The HRP and the RF organised aid campaigns, as well as collected money for arming the Armenian rebels in the Ottoman territory. In addition to the HRP and the RF, Hinchak (1894, 1901-1903), Aptak (1894-1897), Mart (1897) were also very active in Britain. All had connections with the armed terror groups in the Ottoman Empire. Most of them like Hamaink (1894) had newspaper or magazines, which created a pro-Armenian public opinion in Britain. As a result of the Armenian propaganda, the British public perceived the Armenian riots and massacres as despotic policies of the Ottoman government. Thanks to propaganda and the religious solidarity, various societies were founded in Britain, like Anglo-Armenian Association (1893), the Information Bureau (1896), Armenian Patriotic Association (1888), Friends of Armenia (1897), Armenian United Association of London (1898). The latter published its own periodical called Ararat. These organisations had good relations with the British press and the bureaucracy. Also, the prestigious members increased the Armenin lobbies' influence on the parliament. The ‘influential friends' took the problem into the British parliament and prime minister. Prime Minister Gladstone, for instance, was informed by mainly the Armenian sources on the Armenian issue. As a result, he accused the Turks of massacring the Ottoman Armenians. In particular during the Berlin Congress of 1878 the Armenian propaganda in London reached its peak. The Armenians saw the congress as an opportunity against the Ottomans, and the number and the intensity of Armenian publications, demonstrations in London dramatically increased in 1878. Before the Congress was held, Catholicos Khrimian Hairik visited Britain and met the leaders of the Armenian diaspora in Manchester and London. He advised the Armenians to spread the Armenian cause among the British people. Hairik also met PM Gladstone and other important figures in Britain, like Lord Canarvil, Lord Shaftsbury, the Duke of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Hairik, in each of his meetings, argued that the United Kingdom ought to support the Armenian separatist movement in the Ottoman territory. Despite all these efforts, the outcome of the Congress left the Armenians disappointed. For the Catholicos, the result was a disaster for the Armenians. He then sent representatives to the European capitals including London. The British Foreign Minister was reluctant to meet them, yet the Hairik's delegation could meet the Archbishop of Canterbury and the chief editor of The Times. The London Armenians helped them in their contacts with the British bureaucrats and press. However as Taverdi put it, the Armenian argument they presented was contradictory: ‘For example the delegates requested that in all towns where Armenians lived there should be British representatives. The Archbishop asked which towns did not have a British representative. The reply was "Moush". "Moush being a provincial town has always had a British Council", the Archbishop replied!' The Armenian delegation's real aim was to persuade the British to support them in their separatist struggle against the Ottoman Empire. However they were using a different rhetoric in the negotiations. They claimed that the Turks were massacring the civilians and abusing basic human rights though the real picture was completely different at that time. The Ottoman Armenians were one of the most prosperous Ottoman minorities and, thanks to the millet system they enjoyed the generous Ottoman religious tolerance. In addition, the increasing role of the American and the British traders in the Ottoman economy had made the Ottoman Armenian merchants richer since the Western merchants preferred the Armenians and Greeks as their trading partners. In short, the Armenian delegate tried to curtain their nationalist aims yet they could not convince the British authorities until the First World War. In the war, the Ottomans and the British fought against each other. Under the war circumstances the British propaganda focused on the Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire. The American historian Prof. Justin McCarthy argues that the British propaganda machine accused the Germans and Turks of violating human rights in order to attract the American interest into the war. Because the American press and public opinion heavily depended on the British media and missionary schools, the British propaganda created an anti-Ottoman public opinion in the United States. In this campaign, the British Armenians played a crucial role. During the First World War the armed nationalist Ottoman Armenian bands rioted and slaughtered a considerable number of Muslims in order to establish an independent Armenia. The radical Armenian attacks caused counter-attacks and the intercommunal clashes claimed many lives. When the Armenian bands helped the occupying Russian forces, and posed a threat to the security of the Ottoman army the Ottoman government decided to re-locate the Armenians from the sensitive regions into more safe areas. Unfortunately, many Armenians died during this relocation due to the band attacks, climatic conditions and diseases. When considering the war circumstances such deaths were understandable; In the Caucasian front for example about 90.000 Turkish soldiers died because of the cold in a couple of days. That is to say the Ottoman State had not enough equipment to prevent the massive mortalities under the war's catastrophic conditions. However all undesired tragedies the Armenians and the Muslims faced were presented as an Armenian massacre in Britain by the Armenian groups and the British religious groups. When the Republic of Armenia in Caucasus declared its independence on 29 May 1918, it was represented in London as an independent state by the Armenian National Bureau. The Bureau published information booklets, organised discussion sessions and meetings related to the Armenian question, problems of Armenia and the Armenian diaspora. Its efforts focused on two important cities; London and Manchester. The bureau's manipulative impact over the press was clear. In other words, the bureau helped to shape the anti-Ottoman feelings regarding the Ottoman-Armenian relations in Britain. After the First World War After the First World War the Armenian population in London was less than 1.000 people. The Armenian Church in London was not only a religious centre but a cultural, social and political one. That was the reason to start a campaign to construct a permanent church building in London in the economic depression years of the 1920s. 5000 pounds were collected in this campaign. When Caloust Gulbenkian from France contributed to the campaign with a 15.000 pounds, an Armenian Church in the traditional Armenian style in London became feasible. Thus, St. Sarkis Church was constructed in Kensington, one of the prestigious districts of the capital in 1923. However, the official opening ceremony would not be possible until 11 January 1932. At the end of the 1920s, the Armenian population in London reached more than 1.000. Some of the new comers were from the former Ottoman territories. The World War II and Aftermath The catastrophic effects of the war forced some Armenian families to immigrate into the Great Britain. Most of the Armenian immigrants were from Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria where they were under the propaganda of the extreme terrorist groups. In Lebanon and Cyprus in particular ASALA and other terrorist groups had politicised the Armenian community against the Turks. Moreover some of the new comers had come to Syria and Lebanon from the Ottoman territories after the First World War. Therefore, most of them had strong biases about the Turks and perceived Turkey as the successor of the Ottoman Empire, the ultimate enemy to the radical Armenian armed groups. As a result of the immigration from the Middle Eastern countries, the Armenian population dramatically increased in Britain during the 1950s. The British Armenians, furthermore, gained an influential position in the British society. Another important development during the 1950s was the launch of the Armenian Centre campaign. The London Armenian Community Trust was founded in 1961 in London. The aim was to establish the Armenian House in Kensington, London. When the construction was finished the Armenian House in 25 Chenniston Gardens, Kensington became the social and cultural centre of the Armenians in Britain. The House organised campaigns and set up a 1500-book library, holding Armenian and English collections. The Armenian population at that time was about 5.000 people. The number was so little compared with the other minorities, yet their political influence over the British, public opinion, press and government was impressive. First time in history, the British Armenians elected representatives for the London Armenian society and the Church Council on 12 June 1965. The first task of the new representatives was to lease the All Saint Church in Finchley in order to meet the increasing social, cultural and religious needs of the growing community. The church was demolished at the expire date of the lease in 1973, and the St. Peters in Cranley Gardens was let instead of the previous church. The Armenian population in Britain continued to increase during the 1960s and 70s. One of the reasons for that was the ethnic conflict between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus. When the Greek Cypriots started an armed struggle against Britain and massacred thousands of the Turkish Cypriots in order to annex the island to Greece, the Armenian civilians were also affected by the conflict although they had relatively good relations with Greeks. Most of the Armenian Cypriots again came to the United Kingdom, former colonist power in Cyprus. Thus the Armenian population in Britain reached 10.000 in a short period of time. Another factor was the Lebanese conflict in the 1970s. Both the Lebanese and Cypriot Armenians were also Ottoman Armenians in origin and they were biased about the Turks. These Armenians became the leading Armenian group in the political arena and made great efforts to keep the Armenian problem on the British agenda. The radical Armenians' main aim was to persuade the British politicians about the so-called Armenian genocide and to end the friendly Turkish-British relations. Thus, the anti Turkish groups in the UK became much more stronger with the new comers. In 1979 some Iranian Armenians came to the UK as a result of the political turmoil in Iran, namely the Iranian Revolution. III. The Armenian Terror and the Armenian Immigrants in Britain As has been seen above, Britain has been one of the most important Armenian lobbying centres in the Armenian question. The Armenians, until the First World War, had formed many political lobbying groups against the Ottoman Empire in order to establish an independent Armenia on the Ottoman territories. The Friends of Armenia (1897) and Anglo - Armenian Association (1893) were two most influential lobbying groups in Britain, which worked in favour of the Armenian argument. Although the Ottoman Armenians' armed riot had ended with a tragedy and cost thousands of Turkish and Armenian life, the radical and nationalist Armenians continued their anti-Turkish campaign in Britain, even after the declaration of independent Armenian Republic. In fact, the existence of the Armenian community in this country provides a great opportunity to put an end to the hostility between the Turks and the Armenians, because both Armenians and British Turkish people were living in Turkey's one of the most important military and political allies, the United Kingdom. Unfortunately the Armenian radicals politicised the Armenian schools and the cultural, religious and social activities. Furthermore the terror groups did not allow the Armenians to use this opportunity to end the communal hatred. All these activities naturally politicised the Armenian society in London; Some Armenian Sunday schools even taught the school boy anti - Turkish feelings and the children hated the Turkish people though they had never met a Turkish in their life. Thus anti-Turkish feelings became an inseparable part of the Armenian identity. Despite this picture, the Armenians in Britain had not taken part in the terror activities before the 1970s. The most significant anti - Turkish Armenian political activity was the 1969 demonstration where the Armenians gathered in front of the Turkish Embassy and protested the Turkish government by claiming that Turkey had to accept officially the 1915 events as a ‘genocide'. Turkey never accepted such a view and repeated that the 1915 events were not a genocide but a civil clash between the armed Muslims (Turkish, Kurdish etc.) and the Armenian groups, and the Ottoman officers made extreme efforts to protect the civilian Armenian and Turkish people from the attacks. For Turkey the demonstration was a part of the great global anti-Turkish campaign, since the similar meetings had been organised in the USA, France, the Middle East and other countries. On 27 January 1973, Turkish Consul General Mehmet Baydar and Consul Bahadir Demir were assassinated by the Armenian terrorists in Santa Barbara, the United States. After this first assault in the United States, the Marxist - Leninist ASALA terror organisation proclaimed itself with a bomb attack in 1975. ASALA considered Turkey and its allies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, as an archenemy and defended the idea that the Armenian claim can only be solved by armed struggle. ASALA further argued that all Armenians should unite under the Soviet political system. The nationalist JCAG and ARA also joined the Armenian terrorism against the Turkish diplomats during the 1970s. The Armenian terrorists killed 34 Turkish diplomats in Paris (7), Athens (3), Sydney (2), Geneva (1), Lisbon (3), Madrid (2), Belgrade (1), Brussels (1), Vienna (3), USA (3), Geneva (1), Ottawa (1), The Hague (1), Tehran (1), Baghdad (1), Burgaz (1) and other cities. It is interesting that the Armenian terrorists could not assassinate any Turkish diplomat in the United Kingdom. One of the secret of this was, contrary to France's and Greece's tolerant terrorism policy, the British security forces' decisive measures against international terrorism. As a result of the draconian measures against terrorism the Armenian terrorists targeted some British institutions abroad. In Rome, Italy for instance the New Armenian Resistance Commandos (NAR) militants bombed British Airways Office on 9 December 1979. Similarly, ASALA terrorists placed bombs in the Turkish Airlines office in London and the ASALA claimed that the attack in solidarity with the revolutionary movements in Northern Ireland in their fight against ‘British Fascism'. On 15 September 1983, the target was again the United Kingdom. An explosive bomb in a suitcase was found in Holborn, London during the trial of two Armenians, Zaven Bedros and unnamed accomplice. For the British police, the bombs had been put by ASALA. The second reason why the Armenian terrorism was not strong in the UK was that the Armenian diaspora in Britain was relatively weak compared with those in the United States and France. Moreover, the majority of the British Armenians were unwilling to take part in the terrorist activities although some gave clear support to the ASALA terror organisation. Interestingly almost all of the Armenian associations in Britain which had supported the Armenian terrorism were branches of the radical Armenian groups who based in France, Greece or the US. The Kaytzer was one of the most vivid examples of this; the Kaytzer advocated a radical anti-Turkish campaign during its publication between 1978-1988. The magazine, during the latter period (in the 1980s), even called for an armed struggle and unity with all armed terrorist organisations in Turkey. Though the magazine was published in London, the publisher was the London Branch of the Union of Armenian Students, one of the most radical Armenian groups. The identity of the arrested Armenian terrorists in UK also prove that the Armenian radicalism in Britain have always been external connections; Armenian terrorist Zaven Bedros, for example, who was arrested in a hotel room in London when he was planning to take the Turkish Ambassador hostage to exchange for an Armenian terrorist who had been captured, Levon Ekmekjian, was from Syria. As a matter of fact, most of the Armenian terrorists were from overseas countries, like France, Greece and Syria. Between 1978 and 1983, seven important Armenian attacks occurred in the United Kingdom against the Turkish targets. Some of these attacks targeted the United Kingdom as well because the Armenian terrorists accused the British government of being fascist and collaborating with Turkey. The Armenian terrorists also attacked two British targets overseas. The Armenian attacks against the Turkish targets in Britain and against the British targets can be summarized as follow: - New Armenian Resistance Commandos (NAR) placed a bomb in a Turkish Bank in London on 1 March 1978. The bombs did not explode however. Same day the terrorists also bombed Turkish residence of Financial Counsellor in Brussels, Belgium. The bomb was placed in the Councillor's letterbox. - On 24 May 1978 JCAG and ARA Commandos placed a bomb in Turkish Airlines Office in London. - The ASALA terrorists, under the leadership of Hagop Darakjian bombed a British tourist office in Paris, France to protest the United Kingdom on 25 November 1979. Same day another ASALA terrorist team bombed TWA, Al Italia, Sebena and British Airways offices in Madrid, Spain in order to protest the United States of America, Italy, Belgium and the United Kingdom. - 17 December 1979. London. Extensive damage caused when a bomb exploded in front of the Turkish Airlines (THY) Office in London. ASALA claimed the attack in solidarity with the revolutionary movements in Northern Ireland in their fight against ‘British Fascism'. This attack proved the connection between the Armenian terrorist groups and terrorism in Northern Ireland. - The NAR attacked the British Airways Office in Rome, Italy on 9 December 1979. The target country was the United Kingdom. Same day the ASALA terrorists bombed another place (Iran Air Airlines) in Rome to protest Iran. - The ASALA attacked British Airways office in Madrid, Spain on 3 October 1980. The target country was the United Kingdom. - The ASALA and the 3 October Group placed two bombs in Turkish Airlines Office in London on 12 October 1980. This was one of simultaneous bombings in three cities (with Los Angeles and New York bombings). Same day ASALA and 3 October Groups also bombed Swiss Tourist Office in London. - A planned Armenian terrorist attack was thwarted when Zaven Bedros from Syria was arrested in a London hotel room on 9 September 1982 and trained later in 1983. The terrorist said he was to take the Turkish Ambassador hostage to exchange for Levon Ekmekjian. - An explosive bomb in suitcase was found during trial of two Armenians, Zaven Bedros and unnamed accomplice in Holborn, London. Target was the UK and the British police said the terrorists were from the ASALA organisations. As mentioned, it can be said that the majority of the British Armenians did not take part in the terrorist activities, however it is unfortunate that they did not clearly condemn the terrorist attacks against the innocent Turkish diplomats. The Church and the cultural organisations should have played a more constructive role in the problem, yet many important Armenian figures implied they approved the assassinations although the Armenians in Turkey, Turkish government and all Western governments, including the British government, condemned the attacks. When the Armenian terror groups could not get a significant popular Armenian support and could not find a suitable ground for their terror attacks, they co-operated with the other anti-Turkish radical groups, like the Turkish terror organisations in Britain, Kurdish separatists and the Greek radicals in London. The Joint Declaration of the Armenian Student Union and the Kurdish Student Union in London was one of the examples of this coalition. The PKK, which has been recognized as one of the most dangerous terror organisations in the world by the UK authorities, in particular gave great support to the radical Armenian groups against Turkey. As a result of Turkey's diplomatic and political efforts, the Armenian assassinations of the Turkish diplomats almost ended in the mid-1980s. After this date those who advocated political lobbying before the government, parliament and the press, dominated the Armenian community in Britain. The Armenian groups have lobbied members of the House of Commons to introduce bills on the Armenian allegations, but these did not make any waves. They convinced neither government nor the Parliament for their cause and the British authorities have always declared that the 1915 events were not a ‘genocide'. IV. Holocaust Memorial Day and the Armenian Campaign The Armenian Campaign to include the Armenian claims into the Holocaust Memorial Day has been one of the most important targets of the Armenian lobbying in the recent years. As a matter of fact this was not a new method; since the 1970s, the Armenian writers and propagandists have followed a new strategy to win greater support and sympathy for their ‘cause.' This strategy aims to draw parallel between the fates of the European Jewry during the Second World War and that of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. By equating the tragedy that fell upon the Jews in the Holocaust and the sufferings experienced by many Armenians in an alleged ‘genocide', the Armenian propagandists have sought to exploit the sensitivities of many Americans and European who are deeply troubled by the horrible events that led to the deaths of more than six million Jews in Europe at the hands of the Nazis.' Until now neither the Jews and Israel nor the Western states accept such a link between the Holocaust and the Armenian incident. In spite of this, the Armenian lobbies have never given up, and when the Armenians in France and the United States have started a great anti-Turkish campaign in international arena, the radical Armenian groups in Britain perceived this as an opportunity to force the British to recognise the Armenian cause as a national policy. The first Holocaust Memorial Day provided an invaluable opportunity for such a strategy. According to the plans, a national ceremony to mark the first Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom would take place in central London on the evening of 27 January 2001, and apart from many Holocaust survivors, leading political, religious and community figures would attend to the ceremony. The event's aim was to ‘honour the victims of genocide', namely the Jewish who were murdered by the Nazi Germany during the Second World War. But the Armenian groups claimed that the British government and the BBC, the organiser of the event, simply have ignored the Armenians and officially applied to join the day as ‘the victims of the Armenian genocide'. To realise their aim, the Armenian lobbying groups organised conferences at the universities and gatherings in the city centres and launched letter campaigns to make an impact on the British press and the members of the Parliament. Unfortunately, the strategy turned into an anti-Turkish campaign in a short time. The Armenian lobby not only criticised Turkey for its Armenian policy but also blamed for the other issues and co-operated with all the legal and the illegal anti-Turkish groups, notably with the outlawed terrorist PKK organisation. Furthermore, the Armenian lobbyists increased their efforts in the House of Lords as seen on 11 December 2000 when Lord Avebury, who known to be the leading person in all anti-Turkish lobbying in the Parliament and had good relations with the PKK, played a crucial role in the Armenian campaign. Avebury called its government to recognise the Armenian claims. Interestingly the PKK representatives freely joined in all Armenian lobbying meetings including those organised in the House of Lords halls although the PKK is an illegal terror organisation under the British law. In conclusion, as has been explained the Armenian lobbies made enormous efforts to participate in the Memorial Day, however their applications were turned down by the British government and the Armenian groups were informed by the Home Office that the memorial ceremonies were designed for the Holocaust only. In addition, the Government resisted the Armenian pressure in the Parliament and called the Armenian lobbyists for a more constructive approach; When Baroness Cox asked the Government whether it would extend the Commemoration of the Holocaust on 27th January to include the Armenians, Lord Bassam of Brighton replied wisely: ‘We should try to learn the lessons of history. It must be the hope of everyone that the Governments of Turkey and Armenia have learnt the lessons of history and that they can in some way put the matter behind them. We must ensure that we have the sort of useful co-operation needed to increase stability and prosperity in that part of the world That would be in everybody's best interests.' Not only the British but also the Jewish and Israel were not happy with the Armenian efforts. Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, for instance clearly refused the Armenian claims and said ‘Armenian allegations are meaningless... We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred.' Turkey's Jewish community also declared that inclusion of other ‘so-called genocides' in the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain would be disrespectful to the Jews killed by the Nazis. The Home Office and government refused to recognise the Armenian claims as ‘genocide', yet the representatives of the Armenian community were invited to join the first Holocaust Memorial Day as a mid-way. For the Home Office, the Armenian representatives, including the Armenian Bishop of Britain, have been invited as members of the ‘community' and not direct participants. Yet even this invitation was enough to make the Turks angry; thousands of Turkish people and the Azerbaijanis living in Britain gathered to demonstrate outside the venue and to protest the Home Office decision to include the Armenians. Not only the 300.000 Turkish community in Britain but also the masses in Turkey protested the decision. The Turkish people were very sensitive about the decision, for the majority the Western governments were respecting only one of the sides' (Armenian's) agony and sufferings and ignoring the pains of the other side (Turkish people's). Moreover, Turkey regarded the genocide accusation as harassment to the Turks. According to the Turkish argument, ‘more than five million Ottoman Muslims had been killed by the Christian minorities in the final period of the Ottoman State. The Armenians were also one of the suffering peoples yet their lost was relatively small compared with the Turkish people: The separatist armed Armenian bands rioted against the state, and the government re-located the Armenian population from the war theatre to the less sensitive territories. During the re-location about 50.000 Armenians lost their life as a result of the natural disasters and the communal conflicts, although the Ottoman officers took all the possible measures to protect the civilians. Under the light of this information, these events cannot be presented as a genocide.' The Home Office and the government did not include the Armenians into the Memorial Day yet the radical Armenian groups benefited from the day; as a result of the propaganda campaign and the Memorial Day, the radical Armenians found opportunity to manipulate the British public opinion and the media. Thus, the press assumed all Armenian claims are true and published biased news. Robert Fisk's articles published in the Independent daily are good examples for such prejudiced news. Fisk, for instance, claims that ‘Kemal Atatürk, founder of Modern Turkey accepted that the Armenians had been persecuted by the Ottomans while the British authorities do not accept'. It is quite difficult to understand how such a respected and careful journalist can reach such a conclusion, because as all the documents prove that Mustafa Kemal never accepted such claims but reverse. This article and the similar ones show how the propaganda machine of certain circles has recently focused on the British press. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that none of the articles on the Armenian problem and the Holocaust day gave reference to the Turkish sources while they heavily used the Armenian arguments. As the Armenian lobbying groups realised they could not persuade the government to change its official Armenian policy they increased their activities. Treasures of the Ark Exhibition was one of these activities. It was presented as a cultural activity, yet the political accusations against Turkey continued in the exhibition during March 2001: The Turkish territories were presented as the ‘Armenian home' and the so-called Armenian genocide claim repeated. Conclusion As discussed by this paper, the Armenian diaspora in Britain is an influential minority group in spite of their small population in this country. The influential Armenian figures can affect the British public opinion, media and politics. Furthermore, wealthy Armenians have the potential to finance the social and cultural needs of the Armenian community in London. However, as the study shows the Armenian social society organisations generally focus on the political issues instead of concentrating on the cultural, social and economic problems of the community. Apart from a few exceptions most of them even involve in the domestic politics of Armenia. Their efforts have not solved the problems, but increased the tension in Armenia and deepened the hatred between the Armenians and the other ethnic groups namely the Turkish people. It can be argued that the diaspora factor made the problem incurable. Second, the Armenian diaspora has wasted its time, energy and financial sources in politicising all issues, while the Armenian youth, women, children, elderly and poor have social, economic and cultural problems. The radical groups in particular perceive that all problems are political, and they claim that the solution to the community's problems is to overcome the external enemy (Turkey). They also defend that the Armenians in Britain must protect their religious differences from other Christians in order to preserve the Armenian identity. However, the religious and political extremism increase the tension and deepen the identity crisis. As a final word this study argues that the Armenians in Britain should follow a more constructive approach to solve their problems and to help the homeland Armenia. Otherwise, it would not be helpful for themselves, Armenia, the British social order and for the relations between Turkey and Armenia.

First Published by "Armenian Studies" journal, Vol. 1, No. 3, September-October-November 2001, pp. 233-257.
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Dr. Sedat Laciner: Director, ISRO/USAK and lecturer at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Department of International Relations.

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